Updated: Nov 24, 2018
Wave 8 of the Black Series has started to hit stores (June 2015) and is made up, as usual, of 4 figures.
Han Stormtrooper is a straight up carry forward from Wave 7, Luke Stormtrooper (like Han) is a bit of a kit-bash and the Clone Sergeant is a re-paint. The only true new figure is that of The Emperor, and it is that very figure that we are reviewing here.
There has been some reported issues with Palpatine supply as I write this review (June 2015), with pre-orders at some places being cancelled.. This all seems down to Hasbro cancelling solid cases of Palpatine, but I dont expect him to become a hard to find addition as the general mixed cases are due any time now into UK stores.
On receipt Palpatine comes in the usual black window box with blue trim and grey lined artwork. Interestingly (considering he had a part in almost all the first 6 films, and was the key bad guy through both trilogies) on the box I receievd Hasbro couldnt find a single bit of blurb to put on the rear of the box. Poor Sheev.
Out of the box and Palpatine is packed solely with a walking stick, and is obviously modelled after his appearance in Return of the Jedi rather than a prequel Sidious or a mix up of both. First impressions were ok, but nothing to make me go "wow". The sculpt is difficult to see due to the soft goods that envelope the figure - more on this in a moment - but if you peel back the hood the head is not a bad likeness to the heavily made up ROTJ Ian McDiarmid. If you lift up his cloak you will find a basic sculpted torso and then two vinyl skirts which are split down the side, these are very simply sculpted with the front skirt having a sash/belt sculpted into the plastic. Take a peak under the skirt and you will find quite nicely sculpted legs with some patterning and knee high boots (will these show up in a future figure perhaps).
The only real paint you can find is on the Emperor's head, and it looks OK from a distance with a pale skin tone and then a wash to bring out the ridges and withered features. Get up close and you will see the recessed wash paint is a little too thick and the eyes are very over exagerated - but I can see this eye application being needed so you can still see the details once the hood is up and pulled down over the forehead.
Within the community there are those who prefer soft goods and those who prefer vinyl. I am still on the fence as I do like what Hasbro did with Darth Maul, but can see the beauty in a well made soft goods accessory when you look at what the talented Mr Ang can do (look him up here).
For the nicest Emperor figure I have seen to date I still go back to that POTF 3.75" Emperor from the 1990's and argue that this captured the denfinitive Emperor "look". I wonder what results Hasbro would have got with ditching the soft goods and going back to these POTF type vinyl robes.
The soft goods are not a disaster, its just they are too light-weight to sit comfortably on the figure. If you look at the better custom cloaks being sold they are a success as they have a degree of weight to them so they hang naturally on the figure. With the Emperors cloak, and with Vader's before him, the material is too light and "floaty" and you can't get that iconic draped hood without losing the will to live or get the cloak to hang naturally. As suspected from early images the cloak is also too short to drag on the floor like the film costume. The clasp is also really fragile and mine popped open several times when shooting the photo's and is a pain to get fastened again if you have fat fingers like my good self. The button hole the clasp is meant to fastened in to is going to be a weak spot on the cloak and with too much fiddling I can see it being an epicentre for fraying of the cloak.
Moving to more positive comments, and articulation is not bad. The head turns a full 360 degrees and is on a ball joint so can look up and down - which is useful for posing the head under the hood. Ball jointed shoulders allow Palpatine's arms to get out to a full 90 degrees to the body and then elbow joints and a wrist rotation allow Palps to at least assume the Force Lightening position - will we see an exclusive in Walgreens (US) later this year with the force lightening?
Hips are well articulated too allowing Palps to do the splits if he wanted, and if the vinyl skirt wasnt in the way. Then there is a knee joint and ankle rockers, and getting Palpatine to stand isn't a problem. All of these joints work well under the soft goods cloak, but feel a bit redundant considering the action scenes the OT Emperor got into were virtually none... that's not to say that the body and articulation can't be re-used on a prequel Palpatine or even on other figures, cloaked or otherwise.
The only accessory is the walking stick, and this is another let down considering once in his hand it can't reach the floor even if you bend him way past what would be considered a natural pose. This is pretty poor attention to detail.
In summary this is another average release and feels a bit lazy in places. The sculpt is good and the painting adequate even if it is a little heavy handed. Jury is still out on the soft goods - like Vader I have been able to get a few good positions out of it - yet others look awful.
The face of the matter is thought that there are more negatives than positives. The cloak is too short and too light weight. And that clasp is going to cause no end of frustration (it's just popped again as I write). The length of the walking stick is a crime and unusable in any shots. The articulation is great, but practically useless on a figure that didnt really need much.
Palpatine does have a quirky charm about him and if you can get him "just right" in terms of pose and cloak position he is a nice background figure stood say behind a dualling Vader and Luke. But no more than 2 stars from me and if Hasbro are going to continue seeing strong support for the 6" range they need to start doing better.