I was satisfied enough with Hasbro's "Armada Starscream" toy. I mean, I've gushed about it a few times here before, most recently for "Super Mode"/Thundercracker, so it's clearly a toy I like. Takara came out with their own version which was much prettier (fairly objectively, even), but what mattered to me at the time was that my toy matched how Starscream appeared in the then-current IDW comic books. Their Starscream looked like the Hasbro toy. So.
Fast forward to now, when I've got Super Mode Starscream and that kitbashed Sunstorm and the upcoming Skywarp and Ramjet. Those are all painted pretty damn well, and suddenly my Hasbro Armada Starscream looks like the odd guy out. Long story short, I got the Takara one to hang out with my other versions of the mold.
The Hasbro one can continue being the IDW guy. The Takara one can be the Unicron Trilogy version of Starscream. He can hang out with Thundercracker and Skywarp, and maybe Ramjet will come visit occasionally when he blows through the vacation days he's built up with Unicron.
The main difference between the two Starscreams is that Hasbro's (left) is mostly red plastic and Takara's (right) is mostly white plastic. And then Takara puts all this red and black paint on top of that, while Hasbro kinda just let their toy be, relatively.
I love this thing.
Sky Lynx! When we were kids, my little brother really really wanted Sky Lynx. Like, he had an incalculable yearning. I mean, think about it: Sky Lynx was a shuttle that split into a lynx and a bird, and the lynx and the bird combined into a dragon. Oh, and it could walk. You put in batteries and the damned thing walked by itself. You can see the appeal, right?
So then I got Sky Lynx for my birthday from our grandparents. I opened the thing up in front of my poor brother. Back then, my grandparents liked to get a smaller present for the Other Sibling (our sister was not born yet or was too young to care) on the other's birthday so they wouldn't feel completely left out because that's the kind of spoiling-riffic stuff you can do as a grandparent, and so there is this amazing photo of my brother limply pointing to his also-ran BraveStarr toy he opened up that day, a very visible inner brokenness deepset within his face.
Decades later, I'd buy him the Japanese reissue. It was the least I could do.
But this Sky Lynx is mine! His shuttle mode no longer splits up into lynx and bird modes, instead going straight to dino-dragon, and obviously he doesn't self-walk anymore. He does, however, become a torso for Combiner Wars limbs to connect to and become Sky Reign. Not a terrible trade-off.
Space shuttles -- at least the ones we sent up into space for years -- aren't a thing anymore, being all retired and whatnot, and so probably relatedly Sky Lynx is a very liberal interpretation of one. He's got little forward-swept wings on his back end. He's got a weird pattern of windows and little tiny wing horns near the cockpit. The crawler-transporter is still there, and since Sky Lynx is no longer a proper real-life shuttle, I guess it's actually now just a part of his generic space shuttle mode. As mentioned above, it does not detach. It's not even all connected down there in the middle, so even if you tried disassembling the toy you'd have a scattering of disjointed blue parts.
Though in dragon mode Sky Lynx no longer walks, he does have a little more articulation than before. His forelegs (not the back) can splay outwards. He's got bicep and thigh swivels, and you can move them yourself without breaking the toy, like you were liable to in the 80s. I swear, that old plastic was made from crusty old cheese. The original toy had a few joints in his neck (necessary for transformation), but I don't think it could look to and fro, so that's new. Out the back, just barely, is a tiny version of his original tailfin-ended tail. It's barely visible from most angles, but I'd say it's vestigial. Attach the two sword weapons to it, and you get a properly-lengthed tail. The original tail is probably there just for purists.
The torso mode is where you find this toy's only real deficiency. Unlike the other torsos in Combiner Wars, Sky Lynx's shoulders do not seem to secure in any way, and so you have to hold them in place while you articulate his arms or else the shoulders move with them. But this mode is where his lynx head ended up, so you kind of forget this annoyance when you behold his splendor.
The two swords combine into a longer sword, because of course they do.
