We don't get a lot of working Headmaster toys at retail these days and for good reason -- find yourself a random Transformers toy and check out the size of its noggin. Those things are tiny. Now imagine that becoming a robot. The tiniest robot! We're talking like a centimeter or so high. Transformers proportions are pretty pinheaded. They make comic book superheroes look like Charlie Brown. The original Headmasters all had proportionately huge heads for a Transformer. They kind of had to.
This new 30th Anniversary Brainstorm guy tries to lessen the head/body ratio math by engineering him in a larger size class. He's a Voyager, and a pretty tall one. He's a wedge taller than, say, Springer, and he doesn't look too far off from Jetfire's height. He feels like something in between. He's way less complicated than either, which may be why he can command such real estate. He's definitely larger than the original Brainstorm, while also having a smaller head. The usual Transformers proportions have persisted despite his gimmick.
He's a Headmaster, meaning his head transforms into a little robot guy (or guy in a robot suit). Brainstorm's neck is actually Arcana's head. (Arcana is not named anywhere, but we can assume it's the same guy as the original Brainstorm head.) Arcana's head is balljointed on his own tiny body, and so Brainstorm's head is also balljointed, which is nice. Usually the Headmaster gimmick precludes neck articulation.
To remove Arcana from Brainstorm's torso, the instructions say to pull down on the gray piece across his collarbone. This accomplishes a little. It does remove some of the plastic obstructing Arcana's head's removal from that hole in Brainstorm's torso, but you still kind of have to yank hard. This may end badly in some cases -- as I said, Arcana has a balljointed head, and it seems feasible to me that one day I may yank and pull Brainstorm's head away while leaving Arcana's head buried in Brainstorm's torso. But then, I have gone through like three TNBA Batmen this month, so I may be viewing things through Paranoia Glasses.
Brainstorm transforms simply, largely because he wouldn't look much like Brainstorm if he didn't still Transform like the original toy, which also transformed simply. You tuck his forearms back and fold his legs under the jet. The shins kind of point a bit far out the back of the jet mode, which I thought meant I missed a step, but everything pegs together perfectly and there are no other moving parts to suggest some additional transformation magic. The head obviously doesn't have to hide anywhere, since it becomes the pilot.
I am biased strongly in favor of this toy since Brainstorm has been appearing very importantly in the More Than Meets The Eye ongoing comic book series from IDW for the past three years and this toy is based on that design. (Minus the Headmaster gimmick, so far as we know.) The toy is a great representation of that iteration of the character, and so I have fits of glee just looking at him standing on my desk in robot mode. I should keep that going, I worry about the neck balljoint thing.
Shortpacked!-the-comic has talked about the upcoming series of 6-inch poseable Batman The Animated Series/The New Batman Adventures toys from DC Collectibles a few times, usually in terms of intense sexual arousal. Well they no longer upcoming, man, they are finally here.
They started with the thing I have always wanted forever and ever, which is New Batman Adventures Batman. I've probably talked about this before, but that version of Batman is my mind's eye's Batman. That will always be the real Batman to me, until I die. That's just how he looks. If he were a real guy standing in front of me, he'd look like that cartoon character somehow. Real people in suits, Batman doesn't look like that. Real life does Batman a disservice. He's actually a drawing, uncontained by your dumb physics and anatomy. He's a man-shaped tower of specific shapes and lines. That's just how Batman is.
And this is a toy of that.
Yeah, I've got kind of a pile of toys of that, but they were just prophets sent on ahead to herald the arrival of our true TNBA Batman toy, as if they were all John the Baptist. They were relatively tiny and immobile and they didn't come with such a wealth of important extra stuff. This Batman is not just the base humanoid figure, but he comes with three extra sets of hands. Don't like the clenched fists? He has open, relaxed palms you can swap in instead. Want him to be holding a grappling hook launcher? He comes with both a hand sculpted holding a grappling hook launcher and just the launcher itself as a separate accessory. (And a Batarang, obviously) He comes with an extra cape if you want the cape to hang over more of his shoulders and don't mind his shoulder articulation being more limited. And he comes with a friggin' stand with his character model sheet printed on it. There's a plastic rod you shove in the back of the stand that comes with a claw arm that can hold him in place over the stand, because, let's face it, this is a Bruce Timm design, so his feet are kind of small.
