Transformers Generations: Blaster by Hasbro

In case you haven’t noticed, I never featured Fall of Cybertron Soundwave here. The truth is that I just wasn’t tempted to buy the figure. He’s basically a larger version of the Deluxe War for Cybertron design, which puts him out of scale with my WFC/FOC collection. If Hasbro had managed to nail the disc gimmick, I would have certainly picked him up as a stand-alone figure, but I just didn’t think that was the case. Now, Blaster on the other hand… I had to get him! There hasn’t been a Blaster figure since the repaint/remold of that terrible, terrible Cybertron Soundwave figure we looked at a couple of Transformers Thursdays ago, so it seemed like the Generations release was worth my time. Let’s see if I was right…

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Blaster comes packaged in his robot mode in the same style of Generations window box that we got with the Triple-Changers. I still dig this presentation a lot, but not enough to try to kid myself about having enough space to keep it and store it. So, yeah… it’s about to get shredded and tossed. I’m starting with Blaster’s robot mode. The back points out that he is from The Fall of Cybertron. Funny, I don’t remember him in the game, but it’s been a while since I played it. I think I’m overdue to bust it out and play it again. Anyway, let’s kick it off with his alt mode.

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According to the box, the official name for Blaster’s alt mode is a “Communication Truck.” Well, we ll knew he wasn’t going to be a boom box and even if this mode is a bit of a stretch, at least they tried to keep it within his function. Yes, it’s obviously the same alt mode as Generations Soundwave, but hey… if this is what a Cybertronian Communication Truck looks like, it stands to reason that each side would have one. It’s also a bigger and slightly tweaked version of the War For Cybertron Soundwave’s alt mode. I know, I already established that, but just in case you forgot.

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It’s Ok for what it is, which is basically a big box rolling along on wheels. Hasbro did their best to add what style they could to it. The Autobot emblems sculpted into the wheels is a nice extra touch to separate him from Soundwave and I like the way the gun plugs into the top and there’s a little chair behind it for a gunner’s station. Why have that on a Cybertron vehicle mode? I don’t know, I already spend way too much time over analyzing this shit. A little something like an dish or antenna would have helped establish this as a “Communications” vehicle, because as it is it just looks like a chunky APC.

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The deco is kind of thoughtless, or rather made to work with the robot mode as upposed to the vehicle mode. You just get red plastic in the front, black on the sides, grey in the back and some yellow and blue accents. As far as color schemes go, it’s rather haphazard. Probably what bothers me the most about Blaster’s alt mode is how obvious it is that the front piece is his chest and doesn’t look anything like the front of a truck. It looks like there should be some kind of cab piece on top of that. I think Soundwave’s door worked a lot better as a windshield, but, hey, I didn’t buy this guy for the alt mode. Let’s transform him and check out his bot mode.

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Oh yeah… that’s where it’s at! I love it!!! The arms and legs may be totally unorthodox for Blaster, but the “tape door” on the chest and the G1 head sculpt still make this figure work as a beautiful homage to the Blaster I know and love. While the torso is quite boxy, I rather think it’s supposed to be, and the rest of the figure’s proportions work rather well. I especially like the way the bumper mimics the buttons on the front of the old G1 boombox mode. Well played, Hasbro. Blaster’s gun is also a nice homage to the G1 figure’s weapon. It’s shorter and looks more like a carbine than a sniper rifle, but it fits the update beautifully.

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And then there’s the disc gimmick and here’s where things fall apart. The idea is simple enough, instead of tapes we get these chunky discs. I’m cool with updating the tapes to discs. The discs fit into Blaster’s chest compartment (in either robot or vehicle mode). When you eject them, they are supposed to hit the ground and auto transform. The problems start with the disc door. There’s one button to spring it open, but then you need to push a rod in his back to push the disc out and my disc usually gets stuck on the edges leading me to apply a lot of force to finally shoot him out. Other times I just need to pry him out. You can hold several discs in Blaster’s chest, but then the rod in the back has to be pulled further and further out and it looks rather silly. Ah, but if that were the only issue.

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Blaster comes with Steeljaw, which I understand to be the weakest of the disc designs, and perhaps you can see why. He’s pretty f’ugly and nothing really locks into anything. Hey, for a figure that auto-transforms from a disc into some kind of big cat, I’m trying to be a little forgiving. The original Steeljaw was a lion, but Hasbro streamlined him to use the same mold as Ravage. It’s not a big deal and I’ll concede that this couldn’t have been an easy figure to design and engineer. The thing is he really doesn’t auto transform, I still have to tweak the back legs and fold out the tail, so why bother with the auto feature at all? I’m sure this figure could have looked better without it. Plus, if I have to tweak him into his alt mode anyway, at least make it so I can peg his back into place or something. He’s the only disc I have, and while I’m not terribly impressed by him, I will still likely pick up some of the others.

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Questionable disc gimmick aside, I really do love Blaster. Hasbro did a great job tweaking him from the Soundwave mold, and he’s easily the best homage to the G1 character we’ve had since… well, since G1. So, yeah, the update is long overdue. While the size issue is still there, Blaster always was rather tall, so I can get away with displaying him with my WfC/FoC Autobots or even my Classics. Heck, he even scales pretty well against G1 Soundwave, which certainly wasn’t the case with G1 Blaster. The truth is I like this figure enough that I may wind up picking up the Soundwave too, just to have as a stand-alone figure, or to display alongside Blaster.

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Marvel Legends: Protector by Hasbro

Yes, it’s time for more Marvel Legends! So as some of you noted, I skipped over most of the Hit Monkey wave to get to the Rocket Raccoon Wave. It’s partly because I didn’t see any good deals on a full set like I did with the more recent one. It’s also partly because I wasn’t as keen on the character selection for this wave. In fact, I found the variants to be more interesting than the stock figures, and we all know that Hasbro has been dropping the ball on these running change variants to the point where I honestly don’t even know why they bother. I know the red Deadpool and a couple others have begun turning up in European and Australian markets, but Hasbro has all but admitted that many of the other variants have yet to be even produced. I can’t tell you how much this pisses me off, but I’ll save that rage to fuel my binge drinking this weekend. Anyway, I looked at Ultimates Cap from this wave a while back, but I only now managed to pick up the three figures in this wave that have the parts to build Hit Monkey. Today we’re looking at Protector. This should go pretty quick.

