Studios Series 86 Voyager Hot Rod

Been a while since I did a review, and to be honest, part of it was trying to getting the mood, but the other was getting a toy since Kingdom Cyclonus that I wanted to talk about. Like it’s not that I haven’t gotten some great toys since then. Kingdom Beast Wars Megatron, Dinobot, Airazor Earthrise Prime, Studio Series 86 Grimlock, but I just couldn’t find anything I wanted to say apart from “they are really good and I like them.”  Hell, I even just considered slagging of Earthrise Arcee, but everyone’s done that. And figuring out how to do all that funnily, with jokes that I haven’t done before or weren’t just too obvious sucked the fun out of it.

But then came Studio Series 86 Hot Rod which the ENTIRE GODDAMN FANDOM WOULD NOT SHUT UP ABOUT and then I bought him and here we are.

By Unicron’s silly beard is this guy just amazing

I initially skipped him in favour of Scourge because, well, Decepticons, but I got some spare cash and went “why not!” OK, Hot Rod is not one of my favourite characters, but I liked him well enough. Rodimus Prime…not so much. Partly because of just how whiny he was as a leader, and how he never got any real character development apart from “hey you’re the chosen one now, good luck with that.” I’ve owned a few of his toys, It wasn’t until IDW’s More Than Meets The Eye that I started appreciating.  The arrogant goofy dickhead who genuinely thought he was hot shit and then had everything come crashing down around his ears, to get quasi-replaced by Megatron on his ship and THEN he builds himself back up. Brilliant. I’ve got his Titans Return toy and it was good enough for me to bund that on the Lost Light crew shelf, without having to spend more money than I was willing on a third-party version.

All that being said when I this guy, I was kinda stunned by just how pretty he is in bot mode. And when I got him out of the box…just…well when you start singing a character’s theme tune while holding his toy you know you’re on to something special.

Now I could wank on about how well articulated he is, how people have compared him to the Masterpiece version and how he’s come on top, but I think there’s something that needs to be addressed. Please look at the following picture. On the left, the Studio Series 86 Voyager, a £33 toy. On the right, the Titans Return Deluxe, which cost £17 when it was released. Can you see where I’m going with this?

Yes they are essentially the same size. Now some people will moan about how this guy isn’t bigger than a toy half his price. However, even a cursory glance will show that the Studio Series Voyager has gone to more detailed sculpting, more paint applications and better articulation…and then there’s all the stuff he comes with and can do!

Not only does he come with a Matrix, effect part for said Matrix, two guns, his buzzsaw and the flame blast effects. On top of that his left hand also turns into the blowtorch he used to fix Kup in the movie. And you can open his head and flip-down a visor!

I have NO IDEA why this excites me so much but it does. He’s bloody packed with stuff. Couple that with the aforementioned articulation and gorgeous paintwork, he’s well worth the £33. And that’s before we get into the beautiful transformation! Where, for the first time, we get him doing the twisty arm thing he did in his first transformation in the movie!

And God does the car mode look good. Yes he us smaller than his TR counterpart but it just looks beautiful thanks to all the extra sculpting and paint work.

Honestly, if you were considering skipping this guy, don’t. He’s frankly the best toy in the SS86 toy line so far, and definitely in the top five figures of the year so far for me anyway. All this for the guy who for so long was thought of as the Transformers version of Scrappy-Doo. Amazing.

War for Cybertron: Kingdom Voyager Cyclonus Review

Oh boy, it’s another mainline Cyclonus figure! That makes this his…sixth. Really? And that’s barely counting Armada. Wow, no love from the bosses from Hasbro huh? Though considering his boss in fiction is the legendarily loopy Galvatron I guess he’s used to it. He’s the Kif Kroker to Galvatron’s Zap Brannigan, but not a complete pushover.

Robot mode is a tall glass of…plastic. One of the first thing’s you’ll notice about old Circle Wind here is that he is much larger than a lot of voyagers over the past few years. He towers over all the other Siege/Earthrise voyagers and even comes up to match a few leaders…whatever the hell that size class is these days. Though maybe “size class” is the wrong way to think about the various price points. They don’t mean just “the big one” anymore, but that’s a discussion for another time.

While I usually like a darker shade of purple on my Cy-guys, I gotta admit this lavender works well. The only place I didn’t like it was on his Decepticon badge, which was a bit too light and quasi-blended into the chest piece. This is why I stuck a silver-backed reprolabel on, just makes it pop a bit more.

One great thing is even at his size at a voyager is that he hasn’t lost anything in the articulation department. Wrists, ankle rockers, waist, the whole shebang, allowing him to bust out some great poses. Due to the transformation, even the knees can pull off a decent double bend, though because of said transformation where the thighs compress into the legs, it can leave a huge gap inside his calves. Putting that aside, this is the most articulated Cyclonus I own outside of MMC’s Boreas, and even then, it’s probably a tie. I love how poseable his neck is, it’s got a load of motion which allows him to look down on his other mainline toys with disdain.

