Monday, 1 July 2013

TransFormers: Prime Vehicon (Car)

One thing the TransFormers line has missed out on, by and large, as a character-driven property, is the 'nameless, faceless mook' or 'troop builder'. Granted, even the G1 TV series pilot featured random, unlikely-looking characters who existed only to get blown up (or cause excessive OCD in some fans), but they never came out as toys. Energon featured Omnicons and the Terrorcons, which could function as troop-builders... but most of them were such dull toys and from such a poorly-received series, I can't imagine most fans buying more than one, if any.

Then came TransFormers: Prime, which has almost made a virtue of having literally nameless, faceless Vehicons making up the bulk of Megatron's forces. But are they nothing more than a throwback to the bad old days of the Terrorcons, or are they something a bit special..?

Vehicle Mode:
Someone working in Transformers is clearly obsessed with the Batmobile, because Vehicons could easily pass for a less elaborate interpretation of that famous, fictional vehicle. All you'd really need is a bit of yellow paint in strategic locations, and you could easily pass this off as one of Batman's rides. Despite being technically quite boxy, this vehicle is strangely elegant, with an interesting curve leading to the rear wheels. There's also something ominously hearse-like about it - as if the designer had recently been to a funeral, or just wanted something instantly foreboding about the look of the vehicle.

For the most part, this vehicle is a plain, glossy, very dark blue or purple, with clear windows and headlights (which - prepare for a shock - actually got painted inside), and the black plastic wheels have their hubcaps painted. Aside from that, the only decoration is the Decepticon insignia stamped on the front and a set of purple lines painted across the rear. Normally, I might complain about something looking this plain, but it actually looks very stylish like that.

One interesting feature of the Prime line is that they all have ways of mounting their weapons in vehicle mode. The Vehicons actually have four mounting points and two different types of connection - the gun can either peg in toward the back of the car, just above the rear wheel, or clip on at the front. The latter is the most show-accurate, though they tend to sprout two guns from the front, and each Vehicon is packaged with only one. Still, do some troop building, and you can mount another Vehicon's weapon on the front as well...
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Robot Mode:
Vehicon was one of the very few 'characters' to receive the First Edition treatment and, good as that model was, it is vastly inferior to the tidy, brilliantly-designed main line release. The vehicle mode may have less paintwork than the First Edition, but robot mode suffers from fewer chunks of car hanging off the back, and looks more like Megatron's spindly, angular footsoldiers.

There's more black evident on robot mode, though a lot of it is covered up by dark-ish purple paint. It's actually still too light - as is the purple plastic used for some pieces - and stands out rather too much. It's also strangely matte, when the Vehicons should be just as glossy in robot mode as they are in vehicle mode. Still, it's something I can let slide, since purple is the colour most associated with evil in the world of TransFormers.

The window in the chest is a neat feature, though the silver paint behind it is far too light - the same metallic paint was used for the hubcaps, the head and the panel behind the chest window. Some more of the purple paint from the details on vehicle mode appears on his shins.

There's an amazing amount of molded detail on this figure, most of which is clearly visible, and only a small portion it is concealed by the one, comparatively small slab of vehicle which remains, hanging off his back. The overall effect does full justice to the sinister, mostly-silent minions. The forearms aren't great, to be honest, since they're molded into the insides of the car doors, and feature hollow areas, but they look pretty good from most angles. The head sculpt is, by necessity, quite simple... and the light piping isn't especially convincing, but at least it's there. It seems more accurate to the TV show than the First Edition was, at any rate.

As with vehicle mode, there are two different ways Vehicons can hold their weapons: they can be held (quite firmly) in the hands using the large, round peg or, with the hand folded back, they can be clipped onto the forearm, matching the look of the TV show's CGI reasonably well. They could also be pegged into the shoulders, but that would just look a bit daft.
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This has to be - hands down - one of the most impressive transformations of any TransFormer ever, including the Masterpieces. Of particular note is the way virtually all of the vehicle mode shell (literally everything bar the side panels) folds up into the lower leg in robot mode. Even so, it's a simple transformation, and the only complicated part is remembering how to orient the purple bicep section to get him back into vehicle mode.

The Prime line has generally good articulation and Vehicon, being quite a spindly character, seems to be made mostly of joints. The arms are especially good, with ball-jointed shoulders and elbows, bicep swivel, and a hinge between that and the elbow. The hand only rotates into and out of the wrist, but the rest of the arm allows him to be very expressive regardless. The legs aren't quite so good, but they have an impressive range of motion despite their construction. He very much as a 'high heeled boot' look and, while he won't balance on one leg, he's well able to pose dramatically, and is perfectly stable in most postions.

As a general rule, I despise troop-builders on principle and in the TransFormers line, they seem especially cheap... however, this is such an incredibly impressive and elegant model, I just had to get more than one. Trouble is, they were short-packed (one to a case?! Hasbro, what were you thinking?) and - initially, at least - very difficult to find. Each time I picked one up, I felt like I was depriving some poor child of his one and only chance to get a Vehicon. Thankfully, after a few months, they became a bit more common - not shelfwarmers, to any extent (that's still Bumblebee and Cliffjumper), but common enough that I'd see at least one every time I walked into a toyshop. Even so, I stopped at three... Gotta leave some space in case Hasbro deigns to release the Jet Vehicon in the UK... though that seems increasingly unlikely - I believe it never even made it to the States, and the UK is very much in the grip of Beast Hunters now...

Charlie's Vehicons? Megatron's Angels?

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