By Past Nastification
With this figure, Hasbro winked at us and said it was “Skyduster”, but we all know it’s Starduster and will be referred that way in this review. The re-naming is just Hasbro’s way of getting out the figures while avoiding any legal headaches, so it doesn’t irk me. Fair enough. Aside from the clever use of the name “Classified” as a pre-Snake-Eyes figure, name changes are a necessary evil.
Unlike many modern era figures, I can’t really see this as one without immediately comparing it to its ARAH counterpart. I can usually look at modern era figures for what they are without automatic comparisons. Here, not so much. As to why this figure draws me back to the goodness of the ARAH one, I’m not sure.
An image of the ARAH Starduster feels necessary, too. Please forgive the poor quality of the pictured ARAH Starduster, which is incomplete and marred by fireworks residue. I managed to lose the grenade launcher, but that particular Starduster did not have a jet pack when it arrived in the mail. I can still remember my disgust with Hasbro.
Back to modern era Starduster. Made up of a mishmash of early modern era parts, Hasbro gave us the modern era version of Starduster. It’s a good tribute to the original ARAH Starduster (which included several variations). The freakishly muscled lower arms are distracting, but the rest of the parts are decent enough. The head is a repainted modern era Hawk head, like the original’s head was a repainted ARAH Hawk.
The uniform is a pastel greenish blue, but noticeably darker than that of the original figure. The camouflage pattern is also missing from the lower half. The transparent charcoal visor is actually an improvement over the original’s solid black one. But the helmet lacks the star/circle stamped on the forehead area. The modern era version of Gung Ho’s grenade launcher and the modern era Jet Pack Jump are solid nods to the original figure. A few silver paint applications on the jet pack really pull out the detail, too.
This figure is good, but it could have been better. What’s always bothered me about Starduster’s original design is that he’s lugging around a jetpack supported only by Duke’s bandolier or Recondo’s shoulder holster (depending on which ARAH version one had). Sure, I’ve never worn a jet pack, but I bet it would require some sort of body harness. By the time Hasbro made this figure, there were several pieces of modern era webgear that would have been more realistic for a jet back. Not perfect, but improved. The Snow Serpent webgear or even the Cobra Solider webgear would have looked more befitting a jetpack than Duke’s flimsy bandolier. I’d almost say Matt Trakker’s webgear, but it’s too Matt Trakkery. Since Hasbro was willing to alter the colors of the figure a bit, using upgraded webgear should have been a no-brainer.
I grew up with the ARAH format, so the ARAH figures will always hold magic for me that modern era figures simply can’t. The original Starduster was an ARAH gem. The modern era Starduster strayed slightly from the original color set, but wasn’t smart enough to improve on the shoddy bandolier. Despite these missteps, it retains much of the charm of its ARAH predecessor, and in some way surpasses it.