There was a lotta stuff at Toy Fair this year, from the giant-ass Devastator to the Combiner Wars guys to a buttload of Kre-O stuff that'll never come out, but this friggin' Ultra Magnus was at the top of my list. This friggin' Ultra Magnus!
When we first got store listings that hinted at a Leader Class Ultra Magnus, there were a lot of different ways the toy could have panned out, and there were even a "he tell me" folks around who were insistant that this Magnus would go those ways. But naw, dudes, this guy ended up being everything I personally wanted. He's no strictly 1984/5ish redesign like the Megatron and Jetfire before him, he's a purposeful translation of Ultra Magnus as currently seen in the IDW comics, down to having a little tiny Minimus Ambus friend to go with him. That last part, especially, I wasn't expecting to see in a toy -- not only because production costs are rising and parts counts falling to match, but also because it's celebrating a very specifically current unorthodox treatment of Ultra Magnus. Sure, we get a lot of white cab Optimus Primes here and there in lieue of an Ultra Magnus, but actually getting our little mustachioed reimagining of that concept I thought was unlikely.
And so I am amazingly pleased.
Minimus Ambus himself is very very small. He's about half the size of a Legends Class figure, so he's amazingly dainty. Even at this size, though, he's not as simple as he could be. His car roof and robot backpack is on this hinged arrangement that seems too rich for this toy's size's blood. In Ultra Magnus's robot mode, he fits inside the chest, all mech pilot like, with his fistholes pegging onto control joysticks. Because this is where the larger robot's head fits into during car carrier mode, Minimus can't stay here when you transform Ultra Magnus, but Minimus transforms into a car, and so I think there might be a place for him in vehicle mode, if you think about it.
(Japan is apparently going to do him in white and purple and red and pretend he's Alpha Trion, while painting the larger Magnus robot more like how he is in the IDW comics, because I don't know why.)
The larger Ultra Magnus part of the toy's had a lot of thought put into it as well. His shoulder missile thingies and his two rifles combine into an axe, which is a callback to his Animated counterpart. (Which obviously also makes me amazingly pleased.) Articulation abounds, despite the way Ultra Magnus's design usually being a stumbling block to such. His head turns, despite it being part of a mask that goes over Minimus Ambus's head. His arms manage to articulate outward from the torso, despite those tall shoulder pylons. The shoulder missile launchers are even on hinged tabs so they can move out of the way of his outward bicep articulation. And Magnus has, like, has actual working thighs, despite that whole area needing to be a flat plane for cars to ride on in vehicle mode.
A lot of these ideas are shared by the Masterpiece Ultra Magnus that came out earlier this year, but concentrated in this less-expensive form. The walling of the trailer mode piling up on the back of his legs is another, as is the way his forearm armor accordions around his fists. The result is a very playable robot figure with a number of weapon configurations, who transforms into a vehicle mode that can carry your other Transformers, who also includes a little pilot guy. This toy goes down my list and checks everything off.
Surplus to all this is the little sculpting details all over him that suggest he transforms into a truck cab that's several stories tall. There's tiny ladders and tiny doors everywhere. Each of his wheels would be larger than my apartment. This doesn't distract from the toy at all, and really only creates a conversation starter, but what?
Combiner Wars Cyclonus combines with any four Combiner Wars limbs and Viper to form Galvatronus! Galvatronus's chest and head are part of the "reshelling" that Cyclonus got when he was retooled from Silverbolt. And, yeah, this is pretty weird. But it's a good weird. I like good weird. It's just something nobody expected, going into this Combiner Wars subline, that, y'know, we'd get a Cyclonus torso who'd combine with five other guys to form a Galvatron super robot.
According to the packaging bio, Galvatronus's deal is he uses mind control to steal the limbs from other combiners, which is awesome. It also doesn't stop anyone on message boards from asking if he's going to get "real" dedicated limbs every five minutes. C'mon, you guys. He steals other people's limbs. It's his deal. Figure this one out.