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There’s the packaging. Oh, look, it’s one of those variant cards. Protector shares his with Iron Fist, which means there is absolutely no mention of who this guy is on the package… anywhere. Warriors of the Mind? Oooook!  Hasbro, you can probably get away with that with some characters, but I’m not sure that Protector is one of them. It’s also becoming increasingly annoying when you seem to have so little interest in actually producing and distributing these variants and when the common one is usually the lesser desired of the two. And look, it’s Iron Fist that’s on the back of the card, not Protector. JESUS, HASBRO!! WHY DO YOU DO THIS TO US???  Oh wait, I already did that rant a few seconds ago. Suffice it to say, I would have rather had Iron Fist. Moving on…

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The new Marvel Legends hasn’t been afraid to deliver on the black & white character costumes. First we had Future Foundation Spidey, next we had Fantomex, and now Protector. No matter how I spread these guys out on the shelf, they look like they’re supposed to be some kind of color-deficient Team Up. But color (or lack thereof) is not the only thing these guys have in common. Hasbro, if you’re going to do three figures with a deco this close, you may want to avoid reusing parts between them because it really makes it obvious. Protector uses Fantomex’s belt and holster rig as well as his pistols. He also uses Spidey’s legs and upper arms, and what appears to be a resculpt of his torso. Hell, Protector also share’s Fantomex’s hands, including the unfortunate left hand that can’t hold his gun for shit.

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The portrait is pretty good, although not one of the better ones the new Legends line has turned out. True, there’s only so much you can do with half a face. For a moment, I thought it might be a re-sculpt of Legends Yellow Jacket, but when I compared the two figures that hunch didn’t pan out.

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That’s not to say the figure is necessarily bad. I do actually dig him and since he shares so much with the Spider-Man figure, he does sport the same excellent articulation, right down to the shoulder crunches. That makes Protector a very fun figure to fiddle with and pose. Had Hasbro given him a better set of pistols and a better left hand, he’s actually rate a lot higher with me.

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In addition to the recycled pistols, now cast in black, Protector comes with Hit Monkey’s head and weapons. We’ll get to those when I open the last figure and I actually build him.

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Of the three figures in this wave with the BAF parts, Protector is the one that interested me the most, mainly because he’s turned up in my reading the most. I dig the Kree and I dig Time Travel stories, and so Noh-Varr carries the day. That doesn’t mean he’s going to be my favorite figure in this assortment. Truth be told, I can’t say as I had a burning desire to have Protector on my Legends shelf, and the execution of the figure is decent enough, but marred by some obvious and in some cases unfortunate recycling of parts. Still, god knows, I had to buy a lot worse to get a build a figure part in the past. That having been said, if it weren’t for the included monkey bits, I’m not sure I would have bothered to hunt him down like I had to.

DC Comics: Huntress Bishoujo Statue by Kotobukiya

DC’s Huntress is getting a lot of attention this year. She’s got her own thing going with Power Girl in World’s Finest. She finally got a figure released in the DCUC style, DC Collectibles has shown off her forthcoming entry in the Cover Girls of the DC Universe line, and of course Koto immortalized her in PVC in their Bishoujo line. It’s that last one that we’re here to look at today. It’s been over a month since I last featured a statue here on FFZ, so let’s go…

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If you know the Bishoujo statues, then the style of packaging here should come as no surprise. Huntress comes in a satisfyingly large white box with plenty of the original artwork by Shunya Yamashita. There’s a window on the front panel with smaller windows on the top and side panel to let some light in. Of course, the statue comes wrapped in plastic and nestled between two plastic trays, so you won’t get the full effect of this piece unless you open her up and unwrap her.

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The back of the box has a little copy about Huntress herself and a photo of the actual statue from front and back. Oh, look, Harley is also available. That’s one that is still missing from my collection. I’ll have to fix that sooner or later. The statue comes already attached to her base, all you need to do is put her staff in her hands. You carefully pull it apart and feed it through her hands and re-attach. Now we’re ready to check her out.

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Oh, myyyy. Huntress is one sexy statue and rather than beat around the bush, I’ll just go ahead and say I think she’s some of this line’s best work to date. The coloring, the sculpt, it’s all so amazing! I don’t know where to begin, so let’s just start with the pose. Huntress is doing her best imitation of The Captain Morgan Stance, with one foot propped up on her base. Her butt is thrust out to the back and she’s clutching the staff with both hands. Gulp! Her right hand crosses under her chest to help prop up her ample ta-ta’s and her head looks slightly down with a rather sly grin. And now, I’m going to take a moment to spritz a little cool water on my face. What can I say? Huntress does it for me.

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While this is certainly not an action pose, Koto managed to convey a wonderful amount of kineticism in the cape and hair. Sure, a lot of Bishoujo statues have windblown hair, but here the garment and hair work together to create a great level of energy in this piece. Also the way she’s holding her staff makes her look like she’s either about to receive an attack, or perhaps she’s just bested some thugs and is pausing to admire her handiwork. Either way, the pose here is just an amazing blend of posturing an action.

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I really dig the portrait here. Sure, it’s fairly typical bishoujo fare, but the hair is truly well done, particularly the way her bangs hang down over her mask. As always the paint apps on the face are perfect.

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The detailing and coloring on her costume is also superb. The glossy black and metallic purple look fantastic against her pale matte skin tones and there’s just a little bit of white to make the figure pop. The costume includes sculpted pouches around her hips and thighs, belts and buckles on her boots, and knee armor. Even the treads on her boots are sculpted even though you can’t really see them other than from the side. I love when the sculptors put that kind of attention into those minor little details! If you want me to level one gripe against this piece, it’s that the absence of her trusty crossbow feels rather conspicuous, but the pose with the staff is so well balanced, there’s really no place for it, unless they sculpted it hanging on her hip.

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Huntress’ base is a simple black disc with a nicely sculpted gargoyle. There’s not much more to say. The gargoyle offers a little bit of environmental context and I’m glad the base is not clear. It’s also designed to match well with Bishoujo Batgirl’s gargoyle base. My only complaint here is that Koto really seems to be making these stands a bit too large. Huntress really eats up a lot of shelf space for a 1:7 scale statue.

