Frosty Luke – LEGO Star Wars Magazine, January 2023

It’s been one of the warmest New Year’s Eves in history, so the title of this article is diametrical to the real conditions, but it is nonetheless appropriate. In the run-up to the end of year celebrations this was supposed to come out a bit earlier, but somehow it only appeared at my newsstand on Friday and I didn’t get around to finishing my review earlier. Now lets see what the LEGO Star Wars magazine has to offer on this exact first day of the new year.

LEGO Magazine, Star Wars, January 2023, Cover

The first comic takes a page from the original A New Hope movie in that it presents us with a Millenium Falcon chase through an asteroid field, however this time as part of a cosmic race, whose concept somehow immediately reminded me of Star Trek – Voyager‘s “Drive” episode in the seventh season. Someone certainly took some inspiration. It also makes the comic slightly more interesting since we at least get to see some varied spaceships and characters.

LEGO Magazine, Star Wars, January 2023, Comic

The second comic as usual serves as the means to introduce the extra and features some icy action on Hoth with some Wampas and a certain Luke Skywalker.

LEGO Magazine, Star Wars, January 2023, Comic

The posters are quite nice this time. One can never have enough Mustafar-themed ones as the fiery, volcanic glows just look mysterious and cool and Vader with his brooding presence adds to that. The composition feels a bit cheap and could have been done better, but it’s really okay. The back side might be even more interesting to some people. It has a close-up of Luke‘s minifigure head with the Red 5 helmet, which would make for an interesting presentation if you put it up next somewhere to the eponymous set of the helmet.

LEGO Magazine, Star Wars, January 2023, Poster

LEGO Magazine, Star Wars, January 2023, ExtraSince for all intents and purposes it’s extremely unlikely LEGO will revive the Wampa mold any time soon, you knew where this was going when I mentioned the second comic and yes, of course we’re getting the Luke minifigure instead. Regrettably, while it’s actually quite nice, it’s also nothing special. It has been available for a long time in a Microfighters set and just was part of the 2022 LEGO Star Wars Advent Calendar (75340). Chances that you already have it therefore are very high and the minifig as such will drop considerably in value. Therefore its real value is more in using it as a basis for a custom figure with a replaced head.

This edition of the mag on the whole is okay, but unless you really don’t have the minifigure and want it badly, there’s no need to rush to the newsstand. That might be a much more appropriate course of action next month, when we will get a much rarer Bo Katan fig.

Space Wedge – LEGO Star Wars Magazine, December 2022

The LEGO Star Wars magazine remains one of the staples of that whole LEGO magazine business and while not always outstanding, it usually has at least something interesting to show. Let’s see if the December 2022 issue lives up to that.

LEGO Magazine, Star Wars, December 2022, Cover

I’m not a friend of those “Palpatine behaves like a teenager” as you know, so the main comic doesn’t really go down well with me. Too much implausible nonsense and too way off the mainstream canon even if you take a liberal approach and allow for some wackiness.

LEGO Magazine, Star Wars, December 2022, Comic

The secondary comic isn’t doing much better, in particular since the vehicle it is supposed to promote as the extra, the Imperial Light Destroyer, isn’t really shown that much.

LEGO Magazine, Star Wars, December 2022, Comic

The poster on the front features Captain Vaughn from the Armored Assault Tank (AAT) (75283) set in all his glory. Stylistically it is similar to the one in the last issue, so they would look nice next to each other. The backside has an X-Wing zooming toward the Death Star, but it’s not nearly as interesting.

LEGO Magazine, Star Wars, December 2022, Poster

The extra is the Imperial Light Destroyer mentioned earlier. It was introduced in Rebels and recently played a bigger role in The Mandalorian. As you would expect the model is pieced together from a few wedge plates, which is sufficient to match the contour, but does not really provide the necessary volume for the ship’s body. In terms of pieces there isn’t too much special here. There’s a pair of triangular tiles in Light Bluish Grey, which are always nice to have, but the rest is standard fare – with one exception: Inside there’s a Black 1 x 5 plate (!) for the central spine, which I think is the first time ever this element has ever been used in one of those foil packs on any of the LEGO magazines. If you never encountered it up close and personal in a set (since it’s still being used rather sparingly) here’s your chance to get acquainted with this marvel of modern engineering. 😉

This edition of the magazine holds very few surprises, but is overall a solid affair. The posters are decent and the comics are serviceable, though I’d prefer them to be a bit more serious and in line with the rest of Star Wars. Though personally I prefer buildable models, fans of minifigures will be pleased that next month there will be another one in the form if a Hoth Luke Skywalker with snow goggles, vest and all.

