Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Transformers Power Core Combiners: Double Clutch with Rallybots

Bio: Double Clutch has always been a master of diversionary tactics. His entire team is built around the idea of confusing and disrupting Decepticon operations. The speed and noise of the Rallybots alone is enough to strain any robot's sensors. Add to that all the electronic countermeasures built into the team, and the Rallybots become the single greatest threat to Decepticon strategy.

Strength: 6 Intelligence: 8 Speed: 9 Endurance: 6
Rank: 7 Courage: 9 Fireblast: 6 Skill: 8

Wave 2 of Hasbro's Power Core Combiners have been released to retail for some time now, but if your local store's shelves are still full of the Combaticons and Aerialbots like most places you may have a hard time finding this set or the Destructicons also released in this 2nd wave. Prices most places at the time of this posting have dropped $5.00 to $15.00. Does the price drop warrant a purchase? Let's take a look.

Double Clutch and the Rallybots come packaged in the now familiar gift set form large window box. Again there is some great box art of the combined form on the left side of the box that wraps around to the side.

The back of the box features (photoshopped) images of the toys in both their vehicular modes and combined form. Aesthetically the combined form looks pretty good from these images...but with Transformers there is always more than meets the eye!

Before we delve into the combined form let's take a look at the commander of the team, Double Clutch.

Double Clutch is a modern muscle car. I believe he is heavily modeled after a Dodge Charger, but unlike the older Alternators brand these vehicles are not licensed by any real world car manufacturer. Double Clutch's main color is a light metallic blue/silver and features a decent silver flame deco tampographed onto the car's good. The windshield and windows are painted black. I'm assuming this was done over using translucent plastic to better hide the robot bits. The back windshield has a stationary Mini-Con port.

Hasbro and the designers did a good job at containing the robot parts on the underside of the vehicle. You can also see the bright blue connecting ports hidden beneath the car.

The transformation process from car to robot isn't too intricate - on the level of your average deluxe size Transformer. Overall the robot mode isn't too shabby, but he is rather short and has a "dumpy" look. The car's back bumper forms the upper torso and chest of the robot and is just too big in my opinion. Legs are short and the arms are weak. The best thing about the robot mode is the head as it is a very nice sculpt. Articulation in robot mode is limited, especially in the arms. The elbows are ball joints, but the connector pegs hang off the back of the arms and hinder movement. With the legs being so short and stubby it almost doesn't matter that there is any articulation as it is hard to pull off dynamic poses due to the chunkiness.

The view from the rear doesn't get much better!  At least the lower connector pegs fold out at the feet and help stabilize the robot.

Transforming Double Clutch into his torso form is rather easy as all it entails is folding back the arms and rotating out the connector pegs, flipping down the head and replacing it w/ the larger head and finally folding the bottom portion of the legs around and flipping down the connector pegs. Now you are ready to attach the 4 included Rallybot drones.

The race car drone forms the right arm. It's blue and white with a bright red Autobot symbol on the hood - the flash was too bright on the white background so it isn't showing up. There is also a small white spoiler on the back. The connector port is located in on the top rear of the vehicle. When plugged onto Double Clutch or any other commander figure it makes a rather long arm with no distinct hand.

The left arm is formed by plugging in this very small tuner drone. It is by far the smallest of the Rallybot drones or of any other team's drones I've seen thus far. The connector port is located in the center rear of the vehicle. There is a large silver Autobot symbol on the top of the car. There is also a Mini-Con port on the hood that can be flipped up or down depending on your taste.

This is the drag racer drone. It is meant to form the right leg and foot. The connection port is located in the center rear of the vehicle. I had a hard time w/ the automorph feature when plugging this drone onto Double Clutch. The vehicle did not want to fold out enough to form a solid foot. I'm not sure if this is a widespread problem or if I just got a bum drone. Like most of the other drones there is a Mini-Con port on the spoiler that can be flipped up or down. The car itself is small and lightweight, but rolls well on a smooth service. I apologize for the whitewashed photo as it doesn't show off the metallic silver paint used on the sides and cockpit area of the car.

The street racer drone forms the left leg and foot. It has an equally interesting design and paint job. The vehicle is rather long as you may be able to tell by the distance between the front and rear wheels. That small red spot on the back of the vehicle has a Mini-Con port that flips up and down. There is also a stationary Mini-Con port on the roof. The connector port is located underneath the front hood.