However, I did break my first one. I don't think it was a very good specimen -- his leg popped off at the hip when I tried to splay it to the side, but it went back on easy enough. It was the wrist swapping that did the real damage -- the wrist peg broke clean off in the arm stump like chalk. I got a second one, though, and it was perfect. I have no idea how pervasive the bad QC ones are, but I definitely encountered one bad one myself. Hopefully not too many are like that first one. (On the same day I bought a Lil' Gotham Damian Wayne and his arm crumbled off out of the package, whoof. Geez, DC Collectibles.)
You have to remove Batman's head to swap the capes, and this requires excessive force. But this is something you want to do anyway, because once you loosen that head, make sure you don't push it back in all the way it was before. The head has a much greater range of movement now. He can look up and down and tilt his head to one side or the other. It's great. Otherwise it just turns left or right despite being on a ball joint.
So, yeah. This guy stands on my desk and I look over and can't believe it's a real physical object in front of me. It's one of the favorite things I own.
Just, uh, don't buy a bum one, somehow.
I haven't been buying all of the Masterpiece Transformers, just the guys that I really liked when I was a kid or think make interesting new toys. And so I've skipped guys like the original Sideswipe, Red Alert, Smokescreen, and Bluestreak. And it occurs to me, as I put Wheeljack on my shelf next to Prowl, that if things keep going as they are, I am going to have a buttload of white guys. Other Autobots I'd buy are, like, Jazz and Ratchet. Apparently I'm super into the Autobots who were white with some other trim color. What a boring-looking shelf of favorite characters I'm going to have. Hopefully Bumblebee will help break that up a little.
I've talked about being into Wheeljack before, with older reviews about other toys of him. As a child, I focused on his appearance in the nineth Marvel US comic book issue, "DIS-Integrated Circuits," in which he and Jazz fight Frenzy and Starscream. It was one of the first comic books I've ever read, and due to the realities of media availability at the time, I reread that comic book a billion million zillion times at any point of my choosing, while I could only watch the cartoon whenever it aired. Prowl also pops up in that issue, but nearly as much, and Ratchet also features, but he like super-features in all the comics leading up to that issue, so that was more of a Ratchet chaser than a main course. Even Buzzsaw's in that one. What I'm saying is, that was basically my Transformers Ground Zero, as far as Characters I Like.
I didn't have toys of any of these guys at the time, and so I'd meticulously study the panels in which they transformed, trying to figure out how they worked. This was mostly a fool's errand, since none of the art was particularly accurate to how the toys really worked -- and they couldn't be, since the robot mode character models were truly fiction -- but Wheeljack's sequence of panels where he transforms in that issue was meat enough for me.
That personal history is partly why I sought out Wheeljack's Masterpiece toy. For the first time, that one thing can actually become the other thing, from Lancia Stratos to character model. And the toy does a pretty good job of it, as much as any toy really could without involving size changing of certain parts. The shins and feet still have to be the actual hood of the car, unable to shrink down into thin little legs. The wheels and other car architecture can't just disappear as the animator wishes, and so it all has to go physically somewhere. On the original toy, the entire back of the car behind the canopy merely folds out into his giant gorilla arms. Here, some of the back becomes his normal-sized arms, but much of it buries itself behind his chest, inside his torso. This is where the rear wheels hide. The forward wheels don't hide, which is fine, I feel. They remain on the outsides of his shins, though sandwiched between the hood and the doors of the car. The roof of the car splits up asymmetrically so that his head can fit inside while in car mode, and then it latches back together once this is done. The wings remain attached throughout the process, unlike how they were merely removeable accessories before. There's hinges at their base so you can choose to point them back at a slight angle, if you wish. He looks a little more dynamic that way.
Though his wings were integrated into the transformation, his weaponry was not. His shoulder cannon and its detachable missile has to be removed, and it can be repegged onto his roof once you're done putting him back in car mode. The handgun pegs underneath as the exhaust pipe.
