Enjoy the Silence(r) – LEGO Star Wars Magazine, October 2022

Time flies as fast as a TIE Fighter and so here we are again at it with the LEGO Star Wars magazine only four short weeks after the last one. This is because next weeks holiday weekend here in Germany is messing with the calendar and release schedule, so we’re getting the October issue almost one week earlier.

LEGO Magazine, Star Wars, October 2022, Cover

The comics are getting a bit concerning. Every second one of them is in some way ridiculing Darth Vader and Blue Ocean really need to stop it. It’s not that everything needs to be dead serious and strict to canon, but these “Vader is bored and messes up his surroundings” stories are really reaching a level of nonsense where it’s hard to enjoy them if you’re not a three year old.

LEGO Magazine, Star Wars, October 2022, Comic

The secondary comic follows in a similar vein and makes even Kylo Ren look bad and the empire once more like a congregation of morons.

LEGO Magazine, Star Wars, October 2022, Comic

The posters have a distinct 1970s early 1980s vibe with striped patterns, but don’t quite mange to pull it off. The back side with Obi Wan is a bit better than the front with Vader, though.

LEGO Magazine, Star Wars, October 2022, Poster

The extra is Kylo Ren‘s TIE Silencer from The Rise of Skywalker where it gets sliced to pieces by Rey. The model more or less follows the standard build pattern for these vessels we have seen so many times, but swaps out shorter panels for more elongated ones. Just like the Mandalorian Starfighter it uses the new 2 x 6 wedge plates, this time in Black of course, so if you don’t have any yet, here’s a good way to start adding some to your parts collection.

The extra once more saves the day, but otherwise this isn’t a great issue. There’s very little to gawk at and beyond the “I buy it every month, anyway.” There’s really not much to say about it. There’s just nothing standing out.

Jedi Dart – LEGO Star Wars Magazine, June 2021

Things are slowly looking up for the Corona pandemic, but everyone still has to be careful, so getting your LEGO fix is still not easy. That’s why I enjoy my little excursions to the newsstand even more, be that just as a means of getting to build a small model once a week. That is also the case for this months LEGO Star Wars magazine, technically the June 2021 edition.

LEGO Magazine, Star Wars, June 2021, Cover

The main comic is again of the slightly weirder type with the Mos Eisley Cantina band having been transplanted into some sort of other musical venue and the blue guy, Rebo, being chased by Boba Fett. Aside from the plain strangeness of the concept it unfortunately looks rather sterile and empty, not just  because of the blue colors. It kind of fails on both fronts, that is idea and execution. The other, shorter comic as usual ties in the extra, which is Obi-Wan‘s Jedi Starfighter, and is much more vibrant and vivid, though equally crazy.

The posters are okay-ish with the primary one taking a stab at the original Drew Struzan movie poster style from the 1970s made so famous by Star Wars, Indiana Jones and many other films. The backside poster is at least interesting in that it depicts the three different Darth Vader minifigure helmet styles we’ve gotten so far, but otherwise doesn’t offer much.

LEGO Magazine, Star Wars, June 2021, Poster

The already mentioned Jedi Starfighter extra is serviceable, just a bit on the sparse side. That’s not entirely LEGO‘s fault, though, as even the original is skinny as a paper plane. Still, I feel they could have added some more elements for the central fuselage. Also the whole thing is pretty apparently much too short, so just throwing in some more of them wedge plates could have made a difference. Interestingly, the 1 x 1 studs used for the engine exhaust rings are in Pearl Dark Grey, not he more common Flat Silver, so minor as it may be, it’s at least something special.

This is pretty much a very average issue. Not really bad, but not particularly exciting, either.

A Grey Travesty – LEGO Star Wars, General Grievous’s Starfighter (75286)

Last week was May the Fourth day, meaning “Let’s sell you some Star Wars stuff” day. Aside from that one time I got this TIE Fighter for cheap, I usually don’t go too crazy about it and under the circumstances it would be extremely difficult to properly “celebrate”, anyway. However, I figured it would be a fitting excuse to talk about General Grievous’s Starfighter (75286). I got this model back last year and the photos also have been catching dust on my harddrive for a while, but somehow I never got around to create a review. In a way that’s now saving my bacon while I wait for some other stuff to arrive.

