Newsflash: I am, like, super into Combiner Wars. I want every Transformer already in my collection to be redone as a Combiner Wars limb or torso or accessory, I don't care if it means I would then own six hundred Dead End retools, I am up for it.
So imagine my interest in Combiner Wars combined (get it?) with my love for Beast Wars, and you've got this Predacus guy. And then imagine my interest in Ravage combined with both of those two things already, and, yeah, this BotCon 2016 set is in my wheelhouse. Because Ravage is in it. Hell, the first thing we saw was Ravage, and I was sold. Everything else could have been soggy dead puppies and it still would have been a great set, because at least one part of it was a Ravage who could become an arm or a leg.
Ravage himself is a Combiner Wars-style recreation of his appearance in the Beast Wars cartoon, crossed with his Alternators toy where he was a robot with a jaguar head who transformed into a black sports car. You have no idea how much my jam that is. All of my jam. Ravage is Breakdown with a new kitty head. A very flat, as seen from the side, kitty head. What I'm saying is he has no back of his skull. It's like the Invisible Man is wearing a Halloween mask of Ravage's face.
I may be somewhat biased.
Ravage's partner leg is Tarantulas, who's Combiner Wars Rook with a new head. We just got a vehicle-mode-style Tarantulas last year who's essentially perfect, which would in most cases make this new vehicle-mode-style Tarantulas surplus to requirements, but you forget that I want all characters ever to be able to be a limb or a torso, so he's still desired. He's a Tarantulas who can become an arm or a leg. He's a want.
The other three, now, these guys are interesting! They're the Tripredacus Council from "The Agenda (Part 1)," also known as "that time that it was really cool that Beast Wars started connecting itself to G1 a little but then fandom started thinking that connecting BW to G1 was what BW was all about and then we never got anything else out of new Beast Wars fiction ever." Ahem. But I digress. The Tripredacus Council! We've never got toys of them as they've appeared on the cartoon, as they were essentially three random robot dudes who got randomly assigned names from the components of Tripredacus, the Predacon Beast Wars combiner. But here they are, and they turn into vehicles, because they aren't beasts right now/yet.
Ram Horn is the guy on the show who had little wings on his head and whose face was made mostly of Rattrap's, but with a nose. He's got a new head and that head sits atop Brawl/Nosecone. Combiner Wars Brawl/Nosecone is not that great of a toy, but I guess it's an appropriate use, nonetheless. Ram Horn was a rhinoceros beetle, and so using a tank with a drill is kind of evocative of that kinda beasty shape.
Cicadacon is the guy on the show who had Megatron's face incased inside a DEVO hat with little horns. Sadly, his Combiner Wars toy does not have his own new head, and he's the only toy in the combiner that doesn't have a new head! It makes me a little sad. He's just Skydive with no sculpting alterations, and while he has the same general shape for his helmet, he lacks the little horns and most importantly he lacks the Megatron face. I need that triangle nose, man!
Sea Clamp is the guy on the show who had a head that looked like somebody had five minutes to extrude a CGI block into something resembling a face and then somebody else's mouth was pasted onto the chin. Sea Clamp's original toy was a lobster, hence the name, but Combiner Wars doesn't have much in the way of sea vehicles. Or any sea vehicles. But he's Scattershot, who's a spaceship thing, and maybe you can pretend spaceship things are sea vehicles, right? He has a new head.
He also has another new head in his tummy for the combined mode, Predacus. Ravage and Tarantulas become the legs and the Tripredacus Council becomes everything above the knees. You'd think, seeing three red guys and one black guy and one dark blue guy, that he'd look a little mismatched, but honestly he looks pretty great. There's Tarantulas and Ravage's colors duplicated on the combiner chest, and they want you to swap the red and black fist/foot/weapons with each other so that there's a better scattering of colors, and it basically works. He's a very attractive combiner. His new head is based on Tripredacus's, of course.
My complaints: Some plastic tolerance issues! Sometimes their fist/foot/guns don't fit securely into the wrist or ankle pegholes. You can have hands drop off the arms and it's annoying. Also, man, Brawl/Nosecone is not a great toy. He's the weak link in this chain of robots. And, yeah, Ravage is missing his brain. Whatevs, I don't look at him from the side anyway, and really the limp wrists and Brawl are more of an annoyance than that. There's also unfortunately the comic book he comes with but let's keep this a happy place in the wake of a very important day.
