Friday, 1 March 2013

A-wing and a Prayer

I've been pretty sniffy in previous posts here and here about LEGO's propensity to remake Star Wars sets over and over again, but the humble A-wing seems to have got off relatively lightly. By my reckoning we've had just 2 standalone A-wing sets prior to this year, plus the rather nice dark green version that came with Set 7754 Home One Mon Calimari Star Cruiser. We haven't even been blessed with A-wing keychains or other tat, although there was a tiny micro-build A-wing in 2011's Star Wars Advent Calendar. Anyway, I think it's for this reason that the news of a(nother) A-wing remake didn't provoke quite the level of derision that LEGO Star Wars remakes are usually greeted with in my household.

A-wing extreme close-up.... (courtesy of IGN)
The A-wing, or more accurately the RZ-1 A-wing Interceptor, is another of those Star Wars craft whose popularity belies the small amount of screen time it actually got in the Star Wars movies; for me, the iconic A-wing moment is during The Return of the Jedi when a wounded A-wing takes down the might of the Super Star Destroyer Executor by crashing into its command deck (above) but other memorable sightings are painful thin on the ground. It's a shame, because the A-wing is a good looking little ship, and it's maybe this that persuaded me to open my LEGO Star Wars 2013 account with Set 75003 A-wing Starfighter, the latest version.

You can see the front of the box below (click to enlarge) adorned with the pleasing 2013 Star Wars branding featuring a determined-looking Yoda against an emerald green background. An action shot of the LEGO A-wing in front of an unnamed blue planet occupies most of the space, and there's also a small window highlighting the set's 3 minifigures.

The back of the box (below - click to enlarge) features a number of panels which highlight play features of the set, show the A-wing superimposed on a couple of non-LEGO scenes, and provide pictures of the A-wing from the side, above and behind. The top right panel seems to show a Mon Calamari Star Cruiser destroying Death Star 2 with the A-wing looking on; clearly some artistic license being employed there....

Thumb tabs are available for the impatient and/or destructive; the rest of us are at liberty to carefully slit open one of the end flaps to access the contents. The box contains 3 bags of parts numbered 1 to 3, an instruction booklet, and a sticker sheet.

The instruction booklet (front cover shot above) consists of 60 pages including the front and back covers. As well as 52 pages of building instructions, the booklet also contains an inventory of parts spread over two pages, a rather nice shot of various minifigures and the rancor which can be found in current Star Wars sets (below - click to enlarge) and the obligatory advertising for the LEGO Club and a product survey. 

You can see the sticker sheet below. There are some pretty large stickers on there, most of which need attaching to body panels, and my heart fell when I realised that I'd need to stick a couple of them to the A-wing's curved windscreen as well - I hate doing that.

The set contains 3 minifigures. Admiral Ackbar has appeared thrice previously, although only once in a retail construction set (Set 7754 Home One Mon Calimari Star Cruiser); his other appearances were in an ultra-rare 2009 San Diego Comic Con exclusive collectible display set which I've never even seen in the flesh let alone own, and a magnet set from 2010.

Ackbar's torso is fairly simple but nevertheless tastefully decorated front and back; it's detailed enough to even suggest a hint of middle aged spread.... His head is the standout feature, however, moulded in solid ABS rather than rubber which seems increasingly common these days for the non-standard minifig heads, and superbly detailed.

I'm a little unsure what Han solo is doing here, to be honest. Sure, he's unique to the set, which should excite the minifigure collectors, but I don't really associate him with the A-wing. OK, so maybe he stood near one in a hangar at some point, but that's pretty much it as far as I can see. Even so, Han Solo is always welcome in my house, so no complaints.

Han is kitted out in classic garb - a simple tan shirt, black tunic and gun belt. The design is understated but surprisingly detailed, featuring a back-printed torso and printed legs, and it's what he wore in The Return of the Jedi so what's not to like ?

Finally there's the Rebel A-wing Pilot; he's also unique to this set, and there's certainly no doubt that he belongs here. He has a superbly detailed flight suit right down to his printed legs, and he sports an intricate new helmet design which is quite excellent. I don't get too excited about minifigs as a rule, but I have to say that this guy looks great.

As you can see below, the A-wing Pilot is the only figure in this set with a reversible head and alternate facial expression It'd be absolutely perfect should you ever decide to recreate the A-wing kamikaze dive into the Executor....