LEGO Star Wars, General Grievous's Starfighter (75286), Box

Pricing and Contents

There’s no way around it, so let’s get to the real problem with this set right away: It is expensive as hell for no good reason. I didn’t mince words when I called it a travesty in the headline because it really feels like like an exaggerated bad version of reality. Point in case: LEGO are asking you to shell out a whopping 80 Euro for a 490 pieces model. Crazy prices are nothing new, but it’s one thing to consider those 5 Euro on a Disney set and accept them with grinding teeth vs. paying what amounts to a 170 % price of what a set should cost even by LEGO‘s own established metrics of around 10 Cent per part, give or take balancing out a few things for larger and smaller parts. Despite nobody being happy about it and the mechanics not always working in practice, it’s still a valid basic guideline. So what has happened here?

It doesn’t take mind-reading abilities to figure out what you may be thinking and whatever is your first thought on the matter is probably just as right. Yes, it’s all this Star Wars licensing nonsense and someone somewhere trying to skim the cream off the top. Now of course nobody knows the exact details of those licensing deals, but it is all too clear that there is something very specific going on here. Either someone thought Grievous would be particularly valuable to fans and they could easily be coerced into buying this set at any price or they need to pay residuals to a designer who no longer is on their regular payroll. To me these are to the two most likely reason, but naturally it could be anything. In any case, it smells of unabashed corporate greed.

LEGO Star Wars, General Grievous's Starfighter (75286), Overview

Thankfully, not all hope is lost, Obi-Wan Kenobi, since there’s always the self-regulating powers of the market even if there are apparent limits on how much discount you can get on a model for which your favorite retailer already pays a steep wholesale price. I got my package for 57 Euro back then and recently I’ve seen the price drop to 42 Euro in a crazy promotion. This means that you can get the model at a decent price, but likely only if you barely sleep and scour Amazon and other sites at crazy times. That said, you should probably settle on somewhere between 54 and 60 Euro as the “best” price, which is still somewhat expensive for a model of this ilk.

The Minifigures

As mentioned in the previous chapter, a big contributing factor to the insanity of the pricing are the minifigures. General Grievous is a pretty obvious candidate here, even though at least he has been in two other sets in this white version at least, as much as everyone and their mum may criticize it as being the wrong color (as indeed in the movie his armor is a color similar to Tan).

That’s not the end of it, though, as the unnamed Airborne Clone Trooper is exclusive to this set. As you would imagine, that makes him a highly coveted commodity not just for people who would want to build a diorama of the Battle of Utapau. I could barely believe my eyes when I saw that one of those figures goes for up to 30 Euro on Bricklink even now that the set is still is available. Utter madness!

Finally there’s of course Obi-Wan Kenobi himself, as he’s the one commandeering the vessel after Grievous‘ demise. Compared to the others, he’s almost too mundane. Anyway, all figures are done well enough and the detailed prints on the clone trooper alone are quite amazing. Only the white areas on Grievous‘ robot arms are way to transparent, which given the price of this set is a notable lapse in quality. I almost feel that in this case it would have been smarter to not print those elements at all if they can’t manage to get a proper opaque white on the Dark Bluish Grey pieces.

LEGO Star Wars, General Grievous's Starfighter (75286), Minifigures

The Jet

Naturally at the heart of the set is General Grievous’s Starfighter itself. But wait? Does it actually belong to Grievous. To me the simple answer is that of course it doesn’t. For one, in the The Revenge of the Sith movie it is ever only flown by Obi-Wan as he secretly makes his way out after his presumed dead. The second reason I doubt it actually belongs to Grievous is the disconnect between the droid army’s other vessels’ design and this one. So its attribution is merely based on the evil robot leader potentially having it used once coincidentally.