Cyclonus and Galvatronus are not going to be involved in the Combiner Wars fiction in the IDW comics, which is something that made me sad when we learned it a while ago. Sure, it'd make no sense -- why would Cyclonus transform into Galvatron? The two are definitely not friends in IDW, in contrast to the syncophantic Smithers/Burns relationship the two have in the original cartoon which this toy reflects. Additionally, IDW Galvatron is specifically against combiners, and spent some time in his distant past trying to genocide any iteration of them.
But that'd actually be pretty cool, storywise, don't you think? You have this Galvatron guy who's super against combining because he thinks they're an ethical contamination of his species, and you also have this Enigma of Combination artifact that basically kablamfs Transformers into being combiners if you shine it at them. It'd be like that Bloom County storyline with Oliver Wendell Jones and his Electro-Photo Pigment-izer. And then, you know, it'd involve Cyclonus some how. Two people who hate each other being kablamfed into being a combiner together, at least one of whom hates combiners. That's just got story karma written all over it.
Galvatronus is weird and awesome.
Sure, I dig my new Aerialbots, Stunticons, and Protectobots, but what's really kept me engaged in Combiner Wars is the promise of guys who were never previously combiner guys now being combiner guys. Optimus Prime doesn't really fulfill that promise, because Optimus Primes combine kind of frequently, but when we get to stuff like Combiner Wars Cyclonus, that's when I pay attention. A Cyclonus that's now a combiner torso, oh, and also his combined mode is Galvatronus, a Galvatron super robot. It's a nice melding of old with new. I will take hundreds more like this, please.
(I will talk more about Galvatronus in a later blog post.)
Cyclonus is a "reshelling" of Combiner Wars Silverbolt, meaning large amounts of him are retooled. He's got a new robot chest and head, an entirely new jet mode, and a new super robot combiner head. Unfortunately, this means that, like Silverbolt, he transforms by wadding up his robot parts underneath his jet mode and hoping you don't notice. On the plus side, it's a pretty good jet mode if viewed from the top. It's certainly a better-looking jet than the old Universe toy from 2008, which was roughly 50% Cyclonus's bulbous calves, but folks always overlooked how crummy that vehicle mode was because of how perfect his robot mode was.
This toy trades in that perfect robot mode for a merely acceptable robot mode in service of a better jet mode. Silverbolt/Cyclonus in robot mode is kind of stiff. He's got the usual joints, but he doesn't really look natural in any pose that isn't standing. I also prefer the more desaturated indigo of the various versions of that 2008 Cyclonus to the more magenta-like purple of the 2015 Cyclonus. I do, however, prefer the larger size of the newer Cyclonus. Cyclonus is a tall guy! A Deluxe Class toy isn't nearly enough height for him. Voyager Class is better.
An interesting alteration to Cyclonus's transformation, versus Silverbolt's, is that Cyclonus now has two tiny removable 5mm-pegged tailfins. They wanted Cyclonus to have those little wings on his arms like Cyclonus tends to, but his transformation prevents him from being able to keep them on his arms, and so these new pieces were made. You unplug them from his forearms in robot mode and then re-peg them back into his fistholes when he's in jet mode. It's not the most elegant solution, but it's thoughtful all the same.
There's just something about the face that reminds me more of the earlier Floro Dery design for Cyclonus before he got redesigned and homogeonized like everyone else for the 1986 animated movie. I think it's the lips. I think I would have preferred something that took more from more recent interpretations of the character, like in *everyone else repeats along with me, because I am so predictable* More Than Meets The Eye.
I like Hot Spot a lot. I mean, not just this specific toy, but in general. And, yeah, I know, it doesn't really have anything to do with Hot Spot himself. I'm not sure I could tell you without looking what his Tech Spec bio is about. I mean, sure, it probably says he's big into rescuing and being helpful and being a leader and whatnot. But honestly I like him because he and the other Protectobots were among my first Transformers. And he's a big blue fire truck, which is kind of memorable. Red fire trucks are a dime a dozen, but this guy? He sticks out.
