I’m back from the weekend, hung over refreshed and ready to go, so welcome to Transformers Armada week. I’ve been meaning to do this for a while now, but new acquisitions kept forcing me to put it off, but now I have the time to take a week and look at some of my favorites and least favorites of this line. It was technically Robots in Disguise in 2000, which brought me back to Transformers collecting, but that was a strange hodgepodge collection of toys that lacked any real kind of unity. Armada came a few years later and really struck a cord in me. There seemed to be a lot more G1 influence and I instantly fell in love with the whole concept of the Minicons. So, let’s press on and take a look at the first figure for the week: Wheeljack and his Minicon Wind Sheer.
A lot of Transformers continuity has come and gone, but man was it strange back in 2003 to get a brand new Transformer named Wheeljack and have him be an Autobot turncoat to boot. Like most of the figures featured this week, I don’t have a packaged shot, but Wheeljack came in his vehicle mode on a horizontal card and included a rolled up instruction sheet, a collectible card, and his Minicon buddy Wind Sheer. I actually had a MOC example of this figure for quite a while, but after searching through a bunch of totes to no avail, I later found that I sold it off on Ebay a few years back while doing some Spring cleaning.
The first thing to notice about Wheeljack is that while there is defintely an homage at work here, it sure as heck ain’t based off his G1namesake Wheeljack. Nope, with his Lamborguini style auto mode, this guy defintely looks more like G1 Sideswipe than anything else, and even more so when we get to the transformation. The next thing I tend to notice is the fact that his Autobot insignia has been violently scarred off of his hood and replaced with a smaller Decepticon logo. I could go on about how this played out in the cartoon, but the cartoon was crap, so, let’s focus on the figure. It looks pretty bad ass on the figure.
I’m not usually a big fan of painted windows on my Transformers cars. I like the use of transparent plastic, but Armada was big on painted windows and honestly, it sort of works with this figure. As with all Armada figures, Wheeljack has Minicon ports, and in this case three of them. Two of these are the dead ones on the spoiler, that don’t activate anything but still let you pile Minicons on board. Unfortunately, these ports are too close together to be much use with a lot of the Minicons. The live port on his roof activates his attack mode, which raises his gullwing doors and exposes his concealed missile launchers.
Wheeljack’s transformation is very simple, and very reminiscent of that G1 Sideswipe homage I mentioned earlier. He wears his hood as his chest, which places the scarred Autobot symbol in another position of prominance, and his trunk folds out to become his legs. Even his head sculpt is pretty similar to G1 Sideswipe, complete with the little horns too, although he does have an uncharacteristic gold face. [Certainly no surprises why he was repainted as Shattered Glass Sideswipe for Botcon 2008. -FF] He’s a pretty well proportioned figure, although he’s got some major hollow legs going on down there, and he’s pretty back heavy. We’ve also come to expect a lot more articulation in our Transformers since ball joints have become commonplace. Actually, I guess they were pretty commonplace in Beast Wars and Robots in Disguise, so in a lot of ways Armada was a step backwards in that respect, and Wheeljack here certainly proves it. The only really useful points of articulation are in his shoulders and elbows. He can also hold his missiles as swords or clubs.
Wind Sheer is a cool little stealth bomber that mounts nicely on top of Wheeljack’s car mode and thanks to the matching color scheme looks pretty good there. I really dig his transformation, partly because bits don’t fall off of him as with some other Minicons, and because he really does have a pretty solid robot mode.
There’s no doubt that Wheeljack here is a throwback to G1 in terms of sculpt, transformation and articulation. But then I make no bones about the fact that that’s why I like him. He’s a simple, sturdy toy with a nice classical look to him and his Minicon and gimmick are well designed and don’t do anything to ruin the aesthetics of the toy, unless you count making him backheavy. Granted, when it comes to defending my fondness of this figure, I usually find myself up against some overwhelming odds, so there’s a good bet your mileage may vary.