LEGO Star Wars, General Grievous's Starfighter (75286), Front Left View

What little info I could dig up in a quick web search seems to confirm this, as more or less his appears to be just another iteration of typical Utapaun fighters. In fact overall it more or less feels like one of the designs they used for the Naboo fighters based on 1950s car designs as explained by Doug Chiang himself on one of the bonus DVDs (can’t remember which one). It may have been one of those leftover designs too good to throw away and they repurposed it to serve as the Belbullab-22 Fighter, which apparently is its technical designation.

LEGO Star Wars, General Grievous's Starfighter (75286), Aft Left View

LEGO Star Wars, General Grievous's Starfighter (75286), Front Right View

The model is a remake of the older set 8095 and therefore inevitably shares some commonalities with it. I never had the older version, but apparently the cockpit canopy is the same and the overall design of the central section is quite similar. However, the engine gondolas have been changed completely and along with them the wing sections. Additionally, the fuselage has also been given a workover especially in the aft section. A lot of this comes down to the availability of new parts and techniques. While this does not always mean that reissues of older sets are necessarily better, I think here it pays of in spades.

LEGO Star Wars, General Grievous's Starfighter (75286), Top Left View

Of particular note are the various 2 x 8 curved slopes that with their gentle curvature help to capture the complex surface of the original vehicle. This is further aided by the 1 x 2 wedge slopes used in several places. Understandably there are still limitations, but it makes for a fair approximation in many places.

LEGO Star Wars, General Grievous's Starfighter (75286), Top Aft View

LEGO Star Wars, General Grievous's Starfighter (75286), Front Right Top View

One thing I definitely don’t agree on is the use of the stud shooters for the guns. Not only is their placement wrong (they should be much further out and closer to the gondolas), but also is their appearance just completely iffy. According to my limited research they are actually retractable gun pods with aerodynamic covers. On the older model they made at least an attempted to mimic this with some 1 x 1 cones. in hindsight with what I know now I would likely simply leave them off if I were to build the model again.

LEGO Star Wars, General Grievous's Starfighter (75286), Aft Right View

LEGO Star Wars, General Grievous's Starfighter (75286), Aft Left View, Engines

Despite the overall elegance of the model, the rear support strut/ control fin remains a bit of a weak spot in terms of appearance. As so often, the blue pin holding it doesn’t look good and in its down position the housing into which it retracts is an open chasm. The attachment point appears correct, but at least the hollow area is not according to pictures of the real thing. This is rather regrettable as clearly there is ample room inside that would have allowed to flesh this out with more curved slopes to close at least some of the gaps. This is yet another area where I would invest some time to come up with a different design for a permanent display model.

LEGO Star Wars, General Grievous's Starfighter (75286), Right Storage Bay

LEGO Star Wars, General Grievous's Starfighter (75286), Storage Bay Detail

The vehicle is naturally dominated by its large gondolas/ engine nacelles. Those would make for an insane thrust-to-weight ratio if this were real and the fighter could likely easily outrun and outmaneuver a lot of other crafts, including more nimble smaller fighters. The building process for those nacelles is rather involved, to say the least. Even with quite a bit of experience at building LEGO it was somewhat convoluted and took me longer than I had expected. This is not least of all due to the compartments on the sides that can be opened thanks to a sliding mechanism. This is a nice touch and certainly cleverly executed, but since there is technically nothing in the set to put in there it feels a bit unnecessary and self-indulgent. It complicates the construction process and turns what otherwise would be a simple affair into a bit of an exercise.

LEGO Star Wars, General Grievous's Starfighter (75286), Top Front View

Despite the model looking pretty solid and decent from several angles, it becomes apparent from other angles that there is a lot of optical trickery going on. The area that stands out the most here is the front section of the engines and the transition to the underside. I’m fully aware that there is no perfect wedge or slope piece that they just could have slotted in, but maybe at least they could have filled in some of the gaps with more plates. Just sayin’…

LEGO Star Wars, General Grievous's Starfighter (75286), Front View

How much the design relies on cheating your eyes also becomes clear when you turn the model on its head. It’s pretty barren and similar to my previous point it might not have hurt to slip in a few plates or inverted slopes here and there even if thankfully none of this mess can be seen in the regular pose. On that note: The single arrow shooter in the middle is just weird and yet another element I’d simply not use next time.

