Transformers Siege: Starscream, Skywarp, and Thundercracker by Hasbro

It’s a fine testament to how far behind I am in my reviews that I just managed to assemble my trio of Decepticon Seekers from Transformers: Earthrise and I still haven’t reviewed the ones from Siege yet. This was a fact that came to light as I sat down to start writing the review of the newer figures. So, fair is fair. Today I’ll finally get around to taking a look at the three Decepticon Seekers from Siege! Of course, Siege features the Transformers in their original Cybertronian modes, and in this case the Seekers are based off of the Tetra Jet design that was introduced in the Sunbow cartoon and has since been more or less accepted as the official original alt forms of the Seekers. It’s a cool design, but since it was designed for a cartoon and without the restraints of practical toy design, these have been rather difficult to reproduce in action figure form. Hasbro approached something like it (but not really) with their figures based off the Fall of Cybertron figures. Third party designer Impossible Toys had a crack at it and managed to produce some really nice jet modes, but with some pretty janky robot modes. And here we are now back to Hasbro with something of a compromise.

And just to complicate things, the packaging and distribution of these figures varied. Starscream and Thundercracker were regular Voyager Class releases and as such they come in typical Siege style packaging. As always, these boxes look great, feature some amazing artwork and allow you to get a good look at the figure in robot mode before opening. Much to the chagrin of some collectors, Skywarp was offered later as an exclusive and has since been a bit tough to get a hold of at a reasonable price. He was also packaged differently, this time in boxed set called The Phantomstrike Squadron, and came with three little Weapon Masters figures. All three of the Seekers feature the exact same mold, except for some variations in the head, so let’s just take a look at Starscream’s alt mode first and then check out the different decos found on his comrades.

This is not a dead ringer for the Sunbow Tetrajet design and I’m not faulting Hasbro for that, because of the clear challenge that stems from working with the design. As we will soon see Hasbro clearly made some sacrifices to the jet mode to preserve the robot mode. Still, I’d say that this captures the spirit of that original Tetra Jet , and it’s likely as close as we’re going to get without interjecting insane Masterpiece levels of panel-shifting transformations. This design de-emphasizes equality of the jet’s four points by diminishing the wings and extending the snout, for lack of a better term. The result is something that evokes the basic design of the Colonial Viper from Battlestar Galactica more than the original Tetra Jet, especially with the three thrusters in the back, but I still dig it. It totally works for me as a Cybertron design in that it’s different enough to look like an alien vehicle, and yet it’s still similar to the Earth design that the Seekers later adopted.

On the downside, this alt mode is almost as much kibble as it is jet, with the bulk of the robot body hanging out in the undercarriage and the chest piece rather awkwardly on display from the back. The undercarriage junk doesn’t bother me so much. To be fair, the down-swept wings do conceal some of it and it does provide a nice platform for the jet to rest on. And because this is an alien design, who’s to say that’s not what it’s supposed to look like. Besides, Primus knows we’ve had plenty of regular jet modes over the years with as much robot undercarriage as these toys. But as much as I’ll defend that stuff, the chest piece on the back bugs me a lot, just because it’s so painfully obvious what it is, I’ve tried to tell myself that the two intake fans don’t look out of place there, and that the faked out cockpit could be some kind of generator, but it’s just impossible for me not see it for what it really is. Starscream also has a pair of guns that peg in under his wings.

Starscream’s coloring is similar to what we’re used to seeing on him in his Earth mode. The jet is mostly bare gray plastic with some red and blue painted trim. There’s also some darker gray around the cockpit and vents and the yellow cockpit looks great. He also has Decepticon emblems on each side near the back. The jet also includes Siege’s signature weathered look with some dirty markings scattered around the hull. It’s used sparingly here and I think it’s pretty effective. Finally, I have to compliment Hasbro on the detail in the panel lines on this toy. Siege has been all about they hyper-detail and that’s definitely still the case here. I just love how busy the sculpt is, especially on a design that’s relatively simple like this one. Let’s take a quick look at the decos for the other two Seekers!

No surprises here! Thundercracker remains true to form with his mostly blue colored plastic, and he shares the same red paint accents as Starscream has along the edges of his wings and near the sides of his cockpit. The cockpit frame itself is black, as is the blunt nose of the craft. He has the same yellow cockpit and Decepticon insignia, although his are a little muted against his the blue hull. Finally, Thundercrackers weathering is achieved through silver paint, which I think looks more like chipping and abrasions in his finish than Starscream’s dirt. It’s a bit over the top, but I don’t hate it. Like Starscream, I think the deco looks fantastic. Onward to Skywarp!

Skywarp adds the most color to the mix, making his deco a little atypical. His wing. Rather than being mostly black, it’s reserved for his wing area, with the snout of the jet being painted silver and the tip purple. You get more purple trim on the wings and around the sides near the yellow canopy, and more silver in the grills. It’s a striking deco that looks amazing, even if I’m used to seeing more black in my Skywarps. Like Thundercracker, SKywarp has a bunch of silver painted abrasions and wear, showing that he’s seen some action in his day.

OK, so now that we’ve checked out the alt modes, let’s turn back to Starscream and have a look at his robot mode!