Transformation to jet mode is fun, featuring a rotating cockpit and a telescoping nose cone that doesn’t involve sliding a piece of plastic out of the end and seeing it hang limply like a depressed banana. And it comes out looking the sleekest of any Cyclonus out there.

Of course, this is mitigated somewhat if you do the weapon “storage”

Christ does this look good, there are no awkward gaps like the Classics, no obvious robot kibble as the Combiner Wars guy, it just works. Hell, I think it looks better than some of the masterpiece third party guys out there.

Overall Cyclonus is a great toy, the minor issues I have are just that minor, namely, I wish he had large shoulder pads, the aforementioned washed out Decepticon logo, and his cavernous calves at certain angles, otherwise, brilliant and well worth a purchase.

Earthrise Leader Doubledealer Review

It took me a while to figure out how to start this review. Mainly because I’m out of practice. Usually, I would talk about the character for a bit and make a joke, but honestly? Doubledealer is kind of a non-entity. He’s had precisely three toys in his thirty years, and the previous one to this was a repaint of the worst Blitzwing toy. I owned it, cos I like the character’s concept. A mercenary playing both factions? That’s a fun idea. However, that toy was godawful. So as soon as this new version got announced I sold it on. Good luck with those shoulders whoever the hell I sold it to!

Thing is, aside from the concept there’s pretty much fuck all to know about Doubledealer. His most prominent role is in the Japanese Masterforce cartoon, and that’s not even him! He’s a suit of armour of a blue-haired orphan with an inferiority complex.  And then we had him in IDW where he got beaten by a magic 8-ball (who later turned out to be one of the Transformer’s gods…sort of, but still).

But after all that I just decided to sit down and write because I need to get this done and back into writing as a whole.

So, we have the first “proper” leader of the Siege/Earthrise line. Ok yes, we had Astrotrain, Prime, Shockwave etc, but they were Voyagers with bits of armour or boxes. While there’s a little bit of that with Doubledealer because of his accessories, but he has enough mass to him to feel like a leader class. His bot mode is rather lovely, featuring colours you don’t see much in the franchise melded together to make a brick wall of a robot armed to the gills with weaponry and a good amount of articulation to boot. Hell, he even has wrist swivels. The only real point of contention elbows could have done with being tighter, as there are many reports he can barely hold his giant gun. Mine can hold it fine in his right arm, but not the left.

As for his gimmick, well it works. See way back in the far-off year of 1988, Doubledealer had three modes. An autoboot robot mode, a Decepticon bird mode, and a “neutral” ICBM launcher mode (which is a weird way to describe a mobile nuke launcher). Those were accessed by his two Powermaster partners, a Decepticon bat and a Not-Rumble/Frenzy. Since you know, complicated parts like that would probably make this guy cost like £100 at least in today’s economy, Doubledealer now accomplishes the same with hinges on his shoulders

Yeah, I tend to put his as a Con because due to his bulk, colours and weaponry, he doesn’t scream Autobot. And this is even taking guys like Roadbuster into consideration. And I’m glad they did this, allowing him to be a Bot or Con in robot mode rather than his original incarnations way.

Speaking of awkward segues, let’s talk about his Powermaster partners Knok and Skar! Because they’re back! If you shelled out £25+ for a pack of 4 sub-legends class toys because dammit you want Rumble (FIRRIB FOR LIFE!) for your Soundwave.

Yeah, that’s about all you can say. They’re fine for bots that turn into rectangles. Just like the rest of the Soundwave tape guys. Though speaking of Soundwave, Doubledealer managed to steal his schtick, as his chest opens up allowing you to stick one of his little buddies there for storage, or to flip around and display him like a Powermaster. He even features a small engine block which you can stick on little guys pegs for that later 80’s nostalgia. Still it only really works with Knok, as he is the same colour as Doubledealer’s chest since he pretty much was the bot mode chest back then. Also at least on mine Skar seems just that bit too small to fit securely.

As for his other modes. Well, they’re fun! But they’re kind of a pain to get to. Transforming his torso for both modes is fine, but his goddamn legs are annoying. For both modes you have to fart on with his double-jointed knees, positioning them just right so they line up with slots. However getting to vulture mode is the most pain in the arse way, because you have to sort of fold the knees in on themselves so a tab on the bottom of one joint can slide into a tab on the other joint and if you don’t get the knees in just the right position to allow this, it feels like you’re going to break the damn things.

And after all, that, are the results worth it? Kind of!

OK, this is one daft looking vulture, what with the front half of an ICBM launcher hanging off his arse…but it works. I dunno, it’s just stupid looking but weirdly nice at the same time. Sure, his articulation is limited to his toes, wings and head but it’s just a daft piece of fun.