Hot Spot forms the middle of Defensor, which is an aspect of Hot Spot that's been left on the table in the last few iterations of him. Though Hasbro goes to the Combiner well not unfrequently, the Protectobots are rarely at the top of that list. People remember the Jet Combiner Guys and the Car Combiner Guys and the Combiner Guys They Actually Remake All The Time Because They're All Different Military Vehicles Instead Of All The Same Thing, while the Emergency Vehicle Guys are in definite fourth place. Which is too bad, because they're my favorite. Again, solely because they're the ones I owned as a kid, but whatcha gonna do.
That said, Hot Spot is the best Combiner Wars torso thus far. Optimus/Motormaster is kind of chunky and simple (which isn't entirely bad), and Silverbolt/Cyclonus is a little more involved and inventive, but Hot Spot soundly kicks both their asses. His weakest aspect is his fire truck mode, and only because it's basically him stretching out and folding into a board. He still has that sweet water cannon in this mode, which you can swing around and aim at stuff. That's more vehicle mode playability than the other guys have.
His robot mode is his best-looking mode. Optimus/Motormaster is chunky enough to be a little in his own way, and Silverbolt/Cyclonus is more lithe but still a little awkward, but Hot Spot is dynamic. He's just fun to look at. He looks fuckin' Ready. His only weak spot are his knees, which are a little loose on mine, but he's got that giant water cannon behind him anyway to use as a tripod. This really only increases his awesomeness, since you can put him in all sorts of battle poses with a built-in way to keep him standing.
The conversion to torso mode is what really engages me, though. That water cannon of his, like, literally wraps around him to form the chest armor and head. The black parts which form his chest are on the opposite end of cannon structure from the parts that form his head, yet the whole thing folds down towards his crotch, across his taint, and up his back to connect. I love it, and I love doing it.
Attaching Groove is a little fiddly. It's not because of how secure the attachment is from himself to the chest, like with Blackjack and Menasor, but mostly because Groove himself likes to come undone out of his chest armor mode. If Groove's arms tabbed into his legs more securely, it'd be perfect.
I like how wide Defensor is. Skinny Hot Spot forms a chunky torso, and with the limbs and Groove attached, he just seems like this brick of a dude. He just feels very satisfying. Those other Combiner Wars guys are great, but for me, Defensor is where it's at.
Each of the combiner teams so far includes a new dude who replaces one of the traditional dudes. Alpha Bravo replaces Slingshot, Offroad replaces Wildrider, and Rook replaces Groove. Slingshot, Wildrider, and Groove are all still available somehow, so it doesn't bother me so much, plus it gives us these new guys. I like new guys! And the new guys so far have been more interesting than the folks they replace. Rook is the best example of this so far. He's probably the best toy of the Deluxe Combiner Wars guys so far.
What makes him stand out is that, unlike Alpha Bravo and Offroad, who are really Vortex and Ruckus, Rook is an entirely new design. He gets to be his own dude, rather than a "pretool" of somebody else. I mean, he's probably going to end up being a pretool for somebody else eventually, given how often these toolings are reused in some manner, but he's seemingly entirely himself.
And since he's new we get an interesting idea or two from him, since he starts out as a blank slate. He's wide and bulky, unlike his peers. His head is designed to look like a rook piece from, y'know, chess, which may make him the first Transformer guy named Rook whose name makes some sort of sense. He transforms differently from everyone else, incorporating a rear backpack of sorts that satisfyingly snaps into place in each mode. He's got ankle joints, which is a luxury in this line.
But most importantly to me, he's got Hulk hands. Instead of the usual 5mm peghole inside his hands, this hole is instead sculpted in front of them, so that you can take a combiner fist and plug one in, giving him pounding power. You can double up on them, or even quadruple up on them if you plug another two into his shoulders. Not only is this super cool, but it also frees up weapons from other characters who look kind of mismatched holding large-ass pieces of artillery, like First Aid.
Over in Japan, they're making a Deluxe-sized Groove exclusive to their country and ditching Rook. I feel a little bad for them. We still get Groove as a Legends Class chestpiece over here, and Rook is great.