From the perspective of rare or unusual parts (below) this set is (mostly) all about the dark red. The new-style dark red cylinders which form a part of the A-wing's engines are unique to this set, as are the dark red 6 x 8 plate and the 3 x 6 plate with cut corners. The 3 x 4 wedge has only appeared in one other set apart from this one (the Monster Fighters Ghost Train) as has the 10 x 1 curved slope, while the 4 x 1 curved slope has appeared in 3 sets other than this one. Another rare part is the trans black windscreen, which can at present be found in just this set and last year's Batwing Battle over Gotham City.

Once the parts have been liberated from their polybags it's time to put them to good use. The A-wing is a quick build, so much so that it felt like applying the stickers took longer than constructing the actual ship. Getting the stickers nice and neat takes a bit of patience, particularly the two black and silver strips which attach to the curved windscreen. Luckily the stickers seem to be able to tolerate being peeled off and reapplied a couple of times without any obvious negative effects; I do like the fact that the stickers on opposite sides of the ship are asymmetrical.

I like the finished ship a lot (pictures above - click to enlarge). As well as being pleasingly solid in construction, not to mention very satisfying to bolt together, it also looks mighty fine - a seemingly contradictory combination of stocky and sleek depending on which angle you look at it from. Play features include a pair of flick-fire missles on either side, the hinged cockpit cover, partially retractable front landing gear, and the sublight engine and deflector shield generator behind the cockpit which slide out, but in truth, when a ship is this fun to swoosh you don't really need any gimmicks. She's a beaut !

You can see all elements which make up the completed set below. The A-wing pilot needs to adopt a pretty laid-back posture to fit into the craft with the cockpit closed, but I guess he can always take a nap if things get too dull. Ackbar meanwhile is supplied with an accessory which belies his lofty status as Admiral of the fleet....a coffee cup. Oh well - perhaps he needs the caffeine to stay alert. In contrast, true to his movie persona, Han comes complete with a small blaster.

Given that this set is a remake of a remake, I thought I'd finish up by digging out the two older versions and getting a photograph of all three A-wing set boxes lined up together .

Set 7134 A-wing Fighter, the oldest of the trio, was released in 2000. It was surprisingly expensive, with a U.S. retail price of $15 for only 125 pieces and 2 minifigures. Then there was a six year wait until 2006 when Set 6207 A-wing Fighter (below) was released at a cost of £9.99 / $16. At 194 pieces and containing 2 minifigures it's considerably better value than the previous effort, not to mention a whole lot better looking than the older version. Nobody could reasonably argue with this superb remake.....

A further seven years passed before the release of the most recent version and subject of this blog posting, and at £24.99 / $24.99 it's pretty expensive, especially for us folks here in the U.K.; I can't even begin to imagine how much people elsewhere are going to have to pay for it.... From a U.K. perspective that constitutes a 150% increase in price versus the 2006 version, despite having 17 fewer pieces - ouch. There are admittedly a whole bunch of minor cosmetic tweaks to the ship's design, but nothing particularly significant. Both versions look good, and you'd struggle to make a case for the new version being a quantum leap forward from the previous one. On the upside, however, the newest set does have an extra minifigure, and I have to say that the quality of the minifigures overall is great - a big improvement on previous versions.

So should you buy it ? Well, if you're a LEGO Star Wars collector then it's a no-brainer, obviously. And if you don't have the 2006 version and/or you're big on minifigures then it's definitely worth considering despite the poor price per part ratio - it's undoubtedly a handsome rendition of the ship and is accompanied by some excellent minifigures. If however you already have the 2006 version and aren't that fussed about minifigures then you can probably save your cash.

U.K.-based folks can buy the set here, while those in the U.S. can get it here.


  1. A nice little detail to mention perhaps, might be if I read over it in your post, is that the controle screen of the pilot actually comes with the kamikaze run on the Executor on it's screen.

    Great review, I got the vessel also a while ago and blogged about it, seems the smallest of the rebel fighting planes is getting the love it's sleek lines make it deserve.

    1. Ha - I hadn't noticed the Control Bridge graphic on the control panel sticker. Great attention to detail by LEGO, and good spot, Tomsche !

  2. I am groaning at your page title. A wing and a prayer, indeed.

  3. Hi,

    Love the blog. Very interesting following your At-At build :)

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