Mandalorian AT-AT – LEGO Star Wars Magazine, April 2022

In light of how all over the place some of the LEGO magazines are lately, I appreciate it even more when a reasonably good issue comes out and it seems the LEGO Star Wars mag for April 2022 manages to pull that off.

LEGO Magazine, Star Wars, April 2022, Cover

The primary comic is based on Boba Fett and presumably somehow ties in with the The Book of Boba Fett and The Mandalorian series, which as usual I don’t know too much about, seeing as I don’t have Disney+ and my information is limited to content snippets and reviews one can find on the internet at large. Anyway, both series heavily rely on revived story arcs, locations and characters from the original Star Wars movies, which also opens up many opportunities to make the comics more interesting with more exotic aliens and unusual vehicles. This is on display here with the lizard-like evil-doer and some Jawas making an appearance.

LEGO Magazine, Star Wars, April 2022, Comic

The second comic treads more familiar territory with some AT-AT mayhem during the Battle of Hoth. Interspersed between those two bookends are of course a bunch of riddles, puzzles and other activities, but nothing to write home about.

LEGO Magazine, Star Wars, April 2022, Comic

The posters are quite satisfying this time around and in fact I chose to display the reverse one with Ahsoka here because it’s even better than the one with Darth Maul. I like the friendly and clear color combination and this wouldn’t look bad in most kids’ rooms even if they don’t have one of those dark corners where the other mostly black posters make their mark.

LEGO Magazine, Star Wars, April 2022, Poster

The extra is an AT-AT mini build. It’s been a while since we had one of those and while personally I wouldn’t have needed yet another version, I don’t mind, either. For understandable reasons the construction is quite similar, but still differing in certain details. Back then they had to bash together the lower sections of the legs from two rounded 1 x 1 hinge plates, but now this has been optimized to use the new solid 1 x 1 piece with opposing bars that was introduced late last year for the Volkswagen T2 Camper Van (10279). This obviously simplifies the build and enhances robustness. My only regret is that they used the Dark Bluish Grey version they had in stock and did not manufacture a new batch in Light Bluish Grey. In addition to this the model comes with some other elements like the 1 x 1 x 2 bracket also introduced in 2021 or the 1 x 2 x 2 SNOT brick, but in the rarer Black color.  They are available in droves in Light Bluish Grey from the many Brickheadz produced over the years, but surprisingly LEGO have only been doing them in some other colors rather recently.

As you might have guessed from my long-winded nerding out about the parts I’m quite happy with this edition and the interesting comic and nice posters certainly help to lift your mood, too. There’s little to complain here and one wished they’d manage to give us such good content every month…

Blue Trooper – LEGO Star Wars Magazine, March 2022

The craziness of current events makes time fly even faster plus there’s still some slight disarray in Blue Ocean‘s publishing schedule, so it’s little surprise that it feels like the last issue of the LEGO Star Wars magazine only came out two weeks ago.

LEGO Magazine, Star Wars, March 2022, Cover

The comics are really getting a bit stale and weirder by the mile with the March 2022 edition of the mag having yet another spin at Vader engaging in extracurricular activities outside his evil overlord duties. I can hardly believe that anyone finds this truly funny and this can only be excused as being aimed at children who might not know better or don’t care. Still, I wish this would be more connected to the actual goings-ons in the Star Wars universe and have a more serious tone.

LEGO Magazine, Star Wars, March 2022, Comic

The secondary comic takes a similar spin, but again it’s not really funny.

LEGO Magazine, Star Wars, March 2022, Comic

The posters are pretty good this time. The first one depicts six of the Knights of Ren in a nicely arranged table. this time, however, the second poster on the reverse side takes the cake, showing a chase scene on Hoth with a Wampa going after our heroes. There’s even a Tauntaun and the power station in the background. With the exception of the Wampa perhaps looking a bit too much like a red-nosed Yeti the poster is very well drawn with a dynamic camera angle and an overall pleasant composition and style.

