Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Transformers Cyberverse: Shockwave

In between holding interviews today for work, I ran into a Target that I rarely visit and much to my surprise I found a few of the new Warrior (deluxe) class Transformers Cyberverse toys hanging on the pegs. I don't know what the official release date of this series is, but I really didn't expect to find them already.

To be honest I really haven't paid that much attention to this series to know much about it, only that it's the line for the next forth coming animated television show. I watch Ben's Collectibles video review of the Warrior class Optimus and wasn't impressed. Photos of Starscream weren't that impressive either, but when I was able to hold Shockwave in my hand I thought he looked much better than his wave mates. Even though I told myself I was going to steer clear of this line, here I stand with Shockwave.

The packaging is well laid out, with vibrant artwork of the character right at the top of the blister, along with that character's faction symbol. The right side of the packaging has a bright yellow strip with the Transformers logo using same block letters from the past few years, this time in black instead of red. The packaging does feature 4 different languages so I don't anticipate the packaging changing for the international market.

The thin cardboard insert inside the blister bubble features another small piece of art of the character. In larger letters you have, in this case, Wave Cannon, which is Shockwave's gimmick. Why do toys have to have a gimmick? I know this line isn't aimed at my demographic, but even my almost 9 year old daughter thought the gimmick was silly.

One side of the cardboard insert features artwork of Megatron, Starscream and a new female character, Shadow Striker. If I hadn't already seen some of the other toys, this artwork may have gotten me a little more excited about what's to come, but alas I don't think this is a line I'll be able to get behind.

Not that it's of great importance, but I noticed while taking the figure out of the blister bubble that it wasn't held in place by any of the little plastic bands. It was just wedged into the form fitting bubble. The very simple instructions sheet was folded up at the bottom of the bubble.

Out of the package I have to say my first impression was "not that bad". Before I say anymore, let me go on the record saying the toy features a much darker shade of purple. My camera shows his purple has being a softer color, but it's much closer to previous versions of the character. Not quite G1 purple, but darker than you see here.

Now that is said, I really had low expectations going on based on what I have seen and heard, but Shockwave's robot mode felt pretty solid. Yes, he has some hollow sections on the back of his arms and legs, but that is expected these days. With the cost of oil and thus plastic going up, I'm OK with this cost cutting moves.

Right off the bat you'll probably notice the "backpack" on the right side of his back. This is part of his new alt mode, but thankfully doesn't really get in the way while in robot mode. It can be lifted straight up over his head, but why would you want to do that?

There is no mistake who this character is supposed to be. From the classic sculpted head to the single eye, this is Shockwave. By the way, he does have his little gray "ears", however while editing the photos they kind of disappeared...oops.

Shockwave has some decent heft to him for a modern deluxe size figure. His articulation is limited and I know for some that is an immediate bust. You can rotate his arm at the shoulder a full 360 degrees, lifting his arms up and down on a hinge joint. His forearm is attached via a ball joint and that allows for a good range of motion. His head is not movable and this is due to his transformation. Legs are attached via ball joints, swivel at the thigh and a hinge joint at the knee. No ankle pivot however.

If I'm not mistaken, Shockwave's alt mode was sort of reminds me of his Transformers Animated alt mode, just with a gun placement instead of a crane arm. I'm really not sure how I feel about it at this time. The gun isn't able to be moved or posed as it's in a fixed position. You can move his arms and legs around or I suppose have him move like a crab. 

Transformation from robot to alt mode is very simple. Shockwave is basically a contortionist here. You flip his arms up and forward at the elbow, twisting the forearms around. Flip up his chest piece over his head, twist his legs backwards at the thighs, then bending at the knees. Take the gun/backpack piece and flip it up on it's side and you're done.

I did notice fiddling around with the figure this evening that you can adjust the over height of the gun platform as you please by moving the arms and legs around. No matter how I arranged the limbs however, I can only see Shockwave doing yoga! On the side of the gun is a spring loaded tab. When you pull this back, a pink blast effect folds out as part of his gimmick. This I could have done without, but I'm sure some kid somewhere will find this to add more fun to the play pattern.

