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Battle Of The 6-inch Star Wars Action Figures - The Prequels

It’s time to continue the 1/12 scale Star Wars action figure retrospective! Today I want to focus on four prequel characters and their figures. Darth Maul, General Grievous, the Battle Droid and PadmĂ© Amidala. Are any of their figures an ultimate version? Which of the available versions is the best? Click through for today’s battle of the 6-inch action figures!

Should Anakin talk about action figures instead to improve his chances?

Let’s not waste any time and focus on the first character. Darth Maul. One of the iconic villains of Star Wars who had very little screentime in the movies, almost no dialogue and then died a pretty violent death. Only for George Lucas to later resurrect Maul, because he had realized wasting fan popular characters is not a good idea.

Darth Maul

Black Series to the right, SHF in the center. (Please click for larger version)

The Black Series Darth Maul figure was one of the very first releases in the line. Black Series Maul is certainly a good figure, the figure also comes with two display options, with or without robe.
S.H. Figuarts released their Darth Maul figure about two years later. And as an action figure SHF Darth Maul is infinitely superior to the Black Series version. The likeness is a lot better, it’s basically a miniature Ray Park. You also get two display options, a calm Maul head and Maul snarling angrily. However, you don’t get any robes. But you get the usual extra hands for various gestures and weapon poses, which does provide you with various display options as well.

SHF and TBS Darth Maul side by side. Judge for yourself.

Both the Black Series and SHF Maul have issues with the paint apps for the horns, only the upper part of the horns is painted. But overall Maul’s facial markings are more accurate on the SHF version. Articulation is also much better for the SHF version, it’s no contest really. SHF Maul can be put in very dynamic poses. The sculpt overall is sharper as well. And where the Black Series lightsaber is quite rubbery and prone to warping, the SHF lightsaber is, as usual, made of very firm plastic that will not warp, ever.
Black Series Maul had a rerelease with photoreal update, which is pictured here, but it’s only a very, very miniscule improvement, since it’s only the eyes that received an update. Maul is one of the few figures that more or less don’t benefit from photoreal, you are ok with the original Black Series release.

The recently revealed Black Series Sith Apprentice Maul figure looks like it has a much more accurate sculpt than the original Maul release. But without a figure in hand it’s too early to say anything about the figure.

For now the SHF Darth Maul is the best version of Maul you can get. However, for an ultimate figure you’d always need Maul’s robes, which SHF omits. The Black Series robes are not all that great though, they hinder articulation a lot and Maul no longer can turn his head.


General Grievous

Left: Bandai model kit. Right: Black Series. (Please click for larger version)

The prequels had really interesting designs, General Grievous as yet another villain is no exception here.
Bandai released a model kit version of Grievous first. The Black Series followed a while later with a deluxe figure.
What you immediately notice is the size difference. According to Wookiepedia the Black Series figure has the correct relative height. Which means the model kit is a lot more massive and taller, which is not really accurate.
The model kit is one of the more advanced sets, with many delicate parts and a few fiddly bits you need a little talent and some patience to assemble the kit (which requires no glue though). Also, the model kit has no weathering. From a purely aesthetic point of view the Black Series figure looks better. It has some weathering and a few scratches.
But the Black Series figure falls apart where it really matters. The figure is near impossible to pose. It’s prone to falling over. My figure also has a loose knee and ankle, which makes posing the figure even harder. I need to use a figure stand or lean Grievous against one of the Detolf glass panels, so he doesn’t fall over.
The Bandai model kit on the other hand is much more lightweight, but also incredibly easy to pose with tight joints. You can put the model kit into all kinds of very dynamic poses. The sculpt is also quite a bit sharper. The model kit gives you two display options for the arms, combined or split. The Black Series arms can be put together, but the model kit combined arm option looks better.
The cape for the Black Series figure is not all that great, but still better than the cape the model kit comes with.
For best results you need to paint the model kit, but even without any paint applied at all Grievous still looks ok, just factory new, without any wear or tear.
In many ways the Bandai model kit is the much better version of Grievous. It’s not an ultimate version of him, the model kit is too tall and the included cape looks rather bad, for best results you need a custom cape and some painting skills. But the Black Series version fails where it matters most: the “action” part of being an action figure. When an action figure is almost impossible to pose it’s a major fail. So even though Black Series Grievous looks a little bit more realistic, the Bandai model kit version of Grievous is the much better option.


BD-1 Battle Droid

SHF Battle droid in the middle, Black Series to the right. (Please click for larger version)