Complexity-wise, he's not as gloriously straight-forward as Prowl, but also not as frustratingly fragmentary as Sideswipe. Over time, the reality of the original Wheeljack toy has contaminated my mind's eye version of Wheeljack, and so it's a little odd to see Wheeljack as this perfectly-proportioned humanoid guy, rather than the gorilla-shape of the 1984 toy. He looks skinnier than I expect him to be, but the intended goal was to look like the skinnier, more-humanoid cartoon drawing, so I can't fault the toy for it.
What I really need is a Ratchet. Okay, what I really really need is a Ratchet with a red helmet and white chevron, but I know I'm going to have to paint that myself.
Look, I don't know if anybody knows what was going on here. We finally got a toy named Jhiaxus that's sculpted to look like Jhiaxus but then they tried to color him like the other Jhiaxus and they failed at doing so. What is even the deal?
I like my orange stuff. I do! And I'd be up for an orange Jhaixus, and I certainly was. But, man, you know why old orange Jhiaxus worked? There was some color contrast. He was orange and light gray and black. New orange Jhiaxus tries to do that but it ends up this entire orange/gray single-value lump. If you put him in grayscale he'd look all the same color. That's the problem.
To be honest, Jhiaxus's "real" colors (white, yellow, teal) don't look great on this mold either -- I've seen people try to paint it up like that and I don't think it really works. But, at least, it avoids the single-lump-of-the-same-value-everywhere problem.
Everything else about this guy is great. He's based on the phenomenal Generations Armada Starscream toy. He's got heaping amounts of retooling -- new wings, new torso, new head, new weapons. He's ORANGE. But orange in THIS way, versus another color that doesn't set apart from the orange at all, is what plummets this toy into the Aw Dammits. This toy is the result of somebody's Monkey Paw wish.
Yay, Windblade is here! I've been needing her toy in my life for some time -- though admittedly, it's not because of her toy specifically, but who her character is and what she represents. Many of her attributes were chosen through fandom voting, such as her red and black color scheme, her altmode, her weapon, and, of course, her gender. It's the winning gender option that set a lot of weirdos off, which, as my comic strip had noted previously, it's not like anyone was mad that "male" was an option. But "female" won, and so here we are. Viva democracy!
Her character is also important to me. So often Transformers characters are defined by how badass or snarky they are, but Windblade's strength is in her empathy. Optimus Prime may often make speeches about how peace and harmony are important while simultaneously beating someone's face in, but Windblade's compassion is presented as an actual important skillset. Sure, she's good enough with a sword (and getting better with training), but the care in which she interacts with other people wins her more battles. She easily could have been another aloof loner rebel warrior whatzit, but no.
And so Windblade's toy, the result of a Thirtieth Anniversary Hasbro website poll, has had some equal care taken with it. In a world of increasingly budget-strained decisions in the action figure industry, Windblade is obviously a case of some extra mile being taken. In addition to the base figure, which transforms from a robot to a VTOL jet, she also comes with her sword, the blade of which fades from translucent purple into translucent clear. The sword stows in a scabbard which can be held or pegged in numerous ways -- there's a 5mm port on one end, a grip for her hand on the other, and a notch that can lock into a slot on either of her hips. The fan can be removed from behind her head and be held in her hand as a weapon. Her VTOL jets can be rotated forward, plus they spin. As with recent Transformers toys, there's a plughole under her nosecone (which relocates to her robot mode back) that is compatible with some action figure stands.
There are a few negatives -- for example, she's not easy to stand. Due to her wings, she's a little backheavy, and so her tiny footprint is sometimes not sufficient, and the way her heels like to easily fold back up into her legs doesn't help either. She can be stood if you're patient, but you can't just plop her down on a desk when you're done swooshing her around.
Her jet mode also has a few holes in it. The top of the jet is obviously a pair of shins, and there's an open gap between these two parts that looks kinda bad. And because the toy had so much work put into it, she's a little fiddly. She's got a lot of joints and hinges packed into her. Things plug in fairly well in both modes, but there may be some times that stuff moves when you're trying to move other stuff.
Windblade hasn't really hit North American retail yet (I got mine from Big Bad Toy Store), but when she does, I think she's worth taking a look at. She's important for many reasons and her toy does some neat stuff.