If this figure hangs around in my collection, rest assured it'll be in robot mode. I do like however that if you look carefully at the side of his legs, it does resemble the handle of a gun.

Coming off the success of the Robots in Disguise series, I wanted to see how he compared to an RID toy and Starscream just happened to be the closet figure I could grab. While Cyberverse has a different feel and aesthetic, I don't like Shockwave looks too much out of place. I do feel as if Shockwave is "chunkier" than his fellow Decepticon, and this is something that I like.

Overall I'm on the fence about this toy. I didn't like way the robots of Optimus, Bumblebee or Starscream looked, but Shockwave stood out to me. I'm really enjoying his robot mode. I love his classic look, but I also like the subtle changes made to the character as well. I'm not sure why his eye is partially covered...is the sun in his eye? With this price point staying at $14.99 USD it's getting harder and harder to recommend a figure unless it's a grand slam. Shockwave isn't horrible, but I don't care for his alt mode. For this reason I'll say your mileage may vary. He certainly appears to be the best in the debut wave of Warrior class figures...but that isn't saying much.

Saturday, July 21, 2018

Transformers Titans Return: Ramhorn

One of the things I have liked about the current Transformers Prime Wars trilogy is that we've been given new versions of older Generation One characters, such as the Autobot Ramhorn. When the Titans Return line was still in it's infancy, we got a new Blaster with transforming "cassettes". I'm sure there were many that were hoping Ramhorn would get a new toy, but I don't think many of us envisioned him returning as Headmaster, er I mean Titanmaster.

Ramhorn proved to be very hard to find for many fans and collectors at local retail for quite a while. I found mine at an Aldi's grocery store of all places. Later on I did see him pop up at local Target and Walmart stores.

Like most Titan Masters, the small figure comes packaged with another smaller Transformer. In this case the "other" toy is a pretty faithful reproduction of the classic G1 character. The sculpt is fantastic and I love how the missile pods have been incorporated into the mold. The horn is large and vicious looking and his maroon color is spot on.

The Titan Master figure itself is pretty standard fare for the line. The paint apps for the most part are reserved for the "Headmaster" mode, though there is a touch of silver on the small Titanmaster head with metallic turquoise used for the eyes. It is rather interesting that the Titanmaster has a rhinoceros head. The larger head mode has a great look, however I'm guessing it's an original design as it doesn't look like any Transformer that I'm familiar with.

I should mention that the Titanmaster does fold up and fit in a compartment underneath Ramhorn.

Ramhorn can also transform in an armored tank mode. I really like this and find that it does add some play value to an already cool Transformer. If you look carefully at Ramhorn's legs you'll see that he has tank treads molded into the back of the legs. The Titanmaster firmly attaches to the top and is ready to blast and roll over some Decepticons.

If Ramhorn's tank mode wasn't enough for you, he's also a Targetmaster! Molded into the figure are small rocket pods. To me this mode looks more like a defensive weapon (a shield) than an offensive weapon, but hey, it's your imagination at work here.

Ramhorn is actually a retool of Shuffler, a Japanese only G1 Headmaster figure. Hasbro did a great job pulling off Ramhorn from this mold and while he may not be a pseudo-cassette like his Autobot brothers Eject and Rewind, he makes a great addition to your modern Transformers collection.

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Transformers Power of the Primes: Alpha Trion w/ Landmine

Wave 2 of the Transformers Power of the Primes Prime Masters finally hit local retail in my area and I quickly snatched up the only two new figures in the wave. I was so quick to make the purchase that I overlooked a glaring flaw in the Landmine Pretender armor. More on that in a bit.

I have thoroughly enjoyed the Prime Master line thus far for several reasons. 1) The cheap $4.99 USD price point and 2) I actually enjoyed the Pretender toys from the Generation One line. Landmine here is one of my favorite Autobot Pretenders so I was excited to see that he would be getting the Prime Master treatment.