Yesterday was the 20th anniversary of the first airing of the Beast Wars cartoon pilot on syndication! I watched it on television that day, like after school or something. Because of course I did.
The only thing better than giving us pre-beast toys of the rest of the original Beast Wars Predacon crew is giving us those pre-beast toys in Combiner Wars form. Terrorsaur mostly delivers on this! For some reason he doesn't come with his hand/foot/gun, so you have to borrow somebody else's. Or you can end up with a combiner with a limp, I dunno.
But, yeah, Terrorsaur satisfies me. We got pre-beast Megatron, Waspinator, and Dinobot way back in 2006, and then pre-beast Tarantulas nine years later in 2015. With Terrorsaur here, we're just one original Predacon down, and Scorponok is promised from the Figure Subscription Service before the end of the year! Huzzah.
Combiner Wars Terrorsaur is in his cartoon deco, rather than the original toy deco which replaced the silver and other silver with black and purple. As such, Terry's a little less vibrant than some may remember him, but the silver and charcoal, with the edges here and there of orange, do manage to keep him visually interesting.
He's got a new headsculpt which is... well, it's goofy-looking, but in a way that Terrorsaur kind of looked all the time. Those first few Beast Wars CGI models were kind of rudimentary. This toy gives him a kind of awkward toothy grin, like he's stifling a chuckle after a fart, but honestly that's not too far off-character.
Combiner Wars Terrorsaur is also essentially perfectly scaled to his fellow pre-beast Predacon pals, as best as he can be, anyway. Tarantulas is an abberation, being so tall, but otherwise CW Terrorsaur clocks in at just shorter than Dinobot and quite a bit taller than Waspinator and waaaaaaay shorter than Megatron. These are all correct Nerd Measurements. If pre-beast Tarantulas weren't done so perfectly I'd be more resentful of his size screwing up the otherwise perfect scale.
When I was a little boy of about ten years old, there came into existence the crazy idea that maybe Hasbro should make new versions of old popular Transformers characters, because maybe kids had grown attached to Transformers as people and not entirely just as a gimmick. And so we got Optimus Prime as a Powermaster and Jazz and Bumblebee and Starscream and Grimlock as Pretenders. And I realized... wait, we can get OLD guys as NEW guys??? I can have chances to buy all the guys I didn't manage to get in 1984?
Strange new possibilities awoke in me, and I designed a combiner (because old guys come back as special features like Powermasters or Pretenders) that was made up of a bunch of 1984 guys I wanted to have toys of. Ratchet, Ironhide, Wheeljack, and Prowl combined with Optimus Prime (because of course the torso would be Optimus Prime, duh doy) to form a bigger robot. Ratchet and Ironhide would finally have toys that had heads like they did in the comics, and Wheeljack and Prowl were just other guys I wanted because they were important in the early Marvel stuff I had. (Essentially, I was recreating the Autobot cast of "DIS-Integrated Circuits!" minus the Jazz I already had a Pretender of, plus Ironhide who I thought needed a toy with a head.)
WELL HEY GREAT NEWS! Combiner Wars gave us all those guys, true to my ten-year-old self's designs. Well, minus Ratchet. We knew there was a possible Ratchet head for the Combiner Wars First Aid toy hidden somewhere in the tooling, but would Hasbro put out a SECOND nigh-identical white-with-red ambulance guy? Sometimes Hasbro just puts alternate heads into tooling for a rainy day and then never actually uses them. Would my childhood fanfic combiner never fully come to be?
Screw y'all, 'cuz it has! ...by the skin of its teeth! Hasbro told BotCon, HEY, you guys use our Ratchet tooling for your customization class toy, all right? And BotCon was all, yes daddy. And, lo, the childhood was saved.
But, jeez, is my Ratchet cup runneth over. Shawn Tessmann, who runs the customization class, came up with FIVE seperate ways to paint up your Ratchet, and four of them are awesome. There's the red-headed Marvel Ratchet that I was always going to make no matter what, there was the cartoon-style version (no thank you!), there was an amazing-looking neonish G2 Ratchet, there was a Shattered Glass Ratchet, and there was a fifth option where you use the First Aid head that remained on the sprue to make Medix, the Rescue Bots-inspired additional member of the Protectobots.