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When Huntress was first released earlier this year, my local comic shop sold out of her before I could make the trip up. As a result, I had this statue in my Amazon Wish List for a couple of months before finally seeing that she dropped below $50 and pulling the trigger. In retrospect, the fact that I waited so long seems crazy, because she truly is so damn amazing. It was a little tough to muscle her in, as my statue shelves are getting a little congested, but I was happy to rearrange things a bit so she can stand beside Power Girl as companion pieces.

Transformers Energon: Megatron by Hasbro

Last time on Transformers Thursday, I slagged Cybertron Soundwave something fierce. I don’t like picking on Transformers, so this week I thought I’d feature one that is among the favorites in my collection. Energon was a very hit-or-miss collection of figures and nothing shows that off better than the leaders of the Autobots and Decepticons themselves. Energon Prime was probably one of the most questionable toy versions of Prime to ever come out, while his rival, Megatron is 100% bad-ass wrapped in awesome. Now, I personally don’t hate Energon Prime as much as most people, but that’s a feature for another day. Today is Megsy’s turn.

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Megatron’s alt mode is a glorious gunship that looks like it would be just as much at home cruising through space as it would be hovering over a Fleshling city and laying waste to it. This is arguably one of my favorite original alt mode designs to come out of Transformers in quite some time. Granted, I do believe that when he’s not a gun, Megs usually works best as a tank, but Hasbro decided to roll the dice on creativity here and I think they won big.

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I get a bit of a Klingon Bird of Prey vibe off this ship, probably because of the crooked wings and the forward extended bridge, but it’s still a wonderfully original design. He’s got two massive engine pylons slung under the wings and guns all over the place. The base plastic is a mix of grey and pearlescent grey and I really dig the large sculpted and painted Decepticon insignia on the wings. The deco is rounded out with some black, blue and gold, and a lot of translucent teal plastic. The Gunship can rest proudly on three rather large sets of landing gear. I love the look of this toy so much, even if this thing wasn’t a transformer, I’d still want this beauty in my collection.

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You also get an extra attack mode which is executed simply by lifting the top plates of the wings up. It’s an auto-transform that extends the wing guns out a little more and reveals additional front and aft guns on each wing.

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Megatron also comes with a tank drone, which can attach to the back of the gunship mode. I like the idea, but the execution is only so-so. I think it would have been much cooler to have the tank attach to the bottom so he could deploy it like a drop ship, but I can’t deny that it ups the ante on Megatron’s wow factor when mounted on his back, not to mention adding a big ass cannon to his armaments.

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The tank itself is designed to look like Armada Megatron’s alt mode and it’s a nicely sculpted piece. Neither the turret or the gun can move, but it does roll along on wheels, features a flip up targeting screen and can fire a missile from the cannon. And considering it’s about the size of a Deluxe Transformer, it’s a rather nice bonus.

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Considering how great Megatron’s alt mode is, his transformation is extremely simple and when you’re done you get an equally impressive robot mode. This guy is like a love letter to the G1 days. He’s big and boxy and while he has a good amount of articulation on paper, in reality he’s at his best when he’s just standing there looking impressive. The two giant cannons that raise up from his shoulders can be angled forward to blast at his enemies, and you can do a lot of adjustments to the wings to make them to your liking. They can fold all the way back to give him a cleaner front profile, you can deploy the wing weapons if you want, heck you can even rotate the entire wing assembly 180 degrees if it suits your fancy. Some may argue that his lower legs are too bulky, but I think that’s just part of his retro charm for me.

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The head sculpt on this guy is pure love, but if you’re thinking it looks like someone other than Megatron, you’d be right. From the portrait to the design of the chest and even the legs, this is clearly intended to be Galvatron and was subsequently repainted in purple and released as such. The coloring here is designed to match the G1 Galvatron toy, while the repaint matches the animated version of the character.

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The biggest issue with Megatron’s articulation is that all of his joints are strong ratchets, so they will lock at certain intervals and don’t provide any subtlety in their movement. Nonetheless, his arms will still rotate at the shoulders and bend at the elbows. His legs have universal movement at the hips and his knees will also bend. There’s no torso articulation, but Megatron can turn his head.

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Megatron’s tank drone can clip to his arm to form a sort of fusion cannon. It’s a nice idea, it definitely adds play value to the toy, but aesthetically, I don’t think it works too well at all. I should note that he also came with a sword that could attach to the drone, but it wasn’t in the drawer with my other Cybertron toys, so I’m not sure where it’s gotten to.

If you can spot any dust on this figure in the pictures, it’s because he is always on display. While the bulk of my Transformers collection have been cleaned and put away into my carefully sorted filing cabinets, you will always find this figure on one of my shelves, somewhere. Sometimes he’s in Gunship mode, sometimes he’s in robot mode, but he’ll never get put away because I do indeed love him that much. He’s also far too great looking a rival for Energon Prime, so I will usually pair him up with the powered up Cybertron version of Optimus Prime. One of my biggest regrets of my last Great Toy Purge was selling off the Galvatron repaint of this guy. While still awesome as Megatron, he was obviously designed with Galvatron in mind and he looks fantastic in the purple. I think at the time, I was keeping originals and selling off repaints, which would explain the lunacy of that decision. Either way, this toy is a must-have mold for any modern Transformers collector, or if space is a concern for you, he was also available in a smaller Deluxe Class 2-pack with a similarly scaled down Optimus Prime.

DC Universe Classics: Swamp Thing by Mattel

Yes, with Club Infinite Earths dead, I’m looking backwards and working on slowly completing my DCUC collection with maybe two figures a month. Swamp Thing was a special stand-alone release drummed up as a San Diego Comic Con exclusive for 2012 and later offered on the Matty Collector website. I really wanted to pick him up at the time, but funds are usually tight around SDCC time and I had to make some tough choices, one of which included taking a pass on him. Luckily, a couple of months ago BBTS got hold of some of Matty’s unsold stock (hey, not all of it went to Big Lots!) and cleared them out at half price. A winner is me!