And yes, you can store his missile on his crotch so he has the big bird dick if you want.

As for the ICBM mode, honestly, it’s a great mode in both transport and launcher mode, although the way his head is kinda just sticking out the back looking up makes the disguise a little daft. The rear ramp also allows you to connect him to other Earthrise bases and/or robots who turn into bits of a road for reasons.

I like Doubledealer, despite his problems. Yes, he’s got some loose joints, his transformation is finicky. He’s also technically a partsformer, but I’ve found myself softening on that now as long as it’s done OK and doesn’t involve taking the robot apart and putting it back together again. His concept is a fun one, and I’m glad they went with the robot mode allowing him to have both factions rather than being some sort of weird reverse Punch/Counter-Punch gimmick.

Transformers Energon Ultra Megatron Review

So, I recently did a poll on my twitter of four figures to review. After the results came in, two were tied. I chose one to do…then wrote this one instead.

Could a career in politics be far behind?

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So yeah, it’s another Robot Revolt Retro Review. I got this guy a while ago in an old nerd shop, not realising it was sun-damaged. I tried to paint it but it did not work. After buying a missing accessory on eBay cheap I shoved him at the back of my Megatron shelf…until a junker one was being sold for cheap. One hasty Paypal payment later I own a slightly knackered but non-sun-damaged toy and a knackered Armada Galvatron which I honestly forgot where I put it already. Two hours of careful disassembly and reassembling later, I have one very nice condition Ultra Megatron from Energon!

A show I hate.

Yes, it’s well established I make poor financial decisions.

Anywho, so Energon Megatron then. He’s certainly a weird beast. I’ve previously said I like certain anime-esque features on my TF’s, and you can’t get more anime than this. Strictly speaking, this guy is somewhere around the region of your modern voyager in terms of pricing at the time it was on sale. Though this particular version is a smaller version of the mahoosive leader class and still has all the same features. The main one being the smaller version of his Armada tank mode which works as his fusion cannon, the holder of his sword, houses all the electronics and a spring-loaded missile (which I don’t have because they’ve all been eaten by everyone’s 5-year-old) And yet he pretty much dwarfs any recent Leader toy in terms of mass. And features electronic sounds! Well, two sound anyway, as his sword clangs when plugged into the tank.  Couple that which the bland yet good colour scheme, based on G1 Galvatron’s toy, and you get a very unique Megatron.

Pity he has all the articulation of someone who’s broken at least one bone in every limb.

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Yeah, whereas this guy is made of some damn nice plastic and features ratchet in all of his joints…it has almost zero ability to pose decently. Yeah he has a load of ratchet joints, but they’re quite usless because the guy is so back-heavy it makes posing him a bugger. I think this is something that a lot of people who miss “the good old days” of Transformers, they couldn’t pose for shit. Hell, this guy’s previous incarnation in Armada didn’t even have knees…and he was the only one in that line. Meanwhile, this guy’s knees are almost useless.

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Transforming this guy is pretty fun though, which bits that slide, rotate and click leaving you with either a spaceship or the world’s most pissed off swan.

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Yes, it is daft but I love it for that. It looks like a ship from a shoot-em-up game like R-Type that I’m really bad at. This is only enhanced as it has another feature. HYPER MODE.

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This is daft but I like it, you can do it in robot mode as well but it doesn’t change much except make his backpack take up even more shell space.

So…what do I make of Energon Megatron then? I like it, but I find it hard to put my finger on why. Perhaps it’s just because it’s so different to almost every other Megatron I own. Is it good? By today’s standard, not really. But he seems to have some undefinable quality to him.

Either that or I’m such a Megatron fanboy I’ll buy anything with his name slapped on.

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Toyworld TW-BS01 Beast General

Beast Wars Megatron. Arguably more successful in achieving his goals than his G1 namesake, even if he did get killed by Hippie Jesus Ape. Then again, he was voiced by David “I want to have sex with that voice” Kaye, so it’s all good.

What’s not good is that my favourite toy of the character, his Transmetal 1 form, is one of the most famous victims of Gold Plastic Syndrome, the dread disease that cause integral parts of your toys to explode. I am so afraid of my copy exploding that I haven’t transformed him in about six years. So, when Toyworld said “we’re gonna bring one out in Legends scale” I was all down for it.

Pity he didn’t live up to the hype then.

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Anyway, in terms of look Toyworld have nailed it, this is a DAMN good looking Megatron. The none bronze paint is glossy and the plastic quality is good. This guy definitely won’t be exploding when you glance at him. However, mainly because the second you do anything with him you’re gonna want to put him down. That bronze paint I alluded to? Chips like a motherfucker during transformation, or when you try and do anything with the turbines.

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Yeah, there’s a reason Hasbro tends to cast moving parts in plastic rather than paint them, shit like this happens. I got this guy to fiddle with since I can’t do that with my original for fear of choking on bits of exploded plastic that lodged in my throat when I gave him the side-eye, but I’d rather not breath in paint chips either.

