Thursday, 15 August 2013

TransFormers Collectors' Club 2013 (Timelines) Slipstream

The second arrival in 2013's TransFormers Collectors' Club Subscription Service was a bit of a surprise. I'd pretty much expected that the most interesting and imaginative items in this year's batch - for me, Slipstream and Ultra Mammoth - would be the last to be sent out, but the Club defied my low expectations. Thing is, now I have Slipstream, there isn't going to be another one that really lights my candle until Ultra Mammoth and, being the largest of the set, he's sure to be the last.

On the upside, if FunPub can keep to the (loosely) monthly schedule of despatches, there's a good chance they'll actually complete 2013's Subscription Service by the end of the year...

Anyway. Slipstream has appeared very briefly in the Club comic - in the final frame on the final page of the epilogue to 'A Flash Forward', sitting around a table in a bar somewhere in Axiom Nexus, playing cards with most of the other Subscription Service figures and Depth Charge. She had no dialogue in that frame and, based on the direction the story has taken for 2013 (Beast Wars: Shattered Glass) it seems unlikely that she'll feature again this year, making her inclusion in the Subscription Service in the first place all the more confusing. I'm sure that, eventually, the Club will tie up all its figures in the Timelines fiction, but I really do wish they'd focus a little more sensibly.

Slipstream appears to be a simple homage to the TF: Animated character originally known only as 'Female Starscream', who represents an undisclosed aspect of Starscream's personality.

Vehicle Mode:
Being based on TF: Prime First Edition Starscream, this is a neat little Deluxe Class jet. I only managed to get my hands on FE Starscream quite recently, at the London Film and Comic Con, and I'm still debating whether or not it's a better mold than the mainline Voyager release. It's certainly different.

Slipstream comes in her trademark purple, metallic teal and black, with touches of grey. Somehow, despite a strange choice of colours that borders on lurid, she manages to look rather plain in jet mode (no pun intended). The metallic teal paint is used for her cockpit and a couple of details on the fuselage, then just about all the flaps and the leading edges of the wings are teal. Black paint is used to frame the cockpit, then there's black plastic for the afterburner and rubber for the missiles and nose cone.

On the subject of the missiles, the rubber used here seems even more flimsy than that which was used for FE Starscream - as with the Club's other two items from this year, Slipstream comes packaged in foam. She arrives in vehicle mode, with the missile racks attached to the wings, and all of them are bent to some degree.

The robot legs are fairly prominent on the underside of the jet but, compared to some other TransFormers jets, the impact on the sleekness of the jet is fairly minimal. they're rather more noticeable on Slipstream than on Starscream, however, because of the brighter, more intense colourscheme.


Robot Mode:
Many have said that Starscream appeared too feminine in TF Prime. I can't say I agree... More lithe and svelte, as would befit a robot who transforms into a jet aircraft (compare and contrast the ugly, angular bulk of the War for Cybertron/Fall of Cybertron Seekers!). If backed into a corner, I might say he looks effeminate, which is something else entirely. Also, that stoop of his makes him look like the stereotypical hunchbacked evil genius. Some folks have noticed that it's possible to remove this stoop by misaligning the folded up rear section of the jet so that the shoulder tabs rest on top of the shoulders rather than plugging into their slots. This does leave a gap at the base of Slipstream's collar when the head is folded into place, but it does allow her to stand more upright than Starscream. While this does lend a slightly more feminine look to her robot mode, I've read that some folks feel Slipstream just doesn't look feminine enough. Some people are never happy.

The big selling point on Slipstream was the new head sculpt, which has actually drawn quite a bit of criticism. Some have said it's as masculine as TF Prime Starscream's (if not more so), and it's certainly a more intricate mold than Starscream's fairly smooth noggin. Having inspected it extensively and thought about it for quite some time today, I think the only problem is the perhaps slightly overzealous application of paint on the face. Consider the TF Animated character and her full, black lips. Looking at the way this Slipstream's face is sculpted, she has fairly full lips by TF Prime standards, but the silver paint fills in too far over her lipline, reducing their apparent size, to the point where it looks as though she's simply supposed to appear open-mouthed. Since the artwork on her bio card suggests purple lips, I may try adjusting the paintwork on her face, to see whether this affects her 'femininity'. Frankly, though, my whole vibe on Slipstream is that she was just a clone of Starscream in TF Animated. Just because she looked like a femme-bot and sounded like a femme-bot... doesn't mean she was a femme-bot.

The teal plastic used for her lower legs seems to contain a small measure of metallic flake, making them match the paintwork a little better. It's a shame this is the only usage of that colour of plastic (particularly when it means the wing hinge arrangements present discrepant grey blocks on her wings in vehicle mode) as it's a good match for the paintwork.

Compared to First Edition Starscream, Slipstream still looks fairly plain in robot mode. While there's a fair amount of paint, it's concentrated in locations like the wings, so her chest is basically plain purple plastic aside from the cockpit paint (including a sort of Y-shaped extension that's intended to mimic the look of the TF Animated character), silver around the collar/shoulder area and a couple of bits of black on either side at the bottom of the chest area. The 'eye' parts are unpainted so at least the reference to live action movie Starscream's face is somewhat disguised. The only other colour comes from the grey plastic of the biceps, hands and hip ball joints.

Since I'm a massive fan of Starscream's look in TF Prime, it was a foregone conclusion that I'd like this model. The First Edition design is very clever and economical, with very little wastage between modes. Additionally, thanks to smart choices in the joints, it's an exceptionally poseable model. The new head sculpt is brilliant, though perhaps a little small... and I was pleased to see the neck joint was in the right place, considering the molding cock-up of Timelines Cheetor, where his neck is basically at his chin.

Much as I like Slipstream, though, she's a very puzzling character to introduce without explanation. So far, the only Club toy characters to feature in 2013's comics are Ultra Mammoth and Depth Charge, and we've yet to see how these Heroic Autobots/Maximals will figure into their supposed 'Shattered Glass' storyline. Slipstream is from the TF Prime universe, Jackpot is from the TF Animated universe, and Breakdown hails from G1/Classics. So far, the only connection between the Subscription Service characters has been that card game in Axiom Nexus.

One thing that's worth mentioning is her bio... or rather, the bio card which somehow manages to present a complete absence of biographical information. On the upside, it does give information about her weapons... though even that doesn't make much sense. I've started to pay a bit more attention to FunPub's bio cards since I started reading Tets' blog, since he frequently expresses frustration at their poor grammar, incontinent approach to punctuation and the serious narrative deficiencies, and Slipstream's basically is a rinse-and-repeat of the 'bio' given to BotCon 2009's Elita-1. It even goes so far as to say she "poses as a spy for hire" and that "only she knows her true agenda", without actually explaining who or what she really is, or why she's posing as anything. It's getting difficult to tell if this is FunPub attempting to avoid spoilers for Timelines, or if they just can't be bothered to come up with a proper bio...

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