Alright, so let's address the glaring flaw right off the bat. Do you see the problem? The Landmine armor has two right arms. I can't believe I didn't notice this in the store. Again, I was so excited (and surprised) to find anything new at Target that I snatched him up. Usually I'm grabbing all of the same figure and closely scrutinizing them all to find the figure with the best paint apps. Well this time Landmine was all alone on the peg and now I know why!

Two right arms aside, the toy is just as impressive as the previous Prime Master I reviewed, Metalhawk. The level of detail put into the Pretender armor is amazing. While limited, the paint apps are also applied quite nicely. The designers did a great job at capturing the likeness of the original G1 figure, of course with modern updates. I find these little $5 toys a lot of fun and they are some of my favorite modern Transformers.

To remove or place the Prime Master figure inside the armor, you simply fold down the front portion. I kind of wish the armor opened up like the original G1 Pretender armor, but it still gets the job done. The Prime Master figure fits snuggly inside the armor.

The Prime Master figure itself is basically a Titan Master figure from the previous Transformers series, only with the robot head/face replaced with a Cybertronian symbol featuring one of the 12 original Primes. In this case, this is Alpha Trion. 

For added play value, the armor can also transform in a gun for larger Transformers to wield similar to a Targetmaster. As I was typing this post, I realized I failed to photograph the weapon mode. However keep reading as you'll see what it looks like if G1 Landmine were to "wield himself".

Before we get to the G1 comparison pictures, let's take a look at how Landmine stacks up against Metalhawk. Side by side you should be able to see that the same base mold was used for both figures, however there are plenty of different sculpting differences used to help create two unique characters. The arms and legs are basically unchanged, but the torso and chest sections have been modified to resemble their G1 counterparts.

I was amazed when I pulled out my G1 Landmine from his glass display case and put them side by side as the similarities are spot on. From the small designs on the gray utility belt to the red section on the armor's abdomen, you can tell the designs took the time to add in charm from the original toy. This is obviously a nice touch for older fans such as myself and one of the reasons I've enjoyed these new "pretenders" as much as I have.

As aforementioned, you can combine the Prime Master figure with the armor to form a larger fun. The armor features a 5mm peg that most Transformers can wield, even the original G1 Pretenders! While I display mine in their robot form, this is a nice added feature that I'm sure enhances the play value for the younger fans.

I currently own all of the Prime Master figures as I just found wave 3 a few days ago as of the date of this post, however I have a bad tendency of taking my sweet time opening new toys...for some reason. However I eagerly await my next opportunity to open and photograph the next Prime Master. Perhaps the next one will be a Decepticon?

For G1 fans, even if they didn't like the Pretender concept or the toys themselves, this is fantastic to see Hasbro and Takara Tomy digging deeper into the Transformers lore and history and giving new toys to characters seldom used. Even if you aren't a G1 fan or didn't grow up during that time frame, these little toys offer a great deal of detail packed into a small toy and offers different wants to play and interact with other Transformers toys.

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Marvel Legends Infinite Series: Captain Marvel

I've been a fan of Marvel's cosmic heroes and stories since the early 90's with Jim Valentino's run of Guardians of the Galaxy. Since then I've enjoyed just about every other cosmic story, thanks to the Annihilation story bringing many of these characters back to the modern spotlight. One of these heroes I've enjoyed following has been Carol Danvers. She has gone by many different names in her super hero career: Ms. Marvel, Binary, Warbird, and Captain Marvel.

Captain Marvel first appeared in the pages of Avenging Spider-Man #9 and this Marvel Legends figure from 2016. I wasn't sold on her new look at first, but the more and more I see her in the comics I'm fine with the new appearance. Of course Captain Marvel will be getting her own movie within the Marvel Cinematic Universe in 2019 and I can't wait!

At some point Hasbro started using the same packaging for two different characters in the same wave. Captain Marvel shared packaging with the Scarlet Witch and was branded "Maidens of Might". She was part of the Odin Build-A-Figure wave and came packaged with Odin's head, cape and axe. Standard fare packaging, not much to mention here.

