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Review : Star Wars Black Series Darth Vader, The Empire Strikes Back

For the 40th Anniversary of The Empire Strikes Back, Hasbro revisited their existing Darth Vader Black Series figures and tweaked it to create the look Lord Vader had in Empire. The figure was first released on the 40th Anniversary Card Back and was also used as the base for the Carbonized Darth Vader Exclusive. As of Autumn 2020 he was also released in the Galaxy Collection (Wave 1) in the new artwork packaging - the first of the Empire Strikes Back numbered figures to be released in this new phase of the Black Series.

The Empire Darth Vader, Galaxy Collection, arrives in the new slant sided box with a black base colour and then the blue hues that will be attached to all Empire Strikes Back figures. The front o of the box carries the Black Series logo and displays the figure in an open window that wraps the left hand side. The bottom of the window is bordered in a blue band that confirms the movie source for the figure as Empire, and underneath this in blue text is the name - Darth Vader.

The right hand spine of the box is slanted and carries the new art panel. These are drawn in grey scale like the older figures, but with a glow feature in the accent colour of the movie/series. The Vader figure is pictured with his lightsaber lit diagonally across his body. This does look a little odd seeing Vader with a blue lightsaber. Unlike some of the other Galaxy Collection figure art, the Vader panel carries no details in the backdrop other than a few clouds.

The back of the box features a cropped repeat of the same image and under this the blue border continues and carries the new numbering system with Darth Vader #01 in the Empire Strikes Back series. Alongside the art is a short piece of background text that talks about Vader's search for Luke after the events of A New Hope and how his search led him to Hoth - this is much more in keeping with the figure and base movie than some of the other text inclusions on the new Galaxy Collection figures.

"After the destruction of the Death Star, Darth Vader became obsessed with finding Luke Skywalker. He had dispatched probe droids across the galaxy, finally locating the Rebel base on the remote ice planet Hoth"

Vader is accessed via the top or bottom of the box. The bottom is easiest as it is only taped in one location and not several like the top and sides. The entire tray and backing card slide out - with the window attached. This detachable innards design will certainly help in recycling by separating cardboard and plastic easily. Vader has a second piece of inner clear plastic at the back of his tray keeping his cape spread and neat - which is much better than some other soft goods cloaks that are stuffed into a box and often need straightening once unpacked.

Packaging 4.0

Much of the Vader figure has been released before for the A New Hope 40th Anniversary. The helmet shape is well proportioned and cast in gloss black plastic. The chin and neck area are picked out in a grey which looks odd up close, but does help with definition when the figure is posed.

The soft goods robes now go under the shoulder armour, rather than over it as per A New Hope. The chest box is also updated as a new piece and with the adjusted switches and colours as seen in Empire.

The body is cast in a duller black plastic with ribbed texturing on the arms and legs. The belt is well painted with silver on the buckle and more painted switches either side of the centre. The boots return to a gloss black finish.

The soft goods are light and flow well, although like the previous Vader there is almost too much which can lead to a very voluminous cape at times leading you to reign it in a little and push it in at the back. I am probably asking a little too much to see us get a posing wire in the cape which would have really added to the figures look and posing options. The same cloth is uses on the skirt which again hangs well enough around this legs without impeding anything.

Sculpt & Paint 4.0

Lord Vader comes with his lightsaber, the same accessory from the 2017 figure with good definition on the fins, switches and emitter and a combination of silver and black across the lightsaber body.

The blade detaches from the saber hilt and is cast in red translucent plastic. It is a little bend on arrival with quite a thin plug where it slips into the saber hilt - an issue with a lot of Black Series sabers at the moment. While there is a loop on the saber, there is no corresponding hook on Vader's belt to hang the saber when not in use.

This is another Vader release without any alternative hands which would have been nice to see for the "I am your Father" outstretched hand scene or for force choking or pointing angrily at his Officers.

Accessories 3.0

Lord Vader has a total of 16 points of articulation, a standard set for the Black Series.

Head : ball joint with pivot

Body : waist ball joint

Arms : ball joint shoulder, single rotating elbow, wrist pivot

Legs : ball joint hips, thigh swivel, double joint knees, ankle rockers

All the joints work extremely well, even with Vader's armour configuration. The shoulders raise fully with the shoulder pauldrons withdrawing under the torso piece. The elbows, despite being a single joint, bend to well past 90 degrees for some impressive gesturing and lightsaber poses.

Vader can kneel and sit with double joint s built in to the knees behind the armour of the boots. The hips are quite bit loose, an issue with the original Vader figures, and with his height and weight Vader can slide off into the splits with some poses.

Articulation 4.0

The Galaxy Collection Empire Strikes Back Darth Vader is a solid figure that is let down only by some very loose hip joints leading to issues with standing in some posing. The soft goods take some work, and in some areas there is a bit too much fabric - but once shaped around the figure and the pose they look fine and hang naturally enough.

The decision to buy this figure is very much driven by the packaging. As a MIB collector you may be driven by having a complete Galaxy Collection line up - or might have already committed to the 40th Anniversary carded figure. The issue is probably one of saturation at this point and the Galaxy Collection Vader may clog up pegs a bit coming out so close to the 40th Anniversary release. While I appreciate the economy of making all the figures at the same time - a bit of a gap between the two might have helped.

I score the Empire Strikes Back Darth Vader, ESB 01 in the Galaxy Collection, a total score of 3.5

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