Hasbro ignored the prequels for the most part for several years. In that time S.H. Figuarts released a number of prequel figures. Among them was the BD-1 battle droid. This figure has a paint variant, the Geonosis arena battle droid with an extra C-3PO head, not pictured here, since it’s the exact same sculpt.
When Hasbro finally realized the prequels are the perfect source for great looking action figures they also released their BD-1 battle droid a few times, but again, the Geonosis version is just a color variant, and not pictured here. There is also a Bandai model kit with STAP, the model kit is basically the same sculpt as the SHF figure, with the SHF version being slightly more delicate. If you want a 1/12 scale STAP then the model kit is for you! But you absolutely need to paint the model, or else it looks very plasticky.
According to Wookiepedia the Black Series battle droid has the correct height, which means the SHF version is a little too short. Both the Black Series and SHF figure have good sculpts, but the SHF figure has the much crisper details. The Black Series droid has  a decent amount of weathering, the weathering on the SHF figure is much more modest, still you do get a few scratches here and there and a slight wash to make the panel lines on the body more visible, but there’s no visible dirt on the figure.
Where the Black Series figure falls short is plastic quality. Paul’s sample he photographed has legs that are more or less straight. My battle droid had extremely warped legs out of the box. Overall the Black Series battle droid has the same issues as several other Black Series figures: rubbery plastic that is prone to warping and bending.
The SHF battle droid on the other hand is very delicate, articulate the figure without the proper care and you can easily remove limbs, however the materials used are superior. The SHF figure uses very firm and sturdy plastics that will not warp or bend, no matter what. The SHF battle droid is also much easier to pose, even if you need to be somewhat careful, since the arms are delicate. But once posed the SHF figure will keep that pose and not fall over.
Overall, I feel that the SHF battle droid is the better version. Yes, it is too short, but it is much easier to pose, whereas the Black Series figure is let down by the materials Hasbro used. The weathering on the TBS figure is nice, the sculpt is certainly good as well, but Hasbro really need to stop using plastic that easily warps and bends.


Padmé Amidala

SHF figure to the left, TBS figure to the right. (Please click for larger version)

S.H. Figuarts released their Geonosis Arena version of PadmĂ© first. So it’s the version with exposed midriff, scratches on the back and a more or less “skimpy” outfit.
When Hasbro released their Geonosis Padmé they opted for the pre arena version with intact outfit and extra cape (which was removed for the photo). Thus collectors do get two versions of Geonosis Padmé, which is certainly nice.

SHF and TBS PadmĂ© side by side. SHF PadmĂ© can easily recreate the pose from Natalie’s promo photo. (Click for larger version)

The Black Series sculpt is better. There is little doubt about that. The SHF face is somewhat too round and looks like a hypothetical sister of Natalie Portman, whereas Hasbro got the sculpt pretty much right. The SHF approach to photoreal is better though, with crisper details and a more natural look. Some Black Series figures have a plastic sheen, Padmé is no exception here. Generall speaking TBS Padmé looks more plasticky than the SHF figure. So even though the SHF sculpt is worse, it still looks a bit more lifelike and human.
Black Series PadmĂ© has the better overall aesthetics. Bare skin and SHF style elbow joints never look that good. However, the SHF elbows give you better articulation, but the Black Series elbows for PadmĂ© are not bad either. That being said the way SHF engineers hip and torso joints make it possible to give the figure more feminine poses, something that is next to impossible with the Black Series version. Also, the SHF figure has some weathering applied to it for a change, which is very rare for SHF. Since it’s the Geonosis arena outfit PadmĂ©’s boots are quite dusty, actually the entire outfit looks a bit dusty. There is no blood on PadmĂ©’s back even though SHF sculpted the scratches in her outfit. Black Series PadmĂ© has no weathering at all.

What can be a bit fiddly is the SHF blaster. To fit the blaster into PadmĂ©’s hand SHF opted to make the grip removable. And the blaster itself tends to fall off quite easily, since the connection to the grip is not all that tight. You may want to opt for some glue here, if you intend to never remove the blaster. Otherwise you need to be very careful when posing the figure, but even then chances are the blaster will come apart. You can easily reattach it to the grip, but it’s still somewhat of a hassle.
Since the two versions of PadmĂ© here are quite different I feel that anyone who likes the character should have both versions (not that you can get SHF PadmĂ©, which was a web exclusive, for any reasonable amount of money). Black Series PadmĂ© overall looks better, and much more like Natalie Portman. SHF PadmĂ© has only a mediocre sculpt, but looks less like an action figure made of plastic and more like a miniature human being. However, the SHF style elbow joints don’t look all that great with bare skin.
At the end of the day your own preference decides which figure is better: skimpy outfit Padmé or pre arena Padmé? Both figure have their pros and cons.

And that’s it for today!

To sum it all up:

  • S.H. Figuarts Darth Maul is the much better action figure, but to achieve “ultimate” status it would need robes
  • both Black Series and Bandai model kit Grievous have a few flaws, but the model kit is the much better action figure with sharper details and much, much better balance and articulation. The flaws of the TBS figure are quite serious, which make posing the figure very difficult, whereas the model kit is a little bit out of scale and it requires paint and an aftermarket cape for best results, it’s also a model kit that requires some modest experience when you build it, some parts are very delicate
  • the S.H. Figuarts battle droid is the better version, even if it is too short. But superior materials, better posabilitly and a sharper sculpt make the difference here. The TBS version is prone to warping and instability and, depending on your sample, can be difficult to stand. The model kit battle droid looks worse than the SHF version, because it has literally zero paint and weathering and looks extremely plasticky, but if you are a talented painter then the model kits are always an excellent option. It’s also the only way to also get a 1/12 scale STAP
  • you can’t go wrong with either version of Geonosis PadmĂ©. The Black Series has the better sculpt and overall better aesthetics, but in return it also looks a bit plasticky. SHF PadmĂ© looks more lifelike, has better articulation and offers the battle damaged version with exposed skin – but the likeness to Natalie Portman is only mediocre. One big negative of the SHF figure is the aftermarket price. Most people will probably want to have TBS PadmĂ© and call it a day

So, what is your favorite Maul, Grievous, battle droid or Padmé 1/12 scale figure? Do you think any of their figures is an ultimate version?


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