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ZADZOOKS: Clones at war again

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Thanks to the proliferation of film, comic-book and cartoon characters, companies are bombarding consumers with an incredible selection of action figures. With tongue in cheek, let's take a peek at some of the specimens worthy of a place in Zad's Toy Vault.

General Grievous

Younger fans of a galaxy far, far away can reconstruct legendary battles between the Republic and Separatists with Hasbro's Star Wars: The Clone Wars action-figure collection.

Based on the current movie and upcoming Cartoon Network series of the same name, the 3 3/4-inch gems are slightly articulated and accessory-enhanced. The first wave of figures includes Anakin Skywalker, Obi-Wan Kenobi, Yoda, Captain Rex, Clone Trooper, Battle Droid, R2-D2 and a ruthless leader of the Trade Federation forces.

Figure profile: From the packaging - General Grievous is a brilliant strategist who has honed the droid army into a terrifyingly efficient fighting force. He has carried out the plans of the Separatists on planets and moons throughout the galaxy. Part living matter and part machine, Grievous is as skilled with a light saber as any Jedi Knight and relishes any opportunity to duel - and defeat - a Jedi.

Accessories: The General, sans cape, has a flimsy body and a pair of interchangeable, spidery arms and just five points of articulation. He also carries a blaster and four light sabers with two green and two blue foils.

A tip of the cap goes to Hasbro's designers for giving each light saber a different hilt. However, getting Grievous to hold all four sabers firmly in his claws at once is more difficult than juggling bowling balls.

Price: $6.99

Read all about it: Dark Horse Comics offers not only a six-issue Clone Wars comic book ($2.99 each) but also a quarterly, 96-page digest-sized look at the conflict ($7.95 each).

Those in need of a pure Grievous sequential-art experience should refer to the trade paperback "Star Wars: General Grievous" ($12.95), which compiles the four-issue series from 2005.

What's it worth: This Grievous figure is much too fragile to withstand many attacks by aggressive owners challenging him with equivalent-sized versions of Anakin or Obi-Wan. His leg joints can loosen quickly, not to mention the light-saber issue. He may have to just sit back and direct the action of his droid minions.

Pop Bytes

Here's a look at more products tied to the animated epic "Star Wars: The Clone Wars."

Clone Trooper Voice Changer (Hasbro, $29.99, uses three included AA batteries, for ages 5 through adult)-This well-made and -designed helmet can be the cornerstone of a Halloween clone trooper costume and also offers plenty of role-playing potential. Looking as if it were ripped right off one of the Republic's grunt soldiers, the piece features adjustable straps for a comfortable fit and three styles of sound effects. Buttons on the side are pressed to hear a selection of eight phrases and seven commands. Better yet, one button opens a channel to an internal microphone so the owner can bark out amplified orders, complete with radio static.

Republic Attack Gunship (Lego, $119.99 for ages 9 and older) - The famed Danish brick maker challenges builders to turn 1,034 pieces of plastic into a Clone Trooper's most trusted and powerful mode of transportation. The task is time-consuming, and the price is high for young "Star Wars" fans, but the rewards are a 14-inch-long ship loaded with figures, working parts and some great sticker choices.

Features include a back hatch and troop bay doors that open, a removable command station, cannons that can be positioned, four cockpit bubbles and eight minimissiles. A healing chamber and speeder bike are thrown in to boost the play potential of the fantastic assortment of 1 1/2-inch characters. The familiar figures include the evil Asajj Ventress, Jedi Plo Koon, Obi-Wan Kenobi, Commander Cody and a Clone Trooper grunt embellished with plenty of light sabers and blasters to share.

The only obvious complaint is, for Pete's sake, send in more clones. It's gonna take a bunch more than two to handle this massive ship.

The Clone Wars: Ultimate Lightsaber (Hasbro, $34.99, requires three AA batteries, for ages 6 and older) - The mystical weapon of the Jedi has been a mainstay of Hasbro's Star Wars role-playing lineup for years, so a retooling of its configurable light saber (last seen as a clunkier 2005 model) is a welcome addition for new "Clone Wars" fans.

Thirteen pieces along with the blade and a basic hilt create a reasonable version of a 37-inch-long light saber used by some of the more prominent purveyors of the Force. Besides customizations for such regulars as Yoda, Count Dooku and Mace Windu, the best is built on the designs for Maris Brood, a conflicted female Zabrak seen in the video game Star Wars: The Force Unleashed.

Blue, green and red Kyber crystals fit into slots in the hilt's secret compartment and change the blade's color and sound when inserted alone or in combinations. Familiar sound effects (the whoosh, crackles and powering up and down) combined with the sturdy saber's glow will bring a wide grin to a Padawan's face.

Visit Zadzooks at the blog section of The Washington Times' Community pages for a review of Hasbro's AT-TE ( www.washingtontimes.com/ communities/zadzooks).

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