The seven braves souls of Gold Squadron launched from Yavin 4 under the leadership of Jon “Dutch” Vander, their squadron commander, and raced toward the Death Star. Using the callsign “Gold Leader”, Dutch Vander calmly leads the first attack run on the indomitable fortress with his wingmen Tiree (Gold 2) and Davish “Pops” Krail (Gold 5). He cooly calls out his attack instructions despite facing heavy turbo laser fire, his calm under fire likely earned during the Battle of Scarif. The narrow Death Star trench rendered the lumbering strike bombers largely unmaneuverable. Darth Vader and his wingmen easily slipped into Vander’s six and blasted him from the “sky”; Pops announces Tiree and Dutch’s demise moments before he meets his own end. Only one Y-Wing, piloted by future B-Wing pilot Keyan Farlander, would return from the battle.
I recently wrote that fans were experiencing clone fatigue as the end of the general release Black Series line approached. The same could be said of orange jumpsuited Rebel pilots at the time. At this point, the Black Series was only 39 figures deep, yet it had produced four Rebel pilots. The high tooling re-use was clearly appealing to Hasbro, but the frequency of the releases was wearing thin on the customers. The Phase I Black Series Biggs Darklighter, which is a perfectly cromulent figure, was largely ignored at retail. An unfortunate re-release of the Snowspeeder pilot Dak Ralter figure didn’t fare much better. A Snowspeeder Wedge Antilles soon followed, but as a “needed” figure, it sold slightly better. Still, the orange jumpsuits dominated the pegs for this stretch. This fourth swing at the Rebel pilot plate didn’t exactly have fans jumping up and down when it was announced. Yet I will argue that it was a hugely needed upgrade.
This marks the second release of a Jon Vander figure in the line. The first was 2004’s Star Wars “Saga” Dutch Vander (Gold Leader) figure. That figure’s design was a revelation at the time with floating flight straps and the then unheard of (at the time) ball jointed knees and an additional point of articulation with a bicep swivel. It almost allowed the figure to hold the helmet by its side. Almost. By 2014, that figure was woeful. As time marched on, many of the other Battle of Yavin fighter pilots were made into figures for the first time or updated. So you had the situation where barely seen characters, such as John D. Branon, received the super articulated treatment while the prominent Gold Leader was stuck with a dated 2004 sculpt. It desperately needed an update.
As far as this figure itself, I’m largely tempted to give it the “yadda, yadda, yadda” treatment. Although it is reportedly a kitbash from various sources, we’re all well familiar with the super articulated pilot ingredients. It’s got all the right articulation to turn the figure into Pilot-Man. Pilot-Man. Pilot-Man. Does whatever a pilot can. You’re not going to strike any highly dynamic poses with this figure, but it’s got it where it counts.
I feel that the headsculpt is a little too youthful and the face is too full. It’s not immediately evocative of the on-screen actor, but as I’ve written before, helmets are the real stars of the pilot figures. Thankfully, the fairly intricate design is reasonably well executed. This figure won’t blow you out of the water. It’s your standard super articulated fare which rates an 8 out of 10. It might not be the most exciting figure, but it’s needed for your collection especially with his cameos in Rogue One and Rebels.
Well that review wasn’t very funny. On your mark. Get set. Terrible.