Armada Starscream from earlier in the Generations toyline was a pretty damn good Starscream toy. It was a new version of... well, Armada Starscream, but shorter and with shoulder joints and you didn't need to have a Mini-Con to make his missiles fire. It was a joy. I mean it, it's a great little thing. So much that when Cheetimus painted one up like Sunstorm I was like YOINK and bought that fucker.
Well, here comes more!
This is Starscream Super Mode, because way back in Armada, when they redecoed everybody, they made them into upgrades of the same guy rather than new characters. But Starscream's "super mode" was in Thundercracker's colors, and so when he got upgraded in the cartoon the English version dubbed in a little "I look like Thundercracker!" comment and the toy was sold as Thundercracker. Otherwise, Starscream in this deco is known as the Starscream who goes total Linkin Park angsty and gets himself disintegrated by Unicron to make Megatron so way sorry for the way he's been a stupid jerk, DAD. I'm serious, there were so many Linkin Park AMVs. He tried so hard and got so far, yo. But in the end? (he came back as a zombie in the next series and then in the series after that he was totally fine, so... no, it didn't really matter)
But hell yeah I'd buy a Starscream Super Mode or Thundercracker or whoever. I loved the deco on the original toy, which was certainly inspired by Thundercracker, but took a few left turns. For example, his eyes had to be silver. They really had to, to keep the rest of his deco silver where it needed to be silver. And that plastic sprue was nylon, which is unpaintable. And so instead of having his face be red-eyes-on-silver-face, Armada Thundercracker was red-face-on-silver-eyes. Which is, you know, striking. I'm very upset this did not pay forward in later Thundercracker toys.
I do think the deco loses a little something when his blacks are gunmetal instead of black. But whatcha gonna do. It's my only sort of not-really complaint. I like this toy a lot. Give me more.
(spoilers: we're getting more)
Look, I have new toys! New Combiner Wars toys! I don't have these guys' torso yet, but let's talk about the limbs. They're wave six of the Deluxe Class guys, aka The Final Wave. I mean, there's still a buttload of more box sets coming out through the rest of the year, but these are the last single-packed guys before Combiner Wars gets transitioned into Titans Return (aka Everyone Is A Headmaster).
Wheeljack is the most changed of these four. Though he used to be Breakdown, he's had his entire car mode replaced and most of his robot mode as well. He's 90% new toy, though he transforms exactly the same and has all the same functionality. I'm happy for the vehicle mode reshelling the most, because I just kinda feel like Wheeljack needs to look like a Lancia Stratos, moreso than most other Autobot cars need to be their original car model. I mean, it's cool that he has new robot parts, too, but that feels like extra on top of a necessity.
In between promo renders and the final product, some of Wheeljack's black plastic is now white, like his crotch and elbows. This is not helpful, since he was kinda too-white already! And so now he's really white. Don't get me wrong, he has a lot of paint -- Wheeljack kind of has to have a lot of paint, since he's got a distinctive rally deco, but all his budget went into creating that, so you don't get a lot of the small stuff like having painted forearms and whatnot. S'okay, I'll paint a lot of that stuff myself later.
Second, let's just get Smokescreen out of the way. He's a straight redeco of Prowl. Like Wheeljack, he uses up all his paint budget in his vehicle mode's rally deco, and so his robot mode's a little plain. Smokescreen's a little frustrating, because we know there are other unused heads on these guys that might not make it to retail (coughcoughRatchetcoughcough) but I guess Hasbro proooobably wanted a race car instead of a second white-and-red ambulance. S'okay, Ratchet's likely this year's BotCon customization class guy anyway.
Hound is Swindle with a new Hound head! Swindle himself was a heavy retool of Rook in the same way that Wheeljack is a retool of Breakdown -- aka, it's all new except for a crotch and a peg and some tiny joints here and there. In addition to Hound's new head, his smaller weapon now has nubs on the back so that it can be shoved into the rollbar cage on his robot mode back, giving him an over-the-shoulder weapon. (Some later versions of Swindle reportedly have this as well.) Over-the-shoulder weapon pleases me!