Size-wise, he’s legend scale but comes to roughly deluxe height, as seen here with Generations  Waspinator.

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I got him for just shy of £35, with the cost rounded out with a couple of alternative heads (smirking and displease) that I don’t like, two tiny rubber ducks he can’t hold, and G1 Grimlock’s sword cast in purple that he can hold but looks way too big for him. I dunno if this is better or worse than his classic tail flail blaster thing, which he CAN hold as shown, but there’s no definitive tab or peg for him to grab.  You have to insert the hand into the tail-void (title of his sex-tape) and it takes an age to find the sweet spot, while chipping the paint on his hands. It also weighs down his arm too much to pose decently.  Regarding his articulation he’s got quite a good set including waist and ankle-tilts. While most of the joints on mine are fine, his right knee is floppy and I can’t seem to tighten it any further.

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T-Rex mode is GORGEOUS. Yeah, it’d be hard to fuck up the original toy’s design but oh this gives me good feelings in my stomach. I especially like the head sculpt, with the slightly blockier cartoon look compared to the rounded toy.  Even has a smidge of articulation so he can look up. He also has a waggling tongue for god knows why. I also really like how his lower legs can become digitigrade, making him look a bit more beastly. Transforming him is quite fun but fiddly due to his size and I’m not 100% sure can be done in a way that won’t scratch the paint off somewhere. Plus, he can still do the rollerblading t-rex with a jet pack look for that extra 90’s charm.

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So…do I like Beast General? Sort of. It’s a transformable toy of one of my favourite Megatron incarnations that won’t disintegrate in my hands, but he’s got a lot of stuff holding him back that makes him a bit disappointing. Maybe pick him up in a sale?

As for where I’ll display mine now…

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Planet X Vulcun Review

So, I love Grimlock. I mean, how can I not? He’s a tough as nails robot that turns into a fire breathing Tyrannosaurus Rex. While he might have problems speaking, he’s got the personality of a time-bomb stuck on “00:01”, gives authority the finger and could punch out Megatron if he felt like it…at least that’s how I’ve viewed him. This primarily based on his comic incarnations because…well, he’s not got that consistent of a personality across the mediums, has he? He goes from badass yet intelligent barbarian in the comics to downright stupid comic relief in the G1 and animated cartoons. Then in other incarnations, we go to way too upbeat motivational speaker in Cyberverse, slightly smarter dim-witted comic relief in RiD2015 to straight-up goddamn DOG in the live-action movies. And to top it all off I would argue most of his toys aren’t really up to much either. OK, the original G1 toy gets a pass because it was the first, but there’s always been something off with them afterwards. Maybe it’s too small and not really “right” looking in robot mode like his otherwise rather good Classics version, or it’s big and looks right, but is a bit floppy like his Masterpiece version, or it’s just had to sacrifice everything good about it for the line-wide gimmick ala the Power of the Primes voyager. Everything is compromised and just not quite right.

And then we come to the 2012 voyager, based on Grimlock’s appearance in the excellent Fall of Cybertron. Hit by a budget crunch that screwed up probably the best G1 based design in years. It took the old anatomically incorrect G1 mode and ran it through the Jurassic Park filter and I loved it. Plus, they gave him a decently developed personality, some of the best levels in the game and only used the “ME GRIMLOCK” talking when it was appropriate. When a toy was announced I jumped on it. Hell, I still own two versions of that thing because while it is very much a compromised vision, it was the only version of that design I could get my hands on.

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UNTIL NOW.

Well, I say “until now” but I’ve been after this guy since he came out five years ago. This is when I started getting really into collecting but before I jumped into the “Yeah I can drop over £100 on a toy and justify it to myself” stage of collecting with 3rd Parties. I mean, I had Voyager Grim, he was…fine. If you squinted. But oh man, Vulcun (and it is VulCUN, not VulCAN, check the box) made me salivate. Reviews came up and he looked amazing…but I couldn’t justify the cost. And by the time I could, he was sold out everywhere and a right Vulcunt (geddit?) to get on the second-hand market. It seemed I would never own him. But then Planet X reissued him in 2019!

And he sold out immediately. Bugger.

But then, after my birthday, I was looking at www.showzstore.com and looked at their flash sale page…and there he was. 2019 reissue Vulcun. At 20% off. And I had just gotten a load of money for said birthday. SCORE! And then literally minutes after I got my order in…he sold out. I had gotten one of the last ones! Yes, the shipping was delayed by a few weeks because of the Coronavirus, but I had waited 5 years!  Another couple of weeks wouldn’t kill me. And when he did arrive, I got a massive shock. See, I had ordered the regular version, as that’s what ShowZ had listed…BUT THEY SENT ME THE ABSOLUTELY GORGEOUS METALLIC VERSION.