Transforming these guys isn’t too bad, and there’s actually some pretty clever stuff going on, like the way the nose of the jet splits to become the familiar shoulder intakes. Indeed, the only gripe I have about the transformation is that the friction hinges that hold the chest piece on isn’t up to the task and I’ve yet to be able to transform Starscream without it falling off. The others are a little better, but it still probably pops off at least half of the time. Once transformed we get a very familiar G1 Seeker robot mode, which makes me appreciate the alt mode a lot more. I’m just all kinds of impressed they were able to get this robot mode out of that Tetra Jet. The proportions are great and even the articulation is solid and fun. Sure, we already know the cockpit chest is a feake-out, but I don’t have a problem with that. Indeed, my only real complaint here is that the unfinished side of the wings face forward, but Hasbro even tried to pretty them up by stamping Decepticon insignia on them and giving them a little painted trim. From behind he’s mostly a wall of wings, but a nicely finished one. Even his lower legs fill in!

The portrait is superb. I love the detail work that went into the “helmet,” the flashy silver paint used for the face, and the glaring red light-piping in the eyes. And once again, I have to call out how amazing all the panel lines are in the mold itself. Even the transparent cockpit in the chest features etched circuit-like patterns, and is flanked by those awesome looking fans. I also really dig how he’s got thrusters emerging from the middle of his feet, even though these aren’t really part of his Tetra Jet mode.

The deco continues to carry Starscream’s iconic colors, with more red and blue showing up in the robot mode. Some might argue that the weathering looks a little overdone here, and I’d be inclined to agree. It doesn’t ruin the figure for me at all, but I would have liked if they had toned it back on the legs a bit. I actually don’t mind the silver wear on his torso at all.

Starscream’s wing guns can be attached to the pegs in his shoulders or forearms. He can even hold them like regular guns if you want. There should be a configuration that pleases everyone, but I prefer them on the shoulders so he can aim them straight down his arm like he did in the Sunbow cartoon. In short, this is a great looking figure with some cool engineering and he’s loads of fun to play with. Let’s take a quick look at the other decos…

In robot mode, Thundercracker’s color scheme holds no surprises. He’s still mostly blue with some black trim and bare gray plastic making up the frame of his torso. The weathering here is all silver and he’s got a lot of it on his lower legs. I like to think that’s just Autobot blood that’s splashed all over him while he was kicking the shit out of one of them. Yeah, that got dark! G1 Thundercracker was the first Decepticon jet I owned as a kid, and the only one I had for a long while, so while his deco is probably the more boring of the three, he’ll always have a special place in my heart. So, other than the fact that this figure looks great, is there anything else to say?

Well, yeah. Thundercracker actually got his own unique portrait! The “helmet” is the same as on the other two figures, but Hasbro gave Thundercracker a big energon-eating grin. Or maybe it’s more of a smirk. Either way, I think it would have better suited Starscream, as he tended to have the most personality of the three. Curious that Hasbro decided to give it to Thundercracker.

And that brings us to Skywarp! While his deco stood out a bit in his Tetra Jet mode, as a robot everything falls more or less into place where I expected it. You basically take Thundercracker’s color palate and swap blue for black and black for purple. The only other real difference is that the fans in his chest are black as well. I’ve always been partial to Skywarp’s coloring, there’s nothing quite so striking as that sinister Decepticon blend of black and purple and it looks as great as ever here. Once again, there’s plenty of silver paint splattered around his lower legs, and I wouldn’t have minded if Hasbro held back on that a bit. And before we wrap things up, let’s take a look at Skywarp’s Weapon Masters!

Because why should Soundwave and Blaster be the only ones to have little robot pets? I’m not sure why Hasbro decided to give Skywarp these guys, but maybe it was just so they could get it to fit into a certain price point assortment. Either way these little guys from right to left are Fracas, Terror-Daxtyl, and Shrute. Each of these transform into a different weapon and each comes with some effect parts. And yes, I just realized that I didn’t take enough time to contemplate what a f’cking metal name Terror-Daxtyl really is. Sorry. I’ve been a little mixed on the Weapon Master figures. I like the idea of having little robots to interact with the bigger ones, but the weapons they turn into are often mixed bags. Let’s take a look…

Terror-Daxtyl transforms into an axe, which always brings me back to the eternal question: How much must it suck to be a robot that transforms into something you hit things with!?! It’s kind of a crazy idea, but he does make for a decent looking axe and the effect part is pretty impressive.

Both Fracas and Shrute transform into double-barrel blasters and while the molds are each different the engineering here is exactly the same. They’re a bit chunky but they work just fine. Shrute has a pair of bulbous yellow blast effects and Fracas has thinner blue electricity effect pieces.

Oh boy, I really dig these guys! I was perfectly content to keep the Fall of Cybertron versions as my Cybertronian Seekers, and while I still like those figures quite a bit, the Siege Seekers have quickly supplanted them and become my new favorites. Oh, there’s more than a few points worth picking at with these figures, particularly when it comes to the alt modes, but overall I think Hasbro made the necessary compromises in all the right places. We get some solid re-imaginings of the Tetra Jet designs while producing three superb robot modes, all of which manage to capture everything I love about the iconic G1 Seekers that I loved as a kid. It’ll be fun to do some side by side comparisons when I get around to looking at the Earthrise Seekers, and hopefully that won’t be too far off!

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