Recently a series of the popular comic-based Star Wars two-packs of figures were released as a Wal-Mart exclusive. One of these featured my personal favorite type of action figure in the Star Wars world to collect -- Clone Troopers. So I knew I had to have this set.
This particular comic-based set is derived from Dark Horse Comics' STAR WARS REPUBLIC #79. Fortunately, it's fairly distinguishable from virtually every other Star Wars comic-based set out there, in that the cover is predominantly white. Sticks out like the proverbial sore thumb up against the usually dark, space-oriented backgrounds of some of the other sets.
The set features Clone Commander Keller, and a Galactic Marine. This is somewhat interesting given that they are not the primary characters in the story. However, the primary character in the story would've required an all-new set of molds, and a pretty complex one. As one might expect. Keller and the Marine are derived from existing molds. This has not always been the case with the comic-based sets, but let's remember that these are Wal-Mart exclusives, and as such have a more limited market than the comic sets which also make their way to Target, Toys "R" Us, and beyond.
The story in this issue takes place right around the time "Order 66" is given, the pre-programmed command instilled in all Clone Troopers that ordered them to turn against the Jedi and do their level best to wipe them out, as seen in the movie Star Wars Episode III - Revenge of the Sith.
The comic book, well-written by Welles Hartlet and absolutely stunningly illustrated by Douglas Wheatley, who is easily one of my favorite comic artists when it comes to realistic portrayals of even fantasy environments such as the Star Wars universe -- I mean, you can practically see this story taking place on the screen, never mind reading it in a book -- goes to some lengths to let us know that the Clone Troopers were not entirely successful in carrying out Emperor Palpatine's orders. Although certainly, the vast majority of Jedi Knights were taken by surprise and killed, some survived, either by blind luck, being on a world of darkness and shadows that allowed them to escape; by skill, in a few cases where even an entire squad of Clones was no match for a Jedi, or simply by virtue of being largely retired and not active in the war.
The action then turns to the rather chilly planet of Toola. Apparently not quite as harsh as Hoth, it does have more cities and settlements, but it's still a snow-bound world. Commander Keller and his Galactic Marines are outfitted for the environment, and are tracking down a Jedi and a young Padawan through a frozen wilderness.
Switch to a nearby city, where we meet the character shown on the cover of the comic book, one Jedi Master Kai Hudorra, a relatively humanoid individual who has a face that looks a bit like a llama, but with shaggy hair, almost a lion-like mane of it, along with a mustache and beard. He is accompanied by a Padawan not his own, whose master was killed as a result of Order 66. She is a young human-looking girl.
The story of these two is not carried out completely within this comic book. However, the story, and its continuation, are carried out completely in one of Dark Horse Comics' trade paperbacks of the Clone Wars. There are nine volumes in this series, and I highly recommend them to anyone curious about the events that took place between Episodes II and III. To what degree these stories are "canon", especially with the forthcoming CGI Clone Wars series, is anyone's guess, but in any case they make for excellent reading.
Suffice to say, Hudorra and the Padawan manage to make their way to the city's spaceport, incognito, and using the same sort of "Jedi mind-trick" that we first saw Obi-Wan Kenobi use against some Stormtroopers, they bluff their way back to Coruscant, only to find the Jedi Temple a burnt-out shell. Hudorra decides to retire from the Jedi Order, and instructs the Padawan to do likewise, but at least they survived.
So where does Commander Keller come into all of this? Lacking information on precisely what has taken place, Master Hudorra drops in on a tavern in the city on Toola. He is informed that the war is over, with most of the patrons celebrating the fact that the Droid Army has been defeated, but also believing the news that has been put forth that ther Jedi tried to overthrow the Republic and were put down by the Clones.
Just then, Commander Keller shows up with a squad of Marines, and using a line that makes me wonder if the Star Wars galaxy has been picking up on old, cliched cop movies from Earth, yells, "Nobody move! This is a raid!" The fact that the bar patrons were able to even keep a straight face after that is no small miracle.
The mood turns moderately hostile towards the Clones, with one bar patron remarking that he dislikes the Clones and that they "give him the creeps". Looking for a quick exit, Hudorra pushes a few subtle buttons, you might say, commenting under is breath, "The war is over. They have no right to hassle innocent citizens."
Immediately the other bar partons echo the lines word for word, and attack Keller and the Marines, while Hudorra slips out unnoticed.
That's the last time we see Commander Keller and his squad of Marines. Precisely what befell them is anyone's guess. I personally find it difficult to believe that a tavern of inebriated-to-varying-degrees pilots and smugglers were able to entirely decimate a squad of highly trained and specialized Clones like Galactic Marines. My personal theory is that Commander Keller and at least some of the Marines probably survived, but weren't terribly inclined to raid any more bars after that.
Clones may be engineered to be obedient to all orders given them, but that doesn't make them stupid. I suspect the tavern owner probably had a heck of a cleaning and repair bill, as well, and I wouldn't've wanted to have seen his insurance rates. The Clone Troopers that Hudorra had to deal with later at the spaceport were just run-of-the-mill Clones. There was no sign of Marines there, or Keller, who, assuming he survived, was probably nursing his wounds and, one would hope, thinking up better opening lines...
As to the figures... Commander Keller is based largely on the Airborne Trooper. This is because when he was illustrated for the comic book story, that's the helmet design that was chosen. It's a cool design, and a little different-looking than some. The figure has a removable helmet with the "Jango-Clone" head underneath it. And I find myself wondering if maybe some mild changes were made to either the head or the helmet. I've had a little trouble in the past with this helmet being a good fit on previous figures where it's been used, but here, it fits just fine, no problems at all. This is purely speculation, however.