I may have had a sex wee.

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So anyway…he’s phenomenal. Honestly, there are no two ways about it, this guy lives up to the hype and exceeds my expectations. I mean…just look at him. He’s a damn near perfect rendition of the character from the game. OK yes, his head is hanging off his back…but most Grimlocks do that anyway. The detail in the sculpt, is beautiful, accentuated by the metallic paint. And then you factor in the articulation, which has enough bends and swivels so you can get him in pretty much every pose under the sun. And let me tell you, his sheer presence makes even the most mundane stance look amazing.

There are a few little “issues”. Maybe his hands could have done with a separate articulation for his index finger, allowing more expression. Maybe he could have come with a few more accessories as well, but that would have possibly meant his sword and shield would have to be smaller and quite frankly I’ll take weapons longer than a character’s arm over a crown and apron any day of the week.

Possibly the only real issue is his size. See, he costs roughly the same as MP08 Grimlock but…

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So yeah there’s that, but in every other aspect, he outshines MP08. I love the Masterpiece but it’s always felt a little…ropey to me. Everything is floppier than it should be, and the way the chest kinda just sit’s on top of a spine assembly and doesn’t feel secure, always let it down. Dino-mode works better and it’s the mode I keep him in most of the time. However…

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Yeah, this kick’s MP08’s arse.

Though that’s not exactly fair. MP08 is going for the G1 toon accuracy with the upright “guy in a Godzilla suit” stance, and it pulls it off well. But this guy? He takes the slightly more accurate video game T-Rex mode and throws in enough articulation to make it work. But if I had to choose…

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It’s amazing how well articulated he is in this mode and how expressive he can be. You can even pull his huge head out further from the neck to allow extra upwards and side to side movement. Add to that the tail articulation and you get the best bloody dino-mode I have ever seen on a Transformer. Hell, he even has a massive flamethrower/tongue in his mouth, and his robot mode knee-pads become his rocket boosters from the game! Yes, the weapons storage is a bit naff but honestly? Are you going to want to block your view of his magnificent legs?

That came out wrong. (No, it didn’t)

And getting to this mode is quite fun as well. The transformation is complex enough to be fun, without being too simple. Yes, there’s a bit where you have to move the tails parts over the legs that will cause trepidation the first time you do it, but as he’s been constructed with that in mind once you get past that initial “Oh shit will I break this thing” moment it becomes acceptable and second nature.

I’ve waited a long time for this guy to show up, and he does not disappoint. If you get the chance I would 100% recommend you get him. The real problem I have now is deciding which mode to display him in.

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Yeah, probably dino-mode.

Earthrise Voyager Starscream

OK let’s get this out of the way. Yes, Earthrise Starscream shares a lot of DNA, metaphorically speaking, with the good old 2006 deluxe guy. The one that holds up somewhat well today, 14 goddamn years after it’s release. Yes, he doesn’t have oversized missile launches (which thank God cos I probably would have lost the sodding missiles a dozen times by now). He’s got pretty much the same amount of articulation but moves two points to a more useful area, he’s bigger, and his nose cone isn’t attached to his head limiting the articulation. I like him more than deluxe. OK got that? Can we move on now?

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ANYWAY, so finally got my hands on this guy. I got him because he’s Starscream. Do you like Decepticon jets? You gotta like Starscream.  I was prepared to be a bit underwhelmed by him, but to nick a joke from Young Justice, I was very much whelmed. Not overwhelmed, I would say a perfectly sufficient amount of whelming was had.

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It’s been a long time since we’ve had an F-15 Starscream look this good. The paint is lovely, though prone to chipping on the crotch, the colours are vibrant, he’s got the perfect silhouette. Honestly, it just works. I was unsure if I preferred the proportions of this guy to the 2006 deluxe but I think it works better. I also gotta say the plastic used for this guy is really solid. When I first got my hands on him, it felt kinda odd. Like not grainy or anything but very different to other plastics used. But it’s dense and shows the sculpted details really well. Also, as a bit of w weird thing, he has absolutely zero screws in him. Every joint is pinned…which might make doing customs of this guy a pain in the arse, but in that case it’s a good thing I have the artistic ability of a blind man in a blacked-out basement at 1 am.

So, everyone’s compared this guy to 2006 Starman for about 3 billion years now, but I think it’s fairer to compare him to the other recent voyager Starscream from Siege.

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So, in terms of looks…well they both look like G1 Starscream. I like them both but since like, 80% of their deco and proportions are the same it’s kinda hard to pick one, so that’s really gonna come down to personal preference. I like ‘em both but Earthrise scratches the G1 itch more. However, Siege Starscream does have more articulation.  Not by much, but what he does have makes a difference. The butterfly joint lets you get him in a more natural one-armed shooting poses…if you can use the term “natural” for describing a plastic robot. He’s also got the waist swivel, even if it is limited, double-jointed elbows and a wrist swivels. So, if you want a “better” robot mode, you go for Siege Screamer. Plus, in fairness, he doesn’t have giant gaps in the sides of his torso.