LEGO Magazine, Star Wars, March 2022, Poster

LEGO Magazine, Star Wars, March 2022, ExtraThe extra is a Storm Trooper minifigure, but not any kind of trooper. It’s one of the more special ones of the 501st Legion. This got a few people’s underwear in a twist when it was previewed in the last issue and while it’s always nice to have a few more of these guys, the 501st Legion Clone Troopers (75280) set is still widely available and with discounts, making this only the second best option to bolster your troops. Unlike with some more exclusive figures from expensive sets (see Palpatine’s grand appearance) there’s no reason to storm the newsstand and buy entire stacks of the magazine just to get enough of the troopers.

The posters and extra are really this issue’s saving grace. Otherwise it devolves a bit too much into cheap comic relief territory, which I think doesn’t really befit Star Wars. not everything needs to be doom & gloom, but at least they should not ridicule central characters so much in my opinion. How do Disney/ Lucasfilm even let them get away with this? *sigh*

Hothian Winter – LEGO Star Wars Magazine, January 2022

Wouldn’t you believe it? We actually had a bit of snow on Christmas this year! Really only a thin layer, but better than nothing. That makes it kind of fitting that the January 2022 issue of the LEGO Star Wars magazine takes us back to Hoth and its snow and ice covered regions.

LEGO Magazine, Star Wars, January 2022, Cover

The first comic starts out on the opposite side of the temperature spectrum, though, taking us to the jungle planet of Quatal after Luke crashes there. Naturally, as he tries to escape and get off the planet, the usual running away from imperial pursuers and dangerous animals ensues. The blue monster seen in the image is a bit funny and really looks to me like the artist had a bit of fun  exploring what a mutated Stitch (from the Lilo & Stitch movies, of course) might look like. The similarities are really striking and I can’t un-see them.

LEGO Magazine, Star Wars, January 2022, Comic

The second comic references the extra and is based around a group of Snowtroopers getting lost in the endless white void during the Battle of Hoth.

LEGO Magazine, Star Wars, January 2022, Comic

The posters are a bit of a misfire, unfortunately. The one depicted here with Darth Vader is simply too dark and the overly bright type and light saber completely distract from Vader himself. This clearly would have needed some work to enhance the contrast and balance out the overall appearance. The second with Han Solo and Chewbacca in the cockpit of the Millenium Falcon suffers from being doctored, i.e. the cockpit frame being just a 2D background artwork created after the fact instead of being integrally rendered in 3D with the figures.

LEGO Magazine, Star Wars, January 2022, Poster

The extra has been causing a bit of a stir and gotten a few people very tizzy due to it being being a female Snowtrooper/ Snowtrooperess minifigure. Not only is the latter an interesting tidbit, with all previous such characters having had the male generic “angry clone” face (or unprinted black heads), but also the fact that this lady otherwise could only be found in the huge UCS AT-AT (75313) only released in November. Considering that this big model has a full 40 seats and only a few of them are covered with minifigures, clearly there is a market to buy more – a lot more. People lucky enough to be able to afford this certainly should make it a point to buy this magazine once at least.

The value of this issue for adults hugely depends on how much you are after the minifigure, but on the bright side at least the comics are pretty decent and can give a bit of enjoyment. the rest isn’t really worth mentioning with a lot of bad Photoshop work hurting my eyes and the activities and puzzles being bland. I would predict, however, that the minifigure alone will be attractive to anyone owning an AT-AT model, big or small, and thus sell stacks and stacks of this issue…

Probing the Snow? – LEGO Star Wars, Imperial Probe Droid (75306)

I had hoped that this little beauty would arrive a bit earlier so I could have written my article on it last week instead of the one I actually did, but alas it wasn’t meant to be. The package got stuck in the warehouse and due to an unfortunate combination of circumstances suffered further delays when it was supposed to be delivered. So only now can I tell you about he LEGO Star Wars Imperial Probe Droid (75306).

LEGO Star Wars, Imperial Probe Droid (75306), Box

Pricing and Contents

The set is part of LEGO‘s new line of collectible items. People have attributed it to fit in the various helmets/ masks/ cowls series found in Star Wars and Super Heroes, but that’s not really an official designation nor is there such a series explicitly named in such a manner. It’s more implied by similarities in building style, identical design solutions and techniques, number of pieces, packaging and price point. Even then this set is by all means an outlier simply because of its different structure and appearance.

