I got the new Titans Return Fortress Maximus this past week. Fortress Maximus is a heavy retool of Metroplex from a few years ago, and as such will definitely not fit in my little photo lighting studio. So let's focus on his head, Cerebros, instead. He's really the best part, anyway.
Unlike most of my childhood Transformers obsessions, I don't get my feel for Cerebros from the Marvel comics. That's because he was a complete nobody there. He was literally nothing more than an intermediate transformation step for Spike Witwicky to become Fortress Maximus's head. Instead, the Marvel stuff focused on Fortress Maximus, giving him character focus and shrinking him down a bunch so he could interact more easily with everyone else. I mean, he was still big, but not, like, Autobot City big. Not two-foot-tall-largest-Transformers-toy-of-all-time big.
No, Cerebros got all his character focus in the original cartoon, where they did the opposite. Cerebros was the character and he was forced to wear Fortress Maximus like a big mech suit. I say "forced" because Cerebros had had it up to here with 9 million years of war and had made a personal decision to never fight again ever ever ever, to the point that he threatened to shut himself down were he given a choice between oblivion and fighting. But Spike Witwicky was all "oh hey but what if i build you into a giant robot's head and i become your head and we murder everyone all at once so we don't HAVE to fight ever again, eh??? EHH???"
spike is a great non-monster and definitely not a horrible threat to all notions of personal agency y/n
Anyway, I was a little obsessed with him because he was (sort of) in my comics and he was on my VHS tape of "The Rebirth" and he was in my toy catalogs and I spent every single autumn session of my third grade "gifted and talented" class building Fortress Maximuses out of bristol board. Like, I am serious, I did no other real actual school work. They had giant sheets of paper at this special "gifted and talented" class location and only at this special location, and that meant I was going to make them into Fortress Maximuses, every single week. The only thing that stopped this was getting the real Fortress Maximus at Christmas. It was probably a relief felt all around by everyone, and likely worth the money paid just to put an end to my all-consuming obsession.
But I'll tell you one thing this new Cerebros has over the original one -- the right face. The animation/comics model gave him an entirely made-up head (maybe, some folks think they might have gotten him mixed up with Cog) that his toy definitely didn't have. Cerebros's toy head was just a smaller Fort Max head. But in the comics, he had this domed noggin with shades and a mouthplate. It was hard to think of Cerebros-the-character as Cerebros-the-toy, because the two were so different. And so it was a smaller disappointment buried in the otherwise endless jubiliation of owning a friggin' Fortress Maximus.
Titans Return was all heck no and gave him his animation face. They also gave him -- mostly -- his animation colors, going for black and gray instead of gray and lighter gray. Both the face and the color choices are important to me. The San Diego Comic-Con version of Fortress Maximus gives Cerebros a toy face, and fuck that! Fuck it right up its dumb Comic-Con asshole!
Cerebros is where Titans Return Fortress Maximus keeps his electronics. You can see the speakers in his chest, and by pressing down on Cerebros's head, he'll start making noises and flashing a tiny light at you. Mine, though, is a little fussy. Most of the time, the sound clip cuts out before it completes. This is pretty annoying! One of his sounds is even a really robotic delivery of "CE-RE-BROS" that I've heard exactly twice and which I cannot duplicate and this makes me mad. When you flip the cover for Fortress Maximus's face, Cerebros makes the classic transformation noise, and when you plug him into Fort Max as his head, he has some other different noises. I'm not sure what they all are because, again, sound clips cut off annoyingly.
New Cerebros transforms pretty dang similarly to the original! On the way to head mode, Cerebros's arms fold behind his torso, his legs fold onto either side of the torso, and the aforementioned cover flips up to reveal the face. The only notable difference is the feet now transform, with the toes and the heel folding up onto the shin.
Also like the original Cerebros has a third mode where he integrates into the city mode by becoming... some sort of structure. It's about as convincing now as it was then. In the old toy, you just sort of wad him up and cram him into a shoulder. In this new toy, you just sort of was him up and cram him down the top of the control tower. The only real difference now is that if you don't integrate him into the city mode you have this giant hole at the top of the control tower where he would otherwise be.