The combined form is...well...not very good. I really really wanted to like this set of Power Core Combiners, but I'm just not convinced by it's combined mode. Bandai & Tonka pulled off a better combiner in the form of Go-Bots Puzzler! Neither drone makes a convincing arm. The fact there is no distinct hand is also a major drawback. The blue/white race car drone's "hand" doesn't even fold out towards the rest of the body! The arms in general are a complete disaster. The articulated shoulders are attached to Double Clutch's hands which peg onto the back by two small pegs. These pegs have a hard time staying in place when you try to move the arms or shoulders making the arms really floppy if you aren't careful.

I already mentioned the problems I had making the red drag racer drone form a foot and that issue hampers the rest of the figure as it makes it really hard to stand the combined figure. The street racer drone makes a better, but it can't support the weight of the figure alone. After some tinkering w/ the legs and hips I was able to slightly turn each leg to get a pose that would allow it to stand on it's own without my support.

The combined form's head is decent at best. I don't mind the 'horns' so much as the center crest. It is too big and gives the head a weird shape. The visor that covers the eyes is slightly darker than Double Clutch's main blue color.

All in all in disappointed with this toy. Going in I wanted to like it and I thought I would, but the moment I opened it and started to mess around I had buyer's remorse! This is one of the reasons it has taken me so long to post this review. I also bought Crankcase w/ the Destructicons at the same time and I'll have a review posted for them eventually. Double Clutch as a stand alone Transformer isn't bad. The Rallybot drones are very small and don't have a lot of detailing making them for the most part forgettable. I really can't recommend buying this toy unless you are a completionist. The Power Core idea in itself isn't horrible and there are several good sets (Combaticons and Dinobots come to mind immediately), this particular set just misses the mark on so many levels.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Marvel Legends: Valkyrie & Hulk

When Hasbro decided to switch scale for it's Marvel Comics line of toys a lot of fans were sadden to hear the Marvel Legends scale would no longer be used. Somewhere along the way Hasbro listened to the fans and chimed in with a pole where one could vote for new Marvel Legends figures. I forgot just who all was on the ballet, but 6 figures "won" and were produced in 3 different two-packs. This particular set was the fans' choice winner and was made available exclusively at Toys 'R Us stores.

Empowered and driven mad by Asgardian magic, Samantha Parrington attacked the Hulk. The fight that resulted was a battle for the ages. For blocks around, concrete was shattered by the concussive force of their blows. Both combatants staggered away from that fight with little memory of what had actually occurred. Later, as Samantha gained full control of her incredible powers, she joined the Hulk as a member of the Defenders.

PhotobucketI like how the story on the back of the box kind of sets things up. I have a better idea of what comic period these toys represent. Let me start off by talking a bit about the packaging. If you've read my other reviews then you'll know I get a kick out of the packaging of most toys. A lot of great care was put into the design of this packaging and it shows on so many levels. You get a nice large window that showcases the figures so you can get a good idea holding the package in your hands at what you are getting. I also like this since a lot since you also can get a good look at the paint applications on the figures. The quality of paint on the Marvel Universe toys are so hit and miss it makes it hard to find the 'perfect' figure sometimes. There was only one of this set left in the store so I wasn't able to compare it to others, but I didn't see any noticeable flaws on any of the other sets (Black Widow & Winter Soldier). In the bottom left hand corner you can see that the toy is marked as the Fans' Choice Winner! and just above this is a Toys 'R Us exclusive sticker. There is also some nice artwork on the packaging that wraps around to the sides, but more on that in a bit. Let's flip the box over and take a look.

First thing you'll probably notice are the images of the figures themselves. To me they look a tad photo shopped as the actual toys do look a bit different. Below that is the story that sets up the time frame from the comic history for the two characters. There is also a bit of information on each character that gives their name, height, weight, alias, affiliation, whether or not their identity is public or not and lastly a short description of their powers. I got a kick out of Valkyrie's weight as she is listed at a hefty 475 lbs.! Laughing in her face or making a comment about her weight would not be wise, especially coming from a man. In the background you can see faint artwork that was used on the sides of the packaging. The light blue makes it look almost as if it was sketched onto the back.

The beautiful artwork is provided by two different artists. I personally prefer the art used for the upper corner - I believe it is the work of Joe Madureia. The art of Valkyrie riding Aragorn looks to be Scott Kollins' work.


On the other side of box are different pieces of artwork of the Hulk. Unlike on Valkyrie's side I'm unsure of who the artists are that provided the art.


It's a little hard to tell from my photos (or lack of my photo taking ability), but the packaging is a trapezoid shape. It's just different enough that it helps make the already beautiful packaging stand out even more on the shelf amidst the other toys on the shelf. Upon opening the toy to photograph the figures I realized something that slipped by me when examining the box in the store. The box opens up like a book to reveal the figures inside meaning you can remove and replace the figures without having the mangle the packaging! Some people could care less about this feature, but I always applaud the manufacturer for taking a small step such as this. I don't necessarily display my figures and toys in their packaging, but a lot of collectors do and having the ability to remove and replace the figures while maintaining the overall integrity of the packaging is very cool.

