Saturday, 16 November 2013

TransFormers Collectors' Club 2013 (Timelines) Ultra Mammoth

OK, people, here's the main event of the TransFormers Collectors' Club Subscription Service year one, the model I've been most keenly awaiting. Despite being a straight repaint of a Beast Wars figure, it tickled my fancy in several ways. First and foremost, the name is awesome: not quite a pun, but clever-ish wordplay nonetheless, and that kind of thing always amuses me in the TransFormers line. Next, it's hardly the most common mold - its only official western release was as Nemesis Prime in the much maligned Universe line of random repaints almost ten years ago. The club did well in its selection for this reason alone. Finally, the colourscheme is inspired. OK, it's inspired by the G1 character this model is meant to represent, but the distribution of colours and the extent of the paint job, going by the publicity mock-ups alone, was excellent.

And I'm not the only one waxing lyrical about this model, David Willis - creator of Shortpacked! and other webcomics - created a 13-page fan-fic Comic in honour of the club's latest exclusive.

But after a full year of waiting since he was announced and all the hype, does Ultra Mammoth live up to all the expectations?

Beast Mode:
Obviously, the first thing to note is that this is rather a peculiar colour for a mammoth. I'm not quite sure why but, whenever I look at him, I start thinking of Fox's Glacier Mints. The entire beast shell is cast in a deep sky blue and white 'frosting' is painted on the belly and the legs. The toenails are picked out with an awesome metallic blue, just a shade darker than the plastic beneath. As with Nemesis Prime, the tusks are painted, but these are a pure white with no 'gore' embellishment on the tips. I do find it odd that his eyes are painted red - Ultra Magnus/Mammoth being an Autobot/Maximal and all, but the whole eye colour/faction parity went out of the window in Beast Wars (in which virtually all the Maximals and Predacons had red eyes), so perhaps that's not a surprise... Then again, most the of the beast modes tended to have more natural looking eyes...

There's not a great deal to beast mode other than the ear-twitching, tusk-raising action though, since writing up Universe Nemesis Prime, I have learned that there's a 'weaponised beast mode', which basically involves pulling up the top of the head/spine/tail section and rotating it 180° so the dual missile launcher is pointing forward and the trunk droops down between his back legs. I guess one could also deploy the sickle missile launchers from his sides...

Which raises an interesting point - this model is not without remolded parts but, weirdly, the parts chosen for remolding are the sickle missiles. Those that came with Nemesis Prime had a small spherical tip and the 'blades' were fairly slim, enabling them to (just about) fit inside beast mode. These are tipped with enormous great sausage shapes running almost half the length of each blade, thus preventing the launchers from closing back into the body when loaded. I have no idea why this change was made unless it was thought the blades needed to be reinforced, and there were surely better ways of accomplishing that goal.

Some folks have also reported that the trunk seems to be molded in a slightly stiffer rubber than previous iterations of the mold, meaning the trunk won't raise as far as it could/should. Having compared him to my Universe Nemesis Prime, I can't see much of a difference.

One disappointing aspect is that the triggers for the sickle missile launchers are unpainted blue plastic and stand out against the white painted areas of fur. The same parts are unpainted on Nemesis Prime but, since they're black plastic against a fading silver spray, they don't stand out quite so much as they do on Ultra Mammoth. What does stand out is the tiny patch of exposed red which is the hinge of what can only be called his butt-flap. On Nemesis Prime, this part was molded in dark blue, and was barely noticeable in the black sculpted fur, so that's one mark against the colourscheme.


Robot Mode:
Here's where Ultra Mammoth really shines as a redeco - the paint job and plastic colours of the robot do an excellent job of paying homage to the iconic Generation 1 car-carrier, but there's so much more to it than that. The Beast Wars Neo original seemed to be styled after Lio Convoy, in that he was largely white and red rather than the traditional red, blue and silver of a Convoy/Optimus Prime. This, the final entry in the premier year of the TFCC's Subscription Service, is clearly where all the care, imagination and budget went.

Not only is he the largest model of the set, he's the most lavishly decorated as well. The red, white and blue plastic is generously complemented by black, white, silver, metallic blue and very rich red paint, as well as a touch of chrome on his Maximal insignia. The blue plastic of the right upper arm seems to have a metallic flake component, while the left upper arm is the same translucent blue used for the chest window. While the window isn't extravagantly painted in itself, the molded details on the inside are far more apparent through the lighter plastic, as is the - fully chromed - Matrix inside.

There have been reports of missing paint on some (limited to the face, I gather) so I'm pleased to note that mine seems to have all the required paint applications... Not least because my G1 Ultra Magnus was missing paint both on his 'white Optimus Prime' head and his larger 'Ultra Magnus' head.

In fact, the only flaw I've found is that the pin holding in the mounting for his trunk/back/gun has a tendency to come loose as the trunk/back/gun is pulled off. It hasn't fallen out so far, and feels as though it probably won't... but who knows? Weirdly, the way it's attached differs from my Universe Nemesis Prime - the earlier model has a wide flat-headed pin, while this exclusive has a washer behind a smaller flat-headed pin.
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Transformation, naturally, is identical to Universe Nemesis Prime, though I found this version slightly less inclined to fit together properly in beast mode. That may just be because the seams are more apparent in the blue plastic than they were in black plastic. Again, it's essentially a shell-former with the most significant chunk of beast becoming Ultra Mammoth's weapon rather than a part of the robot, and the few beast shell panels which remain on the robot are coverings for his built-in weapons.

Articulation is also the same as before - completely fantastic, but let down slightly by awkward feet. I've found the shoulder and elbow joints on this one just that little bit tighter, so he's better able to hold - and aim - his weapon. The feet are about the same as my Nemesis Prime - not quite firm enough to allow him to balance on his 'toes', but they're just enough to keep him standing unless he leans too far forward.

The only real disappointment - for me - is that the bio card supplied is utterly atrocious, possibly the worst of the bunch considering Ultra Mammoth appears to be the focus of this year's 'Shattered Glass Beast Wars' story. It basically tells, in précis, the same story that has been serialised in the club comic for most of this year rather than actually going into any detail about Ultra Magnus/Mammoth specifically. There's not even a mention of his weapon - named Blue Bolts in the Club comic, referencing the Robots in Disguise/Car Robots incarnation of Ultra Magnus rather than G1 - let alone the version of the Matrix inside his chest.

While I'm not sure I agree with the stance taken by David Willis - that the 'weapon' is actually just a scanner (because it just happens to launch missiles... Are they probes of some kind? That's not explained within his comic), his take on the character is far more satisfying because it's properly Beast Wars rather than the hatchet job presented in the Club comics.

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