With the release of the final preview of the first five Botcon 2009 figures, I cannot resist undertaken a review, if for no other reason than to put my thoughts down (and allow me to eat my words later I suppose).
(Editor’s Note: Just in case you are reading the blog today, totally don’t forget to check out today’s Transformers of the Day, Swindle. You’ll understand when you click through.)
To really articulate things I need a guide. Oh I could do something clever like substitute Energon cubes for stars, or use comic names like kabow! and thud!, to indicate the desirability of a toy. But given that some fans take collecting as seriously as the stock market, let’s go with an easily translated retail scale that anyone who has ever barter, bought or traded a figure should understand. I call it the measure of price goodness:
- Scalper Price (5) - “This toy is so insanely good - be it in terms of innovation, nostalgia or just plain coolness - that I will not think twice before being overcharged on a piece of plastic by someone who existence is satisfied by gouging.”
- Direct Market Price (4) - “This toy is too good to risk not finding on the store shelves of my local Zellers or Target, that I must pay more than traditional retail to a smaller comic/toy shop that carries the item.”"
- Standard Retail Price (3) - “This toy is pretty good and I can’t wait to see it on the toy shelves so I make sure to get the best one going at the most affordable retail outlet.”
- Advertised Price (2) - “This toy is good enough that owning it will leave a bit of a hole in the collection but missing it won’t overburden me with guilt, so I can really take my chances.”
- Discount Price (1) - “I see that the toy is on sale but I still wonder whether it is good for my collection.”
Occasionally an item will be beyond imagination and will register with an At Any Price (6). Conversely, sometimes an item will be so terrible that it will warrant an (At Any Price) (0). Like finance, the brackets means a negative number. Like the value of AIG stock right about now. But like happy shareholders for Lehmen Brothers right now, these additional ratings should be merciful rare.
(I should add that my ranking does not preclude me from waiting for a sale (or taking different actions in the case of a limit run), just that I’m more cautious to balance the likelihood of such a sale (or availability) against the possibility of losing the chance to own. Or being forced into the hands of waiting scalpers. Heaven knows I’ve bought some deeply discounted items that I swore I would never own because a figure offered at a tenth of its retail cost can sometimes overpower logic. Alpha Quintesson, I’m looking at you…)
With these guidelines in place, we move onto the first review.
A preface of sorts to this assortment. I was really hoping that this was going to be an all Transformers: Animated Set. Having seen some of the amazing customs out there, I was chomping at the bit for official versions. Alas that was not to be and I am trying hard not to let this reality underwhelm my excitement for the set (although I will put in brackets after each character the TF:A template that could have been perfect if the powers-that-be had gone this route. Because I can’t resist.)
It would be hard at the best of times for me to be as overwhelmingly as excited for a set as I was with the pre-Beast Wars set of 2006, a set that quite literally compelled me to attend Botcon for the first time. While no set has been perfect (and conversely no set has been, yet, absolutely horrible), for me personally, the 2006 perfectly demonstrates the beauty of the possibilities now available. The controversial 2007 neo-Classics set was a close runner up and only then just barely a runner-up. Last years Shattered Glass woed me in the end, but there were enough misses in the set to drag down the set.
All this brings us to 2009 and Wings of Honour:
Elite Guard Kup - Kup suffers from being the first character out of the gate, and proof positive that the entire set would not serve as a tribute to Animated. As such, he took a fair number of hits that may not have been entirely justified. To the good, he makes use of a terrific Cybertron Mode (Red Alert), a terrific head sculpt and an accurate blue shading for the body. Regardless of what I think of the toy mould, however, it doesn’t seem to suit Kup particularly well, particularly the cab. Failure to substitute a real left hand for the pre-existing laser seems to be a shortcoming. And the orange striping is distracting. The result is that I’m conflicted and Kup ends up skating between Direct and Retail (3.5).
- (He would have been so good as a retooled Cybertron Mode Deluxe Optimus Prime.)