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The fact that this guy was a special exclusive release is evident by the conspicuously awesome packaging. It doesn’t actually say SDCC Exclusive anywhere, but just take one look at this presentation and you’ll know that this was a special release. I believe the only difference between this and the one sold at the Con was the inclusion of some Un-Men figures in the Con version.  The huge outer box is printed with a swamp motif and the DC Universe logo. The front of the box has gaps cut between the vegetation, so you can see Swamp Thing peering out at you from within as if to warn you not to bring your evil here. There’s also a color pamphlet made to look like Alec Holland’s diary.

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Inside you get a giant Swamp Thing head that’s made of some kind of crappy bio-degradable material. It feels like old newspapers and you can actually wear the front as a mask if you’re insane, or just tight on cash this Halloween. It also attracts cat hair like nobody’s business! Ok… so, Matty, my hobby includes amassing a collection of as much plastic as I possibly can before I die, and you’re business involves producing as much plastic as you possibly can sell. Is this one bio-degradable package going to help negate any of that? I get it, Swamp Thing is all about protecting the environment, I’m just busting balls a little.

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Anyway, open up the head, which is hinged on the bottom,  and we finally get to the goods! The inside tray, made out of the same material, holds the Swamp Thing figure and a display stand.

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Out of the package and Swamp Thing looks spectacular! We’ll get to the rubber skin in a minute, because the first thing that struck me about Swamp Thing when I get him out is how freaking huge he is. DCUC has never been a stickler for proper scale, but I guess since this guy was a special release they were able to go apeshit with his size. And boy did they! He’s a full third taller than your average DCUC figure.

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And yes, the figure is covered with a rubbery vegetation skin that feels just a little creepy and looks amazing. When I first saw this figure in hand, I realized there was no other way that they could have done him such justice. For starters, the portrait is just absolutely stunning for a figure in this scale. They captured his noble bad-assery without any compromise, right down to his grim mouth, piercing eyes, and heavy brow. As far as head sculpts go, this is just fabulous stuff!

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Of course, the detail over all of the skin is just as impressive. Besides a rough mossy texture, you get some really cool painted and sculpted bits, there are vines snaking all around his body like exposed veins, flowers sprouting on his chest, fungus growing here and there, and what appear to be some kind of turnips growing on the back of his shoulders. This guy is a veritable walking salad bar.

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Swamp Thing features only four exposed joints. His head is on a regular ball joint, his shoulders are on rotating hinges, and his hips are ball jointed and will pop off, rather than break, if you stress them too far. The rest of the joints lie hidden under the rubbery skin and include hinged knees and ankles and, surprisingly enough, the ab crunch hinge. The biggest compromise comes in the absence of any swivels. He’s not the most poseable figure out there, but you can still do plenty with him and I think the trade-off for the skin was a good one.

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Also included in the package is a very nice environment figure stand. It’s a swampy patch of land with a couple of trees and the remnants of a skeleton partially concealed. There’s one peg that fits into the peg hole on Swampy’s right foot and holds him there quite well. The sculpt and paintwork on this piece goes way beyond anything I’m used to seeing out of Mattel on any level. Yes, that’s a left-handed compliment, but I meant it with all due respects.

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I was extremely happy to get a second crack at this figure from a retailer (I’ve been kind of burned out on hunting figures on Ebay lately) and the fact that it was half price was just the icing on the cake. Had my budget not been bursting last Summer, I would have been happy to have paid $30 for him because he really is that fantastic and he’s definitely going to be a highlight of my DCUC shelves. I’d dare say that even if you aren’t a DCUC collector but still a fan of this character, this is a fine stand-alone piece for your shelf. Mattel did a beautiful job on this guy, and I’m only hoping that the rubber skin stands the test of time.

Transformers: Masterpiece Prowl (MP-17) by Takara, Part 2

I’m back today to wrap up my look at Takara’s Masterpiece Prowl. His vehicle mode is quite nice, but how about his robot mode? Well, transforming him is fairly simple (at least for a Masterpiece toy) and remarkably similar to the basic transformation of the original G1 toy. There’s just a little more engineering added to help out his proportions and his added articulation. The new steps that are the most conspicuous involve folding in the panels with the rearview mirror stalks, unfolding the legs from the back of the car, and shifting some more pieces to become the feet. The shoulder cannons store on his back inside the car roof, very similar to the ones on Universe 2.0 Prowl. Like I said, it’s the same basic transformation from the G1 era with just a few added enhancements. I found it wasn’t uncommon for the arms to pop out of the shoulder ball joints during the change, but when you’re done everything locks together quite well and you have a solid action figure that looks like this…

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Yes, Prowl’s robot mode is drop dead gorgeous! I’ve always considered this design to be my favorite of all the Autobot forms and MP-17 pulls it off with great aplomb. I’m particularly happy with the way the torso locks up front and back. You also have a choice as to whether you want to have his doors go straight out for a G1 toy accurate look, or angle upward for a more cartoon or comic accurate look. Brilliant! The proportions are beautiful and ever since I’ve placed him on the shelf across from my desk, I can’t help but stop and admire his beauty from time to time.

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But before we start looking at some particulars, it’s worth noting that upon first transforming him, I found that Takara’s shitty QC struck my figure in a most cruel way. He had a huge black scar on his chin from where silver paint had been scratched away. It was an odd defacement (Har! Har!) because there’s really nowhere that the face rubs against anything else in the transformation. But our friends at the Chinese factory thought nothing of it and packed him away to ship to poor, disappointed FigureFan. They might as well have just taken a shit in the box as well. Fortunately, this was a pretty easy fix, even for someone like me with no customizing skills at all. The repair is still visible on a close-up picture, but without zooming in with a camera, you have to look really, really close to see that there was ever a problem. That’s good enough for me!

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Yes, it is inherently wrong to have to do touch up work on my $80 figure, especially when none of my third-party transforming robots have had any similar problems, but with Takara’s spotty QC on these figures, I’m just happy that it’s all it needed. I’d like to say it’s going to give me pause about buying the other Datsuns, but truth be told, once they turn up In Stock at the retailers, I will likely throw the dice again.