Now I'm not the best when it comes to identifying reused parts from previous Marvel Legends, but the basic build of the figure is pretty good...though I feel she has just a bit too much junk in the trunk! The paint that makes up her new costume is spot on to her comic appearances. Her sash is a loose piece, but not really removable. In the accessory department she comes packaged with is a different head, which we'll get to in a bit, and an energy orb that fits around a fist.

I know some fans don't care for Carol's new shorter hair, but it doesn't bother me. The hair itself is sculpted quite nice, however I'm not sure how I feel about her facial expression. There is virtually no emotion in her face what so ever. Bland. 

Well at least if you don't care for her unmasked look, you can pop off the head and swap it out for the mohawk look. At first I hated this look, but now I really dig it. I think it's a great sculpt and looks great. It's how I have her displayed in my collection.

Articulation is standard fare. If you've seen any of my Marvel Legends reviews then you'll know you're better off heading over to Instagram if you want dynamic action poses and shots! Captain Marvel is one of my favorite non-Spider-Man related figures to date. The female proportions are in check and she resembles her comic self well. Good paint and sculpt makes this figure a must have if you're a fan of the character. 

Thursday, June 14, 2018

HeroesCon 2018

I look forward to Father's Day weekend each year for many reasons. 1) Well, it's Father's day, 2) My birthday usually falls on or near Father's Day and 3) the annual Heroes Convention in my hometown of Charlotte, NC.

For years this has been one weekend where I get to spend some quality time with my older brother and hang out and talk comics. It's time I look forward too each and every year. In the past few years however it seems I've started a new tradition of taking my two daughters with me for one of the 3 days of the convention, usually on Friday. While my wife is sitting Friday out this year due to rolling her ankle on our recent vacation to Maine, my girls none the less are super excited about going.

From birth my wife and I have put books in their crib and now beds. They go to bed each night with books. Now that they are almost 7 and 9 and their reading skills continue to improve, I find each year's trip to HeroesCon w/ them that much more fun. Plus Shelton Drum and his crew do a GREAT job at making the convention family friendly. Usually each year there is a passport kids get at the admission booth where they can go around the floor and collect stamps from different booths and vendors. In exchange for a filled passport, they get free comics. To this day one my youngest daughters favorite was an Uncle Grandpa trade she got for free a few years ago!

We stopped in at Target this evening before seeing The Incredibles II movie and got them each something new to wear to the convention. My oldest, 9 (in October) was more worried about what she would be wearing to the convention than anything else! Love it!

While my girls may not have the same passion for comics that I do, I'm glad they enjoy going to the show with their old man. I'll miss not having my wife in tow this year, but I'm looking for some good quality time spent with my daughters and my brother this weekend...all thanks to comic books.

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Transformers 3rd Party: Zeta - Fly Fire ZB-01 (Kronos)

It's rare that I purchase any 3rd party Transformers toys these days. My reasons for this are varied, but every once in awhile an item is released that catches my eye. This was the case with Zeta's take on the G1 Aerialbots, specifically Fireflight. He was (for some reason) my favorite of the original Aerialbots so I was intrigued by this new "masterpiece" style figure. The price was a lot more affordable than most 3rd party items these days so I took a chance and purchased Fire Fly ZB-01.

While I'm still not sure if this figure belongs with my Masterpiece collection, the packaging alone does make it look like it should be included. The packaging is nice, but without a lot of frills. The box has as flat black matte look with a thin white border around the front. The name is laid out similar to Takara Tomy's style with the black and yellow rectangles housing the robot's name and in this case, Kronos instead of the character's faction. The artwork for the character is beautiful. I'm not sure who is credited for the work, but they did a great job. They really captured G1 Fireflight's classic look.

The back of the box shows a portion of the Kronos (Superion) artwork. Apparently each box will have a different piece of art that act as large puzzle pieces if you will. Stack them all together and you'll have a full image of Kronos himself. The last time I saw this used was with Warbotron's version of Bruticus.

