Gentle Giant Star Wars mini-busts
Chewbacca and Darth Maul

Do you remember the Seinfield episode called "The Strike"? This episode is primarily remembered for introducing the world to the holiday of Festivus, but in Jerry's sub-plot, he's dating a woman named Gwen who looks vastly different under different lighting conditions. Sometimes she's a babe - other times she's hideous.

For me, Gentle Giant is Gwen. This is a company that can produce some of the most amazing statues, busts and figures on the market today. And then they can produce some of the worst. This is a company that can make me drool in anticipation of new product, and then piss me off with some of their policies and attitudes toward their own customers. Yep, they're definitely Gwen.

But if GG is Gwen, then the Star Wars and Harry Potter mini-busts are the areas where the light is the most favorable for them. Even here not every outing is a day at the park - let's not even talk about poor Qui-Gon. But generally speaking, these are two lines that allow Gentle Giant to really show what they're capable of when they're putting all their effort and talent into a series.

They've just released two new Star Wars busts, Chewbacca and Darth Maul. These are two characters that we've been looking forward to in the series for years now, and no line could be complete without such critical heroes and villains. You can find these at plenty of comic shops and online stores right now, running around $40 - $45 depending on the retailer.

Packaging - ***
The busts have gone with the new anniversary style black and gray, with a window in both to see what you're buying. The boxes are extremely plain, but they do the job of protecting the busts well, and I'm always a big fan of a window to see what I'm buying. Both are packed in the high quality styrofoam, but be particularly careful when removing Chewie. Because the bowcaster sticks out in front, the majority of the weight of the bust is in the back half of the styrofoam insert. This weight imbalance can cause the styrofoam more difficult to handle once the tape is removed, and the two halves will fall apart if you're not careful, dumping poor Chewie on whatever surface below.

The small baseball card sized COA's have also taken on the new look. Chewie is an edition size of 7k, and Maul is 10k. There shouldn't be much of a shortage on these two guys.

Sculpting/Design - ****
These are two of the nicest busts in the entire series - yes, they're that good. Whether either are the actual best is debatable of course (with the fans of Palpatine, Fett or Tarkin all having a good case), but they are certainly in the top 5 no matter who your favorite is.

Chewbacca is particularly impressive, simply because we've so rarely gotten anything that looks remotely like the actual character. Action figures? Don't even go there. The brown lumps of plastic in the larger scales (or even worse, the bendy plush) have all fell far short of expectations, and while the 3 3/4" line has had some decent entries, they certainly haven't yet won the contest. For some perspective, my favorite Chewie right now is the Kotobukiya version, and in the action figure style arena, he's my top pick.

This bust captures his look almost perfectly, right down to the dynamic pose and expression. The long hair is sculpted with great detail, and many of the areas that are thin and could easily break are actually made from a softer, slightly rubbery material rather than resin. The amazing part is that there appears to be no difference in color, texture or finish between the resin and softer material, making it all appear as one. Until I pushed gently on the long hair hanging off his arms and neck, I had no idea that they were designed to be less fragile.

The detail work in his hair is excellent, and there's real life in the eyes and mouth. He's also scaled pretty well with the other busts, something that has been an issue from time to time with past releases.

Maul is another one for the top 5 list. Gentle Giant doesn't always pick the best poses for their busts and statues, and I'm sure you can think of at least one or two that you thought were pretty damn goofy. But they went with an ideal pose for Maul, emoting a seething hate, and matching up with his screen appearance extremely well. There's not as much detail here of course as with Chewie, but the cloak and face are done with great realism. Again, he's scaled pretty well with the other busts.

Paint - Chewbacca ***1/2; Maul ***
Chewie exhibits almost an almost perfect paint application, and the areas that count most - the eyes, mouth, teeth and hair on his face and head - are excellent.

He does have a couple minor issues, but for most of us, they will be almost irrelevant. The transition from light to dark fur is not particularly subtle or even, with one color cutting over to the next almost immediately. And there is a little bit of slop, most notably in the silver of his bandolier. But you have to be paying some pretty close attention to pick up on these problems, and at this price point, the quality of the paint work is well above average.

My Maul had a few more issues, although there's a lot less paint work going on. The tats on his face are a bit sloppy, and I have a rather weird light area running down the back of the cape just about dead center. When you're picking yours out - if you're lucky enough to have some choices - be sure to pay particular attention to the face through the window, looking for the pick of the litter.

While his paint application isn't quite as good, the eyes are still amazing. Once again there's a real lifelike quality to them, and you'll get the feeling he's burning a hole right through you with that gaze. No lazy eyes, or misplaced iris' here!

Although the color palette for Maul is pretty small - pretty much black and red, with those evil yellow eyes - they used some different finishes to avoid making the outfit appear bland or too consistent. The gloves, folded over his chest, are done with a gloss black finish, making them pop out from the rest of the outfit, and adding some much needed variety.

Value - ***
While many other companies have raised their prices over the last year, GG has stuck with that $40 - $45 range. When the sculpt and paint are as good as this, you're really getting a solid value for your money.

Things to Watch Out For - 
Just remember my earlier warning on opening Chewbacca. I can see this guy getting dumped out of the tray accidentally, and that wouldn't be good for his health.

Overall - Chewie ****; Maul ***1/2
Here's another pair of Star Wars mini-busts that should be at the top of your shopping list. The edition size on both is huge compared to most others, but demand is still likely to be pretty high considering the popularity of both characters. And if you hadn't yet picked up Han Solo, he's still available at some stores (I know Fireside Collectibles has some!) to put next to this amazing Chewbacca.

With upcoming characters like Plo-Koon, Leia, Jedi Luke, and and Old Obi-wan, fans of the original trilogy are going to be well served in 2007.

Score Recap:
Packaging - ***
Sculpt - ****
Paint - Chewie ***1/2; Maul ***
Value -  ***
Overall - Chewie ****; Maul ***1/2

Where to Buy -
If you're like me, your best bet is online:

- CornerStoreComics has just the Chewie for $40.

- Fireside Collectibles only has the Chewie as well, at $42.

- Dark Shadow has the Maul at $42.

- Alter Ego Comics has the Maul for $42.50.

- Amazing Toyz is out of Chewie, but has Maul at $45.

- and if you're in the U.K., Forbidden Planet has you covered with Chewie and Maul for 35 pounds.

Related Links:
I've covered a fair share of GG Star Wars busts and statues:

- the most recent was poor Qui-Gon, Palpatine, and Lando in Skiff Disguise.

Figure from the collection of Michael Crawford.

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