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I think most would agree that Prowl is just about perfect from the waist up, with only the exposed screw in the back of his head being an annoyance. If there are any real gripes to be had, it’ll likely be with the feet. Yes, they are hollow, but thanks to some clever plate placement, they don’t really look it from the front or the sides. The fact you can see open compartments in the back of the feet and the lower legs may be a legitimate complaint for a Masterpiece figure, but it’s not one that I’m going to have, not when everything else on this figure works so well.

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One of my favorite things about Prowl is the ability to stow the shoulder cannons inside his back, just like the Universe 2.0 figure. Keep in mind that this is a little bit of a back-handed compliment, because I don’t think the cannons look that great. They feel kind of cheap and they’re just bare white plastic. They’re also showing some mold flashing. I won’t deny that it’s nice to have an option to display them, but my Prowl will be going sans-cannon most of the time. I do think they will look much better on the other figures where they will be painted, or at least molded in colored plastic.

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Articulation! Prowl sports plenty of great articulation. The neck is ball jointed and offers a great range of motion. The arms are ball jointed at the shoulders, swivel at the biceps, and have double hinged elbows. The hands swivel at the wrist and the knuckle is hinged so that all the fingers move as one. His legs have universal movement at the hips, including swivels, his knees are double hinged, and his ankles are hinged and have rockers to help with those wide stances. Last up, Prowl can pivot at the wrist. The joints are all tight and since the Prowl’s robot mode locks together so well, he feels more like an action figure than your typical Transformer. Very nice! He’s tons of fun to play with and a very hard figure to put down.

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As mentioned last time, Prowl comes with his trusty gun. It has a peg that secures it to his hand, so that once you have it pegged in and the fingers closed around it, he can hold it with a firm grasp. He can also comfortably hold it in both hands, which is likely the pose he will have on my shelf most of the time.

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If the goal of the Masterpiece line is to produce a figure that portrays the essence of the character both in its classic animated and toy forms, then MP-17 is an absolute and unbridled success. The transformation represents some nearly flawless engineering and both the auto and robot modes are things of beauty. From a design standpoint, I can find no fault with this figure at all. It’s only in the quality control and the fact that he feels a bit more like a $30 Alternator than he does an $80 Masterpiece figure. If you demand diecast, rubber tires, and perfect paint, then you may find Prowl lacking. Me? I’m not going to quibble, and if you’re luckier than me and you get one with no QC issues, than all should be well. It’s just a shame to me that when Takara reaches this level of perfection in design and engineering that they let the line continue to be marred by poor paint quality issues. I’m at the point now that I will happily purchase figures from companies like Fansproject, TFC and MMC without a thought of worry about QC problems, but a new official Masterpiece figure from Takara? I’m still afraid to open the box.

Transformers: Masterpiece Prowl (MP-17) by Takara, Part 1

I’m prefacing today’s little ditty with story time, so get your milky babas and blankys, kids. Once upon a time, yours truly pre-ordered Masterpiece Lambor. It arrived; I opened it, and was confronted with a paint job so bad that even if it were a $15 Hasbro Deluxe, I probably would have taken it back to the store. Lambor didn’t even make it to the review table on FFZ, because I just wanted to wash my hands of him. I was pissed that I spent so much money on him and I wanted him out of my life. So I sold him and had him shipped out the very next day. When the Masterpiece Datsuns went up, I pre-ordered them, hoping that Takara would have gotten their shit together with the QC. Then in-hand photos of Prowl turned up with melted glue all over the front bumper, and horrible paint on the roof. I cancelled the pre-order. But those pictures kept tempting me. The design of the figure still looked all but perfect. And when he finally showed up In Stock at the retailers, I lost all my resolve, rolled the dice, and bought him anyway. Was it a worthy gamble? Let’s find out…

There can be no doubt, Prowl has always been my favorite Autobot toy, most likely because he was also my first. I got him for what was probably my 12th birthday along with Optimus Prime and Thundercracker. While Prowl wasn’t exactly the most developed character in the Sunbow cartoon, when I played with my Transformers, I always used him as Prime’s Executive Officer. He was Prime’s go-to robot. If you needed to talk to Prime, you better damn well have cleared it with Prowl first. And he was always the first to throw himself in front of a fusion blast meant for the big guy. What I’m telling you, folks, is that Prowl was legit and when he wasn’t safeguarding Autobot security, he was off having a foursome with Elita-1, Chromia, and Arcee. He was just that cool. Since this is the first time I’m checking out Takara’s MP line on FFZ, I’m going to start today with the packaging and the alt mode, and tomorrow we’ll check out the transformation and the robot mode.

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Prowl comes in a fully enclosed box, which is something I appreciate in my higher end collectibles. Window boxes are fine for something I’m going to buy for $20 and toss the packaging, but Prowl’s box is a nice quality and I’ll definitely be hanging onto it should I ever need it for storage. The front has a great photo of Prowl in both modes and points out that he has been designated MP-17 and that he is the Autobots’ Military Strategist. It also points out that he transforms into a Nissan Fairlady 280Z-T. It is an officially licensed Nissan product and you get a little G1 style Transformers logo. The deco here walks a fine line between being serviceable and attractive. I would have preferred something more like the G1 packages with the red grid pattern and all that, but there’s nothing wrong with the presentation here either.

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The back of the package features a whole lot of text that I can’t read. It also shows more pictures of Prowl in his modes, a shot of everything you get inside the box, and some pictures of Prowl alongside MP Prime and driving out of MP Prime’s trailer. I’m still not happy with the scaling between Prowl and Prime. I think Prowl should be closer to Prime’s shoulders, but considering that I don’t own MP-10, that’s not a big deal for me. And as we’ll see in a few moments, I’m actually very pleased with Prowl’s size as a stand-alone piece.

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Open iup the box and you pull out a clear plastic tray with Prowl in his police car mode nestled in the middle of the trays. He is placed beside his weapon and you also get a baggie with a folded instruction sheet and a color profile card. No, there’s not a lot of extras or fanfare here, and that may disappoint some. Me? I’m cool with the presentation letting the toy speak for itself.