The two sides of the box feature product shots of the actual figure in both robot and jet mode. Again, nothing fancy, but I believe it gets the job done.

Fly Fire comes wedged into a form fitting block of black foam. I wonder if they hired the guys from Fun Publications to packaging these toys now that they don't have anything to do?! Actually the foam insert is rather nice as it does a good job at protecting the figure. There are three sections that house the figures accessories, two being the jet's missiles and the other being the hand gun. With the lower price point, I kind of expected a plastic insert tray. 

My first impression of the figure upon taking him out of his foam prison was that it felt sturdy. One of the things I always worry about with "unofficial" toys is the quality of plastic used. With my limited experience with 3rd party companies I really didn't know what to expect as I've ran across releases with thin, shoddy plastic and some with high quality plastic. Zeta seems to have used a plastic perhaps one grade down from what you'd find Takara Tomy use in my opinion. 

I found the paint applications to be well applied. I didn't see any over spray or any other defects. A few pieces did pop off during transformation, however I'm glad they did that as opposed to the pieces breaking.

The figure has the articulation that you would come to expect out of a modern masterpiece style figure. Out of the box his joints felt nice and tight, however not so tight that you thought you were going to break something during transformation. I'm not the best when it comes to posing my figures, but I was pleased with all the ways I could bend the limbs and pose the figure. The individually articulated fingers are a little annoying when it comes to getting him to hold his gun, but thankfully the hand has a slit in the palm that matches up to the tab on the gun's handle. This gives the weapon extra stability while being wielded.

If the designers can't nail the robot's head/face then they shouldn't even bother with the rest of the figure. Thankfully the Zeta guys did a great job capturing Fireflight's likeness. From the forehead crests, to the eyes and mouth plate...fantastic!

I would assume that their version of Silverbolt will include the necessary combiner parts, however I thought I'd put Fly Fire into arm mode. Transformation was pretty straight forward, however I had a hard time putting the chest back together after rotating the connector port out. In this form he's pretty solid and holds together well. Articulation can be found in the connector port, elbow hinge and at the waist effectively giving it a forearm swivel.

For size comparison, here he is with my G2 Fireflight in arm mode. I didn't want to bother getting into my glass case and de-assembling my G1 Superion.

Hands down the best part of this figure is the alt mode. Modeled after a McConnell Douglas F-4 Phantom II, the likeness to the real world jet is quite marvelous. There is quite a bit of detail molded into the plastic all over the jet and the subtle paint applications just add to the beauty. Of course its lacking Autobot symbols on the wings, but overall there is no mistaking this is Fireflight.

I quite enjoyed taking pictures of the jet. I knew I didn't have room to leave him in this mode so I wanted to have fun with him while I still had him transformed in his alt mode.

Scaling is always something that is hard to pin down with masterpiece-esque toys, however I like how Fly Fire in his alt mode looks with an official Masterpiece Autobot car. The scaling in robot mode is a little off however. I thought I took a picture of him w/ Masterpiece Optimus Prime, but apparently I either forgot to accidentally deleted the picture.

 Side by side with his G2 self

Transformation between the two modes isn't far off from the G1 toy. Of course there are extra steps along the way, but the simple included instructions helped me out with a few steps that I couldn't figure out on my own.

Overall I'm really pleased with the figure. From the packaging to the design to the overall quality. Toss in a price that is well below the normal $100 mark that 3rd party combiners usually command and you've got yourself a great figure. I'm a little concerned that the robot mode is too large for an official Masterpiece collection. 

He's bigger than the Autobot cars, but smaller than Optimus. I haven't been able to find a good animation model of the Aerialbots standing aside fellow Autobots, but when I place the him in robot mode along with my other MP figures I think he's a tad too big. Perhaps once assembled in combiner form the whole scaling issues won't be an issue? I'm on the fence whether I'll continue to purchase the remaining figures in the Kronos set, but I don't regret my purchase of Fly Fire as he is a solid interpretation of the G1 Autobot, Fireflight.