That said, Earthrise Starscream does have enough articulation to do most basic good poses. And they both have articulated wings for a reason I still can’t fathom. Technically Siegescream has more articulated wings, but they both feel a bit pointless to me. I’m sure someone will get some use out of them though.

However, when you transform ER Starscream (played by George Clooney) you see where the work went on this guy. Where’ as the Siege toy pretty much just turned Starscream into a cube under a pair of wings (and stuck his chest on his back), this tucks everything away nicely. Most aspects are very much 2006 deluxe yes, but there’s a bit more to it. A small amount tweaks to how things get tucked away and it’s slightly more involved. And the results? Well just LOOK at it!

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This is a goddamn gorgeous rendering of Starscream’s F-15 mode. The detail on the top of the jet is picked out wonderfully and he feels solid. He’s also the perfect size for swooshing around, at least in my meaty man-child hands. Honestly, I have no complaints.

So overall, this is the best official version of Starscream to date, and I include the Masterpiece in that. True others may look better subjectively, have more articulation and so forth, but this thing is the whole goddamn package. Solidly built, looks great in both modes, works with the Siege effects parts and has a fun, involved transformation.

Now I just gotta wait for them to do Thundercracker and Skywarp…goddammit, Hasbro did it again didn’t they?

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Maketoys Buster Skywing Review

Look I’m not going to wank on about the character’s name changing origins, but I will say Jetfire has been one of my low-key fave Autobots for a while. I loved the Generations toy from 2006 and was very sad when I left it on a windowsill and forgot about it for months so it yellowed to all hell. I was very happy with the Thrilling 30 version even if he had lost some mass, though gained height. It also made me get two more versions of it when the seeker moulds came out.

I did not like the look of the new Siege one.

If you do, great! But to me, that wasn’t Jetfire. That was Skyfire. The boxy as fuck jet from the cartoon who existed only because of reasons that are hidden by a load of copyright law and legal jargon that I do not want to bother looking into. The idea of a character who changed from Con to Bot is a good concept and I like how that has carried over to the Jetfire name, but I could never get behind the design. I always liked the Macross Valkyrie design and one day I might get around to buying one. But the latest Jetfire didn’t scratch that quasi-anime itch I like.

However, Maketoys Buster Skywing is anime as fuck

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Buster Skywing comes from our good friends, Maketoys. Another one of their Cross Dimension line that gave us the sublime Rioter Despotron I reviewed a while back. Though he wasn’t my first choice. I originally intended to get the black repaint (that came out first) Buster Stealthwing and make him a Decepticon.  However, then Transbridge Omegalock put this guy on sale for £66 and my wife got him for me as an early birthday present. So, a) I LOVE HERE, and b) I’ve come to think the original Skyfire colours suit this guy far better. The bright white and red really make him seem more anime than the black and make him pop a lot more. I’m getting a Tallgeese from Gundam Wing vibe from him.

God, I’m such a weeb.

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Anyway, Skywing comes pack to the gills with articulation, including a visor that can fold over his face.  And he is BIG. The guy is only slightly shorter than the Thrilling 30 leader Jetfire but has far more mass. He’s made of good solid plastic and all his joints are tight…sometimes too tight, but we’ll get to that in a bit. One of my favourite bits or articulation is the wing tops. While I keep them folded up in bot mode to shave on shelf space, the proper way is to flip them out. It took me a while to decide on a look and I decided to fold them in when I couldn’t stop thinking of him as some kind of giant anime mecha-peacock.

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Accessories wise he doesn’t come with much, just his guns and backpack and boosters…but that’s because he is pretty much an accessory pack himself. You can take bits of him apart and stick them on any version of Maketoys Cross Dimension Optimus Prime mould…which I don’t own.

But I do own Legendary Toys KO version of their Striker Noir! Aka Nemesis Prime aka the guy I use as RiD 2001 Scourge. That should work right!?

It did not.

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So, the KO Striker Noir is a good toy on his own, good joints tolerances etc…but due to it being a KO all the ports required for this feature are either just a bit too big or not in quite the right place and it becomes a floppy mess. Hell, I couldn’t even get the shoulder pads to stay on. It’s a shame as looking at when it’s used with a legitimate copy it holds together far better. I didn’t buy it for the combined mode, so the KO Noir works fine for me. But if you want the interactivity, I would recommend you get the proper versions.

(If you’re wondering I bought the KO it’s the proper version mould was sold out everywhere at the time….and it was less than half the price. And don’t give me shit about buying a KO of a 3rd Party toy cos we’ll be here all day with me pointing out all 3rd Party toys infringe on the HasTak copyright. We good?)