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And this toy does a great job of that!  Sure, a lot of people have been upset with the new Masterpiece scale, but I have to say that I think Prowl’s alt mode is the perfect size. The car holds together in a very solid fashion, with everything pegging in securely, and rolls along on its wheels quite nicely. It certainly feels closer to a Voyager than a Deluxe to me, and I’m happy to see that it scales very nicely with the recent Generations Triple Changers and even my Fansproject Function figures. Anything bigger than this and I think the toy would have become cumbersome and not nearly as solid.

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However, like the practical packaging, some collectors may take issue with other perceived cuts in the toy. The tires, for example aren’t rubber, they are plastic. In fact, everything on Prowl is plastic. No diecast. Frankly, I’m ok with that. I’m not of the belief that gratuitous use of diecast improves a toy. You only need look at the original top-heavy Masterpiece Prime to realize that’s not always the case. Yes, rubber would have been cool, but the plastic wheels look fine and I don’t have to worry about the rubber rotting away like it did with many of my original G1 toys. I will concede that I would have liked the plastic to feel a little heavier. The toy doesn’t feel delicate, but it doesn’t have a lot of heft to it for its size, making it feel closer to a model than an actual Transformers toy.  Nonetheless, it is a beautiful update to the original vehicle. I’m probably not alone when I say how much I appreciate the addition of the side view mirror stalks. They’re soft, bendy plastic so as not to snap off, and they really add to the improved credibility of the vehicle mode.

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I started off this feature talking about the horrible paint on my Lambor. Naturally, I was really nervous when I first sized up the Prowl’s paintwork, and I’m happy to say it’s infinitely improved over Lambor. The white is bright and crisp and the black has a rich and glossy finish to it. The lettering is sharp and there are no embarrassing spelling mistakes that appeared on early shots of the toy. Even the Autobot insignia on the hood is crisp and straight. That’s not to say, however, the paint is perfect or even as good as it should be. The passenger side panel near the rear window has some excess paint swirl and there’s some slight bleeding between the white and black. There’s also a small chip to the white on the upper driver side windshield. This last bit worries me, as the roof of the car is clear plastic painted white and will likely be very prone to chipping if not handled carefully. None of these points are enough to ruin the car as badly as my Lambor’s horrific paint, but it is still certainly disappointing to see on a collectible toy this expensive. Had this been the first MP release I’d seen I would probably be more outraged, but I guess the terrible paint on Lambor really tempered my expectations.

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Prowl’s gun can clip into a slot in the back of the lightbar to give him some firepower while in his alt mode. It’s pretty goofy looking and I can’t see myself ever utilizing the feature, but it doesn’t detract from the toy and some collectors may dig having the option to display it this way. While attached, the gun can even pivot up and down a bit.

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Paint flubs aside, I’m very happy with Prowl’s vehicle mode. I think it’s perfectly sized, it holds together beautifully, and it looks great in all the most important places. I’m going to break here, but I’ll be back tomorrow to get my new buddy Prowl all transformed so we can check out his alt mode.

 

Masters of the Universe Classics: Jet Sled & Sky High by Mattel

I had all but given up on getting my Jet Sled as it was lost in the mail for the better part of two weeks. The tracking said it was delivered, while reality proved otherwise. The nice people at the USPS continued to claim that the carrier placed the box in my post box, but after making a pest of myself and insisting that I would have noticed a huge parcel in my post box if it had been in there, the package eventually arrived on my doorstep. I’m not going to dwell on it, because quite frankly the USPS has a pretty good track record with me and besides, alls well that ends well. Anywho…

It’s been almost a year since Matty released the first, and what seemed like maybe the only, vehicle in the MOTUC lineup, but now it’s finally time to make some extra room in my Masters garage because the Jet Sled has arrived! I always thought this would be the first vehicle release of the line, because it’s so much easier to produce than the Wind Raider. It’s also a bit more iconic to me, because for whatever reason I just remember He-Man jumping on this thing and flying off more often than he did in the Wind Raider. Ok, honestly it’s really because I used to like checking out Teela’s tushie when she flew it. The fact that this vehicle is very reminiscent of the jet sleds used in Flash Gordon doesn’t hurt either.  I love Flash Gordon! Of course, the Wind Raider turned out to be an amazing toy in and of itself, and now that I’ve got a Jet Sled in hand, I won’t quibble over Matty’s strategies here.

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The set comes in a window box, not unlike what has been used for most of the MOTUC multi-figure sets. It’s nice that you can see what you’re getting inside, but I’ll say straightaway that I wish Matty had put this set in a regular box like they did with the Wind Raider. The decision to use a window box for something that will never be sold in a store (unless it’s on clearance at a Big Lots) escapes me. Actually it doesn’t, because a regular box would need cool box art and that costs money. But the real reason I would have preferred a regular box is because it’s just easier to store it and chances are, the Jet Sled may wind up in storage until I can expand my display room a bit. I guess I’ll just save the white mailer box.

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Anyway, the package certainly looks great, but all the artsy-fartsy angles make it a challenge to get everything out and still keep the box intact. Nonetheless, it can be done, so we’ll call it collector friendly.

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Let’s kick things off with Sky High. He was not the main attraction for me here, but I do kind of dig Matty including him with the release. I’m not a He-Mans expert, but I believe this guy is based off artwork for the Wind Raider pilot? If I’m wrong, send your “You don’t know shit about the He-Mans” hate messages to me in the comments below. Some have accused him of being a kitbash release, but this is MOTUC, so I don’t know why we need to single this guy out for what the line has been doing all along. To be honest, the only thing that struck me right away as obvious were the legs being a straight repaint from Trapjaw. Who cares? They work well on the figure. The vest is a separate and removable piece with some nice tooling on the front. It does bulk out the figure’s top quite a bit and limits how far down his arms can go, but all in all, I still dig it. Sky High doesn’t have a face, just a sculpted helmet that is delightfully reminiscent of an old Greek or Roman helm. Since Sky High is basically a dude in a flight suit, you can swap his head with another figure. I’ll finally have a use for that spare He-Man head that I have rattling around in a tote somewhere!