PhotobucketHasbro has done an excellent job with the Valkyrie figure. This may sound a little shallow and corny, but they pulled off a good looking female action figure. The body is proportionate and not overly exaggerated as some female action figures can be. The paint application is very well as I mentioned earlier and there is a good level of detail sculpted into the mold. One problem I've had in the past with female figures are the feet. Women's feet are usually smaller and more slender than a man's and that translates into shoddy stability without the support of your hand or a figure stand. I'm happy to say that Valkyrie doesn't really suffer from this problem...which surprised me a bit since she has a somewhat heavy cape on her back. There are 16 points of articulation on the figure. The head rests on the now standard ball and can be rotated a full 360 degrees. Each arm features 4 points - shoulder, elbow, wrist and hand. The upper torso has limited range of movement. Each leg has 3 points - hip, knee and ankle.

Valkyrie comes with a few accessories. Most will recognize her enchanted and unbreakable sword, Dragonfang. She also comes with a long spear. One thing that impressed me about the weapons were how they were packaged. How many times have you bought a figure with a sword or staff only to find when you pull it out of the packaging that it's all bent and distorted? Not only did Hasbro package the weapons in a way that this distortion doesn't occur the plastic used isn't near as flexible as I've seen by other manufactures.

PhotobucketThe blue cape is removable and once removed shows just how small and slender the figure really is. The cape attaches easily to the figure by a small peg that fits into a hole just beneath the neck. The cape is molded to fit around the head and over and around the neck. I wasn't sure at first if the cape was removable if that gives you any idea of how well it fits on the figure. 

In addition to the cape the scabbard to hold Dragonfang is also removable. Again this is something that I didn't know until I freed Valkyrie from her cardboard and plastic prison. It attaches to her side by one small peg and stays in place quite well. The scabbard is a solid piece of plastic however meaning you are unable to store the sword inside. By doing this more detail was able to be placed on the scabbard so to me at least it's not a big deal that the sword can't be stored inside it. The cape is made of a slightly softer plastic that does have some give. The molded waves in the cape look great when it's adorned on Valkyrie herself.

PhotobucketUp next is the Jade Giant himself, the Hulk. There has been a lot of Hulk action figures produced over the years and I've got to say this is one of the better ones. First of all the figure is huge and heavy. The Hulk measures at 8 inches tall so you should be able to tell he'll tower over most Marvel Legends figures. The green skin tone is very well done. It's not too bright and it's not too dark. The flash on the camera does make the green look a bit brighter than it really is. This also applies to the purple used on the pants. 

There is also some good shading used on the figure around the various muscles that help make those areas stand out. Some may not like that approach, but it doesn't bother me. Speaking of muscles the sculpting of them look fantastic. From the neck to the biceps to the quads in the legs - they are expectantly huge. I personally like the bulging veins on the biceps! The hands are molded into fists, but since the Hulk is all about punching things this shouldn't bother too many people. There are 19 points of articulation that I count. The head sits on a ball joint allowing full movement. Each arm features 5 points - shoulder, above & below the bicep, wrist and hand. The torso features the standard articulation mechanism. The waist can be rotated a full 360 degrees. Each leg features 3 points - hip, knee and ankle. The feet are huge and gives this mammoth figure the stability it needs.

One of the best things about the figure in my opinion is the head sculpt. The expression on the face is fantastic. I love the gritting of the teeth and the forehead that slightly extends and hovers over the eyes. Even the small patch of black hair has the right amount of style and is the right size.

I've made several mentions about each figure's size and scale and I wanted to show you both figurestogether so you can get a better idea of just how large this figure of the Hulk really is.

In closing I have to say that I'm glad I made this purchase. At $30 it is a little on the pricey side considering Marvel Legends figures used to retail for $10 a piece, but I do feel like I got my money's worth here. Both figures are extremely well made and are a lot of fun. While I love this version of the Hulk the highlight figure of this set is Valkyrie. Maybe it's because it's a new female figure or a character not widely used in modern comics (yes, I know she is in Secret Avengers right now), but whatever the reason this figure is what makes this a must purchase for comic toy fans. I believe of these 3 new two packs each pack comes packaged 2 per case, but don't hold me to that. If you want this and you can find it at retail then I highly recommend you don't wait as there seems to have been a lot of buzz about these figures and I can see them selling very well.