The new Cerebros also has a much larger gun than the original. Like, it's even double-barrelled. Just to stick it to Mr. I Don't Want To Fight Ever Again, I presume.
But really, the largest question here is, like, what was that "gifted and talented" class I went to, anyway, if I didn't actually have to do any real school work and they just let me do arts and crafts all day? I was allegedly supposed to be attending it because I was one of the top 20 students in the district -- or so my teachers and parents CLAIMED, even though I made a lot of Bs in the year beforehand -- but really I just used that time to fuck around. There was zero advanced learning involved on my part. They even sent some kids home from the program, and I know for a fact that they were shitting around less than me, and they were all also much more well-adjusted in their behavior. It raises a lot of questions I'm not sure I'll ever have answered.
.....oh they totally thought i was autistic, didn't they
i'm sure the repeated manufacturing of the same fictional robot over and over disabused them of this notion
Optimus Prime once just used to be one dude's name. But then Rodimus Prime happened and then the franchise decided that there were a bunch of _____ Primes that came before Optimus, and that "Prime" was a title. Thanks, Rodimus! I'm not sure how facetious that thanks is. Generally when the mythos is "grown" like that, it can be kinda irritatingly obtuse. But I think I'm fine with it. Usually.
It was decided in the Marvel comics, in the same brush stroke that decided that Prime was a title that we learned that the guy who came before Optimus Prime was called Sentinel Prime. It was just a series of name drops, but there was a panel from the UK stories a while prior that showed a yellow and orange and red robot handing the Matrix to Optimus as the former was dying. So that was probably Sentinel Prime. Years later, the Dreamwave comics would show us Sentinel Prime's forearm as he died, defeated by Megatron. It started to look like "we only get to see Sentinel Prime as he dies" was going to be a thing.
As Animated, the IDW comics, the War for Cybertron video game, and then later the third live-action movie gave us Sentinel Primes, it became obvious that Sentinel Prime, as he was forced to have an actual characterization, had to live in contrast with Optimus Prime. Optimus is the hero, and he kind of sucks up all the heroism in a room, and so Sentinel Prime became the jerk or the ineffectual leader or the secretly-kinda-genocidal-facist grandpa. Y'know, pick something that Optimus does really well, make Sentinel the opposite of that, and demonstrate why Optimus needed to show up and replace him.
The Titans Return toyline, much to my inner 12-year-old's boggling, now has a sweet G1-style Sentinel Prime toy. Despite having gone through so many iterations -- and despite obviously being Astrotrain painted to hopefully look like somebody else -- this toy still has a through-line to that first Marvel UK panel of the later-to-be-named Sentinel Prime. He's still orange and yellow and red, though the ratio of orange to yellow's been flipped, and he still has those three rectangles on his lower ribcage. That was one of the few bits of character design that managed to make it into the IDW reimagining of the original Sentinel Prime, those three rectangles. Artist Alex Milne made them into a cockpit window split into three, and here on this new toy they're no longer a cockpit window, but that detail remains all the same. The head (which now transforms into a tiny robot, Infinitus) harkens entirely to the IDW design, which covered up the mouth with an Optimus-esque mouthplate, albeit retractable. The rest is, well, an orange and red and yellow Astrotrain.
Despite essentially being a Voyager Class retry of the 2007 Deluxe Class Astrotrain, the larger toy feels less ambitious. Its transformation, at its core, is pretty simple. He's a robot, and then he pins his limbs together and he's a shuttle, and then he spreads out and he's an armored train. There's some small panel flipping here and there to cover up what you don't want to see (along with covering up the entire torso in train mode with a giant pile of shuttle wrapped around it like foil on a potato), but it feel perfunctory.
The packaging renders and early convention sample appearances led us to believe that his feet in robot mode are supposed to be train parts instead of the shuttle nose, but in practice this possibly not the best solution, as the instructions warn us to try the shuttle nose halves as feet instead. Otherwise, the angle of the feet makes it rough to stand the robot on on uneven surfaces like carpeting, but the train feet are generally fine on a very flat surface. I like trying to use those feet because they look "eviler." Just lots of sharp angles. The shuttle nose halves look like tap shoes, and as we all know tap shoes are benevolent.