LEGO Star Wars, Imperial Probe Droid (75306), Overview, Front

The set officially retails for 70 Euro for 683 pieces, which is quite a chunk of change, especially once you consider that many parts are really just small 1 x 1 or 1 x 2 elements. It really shows that LEGO are betting on fans being willing to pay almost any price. It would not have hurt if they shaved off 10 Euro right from the start, be that just to bring it in line with the usual 60 Euro for the helmets. That in and of itself is of course still a hefty price tag, but let’s save this discussion for another time. However, in contrast to the helmets this model has much more volume and visible details, so at least you feel like you are getting a better deal in contrast to the other sets where many elements are used invisibly inside and are only shimmed over with relatively few other parts for the outward appearance.

Effectively I got this set for 48 Euro, which at the time of writing was/ is the best price, equaling around 33 percent discount. I actually sat down at 6 PM for an Internet-based live flash sale for the first time ever in my life on May the 4th to snatch up a copy. It’s an oddly exciting, but also exhausting and potentially frustrating way to buy stuff, because ultimately you never know if it really worked until you get the final confirmation and the goods are shipped. I had a bad gut feeling for a few days after that (in addition, but totally unrelated to my pre-existing intestinal issues caused by my chronic illness) and really only began to relax when the post mistress handed me over my parcel after all that kerfuffle.

The set has only been released in March and so far is proving to be very popular, so you should not expect any notable discounts beyond that until quite some time later this year. It will take a while before everyone who wanted is gets this set and LEGO‘s ongoing supply issues taper off. On average you can expect to pay around 55 Euro for this set, which is still not a great price-to-value ratio, but acceptable within the crazy world of LEGO Star Wars. Further discounts may of course be possible during special promos, but you should not expect too much.

LEGO Star Wars, Imperial Probe Droid (75306), Overview, Back

From a different perspective one of the questions I can’t get out of my head is of course whether they could have added more content to justify the price and pretty obviously the answer to that would be a resounding “Yes!”. I mean there’s a rather elaborate snow bank already, so it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that in place of the plaque it just as well could hold a Tauntaun and/ or Luke and Han minifigures in their winter-y Hoth garments.

There hasn’t been a (molded) Tauntaun in years and even under worst conditions a lot of people would have rejoiced to get one with only minor refinements like a print perhaps. Ideally they would have done a new mold, admittedly, and I’m sure this alone would have amped up hype around this set to crazy levels. LEGO could of sold stacks of this set on that alone.

The Snow Bank

One of the pleasant surprises in this set is the stand. Unlike the helmets’ conventional plinth-like construction it is modeled after a snow bank as already mentioned a few times. It gently slopes from one side to the other. Because of its width it also doubles as a holder for the info plaque. As usual I did not use any stickers, so mine is blank, but I would not consider this an issue. The truth is that I would just leave of the large tile completely and also replace the ratcheted hinge plates it is affixed to, with the real point being that the assembly causes a bit of tension in the base and thus the right hand side bends slightly upwards. This reduces overall stability and simply does not look good.

LEGO Star Wars, Imperial Probe Droid (75306), Plaque

The snow bank consists of around 100 elements, including a considerable number of 1 x 4 slopes and several rounded/ wedge slopes to shape the mound and also give the appearance of a wind-blown pile of snow with its incline indicating the direction. Personally I feel that the whole thing could  have been a bit larger and more parts covered with smooth elements, but of course it’s always easy to ask for more.

LEGO Star Wars, Imperial Probe Droid (75306), Snow Bank, Front Left View

Still, one of the problems can’t be denied and that’s that the plaque gets in the way of the droid arms and vice versa. It should definitely be offset more to the left and leave a sufficient gap so the arms don’t touch it, no matter what position. To me this seems like an unnecessary shortcoming and oversight and I would extend the construction and insert some more elements. While at it I would also add another layer of plates or even bricks underneath the main “ice shelf”. Not only would this help to counter any potential bending issues, but also add more weight which is always helpful for stability.

An interesting detail is the mounting hole for the droid’s pole, which is actually not a plug connection, but really only an insert with the walls surrounding it ensuring it doesn’t topple over.

LEGO Star Wars, Imperial Probe Droid (75306), Snow Bank, Plug Hole

The Probe Droid

Interestingly enough, the droid barely makes an appearance in the Star Wars universe, yet it is one of those iconic designs that you immediately recognize. It can only be seen briefly in The Empire Strikes Back and even less in The Phantom Menace. Beyond that it seems to be in some games as a floating target that can be sliced with the light saber or shot at, but I don’t know much about that, since my gamer days are long over.

