Monday 29 January 2018

Don't mess with the Fett....

Another Comic Con, another desirable exclusive.... This time the location was New York City and the event was the 2017 New York Comic Con (NYCC) where a few hundred lucky attendees were able to purchase a copy of 41498 Boba Fett and Han Solo in Carbonite, an exclusive Brickheadz set. I'm generally able to resist the lure of LEGO Star Wars exclusives, contenting myself with the Star Wars retail sets as discussed here; occasionally, however, a Star Wars exclusive comes along that I can't ignore and this set is one of those. And so it was that I dived into eBay and took the plunge on a copy of the set which arrived from the U.S. a couple of weeks later.

The sturdy packaging features an outer box (above) that's considerably thicker and more robust than that of the retail Brickheadz. Cutting the twin paper seals at the base allows the outer box to slide up and off, revealing a similarly robust black inner box (below). The front of the outer box features a shot of Boba Fett and Han in Carbonite without their display stands, beneath which are decorative rows of black bricks running along the bottom edge of the box which also appear on the retail set boxes.

The back of the box (below) features an alternative view of Boba Fett and Han. There's also stylised text identifying the set as a New York Comic Con exclusive, beneath which is a picture which illustrates the use of Boba Fett's display stand. I was pleased that I managed to acquire a copy of the set which had been signed by set designer Marcos Bessa. Marcos is rapidly becoming one of LEGO's most well-known set designers, having been responsible for a number of high profile sets including 71040 Disney Castle and 75827 Firehouse Headquarters as well as this Comic Con exclusive and a number of other Brickheadz.

The inner box contains two sealed bags of elements, one for the Boba Fett build and the other for Han. There are also two instruction booklets, one for each build. There's no sticker sheet.

Each booklet measures approximately 15cm x 10cm and is bound by way of a pair of staples down the left side. The booklet containing the building instructions for Boba Fett (cover above) is the shorter of the two at only 40 pages, while Han's booklet (cover below) weighs in at 52 pages in length. Both booklets incorporate a 2-page inventory of elements at the back specific to the individual build. The page backgrounds in both booklets are black, lending a stylish appearance to the building instructions which are clear and easy to follow.

The set includes a number of printed elements (below), all of which I assume are unique to the set. I built Boba Fett first. Construction follows the standard Brickheadz blueprint which is nicely summarised here. As is the case with other Brickheadz a handful of light bluish grey modified 1 x 2 x 1 2/3 bricks with studs on 1 side feature prominently in the construction of a central core. These are accompanied by a variety of other SNOT bricks including a reddish brown modified 1 x 1 x 1 2/3 brick with studs on one side which at the time the set was released was only appearing for the second time in this colour. The core of SNOT bricks provides abundant attachment points for the external detailing which brings the Brickheadz to life.

Fett's shoulders are made up of a pair of bright light orange double cheese slopes, one of which is printed with a mythosaur skull. This Mandalorian symbol has become synonymous with Boba Fett. The upper body utilises a number of dark green 1 x 1 tiles, and immediately above the waist is a printed reddish brown curved 4 x 1 double slope with no studs which represents a tool belt with 4 pockets. A dark green modified 3 x 2 plate with hole, appearing in a set for only the eighth time in this colour, attaches below the waist and presumably represents Fett's armoured codpiece, while his tiny legs are made up of a stack of small plates including bright light orange 1 x 1 plates to represent his knee pads.

Much of the build is concerned with crafting Fett's iconic helmet. The visor consists of a black 1 x 4 tile with a dark red print, while a pair of sand green modified 1 x 2 plates with door rail form part of the top of the helmet; these are only appearing in a set for the fifth time in this colour. In the movies, Boba Fett's helmet has a number of distinguishing features including a dent at the front and some yellow kill stripes on the left side. These have been reproduced by way of printed elements; the curved front of his helmet is formed from a couple of sand green 2 x 2 curved slopes, one of which is printed with the dent pattern, while the yellow kill stripes are printed on a sand green 2 x 4 tile. Unprinted sand green 2 x 4 tiles form the right side and back of the helmet, while the top of the helmet is crafted from more sand green 2 x 2 curved slopes. The triangular plates at the front of the helmet are made up of dark green left and right 2 x 2 wedge plates which haven't previously been available in this colour.

At the rear, a dark tan 3 x 3 wedge plate and an uncommon dark tan 1 x 3 plate make up the bottom of Fett's brick-built cloak; the cloak is decorated with a couple of medium dark flesh 2 x 1 curved slopes which have only previously graced a single set. A light bluish grey modified 1 x 2 x 2/3 brick with studs on the sides forms the core of Fett's sizeable jetpack; this is surrounded by various sand green elements including more modified 1 x 2 plates with door rail. The two jet nozzles, which are represented by sand green 1 x 1 cones, are attached to the body of the jetpack by black 1 x 1 round plates with 1L bar that have only previously appeared in three sets. A flat silver harpoon passing through a pair of sand green 1 x 1 cones forms the missile attached to the top of the jetpack.
With the jetpack completed and attached to Boba Fett's back, all that's left to do is assemble his blaster which is crafted from six elements, and build the display base featuring the printed black 2 x 4 souvenir tile.

