One of the exclusives I was looking forward to at SDCC 2006 was Hasbro's Shadow Stormtrooper. But when our own Rustin Parr tried to get one for me, the people at Hasbro's booth just kind of shrugged and gave him blank stares. See, despite the fact that it was specifically an SDCC exclusive, it wasn't available at the show: the only place to get it was StarWarsShop.com - but Hasbro had failed to mention that on any of their press releases, leading to the confusion. Way to go, guys. Thankfully, the Shadow Stormtrooper has now been released as a Fans' Choice figure in the Saga Legends line.
Armed with a powerful blaster rifle and dressed in black armor
designed to increase sensor-stealth, these stormtroopers loyally serve a mysterious agent of evil named Carnor Jax. Trained to fight without mercy for any opponent, these stormtroopers obey Jax's order to locate and eliminate an Imperial Guardsman named Kir Kanos.
Most folks think the Shadow troopers first appeared in 1997's Crimson Empire, but that's not true: they actually debuted in 1979, in the Star Wars daily comicstrip. Did you know Star Wars had a comicstrip? Go figure. I guess there really was no escaping the film's popularity back then. Anyway, the story involved Luke and Leia going to the planet Vorzyd-5 to recruit for the Rebel Alliance, unaware that the Empire's director of intelligence, codenamed "Blackhole," was also present. Blackhole had vast resources at his disposal, including an entire Star Destroyer and all its assorted crew. All the Stormtroopers who served under him were issued black armor instead of white, which is why these guys are also known as Blackhole Troopers.
Whatever you want to call him, this figure is made using the same mold as 2004's VOTC Stormtrooper, which means a great sculpt and plenty of poseability. The Shadow Stormtrooper has balljointed ankles, knees, elbows, shoulders, torso and neck, plus swivel hips and wrists. Unlike the plain Stormtrooper made using most of the VOTC mold, the Shadow Stormtrooper does not have a removable helmet. How sad!
The sculpt is quite good, of course - remember, it debuted in the line that was supposed to offer the "ultimate" versions of the characters. A lot of the details get lost due to the "shadow" paint scheme, but they're still there. All the details on the abdomen, for instance, or the tiny vents and whatnot on the helmet. There are even wrinkles on the cloth suit he wears under the armor.
Though the Shadow Stormtrooper looks like an all-black repaint, that's not technically true. Yes, the armor is black - a stygian-triprismatic polymer - but the cloth beneath it is dark grey, providing just a bit of variety. There are a few spots of silver on the helmet, and the vents are light blue. A plain black version would have been easy, but boring: Hasbro took the extra step to make a better toy. The prototype showed a navy blue understocking, but this is much nicer.
The Stormtrooper just has one accessory, his standard-issue blaster. It can be held in either hand
(or both), and the pouch on his left hip is designed to hold it, but that doesn't really work very well. The holster hangs straight down, and doesn't really flex when you put the gun in. Plus, the blaster itself is soft pvc, so it tends to bend if you leave it in there for any length of time. There's a tab on one side that fits through the back of the holster, which is nice, but there's a second tab on the same side that isn't accommodated. Basically, the gun ends up poking through the holster at a permanent angle.
Some fans decry the "candy coated" clones
we've been getting ever since Episode II and III were released, saying that it's just a cheap way for Hasbro to trick us all into buying and rebuying the same figures forever. Well, honestly, so what? No one's making you buy them, and it isn't exactly a new idea. After the black Stormtroopers appeared in the Star Wars comicstrip, Kenner considered releasing different colored Stormtroopers in the toyline. Yeah, back in the late '70s. They ultimately decided to ignore the Expanded Universe altogether, not realizing how huge it would one day be, but finally, at last, we have Blackhole's Shadow Stormtroopers - if their insane combination of popularity and rarity doesn't keep you from ever finding one.