Elite Nemesis Scourge - Besides the fact that I have no idea how they are going to keep a story where Scourge is in the past in current continuity without trickery, Scourge fares better, and worse, than Kup. The negatives first - I pretty much universally hate this mold. It really doesn’t do a lot for me. The only time it worked for me was for Ratbat, and then because it looked so much like the War Within depiction of the character. That said, a decent paint application (including an excellent use of contrasting red) and a terrific head retool makes Scourge the winner in the set. Particularly if the “attendee-only” special is a slightly modified Huntsmen Sweep. A Direct (4) grade for Scourge in the final analysis.
- (Still, how cool would a modified Cybertron Mode Deluxe Megatron from the Optimus-Megatron two pack be?)
Elite Guard Landshark - I have terribly conflicted feelings on Landshark. I want to like him but I just can’t bring myself to fall in love with him. While it is nice to see a new character, and a name that gives props to one of the molds predecessors, I’m still not sold on the character name. Why that matters in a world of Lugnut and Sixknight is beyond me, but it distracts me nonetheless. While the mould is first rate, I really hoped they would hold out the big bucks for Thunderclash, rather than spend it on the new guy. The paint application would have been really appealing if (a) he had been Roadbuster, (b) a perfectly acceptable Roadbuster hadn’t already been issued at retail, and (c) they had gone for some visor subtlety and used an orange or grey instead of that distracting blue. But I really like that mould, so he joins Kup in limbo between Direct and Retail (3.5).
- (I think I’ve have gone with an albino Deluxe Sentinel Prime in this case, or called him what he is (Roadbuster) and, resisting the urge to call for a repainted Voyager Bulkhead, kept the price point consistent for the set, saved cost for Thunderclash and deployed a repainted Deluxe Soundwave accordingly. At least he offers the possibility of treating Laserbeak as a repainted Buzzsaw to join with Scourge…)
Elite Guard Flak - They should call him Elite Guard Fail. Oh don’t mistake me, the fancy new face is pretty. But I’m not crazy about adding an upsized micromaster to this group, particularly when there are so many other Gen 1.5 Euroformers that could be up to the task (Scorch? Pyro? Where are you, Rotorstorm?). Moreover, like Roadbuster Landshark, we already have a slightly-flawed-but-perfectly-correctable Classics version pegwarming at a store near you in Decepticon Dropshop. Unlike Landshark, we now have a lot of the value of the set invested into an arctic rendering of Autobot Overload, also pegwarming in the next aisle over. Frankly, Flak loses a full retail grade based on the simple fact that two version of the two are currently accessible at retail, pretty face or no, bringing him to an Advertised (2) price point.
- (Again, not that anybody asked, I’d skip Animated Flak and either (a) bring out Big Shot as a remolded Shockwave (now that’s a tank!), or (b) brake plastic continuity (for Megatron is simply to work…) and used Cybertron Evac to create an Animated-style version of Whirl with a new head sculpt.)
Elite Guard Thunderclash - I really want to love Thunderclash. I really do! I have a soft spot for a toy that landed on Canadian and not American toy shelves. I genuinely like the Energon Rodimus mould, even if I had hoped that the set would save some of its pricing bang earlier on and seriously upsized him to Cybertron Optimus Prime scale (as unrealistic as that might be to bring a Leader class into the mix) or even used the Energon Landmine mould here instead of with Landshark. I even respect the quality of the paint applications which make the best of what they can of transferring the original’s fluorescent colours onto a completely different body (even if I disagree with moving the Autobot symbol outside the eagle). All this going for him - desire, (compromise) mould, paint application - and in the end he looks like a weird prototype. Because he’s Thunderclash, he skirts the no man’s land between Retail and Advertised (2.5).
- (Who is Animated Thunderclash? I’m taking my coin I saved with Soundwave-repainted Roadbuster and bringing forward none other than Voyager Class Optimus Prime. Given now the axe looks nothing like the cartoon version but actually looks a bit like a trailer, the mould actually might look better as ‘Clash than as Prime.)
Wings of Honour (Set) - Despite wanting to refer to the set as “Wings of Steel” (does that mean Scourge is “Screaming for Vengeance”), Wings of Honour comes out with an average of 3.1, and approaching retail land. Based on anticipated quality of the box (I know I know, but I like how they look…), I’m willing to put the whole set between Direct and Retail (3.5), and call it a night.
(And dream of perfecting digibashing so I can bring Animated Kup, Scourge, Thunderclash, Whirl and Roadbuster to a website near you…)