Saturday, 6 November 2010

Generations Darkmount

I've always wondered, as a reader of Marvel Comics' G1 TransFormers comics, with all the characters available in the toyline, why did they feel the need to create new, key characters that weren't available as toys: Impactor, Emirate Xaaron, Scrounge, Spanner... and, of course, Straxus.

Or should that be Darkmount? Yes, yet again, trademark issues prevented Hasbro using the right name, but Darkmount is a suitable alternative for the first ever toy of one of Marvel's original TF Villains, since it's the name given to his base of operations in the comics. Considering that Straxus was only seen to transform once, and turned into some kind of wierd flying cannon - vaguely similar to Galvatron in some ways - what sort of alternate mode does he get for his first toy?


Vehicle Mode:
Oh, good grief... at first glance, it's yet another Decepticon tank. Only it's not - it's a half-track... and that makes all the difference, obviously. I'm not entirely convinced of the scale of this thing: there's a cockpit on the lefthand side at the front, which tends to suggest this thing is huge... but everthing else suggests it's nothing more than the normal sort of size for a tank (or half-track).

The turret rotates a fully 360 degrees, and the cannon can lift to a decent angle. Additional to his main cannon, Darkmount comes with three extra weapons attached via clip-on ball joints: a machine gun, a missile launcher and a grenade launcher. Each can be mounted on any of the rungs moulded all over the vehicle, not to mention some other toys from the NEST Global Alliance subline of the RotF toy range. Movement of each is limited somewhat both by the molding of the socket for the ball joint, and the molding of the weapon itself - the machine gun, for example, has a large block sticking out of one side.

Naturally the treads are molded solid, but they are at least painted. The two wheels at the front are the usual solid plastic 'tyres', which roll freely. Aside from being awfully plain, with very little colour breaking up the strange blue colouration of the vehicle, this is a nicely detailed vehicle mode, even if it is rather samey.
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Battle Station Mode:
Erm. Right. 'Battle Station' mode... it's kind of like the half-track started to explode, but got frozen part way, and they called it a new mode. Nothing unusual in the wonderful world of TransFormers, but this one does appear particularly desperate... although the cannon's handles are clearly an intentional design element for this mode.
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HEXdidn't Fan-Mode:
While transforming this toy for the purposes of taking these very photos, I stumbled into this 'fan mode', halfway between vehicle and robot modes. It kind of reminded me of Bal-Bas-Bow from Virtual On, in that it's clearly supposed to levitate... and that crotch-cannon is utterly fearsome...
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Robot Mode:
When I bought this, at the recent London Expo, the guy running the stall reckoned I'd be impressed by this one... I was completely ambivalent toward it, and really only picked it up to bolster my ranks of Classics Decepticons (albeit with a third tank). The character didn't inspire me in the comics, so why should the toy be any different?

I am ashamed, gentle reader, for this toy is all kinds of awesome. Aside from being ridiculously poseable, it manages to be a reasonably faithful representation of one of the more bizarre character created by Marvel's writers. He's incredibly bulky and powerful-looking, even though he's only a Deluxe. The fact that he even comes with his trademark pickaxe weapon, and the fact that his hands and wrists were designed in such a way that he can hold this weapon in both hands makes for some excellent posing possibilities.

More colour is visible in this mode also, so he looks far less plain... but I do think the head could have done with a bit more detailing.
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Transformation, I have to say, is pretty phenomenal. I'd been trying to figure it out from the photos already on the internet, but it never occurred to me that the turret - minus the gunbarrel/pickaxe - would become the legs since it's such a novel use of that part of the vehicle. Normally, the entire turret would just sit on the back - on just about every TransFormers tank from G1 Sparkabot Guzzle to even Leader Class TF Movie Brawl. The only exceptions I can think of are G1 Warpath (and his more recent Legends-class remake), the Energon Bruticus limbs and the Classics tank Mini-Con.


Some of the joints are a little loose - notably the hips and the knee twist - but, for the most part, it doesn't seem to affect his stability. There are even ball-joints for his ankles, meaning his feet can be flat to the ground in some pretty extreme poses.

It's rare these days that a TransFormers toy impresses me as much as this one did, particularly when I'm not remotely interested in the character. With his pick-axe and the three attachable weapons, he's very well armed and, really, the only downside is having the rear of the vehicle mode as a backpack, because they're just massive shell pieces. Even so, the molding of these pieces, with holes that show through to the wheels mounted on Darkmount's arms, is an impressive touch on the vehicle mode.

Howitzer mode does seem a little tacked-on, but it does seem that it was intentional... If only I could figure out which other Decepticons were the right size to operate it.

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