As stated above, the head transforms into the tiny Infinitus. I feel like his name and future Astrotrain's head partner, Darkmoon, were switched at some point. Like, Sentinel Prime was in Dark of the Moon? Doesn't "Darkmoon" make more sense for him? And "Infinitus" could be a play on how Astrotrain is a space man, a la Buzz Lightyear with his infinity and beyond. Anyway, Infinitus pops off the shoulders, becomes a dude, and is meant to pilot Sentinel Prime in vehicle modes. He can do this either from the translucent orange cockpit on top of either vehicle or from the seat inside the wider of Sentinel Prime's two weapons. Other Titans Return toys have a smattering of tiny pegs to apply your tiny head dudes to, but Sentinel seems completely devoid of them, unless I've missed one tucked away. As such, he's missing a little play value. I like sticking those little head dudes on the bigger dudes' shoulders and whatnot.
Anyway, in the IDW comics, Sentinel Prime is gonna come back somehow and restore Cybertron to its former greatness probably. They never should have let him host SNL.
Look, I'll tell you right up front, I'm not going to be objective here. Powermaster Optimus Prime was my first Optimus Prime toy, which I received only after four solid childhood years of pining for any Optimus Prime toy at all. I had an Ultra Magnus, and I immediately tried to color his white cab robot with red and blue markers. (he turned out kinda pink and baby blue, because washable markers). Whenever I had the chance to pick up a ne Transformer from the store, I would choose whatever red and blue one was immediately available as some sort of surrogate Optimus. That's how I ended up with Crosshairs and Cloudburst. My desire was strong. And so when I tell you that my first Optimus Prime toy, the 1988 Powermaster version, was the greatest toy of all time, maybe take some of my mania and nigh-tangible desperation into consideration.
Sure, he's not an entirely new toy -- he's a heavy retool of last year's Combiner Wars Ultra Magnus, but hey guess what, I loved Combiner Wars Ultra Magnus, so at least I knew this toy was going to be at least that good going in. Titans Return Powermaster Optimus Prime takes that Ultra Magnus toy and gives him a new semi cab, new arms, new shins, a new chestpiece, new shoulder cannons, and a new head. Some of it functions/transforms the same, some of it doesn't. For example, Ultra Magnus was a car carrier, so his trailer had a lot of open air spots so you could see the smaller cars you loaded on him. Powermaster Optimus Prime has a box trailer, and so a lot of this toy's new tooling goes to creating the walls for the box that is his new trailer. Ultra Magnus had extendo-arms, Powermaster Optimus Prime has fold-out panels under his new arms that form the roof of the trailer. Instead of open air, there is now a series of trailer wall chunks that wrap around Optimus Prime's legs in robot mode. And so on.
Unlike the original Powermaster Optimus Prime, the Titans Return version's cab doesn't transform into a smaller robot. (Ultra Magnus's update didn't have that either, so no huge surprise.) But, like the original, the new Powermaster Optimus Prime does have a third... base mode. A third mode that is a base. He's a triple changer and one of his transformation modes is a battlestation. I'm trying to find a way to phrase this which doesn't imply he gets to touch your bathing suit area. Let's start a new paragraph.
Powermaster Optimus Prime has a third base mode (DAMMIT) because Titans Return's deal is that everyone has a little head that can pop off and become a guy and live in the base modes of the Leader Class guys (like Optimus) or become the drivers of the Deluxe/Voyager Class guys and the much smaller Titan Master vehicles. SPOILERS: Ultra Magnus didn't have a base mode, and so when they retoold Magnus into Optimus, the result is that Optimus Prime's base mode isn't terribly great! He unfolds a little, pops a squat, and then the ramps you create out of his legs run right into his arms. At least when transformed properly. If you splay him out more, you can make those ramps run down onto whatever surface he's sitting on. Eventually, if you have other Titans Return base mode guys (like Blaster and Soundwave and FORTRESS FRIGGIN' MAXIMUS) the ends of the ramps all connect and create a larger base.