LEGO Star Wars, General Grievous's Starfighter (75286), Bottom View

One final note on the cockpit: People have been criticizing it heavily for the incorrect shape of the canopy, using the Dark Tan slide rails and the Black slide bricks, but realistically one can only complain about the latter. Yes, it’s just lazy that LEGO didn’t produce this part in Dark Bluish Grey. The slide rails can be easily explained away as being some leather padding and for the canopy the rationalization has to be that unlike Mega Construx or Cobi LEGO simply don’t do new molds these days unless they can re-use it for other sets as well. So for what it’s worth, while it may not be perfectly correct, it is probably as good a representation of the genuine article as we are ever going to get.

LEGO Star Wars, General Grievous's Starfighter (75286), Cockpit Detail


Concluding Thoughts

Sadly, this is one of those sets where one feels a strong urge to drive to the LEGO headquarters, demand to speak to the CEO and slap him in the face for allowing such dumb things to happen in his company. This set could have been a hit if it wasn’t for the outrageous price. The construction is solid, the build is challenging, but manageable and the result looks very acceptable. At something like 45 Euro it would likely even have attracted some non-Star-Wars builders just for the aesthetics and enjoyment of building cool vehicles.

In its current form, however, it will never reach this status and only be remembered as one of the most shameful attempts by LEGO to gouge its loyal customers. Sure, there will be enough people who still buy it and I bet you that next year when it goes end-of-line there will be a race to pick up the last packages with massive clearance discounts, but overall the demographic for this set is certainly limited. It’s in a very specific niche and LEGO really can only blame themselves for ruining it.

With a more acceptable price this could have been a sales hit, but as it is, its good sides in no way compensate for the aggravation of feeling scalped out of your money. So for what it’s worth, think long and hard before committing to a purchase. If you have the slightest doubt in your mind, just stay away. This essentially is really only for hardcore fans or people who plan on selling off the minifigs to refinance the rest.

Jedi Fighter – LEGO Star Wars Magazine, December 2020

After the craziness of the last issue of the LEGO Star Wars magazine – I’ve literally seen pictures on Facebook from people having bought twenty or more – we’re now back on more normal, more mundane territory again.

LEGO Magazine, Star Wars, December 2020, Cover

The main comic takes us back to Endor and portrays some hijinx that believably could have happened off-screen in The Return of the Jedi. I definitely prefer this type of story rather than some wildly crazy, concocted stories that don’t fit the story and lore as I know it. The second comic is just that and inevitably ties in with the extra that comes with the mag, Obi-Wan‘s Jedi Interceptor.

LEGO Magazine, Star Wars, December 2020, Comic

LEGO Magazine, Star Wars, December 2020, Extra The model of said fighter is okay, but pretty unspectacular. That were of course true even if you bought a bigger set and an inherent strength or weakness with the slick, yet somewhat boring overall design. After all, it’s just a big barrel cockpit with some wings and huge flaps. Therefore for me the only real value in parts are the Dark Red ones. Not particularly rare, but it’s a nice color to have as it’s useful for many different applications.

A highlight this month are the posters, which satisfy my designer’s taste buds. They’re nice graphical designs and reasonably balanced with the only caveat being whether or not you could get over LEGO‘s version of The Child‘s all too alien-baby looking black eyes. I really wish they’d include those hazel-colored irises to make it look a little less terrifying.

LEGO Magazine, Star Wars, December 2020, Poster A LEGO Magazine, Star Wars, December 2020, Poster B

Not much going on in the activities department this time around, though, with only some super simple games providing a bit of engagement. As it is, this issue enjoyable enough for a few minutes, but offers no longer-lasting distraction from the current misery around us.