I had preordered two Ratchets, one to paint and one to keep around just in case because RATCHET, but now I kind of have a deficit of Ratchets to make into the other possibilities. In time, I tell myself, in time. For now, I have this lone Marvel-style Ratchet. He makes me supremely happy! Frankly, red-headed Ratchet makes me happy in general, as if it's a load-bearing Jenga piece of my soul. And thanks to some very good friends and also eBay, I have everything needed to complete him -- stickers, Enigma of Combination, and all.
(okay, there's also Amazon.com)
Like last year's Covenant of Primus, the Enigma of Combination is a sort-of-not-really-Hasbro-blessed fan-made accessory to go with the customization class toy. Ratchet can hold it and also it can plug into Optimus Prime's combiner mode chest. ...way better than Blackjack or Rodimus, I can tell you.
So, at long last, my childhood combiner is complete. I will likely keep Ratchet as an arm, because he's special to me and I can see him better that way on a shelf, rather than hiding as a leg behind something else on display. His translucent combiner fist is supposed to be all Healy Powers anyway, and I imagine it's probably rough to try to kick someone into health.
I keep wanting to say, "one of the best BotCon toys this year," but honestly, they're all pretty damn great, so unless they all get to tie for second and first place, I dunno. But this Airazor? It's a pretty good toy of Airazor! If you don't mind that she's not a bird!
Combiner Wars Airazor (she doesn't combine) is a redeco of Slipstream who herself was a heavy retool of Windblade. There's no changes to Slipstream's sculpt, just a different deco, and yet it works pretty damn well as Airazor. The head is painted up to kind of resemble Airazor's beaky bird hat, the fake sculpted cockpit on her chest is a reasonable vehicleish facsimile of a falcon's head, and the whole brownish-black/tan/yellow/extrayellow thing going on with her, with the dash of translucent green, is pretty fancy. It's not a group of colors you see together a lot in Transformers, if ever, especially since the retail line has been kinda overwhelmingly White And Red for the past year as Combiner Wars has retreaded 1986. Whoever designed the deco on this toy, good job.
I don't reeeeally want to get into the convention comic in which Airazor featured right here, right now, because, again, as I said, there would be swearing.
So let's instead say this is superfab Airazor bein' all jetty in the years following her enigmatic disappearance following the events of Primeval Dawn! Let's unfridge her. Yup, she's returned from the distant past to the less-distant future, maybe to participate in some Universe wars or something. It could be fun! Think of all the adventures she could have, y'know not being a super important Autobot from the end of the Great War or anything like that.
That'd be ridiculous.
Anyway, she technically replaces the other Airazor-as-a-jet-instead-of-a-bird exclusive toy we got a decade ago, which is a replacement that is FINE BY ME. Timelines Airazor is, like, one of the worst things ever, and I own her because I am dumb. First of all, she's the Energon Slugslinger toy, and Energon Slugslinger is terrible. Like, it's one of those infamous Toys That Hate You. There is no love for humanity in its engineering. It was designed to snuff out your life force. Now, imagine that toy with an Airazor head and at exclusive limited-run prices and representing a fundamental misunderstanding of the character herself.
But there's a better one now. You can bury the other in the back yard or maybe set it on fire.
Every year at BotCon, invariably there's an exclusive toy that really feels like somebody was saying, "hey, what's some cracked-out shit that Walky kid would like?" Well, this is this year's. This is Under-3.
Under-3 was a McDonald's Happy Meal toy way back in the early Beast Wars days. He wasn't part of the regular assortment, but a very simplified toy with minimal moving parts that was intended for children under the age of three. Hence the name. "Under-3" was printed on his baggy in the same space that the names for the other guys went. He was a lion head that flipped open like a clam to reveal a robot sculpted inside that looked kinda like Optimus Prime/Primal. That's it.
Bogglingly, a toy based on him is part of this year's BotCon offerings. He's a strait redeco of Combiner Wars Streetwise, meaning instead of transforming into just a head, now he can transform into just an arm or just a leg. And a yellow police car, but whatever. His name is "Unit-3" on his profile card because I don't know. The point is, that's just a callsign he uses, so his real name could easily be "Under-3." That's what really matters. Renaming Under-3 something else puts you on my shit list.
He's a very striking-looking toy, making him easily one of the best exclusive toys available this year -- and that's in the company of TM3 Megatron. He loses a little of the charm of the original toy (well, a lot of the original charm) by not transforming into a disembodied lion head, but I think being a new toy of that crazy-ass Happy Meal dude is its own separate charm. He's Under-3. For adults.
don't talk to me about the comic he appeared in just yet, there would only be swears