Likewise, Optimus Prime is covered with wee tiny bitty pegs that you can attach the little Titan Master head dudes to when they're dudes and not heads. There's also seats and stuff, like inside Optimus Prime's new shoulder cannons. (Optimus keeps the handheld rifles that Magnus had, the ones that combined into the staff of Magnus's hammer, but the parts that form the head of the hammer have been replaced by the new shoulder cannons.)
Since Optimus Prime is one of the bigger Titans Return figures, he doesn't have just the normal Little Head Guy interaction as the smaller guys. To make his combination more proportional, there's this whole helmet contraption that fits over the entire little head to make his head bigger. If you flip up the helmet, he's got a tiny Optimus-like head with a mouth. The helmet of this tiny head is designed after the original Powermaster Optimus Prime cab robot's head, which is a nice callback. The tiny head transforms into the robot mode design of the original Powermaster little engine partner guy, Hi-Q, but he's called "Apex" now and his colors are kinda off. During transformation to vehicle mode, the helmet flips down into the semi truck cab and becomes a seat which the tiny head Titan Master robot can sit in.
Anyway, I love this guy. He's a great robot, a pretty good truck, a transformation I already really liked with some more complexity added, but with an admittedly terrible base mode. Seriously, the ramps he has run right back into his own walls. But, eh, let's face it, he's spending most of his time in robot mode anyway.
Oh, and Japan is gonna heavily retool this guy AGAIN to make him look even more G1y, and I'm gonna buy the hell out of that one, too. Just so you know.
I have a sickness.
It's Grabuge! Yep, that's his name. That's his name because Grabuge's American name, "Ruckus," wasn't an available trademark, so Fun Publications went for his ... French-Canadian name? Sure. Why not. Grabuuuuuuuuuuuge.
Out of most of this series of Subscription Service guys, Gra-- RUCKUS is the one I am most grateful for. You see, he was the original intent for the toy. When Hasbro was figuring out Menasor and realizing that Wildrider was a trademark they weren't likely to get back soon, there was apparently a time window when they sculpted the guy to look like Ruckus, the 1988 Triggercon. Which is, frankly, amazing. Too amazing, apparently, since they either realized "oh shit this guy's name ain't available either" or "oh shit Menasor can't have a beige leg" and decoed the toy to look sorta like Wildrider and gave him the name "Offroad" and decided he was a new guy.
BUT WHO WILL GIVE US THIS TOY AS RUCKUS???
Fun Publications will!
(note: there were some people who were upset that if FP were gonna make a Ruckus, that they'd use this mold instead of, like, Swindle, and no amount of "BUT THIS SCULPT IS RUCKUS THAT IS THE ENTIRE POINT" would deter them from their folly)
Like a lot of this series of Subscription figures so far, Ruckus is...............80% paint? For seriously, you see that beige crotchpiece and the beige torso midsection/combiner peg and the beige elbow/shoulder jointage? Everything else is purple plastic! The rest of his torso, painted. The doors on his shoulders, painted. The inside of the truck hood on his back behind his head, painted. Yes, that's painted. It's purple plastic under there. Boggles the mind. The entire roof of the car and bed of the truck, painted. All the teal, painted. There is a friggin' lot of paint here.
It makes me wonder what Hasbro's version of the deco would have looked like. It would have used a tenth of the paint, that's for sure, and wouldn't have been such a slavish replication of the original toy's deco. It would have had to adhere more to the plastic breakdowns of the toy, deco-wise, and probably very loosely interpret the original's color arrangements. Sometimes I lie awake at night and ponder these things.
Because I have insomnia.
You probably haven't seen me talk about many Robots in Disguise toys here, and for a pretty good reason -- I don't really buy many! I mean, the cartoon's okay, and the toys look okay, but early on, before the toyline hit, it became apparent that I would be more frustrated with the toyline than I would find enjoyment out of it, due to my particular eccentricities.