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While I like the overall look of the figure a lot, it seems to me like Sky High took a couple steps back in overall quality. The plastic looks and feels a little rougher than what we usually get and the paintwork is especially rough. There’s slop all over the place, albeit most of it is behind his legs so at least it isn’t all that apparent until you inspect the figure more closely. I’m guessing Mattel took some shortcuts here because he is a pack-in figure, but I have no confirmation of that. It could just be I drew an unlucky figure. I’ve had very few QC issues on any of my MOTUC figures, so what’s here just tends to stand out a bit more.

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Sky High has standard MOTUC articulation. Considering that I still have the vehicle to get to, let’s just leave it at that. He does, however come with a set of wings that clips to his back. I really like this piece as it’s designed to be multi-functional. It could serve as a gliding device in case our buddy gets shot down and needs to glide to the ground. Think about it, the Jet Sled is a death trap just waiting to toss you off of it so you will plummet to your death. No, the wings don’t look aerodynamically sound, so call it magic if you want! If Orko can perpetually levitate, I’ll grant it that this guy can glide back to the ground on these wings. Why not just use a parachute? Oh, for godsakes, it’s the He-Man universe, folks, where people put out fires with their robot elephant heads. Let’s just move on. The wings can also serve very nicely as a bladed weapon. Several other reviewers have also pointed out that it’s designed to look like the wings of the Wind Raider and if you sit Sky High in the Raider, it looks like another set of wings. That’s cool! I do think he should have come with a blaster pistol or something, but I have enough extra MOTUC weapons kicking around that I can lend him something.

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Moving on to the main attraction is the Jet Sled. As one might have expected, this thing is just a hollow piece of plastic, but that’s really all it needs to be. And I might add that it is a beautifully sculpted and painted hollow piece of plastic. I think what impresses me most about this piece is that Matty resisted the temptation to cheap out and go with stickers. There are no stickers. Everything on this toy is sculpted and painted. That means the dragons on the sides have a nice 3D feel to them and even all the little knobs and switches on the dash board are all part of the sculpt. Every little rivet is sculpted and painted, and there’s even some decent detail work on the undercarriage. It’s kind of cool that they even left the clips on the side where this thing would plug into the non-existent Battle Ram. There are some great looking guns on this piece too!

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The fit for the figure is serviceable enough. You can’t quite get the feet planted squarely on the foot pedals, but you can get it close enough that most MOTUC figure (male or female) will look credible while riding it. Once the hands are in the grips, you can woooosh it all over the place and he ain’t gonna fall off.

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So, what’s here is really good, but it’s what’s not here that gives me pause. The stand you see in the pictures was borrowed from my Wind Raider. The Jet Sled is made to work with it, but you don’t get one. Wait, what? At a $50 price point, that stand really needed to be included with this set to make it cost out for me. Mattel already has the molds for the stand, they should have just stamped out a bunch more of them for the Jet Sled. It was a missed opportunity to throw a little extra value to the fans for dealing with the rest of the Matty bullshit all year round.

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Nonetheless, I’m not going to let a missing stand put a damper on my enjoyment of this set. It really is a nice release and I’m kind of surprised it happened at all, considering Matty’s claims that they were disappointed with the sales performance of the Wind Raider. The price point isn’t too bad and I do like the Sky High figure. On the other hand, had Matty released the vehicle alone with a stand for ten bucks less, I probably would have bought two. But who am I to quibble with success, because the Jet Sled still sold out after just a couple of days.

Galaxy Squad: Crater Creeper (#70706) by Lego

It’s been about four months since I’ve built a Lego set, and I’ve been jonesing something fierce. Yesterday, I stopped by Target to get provisions for the weekend and decided to pay their expansive Lego aisles a visit. I was thinking about another Lone Ranger set, but I’m still holding out for those to go clearance since the movie flopped so badly. So, instead I came home with another Galaxy Squad set. I’ve built two of these already and the series has treated me pretty well, so today I’m building The Crater Creeper.

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I’m still digging the artwork on this series. Obviously, the focus here is on bulking up the alien forces, which works well for me because I already have the Swarm Interceptor and I need something substantial for it to fight. The front panel of the box shows one of the Galaxy Squad members going up against the giant Crater Creeper in a tiny little attack sled. Wow, that guy’s got balls! I like balls.

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The back panel shows some of the action features of the completed set. It also shows our little friend getting his attack sled grabbed by the Crater Creeper’s jaws. Does this faze him? Nope, he just jumps out of his ship, climbs onto the hood of the Creeper and proceeds to shoot the pilot in the face with his pistol. Holy shit, this guy is hardcore! I think I’ll name him Spunky McBalls.

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Open up the box and you get four unnumbered bags containing 171 pieces, a very small instruction sticker sheet, a box with a rubber band in it, and a beefy instruction book. This is a middle of the road sized set and falls right in between the two other Galaxy Squad sets I have already built. When you’re all done you’ve built the Crater Creeper, The Attack Sled, and two minifigs. TO THE MINIFIGS!!!

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There’s nothing groundbreaking here. You basically get Spunky and a Bug Guy. Spunky is a cool little figure in a space suit. He has a helmet with a clear visor and two printed faces, one with an oxygen mask and one without. I like his unshaven face. I like to think he got all liquored up at the base camp and just decided to steal an Attack Sled and attack the Bugs all on his own in a drunken rage while screaming obscenities. His space suit is green, which is at odds with the blue suit worn by the Swarm Interceptor pilot. Either he’s in a different branch of the Galaxy Squad military or these guys just wear whatever the hell they want to work. The Bug Guy is cool, but he’s the same minifig that came with the Space Swarmer.

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The one-man Attack Sled is a pretty cool little vehicle. I’m on record stating that I’m not often a fan of the little Lego ships, but the design of this one actually shows some imagination, and with two flick fire missiles and two guns mounted on the front, it can probably pack an impressive punch for such a little craft. Ah, but this is not why we bought tickets to the show. The main event is…

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The Crater Creeper! And it is rather glorious. It looks like a giant mechanical ant, with a seat for the pilot, two flick fire missiles, and grabbing mandibles that are powered by a rubber band. I love the neon green and burgundy deco on these Bug vehicles, and the clear shell on the back with the translucent sticker works really well. The pilot’s gun can clip into the back under the shell, which may not be a convenient place to keep it, but it does add some aft defenses!