Anyway, on to the jet mode! Which is easier said than done. The first time I transformer this guy it was terrifying. There are some loud noises being made from the ratchets and tabs…and that then turned to frustration with the back end. He’s one of those guys that you have to get 100% dead on and if one bit is out and you try to force it, it causes something else to pop out. I’ve got it mostly worked out now, but it can still be a faff.

The results though? Nice.

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It’s a Quin-Jet, with massive guns/rocket boosters on it and is lovely. Plus it has articulation! Not only do the wingtips move, but a good chunk of the jet intakes and exhausts can move independently, giving him pose-ability in vehicle mode, however minor. He can look very dynamic for a flying brick.

There are some small QC issues to be aware of, like how the rear landing struts/heels are screwed in on one side, but just slotted on the over with a small peg in place for rotation…which has been known to break off. It does not affect the toy at all when it does this and they stay in o place because of the slot anyway, but it happened to mine and I’ve seen others mention it as well so you should be aware. But overall, I think this is a brilliant stand-alone figure. Who knows? I might get the black version as well if I see him at a good price, but I think this guy looks a lot better in white. A great toy and a wonderful gift from my wife.

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War for Cybertron Siege Leader Astrotrain.

So, Astrotrain then? He’s a weird guy. He’s one of those legacy characters who are popular despite not really doing much in the original pieces of media from the ’80s.  Yeah, he had an episode of the cartoon where he managed to convince a bunch of aliens he was a god, but I think I put that more down to their isolation and gullibility rather than his intelligence. I mean he also tried to take over the Decepticons with a bunch of trains. Not transforming trains. Just regular trains. So yeah, intelligence isn’t his strong suit.

After that his most notable accomplishment was Galvatron getting his name wrong in the IDW comics. But we love him regardless. Because he’s a Decepticon triple changer with the coolest alt-modes out of the lot of ‘em. A space shuttle AND a steam train? Yes please!

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For the longest time though he always seemed to get kinda shafted in toy form after his original toy. The concept was always compromised by size or design. The Classics mould had a decent shuttle mode but was happened by kibble in other modes. The Titans Return toy has a great robot mode…but the alt-modes suffered from weird design choices such as quashing the shuttle mode and stretching what you could convince people a train was. But it was decent enough in bot mode that people were mostly happy to say “Yeah that’ll do as my main Astrotrain even if the colours aren’t right unless I wanna fork out for the Japanese release.” Mainly cos he was a decent size.

But then along comes Siege with the best goddamn Astrotrain in years! In the right colours! And in the leader size class! And there is nothing wrong with him!

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So yeah, let’s get it out the way. Siege Astrotrain is another one of these “leaders” like Shockwave and Ultra Magnus where’s the main toy is a voyager and he gets extra bits. Ultra Magnus had his normal armour, Shockwave got a surfboard that became some actually cool armour in robot mode and turned his “totally not and laser-gun” alt-mode into a damn good-looking battleship.

Astrotrain gets a box that turns into boots and a backpack. Oh, and LOT of guns, that can also combine into one mean BFG.

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Yeah, this is where all that extra plastic went. You could have gotten a bigger one if say they only gave him one gun instead, but honestly, I don’t mind him at his normal size. He frankly looks so good, and as hinted at in the second image, due to how he’s constructed there’s almost no hollowness to him, making him solid as hell. He also has far more articulation than any other Astrotrain toy, including a waist swivel and ankle-tilts.  Plus, the box has other uses, but more on that later.

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I like the shuttle mode. It looks like his G1 toy/cartoon self, boxy fuselage and all, but beefier and mode robust.  Yeah, the back end is a little skeletal but you always gotta sacrifice something in a triple changer. And honestly, the transformation is pretty fun, with some nice intricacies like how the arms become the rear and connect to the boosters and keep the tail fin in place. It’s fun and looks like it’s cartoons elf, which I’m not usually needing but I’ll take it here. Like the bot mode, it features a whole load of ports so you can stick the guns all over him and make the world’s deadliest shuttle. Or you can store them in the box, which can also become a makeshift launchpad, but it looks a bit doofy so I didn’t bother taking any pics.

But honestly? The best mode is the train mode.

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I love the train mode. I love the detailing; I also love how this makes no goddamn sense as his Cybetronian mode. But it’s big, purple, and girthy. Yes, I know how that sounds and I don’t care. It just works so goddamn well. Plus, you know that box of his? It can be used as a goddamn tender!

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I have no idea why this excites me so much, but it just does. It looks fantastic. Plus, since this mode doesn’t feature as many weapon ports as the shuttle mode adding the tender means you have enough to make the DEATH TRAIN.

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So yeah, he’s short because he has a box, but I love this guy. He’s easily made it into my top ten figures of 2019 right at the buzzer. It’d be nice if he wasn’t so short but what we get in lieu of his size makes up for it. Buy him.