With Boba Fett now built it's time to assemble Han Solo in carbonite. This build incorporates more printed elements than is immediately evident. As was the case for Boba Fett, I suspect that all of the printed elements are currently unique to the set. In true Brickheadz style the core is predominantly populated by SNOT elements, although in this case the elements concerned are a variety of brackets as opposed to the usual SNOT bricks. A couple of 2017 sets including 70620 NINJAGO City included a black modified 1 x 3 plate with 2 studs a.k.a. double jumper which hadn't previously been available. This element now makes an appearance here in a new colour, light bluish grey.  Further recolours follow soon afterwards in the build, specifically light bluish grey 45 degree 1 x 2 slopes with cutout and without stud and light bluish grey left and right curved 2 x 1 slopes with no studs and stud notch, none of which to my knowledge had previously appeared in a set in his colour. The latter are combined with some light bluish grey 1 x 1 round quarter tiles to make up Han's petrified hair. Han's closed eyes, represented by exclusive printed light bluish grey 1 x 1 round tiles, are then put into place, after which all that's left to do is finish up the background carbonite block.

The sides of the carbonite block feature a number of printed 1 x 2 tiles which represent digital readouts, buttons and switches; there are two different designs of printed tile utilised, both of which are presumably exclusive to the set. Four trans-clear 1 x 2 x 1 panels attach to the back of the block (below), and when the build is laid horizontally they help to create the illusion that it's floating above the ground. Once upright the block doesn't attach to the display base via studs; instead it sits within a tiled slot bounded by black 1 x 4 x 1 and 1 x 2 x 1 panels. The base incorporates a second NYCC-printed 2 x 4 souvenir tile identical to that found on the base of the Boba Fett Brickheadz.

You can see the pair of completed builds below. The set is a delight for anyone who loves Star Wars and is a fan of the Brickheadz aesthetic. Given how cool the set is, it's a huge pity that LEGO chose to release it as a NYCC exclusive rather than as a retail set, and it's unfortunately far from being the first time that LEGO have severely restricted supply of a desirable item like this - longstanding readers of Gimme LEGO may recall my past rants on the subject, for instance this one. It's clear however that the practice of restricting desirable collectables to a lucky few on the basis of geography or just dumb luck is clearly not going away anytime soon. I guess there's always a chance that LEGO will take pity on fans and decide to release the set, or at least a variation of it, at retail at some point. Past history doesn't provide much cause for optimism in this respect, however, and in all likelihood it'll therefore be a case of having to stump up the cash on the secondary market or just going without. It's not even as if these Brickheadz can be accurately Bricklinked, given the number of exclusive printed elements that they incorporate.

Determined collectors can at least aquire a copy of the set from the likes of eBay and Bricklink if they're feeling sufficiently flush. Most copies of the set currently listed for sale are located in the U.S., meaning that unless you're based there you can expect the overall cost of acquisition to be considerably bumped up by the addition of shipping fees and import duty. At time of writing there are a number of boxed, sealed examples of the set available on Bricklink starting at £125 plus shipping, although you may be able to find one for less on eBay. Happy hunting!

Tuesday 23 January 2018

"And the Gimme LEGO Readers' Choice Award for Best Set of 2017 goes to...."

....21309 NASA Apollo Saturn V.

For me, 2017 was a high water mark in terms of truly outstanding sets - I reckon that there were as many as six 2017 sets which would potentially have strolled to victory in the Gimme LEGO Readers' Choice Award any other year. I was therefore fascinated to see which set Gimme LEGO readers would choose as their favourite, and in the end Saturn V won surprisingly comfortably.

While the ease of the victory might have been unexpected it's certainly no surprise that the set has attracted so much adoration. Measuring a whopping 100cm in height, it almost goes without saying that the completed build is huge and imposing, but there's also a wonderful attention to detail evident throughout. The overall shaping and texturing of the exterior is commendably faithful to the subject matter right down to the inclusion of unique printed elements, and the set also includes appropriately scaled lunar, service and command modules and even a pair of suitably decorated astronaut microfigures (above). Furthermore, the build is surprisingly stable and can be handled without fear of distintegration which is no mean feat given its cylindrical shape. The icing on the cake is the price - a very reasonable £109.99 / $119.99 / 119.99€ for a one metre tall model made up of almost 2,000 elements.

It's quite clear that this superb set has caught the imagination of the LEGO fan community - the set's almost perpetual 'sold out' status on up until recently is testament to that - and it's a worthy winner of the 2017 Gimme LEGO Readers' Choice Award. Congratulations to Felix Stiessen and ValĂ©rie Roche who submitted the original Saturn V proposal to LEGO Ideas, and also to the team of LEGO designers who turned the proposal into a truly memorable retail set - we salute you!

The overall Readers' Choice Award rankings are shown below together with the number of votes polled by each of the sets. Saturn V ended up polling around a third of the votes, a relatively low winning total which reflects the intense competition faced by the set. My personal favourite, 70620 NINJAGO City, initially looked like it would run Saturn V close but ended up falling short by around 20 votes, finishing as runner up with a little over a quarter of the votes. Further back the Old Fishing Store, Destiny's Bounty and the new UCS Millennium Falcon were locked together in the rankings and ended up polling less than 10% of the vote each. I did wonder whether 17101 Creative Toolbox might turn out to be a dark horse - it's received some strong reviews and has been the subject of an active discussion thread over at the Brickset Forum for some months now - but in the end it brought up the rear with just a single vote.

Many thanks to all of you who voted, and thanks as ever to Brickset for publicising the poll.