Keller, as portrayed in the comic book, is wearing a white tunic-like poncho with a bit of a cape, and a hood. This was designed as an actual cloth piece for the figure, as well as a small black "skirt" in the back. Now, sometimes what's commonly known as "soft goods" don't always work that well on small-scale action figures. My own contention is that a figure much under 6 or 7 inches in height, and ideally closer to eight, is not going to look all that good wearing actual cloth accessories. It's not any problem with the manufacturing process. It's simple physics. A small piece of cloth as worn by a 3-3/4" action figure is just not going to "fall" all that well and look especially realistic.
However, Keller works out pretty well. Although the poncho-tunic isn't as "bunched up" as seen in the comic book, it really doesn't look bad at all. The hood works especially well, and the cape and black "skirt" look decent. They're both held in place by one of those little transparent rubber bands that are normally used to restrain a figure in his package, or to attach a figure's weapon to his hand within the package. This is one rubber band that sort of needs to stay put, in this case.
However, should one desire, the poncho-tunic is removable, and here it is possible to see the level of painted detail on the Commander Keller figure. All Clone Trooper divisions have their own unique markings, and Keller has a series of somewhat crooked bluish-grey lines that are most apparent on his chest, but also appear elsewhere on his uniform, including his helmet, arms, and legs. The most distinctive aspect of this design is a sort of criss-cross pattern. This design appears on the chest and on the knee pads.
The only other major area of trim color is a ridged area of armor, common to Airborne Troopers, whom I assume perhaps Keller started out as? -- on the left shoulder. This has been done in brown. I should also mention that the overall paint job is extremely neatly done. The days of sloppy paintwork on occasional Clone Troopers, where the black "undersuit" trim or certain other areas, were clearly done in haste and possibly by hand, seem to be diminishing considerably.
The only "weathering" of any sort on this figure is a bit around the boots. Okay, I don't like it, but I'll live with it. You're trudging through the snow, you're likely to kick up some dirt. I wonder if he bothered to wipe his feet before entering the tavern?
Overall, Commander Keller is a truly superb figure. Nicely made, nicely detailed, certainly very well-articulated, and the cloth goods work out better than usual for a figure in this size range.
Now let's consider the Galactic Marine. These guys are best known for their scene in Revenge of the Sith where they gunned down Ki-Adi-Mundi, he with the tall wrinkled cranium. Those Galactic Marines, who did receive a figure of their own in early 2007, were extremely distinctive in that their armor was mostly burgundy in color. Still, there was a distinct resemblance in the basic design of the figure to an Imperial Snowtrooper. The body armor was thicker, the helmet seemed to have a length of fabric running down from the visor almost to the chest, there was more exposed fabric, but it looked thicker, as did the boots, and the Galactic Marines clearly wore some sort of skirt-tunic, much like their presumed descendants, the Snowtroopers.
The Galactic Marine that comes with Commander Keller -- well, honestly, I think Hasbro tried a little too hard to make him look like a Snowtrooper.
Now, in fairness, they did have to work from the comic book, which portrayed Galactic Marines garbed in mostly white. But that's sort of where I feel Hasbro wanted this Galactic Marine to look more like a Snowtrooper. A while back, there was a modern Snowtrooper figure offered as part of the "Vintage Original Trilogy Collection". It was a very cool figure -- no pun intended. But significant areas of its uniform were not colored white. They were a sort of off-white.
The entire Galactic Marine here is off-white, and there's nothing in the comic book to indicate that this Marine should have been any darker in color than Keller himself, who is a very stark, straight-on white in color.
I'm not saying this Galactic Marine is a bad figure. Far from it. He's very cool. But I do think there was a certain mindset behind it, and I'll admit this is entirely speculation on my part, where on the one hand perhaps Hasbro didn't want to put two stark white figures in a comic-based two-pack where, on top of everything else, the cover to the comic book was also largely white, and on the other hand, wanted to make this Galactic Marine look a little more like an Imperial Snowtrooper than the Marines in the comic had really appeared to be. Just a guess, and not even that significant a complaint. Just an observation.
Actually, the figure is very impressive. He doesn't have any of the unit markings on him that Keller does, but he's still a very cool figure. Somewhat weirdly, the only real color on him is a little biut of brown "dirt" painted on his boots. Other than that, I could probably take a black and white picture of this figure and you'd never know the difference.
Colorwise, the figure is pretty much a very pale grey, or off-white, head to toe, except for black visor eyes, very dark grey gloves, and dark grey pouches on his equipment belt and backpack. A few areas of medium grey trim can also be seen on the uniform.
The figure's helmet is removable, and has precisely the head under it that you'd expect, but with the added area of helmet or fabric or whatever it's supposed to be under the visor, you really can't see any part of the head with the helmet in place.
The Galactic Marine is rather distinctly different from any other Clone Trooper and as such uses an entirely different set of molds. The chest armor is bulkier, and the legs are not armored, but rather are designed to look like they're made from a bulky fabric. However, Hasbro has maintained the same high level of articulation in this figure that most of the Clone Trooper types have.
On the whole, this is a very cool version of the Galactic Marine. Commander
Keller also makes for an interesting addition to the ranks of the Clone
Trooper. For anyone who enjoys building a Clone Army as a major part
of their Star Wars action figure collection, this particular comic two-pack
is definitely a must-have. It's a Wal-Mart exclusive, so that's the
only place to find it, and it certainly has my highest recommendation!