There are of course limitation to re-creating such a complex shape with LEGO, but overall this is a successful rendition of the original. It credibly replicates the multi-eyed spider/ insect look for the head and the dangly arms. From a distance it indeed conveys this feeling of a heavy medusa/ jellyfish  and looks the part. However, truth be told I think this model would have benefited from being built at an even larger scale. I haven’t mentioned this in a long time, but yes, this is a perfect example of where my 150% rule would apply.

The arms could and should be longer and would still look more elegant and slim and the head could have more details and better approximations of some curves. Most importantly this would also have fixed the single most critical issue I have with this model: The central ring/ body. It is a bit too thick here and the gaps a bit too wide. Increasing the overall radius and inserting more slopes would have mitigated this problem. It would also improve the model in that it would be harder to see some of the colored pieces on the inside. Those are used for spacial orientation and distinguishing the different sides. Substituting them for consistently grey parts would be easy, though.

Admittedly, when talking about a larger scale we are almost talking UCS levels here and the parts count might easily have increased by 200 or 300 pieces, bringing the price up further. Therefore take this as my personal opinion, not so much a general flaw with the model. I just don’t know. That’s likely one of those compromises you have to live with on a commercial set…

The robotic arms/ tentacles do the trick from afar, but technically are still way too crude once you get up close. It really matters from which angle you are looking at the model or for that matter how everything is posed. Some positions look interesting, others not so much and a commonly shared issue is that just misaligning a single element like one of the prongs of a claw can make a huge difference. Again, the amount of detail is limited by the scale and in addition I found the actual building process a bit tedious and challenging. You have to be extra careful to align things or else things will look like crap.

This also goes for the elements from  the Super Heroes weapons pack which are extensively used in this set to get some effects that otherwise would be nearly impossible like changing angles or attaching symmetrical elements from both sides. one would hope that they used this more often even in regular sets, as it really allows some interesting stuff.

The drone’s head is mounted on a turntable and can rotate a full 360 degrees just like the original so it can point its sensors and sensor arrays in every direction (though funny enough one of them gets easily taken down by Han Solo). Since I bought the model only after the NASA Space Shuttle Discovery (10283) came out, I was immediately reminded that this droid, too, could have made excellent use of the new “pancake” pieces, the 3 x 3 quarter dishes above the cockpit. Mega Construx has had them for years and they really solve so many problems with smooth, gently curved rounded surfaces. It’s about time LEGO finally have them as well.

Parts Galore!

As you well know, obsessing about new and rare parts is a bit of a thing for me, and this model scratches that itch just as well. Aside from the already mentioned weapons pack in Pearl Dark Grey this model provides a plethora of Dark Bluish Grey and Black parts for your pleasure. This is of course out of sheer necessity because everything safe for some structural parts on the inside is pretty much visible. I’m pretty certain LEGO would have loved to throw a colorful mess of their surplus parts stock at us if only there was a way. Well, let’s be grateful for small things and not least because of this set we now get this robot head cone and the rounded corner brick in a new color.


Concluding Thoughts

Overall this is a pretty nice model once it’s finished. getting there is another story, as the build process drags on quite a bit. you have to invest the time to align and orient some elements so they look correct and you also mustn’t underestimate how time-consuming assembly of the arms and other tiny bits is. The result is rewarding and makes up for this trial in patience, though. This is pretty much as good as it gets and until LEGO may come out with a reissue of this set in a few years which uses newer parts this sets an example of what’s possible. The level of detail is really astounding.

That said, there are a few caveats. It’s perfectly clear that this is a display model and therefore some things are a bit flimsy. I in particular really don’t like how loosely the arms dangle around. They don’t fall off or anything, it’s just hard to get them in a stable position that looks nice. There’s also a slight imbalance due to the uneven weight distribution, causing the model to tilt to the side depending on the arm configuration. These are all tiny details that need to be handled carefully or you genuinely fix them with some re-engineering of certain areas.

On the whole, though, I would recommend this model despite it’s high price to anyone who like me likes “visible functions” and technical-looking models with exposed hydraulics,  pneumatics and all sorts of nuts and bolts.