Where Hound is frustrating is how they deco him. He's got, like, two separate vehicle fronts sculpted on his torso. Up top on his chest is one set of fake vehicle front, and then there's a separate set of fake vehicle front on his stomach. This is so he can do double duty as both Hound and Swindle provided you illuminate the right parts with paint. However, the right parts were not illimunated with paint! Hound has his Swindle parts painted, ignoring completely the Hound bumper across his ribcage, while those Swindle parts were ignored on Swindle. Grrrr! Maybe I'll do some painting on Hound as well.
And finally there's Trailbreaker, who even-more-finally has his own original name back. Hasbro tried to make so many Trailbreakers over the years, realized they didn't have the trademark but weren't willing to find a new one, and so we got a lot of black Ironhides. And so finally, a year or two ago they were all FINE, dubbed him "Trailcutter," put out a few Trailcutter toys, and even got Trailbreaker to change his name to Trailcutter in the IDW comics. And then Trailcutter died. And now they got "Trailbreaker"-the-Trademark back for real and so I guess they can give his proper name to his corpse.
Trailbreaker has a few retoolings, but not nearly as many as Wheeljack. He's got a new head, obvs, but he's also got new forearms and new fingers on his combiner mode fist. One of his new forearms ends in a hand and the other ends in a gun, as Trailbreakers do, but they made the end a 5mm peghole so you can shove his combiner mode fist in there. Sweet. His combiner mode fist now has kind of a claw thing going on instead of fingers, which is super neat. Well, it'd be super neater if this tooling got used a second use (as Hoist?) so you could give a combiner robot double claw hands, but whatcha gonna do. (Other than buy a second Trailbreaker.)
Trailbreaker's new claw things give me pause, though. The fronts of the claw are painted, which is... weird. Other than dipping the whole damn thing in silver, like with the Optimus Maximus guys, these hand/foot weapons don't really get paint, and they certainly don't get spot paint. I have this feeling that the silver finger fronts are meaningful in some way, but I can't find any new way for the weapon to interact with the robot mode. I mean, obviously, the first thing you think of is Trailbreaker's silver forcefield generator which usually goes over his head, but you can't shove this weapon behind Trailbreaker's head any better than any other version of the mold. (ie, terribly) I dunno. It's gonna bug me.
Hey, it's the first Phantasm toy that doesn't automatically spoil her secret identity!
So you guys have been noticing that I've been super into DC Collectibles' 6-inch Batman: The Animated Series and The New Batman Adventures toyline, right? Anyway, there's a Phantasm now. Unlike most everything else, she doesn't come on her own bubble card, but instead she's in a two-pack box with BTAS Batman. I knew this was coming out ahead of time, so I skipped the single-carded Batman in favor of this set. (I think this version comes with fewer parts, though, like not as many alternate hands or something.)
This Phantasm toy is... almost perfect? Like, it's amazing until you get down to the ankles. Most toys in this series, unless they're, like, the Penguin, have ankles that position both to and fro and side to side, so that soles can be planted firmly on the ground regardless of the angle of the legs. Not Phantasm! For some reason, they didn't give her side-to-side ankle articulation like nearly everyone else. It's kind of annoying! Everything else here is up to par. I especially like how her head moves around on its neck joint inside the more-rubbery-plastic hood. But damn, those ankles, why. Why.
She'll be super menacing and supernaturally unstoppable until the very moment you find out she's a girl and then you have to rescue her a bunch and then she'll disappear for like fifteen minutes while you fight the Joker because it's not like this movie is about her or anything.
SUPER BONUS PICTURE OF BABY DOLL, WHO CANNOT STAND UNLESS YOU WRAP KILLER CROC'S DISPLAY-CLAW AROUND HER HEAD->