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Mastermind Creations Kultur, aka Big Tarn.

So, a while ago I did a review of Iron Factory’s Dubhe, their take on IDW’s Tarn. In it I mentioned that despite its flaws I was happy with it and satisfied I had an alternative to Mastermind Creations Kultur that didn’t cost the earth.

Then someone decided to sell their Kultur for £65, so here we are!

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So MMC Tarn then? Not gonna lie, he’s made my top five 3rd party figures already, though his final placing is still in flux at the moment. See, MMC tend to go their own way in terms of aesthetics for a lot of their figures. In theory, a lot of them tend to lean towards IDW Alex Milne era of comics, but I’ve not found that to be 100% the case. They tend to add a lot of detail that doesn’t always work. My Sixshot is nice, but their Cyclonus doesn’t carry it as well. However, with Tarn, they seem to have really toned it down. To the point where this guy doesn’t seem that out of place next to CHUG figures.

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It’s not that he’s lacking detail, it just seems to be used more effectively. I especially like the chest piece. With that said, he doesn’t quite match the design of the comics. It seems flatter, and less of a “living machine” aesthetic than Alex Milne managed to get across with his art. In that regard, Iron Factory does get that across a little better with its less blocky proportions and more dynamic colour palette. Though in fairness neither’s colour scheme is exactly spot one to the comics. MMC’s is more muted, but IF’S is a little too bright to be as accurate. One way to compare them is to compare the masks. While MMC’s is good, IF’s has the more angular and comic accurate sculpt. He’s perhaps not as dynamic as IF, but in fairness you had to swap Dubhe’s hands out to get him at his most expressive, so I can deal.

However, after saying all that I like both versions for different reasons, and they weirdly look good together.

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Honestly, though I think I prefer Big Tarn overall. Yes, a lot of this is due to his size. But he just works so well at this scale. He’s bigger than a Hasbro Voyager, so he can suitably loom over a lot of bots, but he doesn’t look half bad next to pretty much any design aesthetic, even the bigger Masterpiece bots. A favourite of mine to pose him with is Maketoys Rioter Despotron. Even though Tarn’s sculpting is more muted I think it works well with Despotron’s anime-inspired design.

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As above, Tarn’s “real” head is Roller. The guy everyone thought he was going to be because James Roberts likes to troll his fans. Is this MMC betting on the result early (as the toy was released before the reveal of his actual identity) or just using it because Tarn shares a lot of parts and engineering with their Roller. And their Thunderclash. And…you get the point.  That is still a minor bugbear since my review of their Cyclonus, making a mould that gets used a lot rather than being suitable for the character. But hey, this works well for Tarn. Plus, Hasbro has made an entire franchise that so it’s fair game.

Aside from the mask Tarn comes with his double fusion cannons, which can peg on the tank mode turret piece to rest on his farm or come apart to be handheld. They even swivel on their axis so you can position them to be more comic accurate.

He also has missiles in his feet.

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Articulation wise it’s what you would expect of a £90 3rd party toy, including a good ab crunch and toe bends. This means you can get some really good poses, though his shoulder does get in the way of his cannons and vice versa so it can be a bit of a faff to pose those right. Also, because of how solidly built he is, which surprised me due to how MMC’s Cyclonus is well known for breaking, he holds all of them well without much support. That’s another plus for him against Dubhe, who had a LOT of QC issues on his first release, still has others that hope up. I ended up having to get new arms from Iron Factory directed because the socket straight-up snapped making them loose as hell. I don’t see that happening with Kultur at all.

Another plus is the transformation, which is a lot simpler than I’ve come to expect from this level of 3rd party. Hell, it’s actually easier than Dubhe! And the results are good.

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So, this is not really that accurate to Tarn’s tank mode in the comic, again due to the fact that this mode is three other guys as well. If you want a more accurate tank mode, we gotta go to Iron factory again. But that said, Kultur doesn’t have his hands sticking out the back.

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As you can see, he also has some extra features. Those toe missiles make a lot more sense with how his feet end up in vehicle mode (and aren’t glued in so be careful when the hatches are open), and he also has some sculpted grenade/rocket launchers just under where you peg the fusion cannon/turret. If you want him to be a bit more comic accurate, you can angle the chest piece downwards but it makes the thing seem less cohesive. I mean, he’s a tank he should be a big solid block of steel and this gets that across.

So yeah, MMC Kultur is brilliant and definitely worth getting. I was very lucky to get him for the price I did, as unless MMC do another reissue, you’re not gonna get him for less than £100 on the secondary market, most likely more. Does he replace Iron Factory? To a degree, but I still like the Lil’ guy too. And frankly, it’s a lot easier to get the entire DJD from them instead of MMC. Plus they combine. However, if like me, you just wanted Tarn either is a good choice, but I’d have to go with the big guy overall.

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