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Builders will either be pleased or disappointed that the legs are each just one big piece. I was surprised. Building the same leg six times over out of tiny pieces can get tedious and redundant, but I know some people like the added challenge and build time. On the downside, this vehicle doesn’t feature a lot of articulation. The front and back sets of legs are just static, whereas the middle legs are only hinged where they join the body. Still, what the vehicle lacks in articulation it makes up for in stability.

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This set was $20, which seems about right for the piece count, and it was a fun build, albeit relatively quick and straight forward. I’d actually recommend it for a starter set in this series, as it gives you a pretty good idea what Galaxy Squad is all about. It also makes a very nice companion set to the Swarm Interceptor, if you don’t mind your ship attacking ground targets. Above all, it felt really good to build a Lego set again after so long and it’s definitely primed the pump and made me want to pick up one of the bigger Galaxy Squad sets in the next week or so.

Transformers Cybertron: Soundwave by Hasbro

With the recent releases of Soundwave in the Fall of Cybertron and Masterpiece lines, it’s worth remembering the long stretch when the character got almost no love from Hasbro. A lot of this probably had to do with the dilemma of what to do about his outdated alt mode and how to incorporate his tape feature into an updated alt mode. Well, back in the Cybertron line, the folks at Hasbro finally stepped up and gave it a try by turning Soundwave into a futuristic jet bomber and having Laserbeak turn into a bomb. While the idea is sound enough, the figure itself is an abomination on many fronts. I don’t usually like to slag on my beloved Transformers, but I thought it was an opportune time to parade this guy out. No package shot, so let’s just check out his alt mode.

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Like I said, Soundwave is now a jet. Hey, he was once a missile carrier truck, so I’m willing to give Hasbro a pass on the choice of alt mode here. I think this is supposed to be loosely based on an F-117A Stealth Fighter in that it’s basically wedge shaped and has some fins at the back, but we’ll just call him a Cybertron jet and be done with it.  I’ll start off by saying, there are some high points to this toy. The blue plastic they used here is very nice, and some of the gold paintwork on it is absolutely gorgeous. I like the translucent purple used for the cockpit and there is also a crazy amount of detail sculpted into the wings and such. The little spikes on the nose cone are a nice touch too. All good stuff, but it’s not enough to save this guy.

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The overall design here wouldn’t be so bad if it weren’t for the fact that he’s just plain ugly. It’s blatantly obvious that the top half of the jet is made up of his contorted robot legs and there are so many gaps and hinges and spaces, that it just doesn’t work for me. And I never understood the point of that stupid design on the top behind the cockpit. It looks like some kind of crop circle. Of course, the real reason I hate this alt mode is because it’s so difficult to get everything to fit together just right. Get the feet plugged into the nose and the cockpit pops up. Peg the cockpit in and the feet pop out. You need to have everything absolutely correct to within a micron of tolerance and then maybe, just maybe, this alt mode will hold together like it should. And even at that point, what you’ve got is still pretty damn ugly.

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The gimmick for the alt mode is if you put a Cyberkey into the slot on the back, Soundwave’s bomb door will open and he will drop one of his bombs. One of those bombs is Laserbeak. We’ll get to him in a bit. It’s not a bad concept in that at least it still allows Soundwave to deploy a minion and it kind of reminds me of Nick Roche’s Decepticons that turn into bombs in my beloved More Than Meets The Eye comic. Ok, so the alt mode isn’t terribly good. Surely, that’s because Soundwave’s robot mode is absolutely fantastic… right? RIGHT??

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Oh boy. So, it’s hard to miss the Soundwave homages here. The head sculpt is a pretty cool modern update to the guy we all know and love. He’s got a big tape door on his chest, which can hold the Laserbeak bomb. The coloring is certainly G1 Soundwave, at least to a point. At the same time, those huge wings really work against the homage to the extreme. I think this figure could have been saved if it weren’t for a whole host of really poor design choices and laziness.

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So first, you’ve got those giant wings. They are totally immobile and get in the way of posing. A couple extra hinges could have helped these along. Maybe packed them away into a backpack or at least gave them some movement so they weren’t in the way all the time. But in truth they’re the least of this guy’s worries. Both arms have huge pieces of jet kibble hanging off of them. The right arm is cursed with the nose of the jet, while the left arm has the cockpit. There is no way to position these so that they aren’t just cumbersome dead weight and they are always hitting against the wings when I try to pose him. . Last up, he’s got tiny little legs that are in no way up to the challenge of holding all that upper body bulk. The knees are heavy ratcheting joints, but the hip joints are week and floppy as all hell, so unless you have Soundwave’s legs standing straight and at full attention, he’s going to want to do the splits and collapse.

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And then there’s Laserbeak and while it’s crazy to say it, the truth is he’s the shining ray of light in this otherwise terrible figure. His bomb alt mode is basically just a black hexagonal cylinder with red paint apps on the sides and his transformation just has him fold out into his little bird mode, which is pretty damn good for what it is. It even sort of foreshadows the Dark of the Moon Laserbeak design with VTOL engines in the wings. Everything about Laserbeak works well and I’d argue he’s even better modern update than the disc Laserbeak that came with Generation Soundwave. There are a few places where Laserbeak can peg into Soundwaves arms, but because all of the shit hanging off him, you’re better off just trying to stand him on his arm. He’s also designed to peg into Soundwave’s wings and perch up there, but I think it looks rather dumb.

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Oh, did I mention that the peg that locks Soundwave’s right shoulder down snapped the very day I took him out of the box? Yeah. That happened. The crazy thing about Cybertron Soundwave is that I can remember wanting to get him so badly. I don’t know if it was just the fact that he was finally a new Soundwave, or the online pictures didn’t make him seem so bad. Maybe it was because I just love the Cybertron line so much. Either way, I hunted for him all over before finally finding him at a Walmart like 30 miles from my home. I couldn’t wait to get him home and, suffice it to say, he was a huge let down. He’s one of the few Transformers in my collection that tempted me to throw him against a wall in disgust. There are some good ideas here, but so much went horribly wrong in the end. To be honest, now that I’ve dug him out, I’m not sure he’ll be returning to my collection. I look at him and just see a waste of space.