You see, it was going to be a pretty small line, as far as "real" toys go (the non one-step or two-step guys), and they were all going to be Deluxe Class-sized. So I'm sitting there, looking at this coming line-up, realizing that if I was going to start collecting these guys, I was going to have to get used to having a Grimlock (who is very large in the cartoon) who was the same size as every other toy. And that chafed my bum, I realized I could save myself a lot of storage space and money, and decided that I was cool skipping on it all. I mean, minus Strongarm, of course, OBVIOUSLY. Strongarm is great.
But at some point last year, Japan's version of the toyline decided to go balls-out and make everyone a properly-transforming larger Grimlock that's not a one- or two-step toy. They grabbed Fall of Cybertron Grimlock (who may or may not be the same character depending on who you ask and how you look at things) and then retooled the crap out of it. New torsos, new robot legs, new shoulders, new fists, new heads -- there was a lot of new stuff to make him look like Robots in Disguise Grimlock instead of "basically G1-style Grimlock" -- and kazam you have a Grimlock who technically solves my Grimlock Problem or, perhaps, my RID collection problem.
And then Hasbro brought him over, put him in a Platinum Edition set with a redecoed RID Bumblebee, and now Entertainment Earth has him as an exclusive in the United States. Entertainment Earth also sent me these two to review! So here I go.
Let's talk about Bumblebee. If you have a Transformers Prime Vehicon toy (from the RID subline, not the First Edition) then this Bumblebee's going to feel very similar as far as transformation processes go. The roof folds up on the back of the robot legs, the arms pull out from the sides, and the rear bumper hangs off the back of the head. There's a sword that stores underneath the car mode. I got one the regular retail version in the take-home bag for Toy Fair 2015, but this is the PREMIUM EDITION! Mostly that means he's in a more metallic gold-ish color instead of canary yellow and he has a handful of new paint operations. There's black on his feet, there's red on his headlights, there's some silver on his sword... it's not a lot added here. But he's not really the main attraction; Grimlock is.
Fall of Cybertron Grimlock was not a well-received toy, and the retooling present in this version sort of addresses the perceived problems. His dino hips/robot shoulders accordion out during transformation, and it's incredibly easy to get them so untransformed that you can't remember how to inch them back turn by turn into the way they're supposed to go. It's one of those things where you wish you could leave a trail of breadcrumbs for yourself to find your way back home, but this is a plastic robot toy's shoulder apparatus, so that's not really possible. However, the retooling done to make Grimlock into another Grimlock removes the need to untransform the shoulders so much to get him back and forth between robot and dinosaur modes. All the possibility for over-accordioning his shoulders is there, but so long as you temper yourself, you can probably avoid getting lost in the woods.
The other thing people didn't like about the toy was how empty he is if you look at him from the bottom in dinosaur mode. You know that scene in Pete's Dragon where they put a big sheet over the dragon and he runs around and you can see a dragon-shaped sheet and there's nothing underneath it? No, you don't know that scene, because I'm really old and nobody has watched Pete's Dragon in thirty years. But the toy is kind of like that, trust me.
Honestly, that part I don't mind too much. Like, I'm not gonna be shoving my eyeballs in this toy's underside anyway. He's gonna stand upright on the shelf, not hanging around lying around on his back, exposing how little robot he has under there. If you have a bunch of RID Mini-Cons, though, this problem is partly addressed. There's ports tooled in there for you to fill him up with specific Mini-Cons. I don't know what they are because, again, I haven't collected much RID. But it's nice that you can do this if you have the toys available to you.
The original FOC Grimlock also had electronic lights for when you open up his jaw with a lever behind his head. This RID retooling has neither the electronics nor the lever to open his jaw, which is sad. The new dinosaur head does have an opening jaw, however, with both the top of the skull rising a little and the jaw itself hinging down more. You have to -- gasp -- use your finger, though.
Grimlock still comes with Grimlock's sword and shield. They don't suit this version of the character very well, but you can pretty easily forget you own them. I'm sure some other toy could borrow 'em.
Unlike Platinum Bumblebee's seemingly scant bit of paint, Platinum Grimlock feels covered with it. Lots of details here and there, from silver and green and charcoal to yellow. That and the retooling is where all the money went, and it's all very pleasing. He doesn't look unfinished, and I don't think I see any deco that my mind thinks is missing.