Wednesday, 11 March 2015

Generations (30th Anniversary) Swerve & Flanker

Back when I first started collecting TransFormers toys, the bigger toys tended to be birthday or Christmas presents, and the vast majority of my own purchases were the likes of the Mini Autobots - small, affordable, carded vehicles with simple transformations into dinky little robots. Up until the 1986 wave, there were few I didn't pick up, but Swerve was one I didn't bother with as he was a rather dull repaint/remold of Gears, who wasn't one of the best from the original 1984 lineup.

These days, of course, we have IDW turning all sorts of terrible G1 toys into super-cool characters, just so Hasbro can release new, super-articulated updated toys, and Swerve seems to have become a fan-favourite among IDW's readership. However, rather than release today's Mini Autobots on their own, Hasbro have started including TargetMasters, so Swerve is partnered with Flanker, a mis-named, mis-coloured G1 Micromaster reference

Vehicle Mode:
Aside from being substantially bigger than his G1 ancestor, Generations Swerve is a smoother, more contemporary take on the same kind of SUV/pickup truck, even down to the obvious robot foot/shin mass occupying the truck bed. The front end is chunky, yet sleek, and features the implication of a winch on the front bumper. The sides feature wing mirrors (not a guaranteed feature even of a Deluxe!) and curious 'scoop' features at the bottom the doors.

There isn't an awful lot of paint on vehicle mode, but that's harking back to the simplicity of the G1 Mini Autobots. The front bumper and parts of the truck bed contents are painted cream, the front grille and hubcaps are painted silver, angled slices of the doors are cream plastic painted red... and that's about it. This last bit of paint is probably the sloppiest, looking for all the world like a badly-applied sticker.

As cars go, Swerve has very impressive ground clearance, partly due to larger than average tyres. He also has a rather worrying space underneath his bonnet, which shows through from one side to the other, above the wheels. Also, whether this is intentional copying of the G1 model's stylings or simply lazy design, there are two great chunks carved out of the rear of the vehicle, showing through to the robot's knees and leaving gaping holes beneath them.

There's a handy 5mm port on Swerve's roof which allows Flanker to plug in there in his gun mode for turret duty... or for him to do some highway surfing in his robot mode.

Robot Mode:
Everything about Swerve's robot mode is pure IDW design, and it's a brilliant update to the look of the G1 toy. The fact that his head sits between his shoulders emphasises how short and chubby he is, but he's full of character.

Considering he transforms into a red vehicle, there's an awful lot of cream plastic in robot mode - his entire torso, bar the crotch piece, provides a nice contrast and is decorated with silver paint for the vent details on his chest and either side of his head. As if there was any doubt over which side Swerve was on based on his appearance, a large, cleanly printed Autobot insignia right in the middle of his chest brings an extra touch of colour.

One thing that jumped out at me, looking at Swerve in robot mode, was that his legs seem very TransFormers Animated-style - smooth and swept back toward the knee - making them look somewhat out of place on an update to a G1 toy that's in the G1 section of the Generations toyline. They don't look terrible, just ill-fitting with the rest of the model.

Probably the best thing about this model is the head sculpt - while it's nothing like the G1 toy, it's an excellent three dimensional rendition of the IDW art, even down to the broad, toothy smile. I had wondered how easy it would be to turn a head that's mostly set within the robot's shoulders, and now I know: it's impossible, because his head is on a pinned hinge rather than any kind of rotation joint.

As well as being a small chum for Swerve, Flanker transforms into one of the more convincing new TargetMaster weapons. The wings do just kind of sit there, poking upwards, but the molded detail on the underside is nice. Due to a slight weakness in the shoulder/elbow ball joints, Swerve won't always keep his arms up while holding Flanker, but he can't bend his elbow very far anyway, due to Flanker's nose cone being right on top of the joint.

Swerve's transformation is basically exactly the same as his G1 toy, just with a couple of points of finesse added: to maintain his 'high shouldered' look, the bonnet of the car collapses back over the windscreen, the arms slip down at an angle, and the centre of the torso rocks backward into the vehicle's interior.

Naturally he's vastly more poseable than the G1 toy - the shoulders are pinned joints leading to ball joints, the elbows and hips are all ball joints, while the knees are pinned. The top half is excellent, its only drawbacks being the weakness of the arm joints (he can't easily point Flanker without drooping), the lack of rotation in the neck (although this is probably for the best) and the lack of a waist joint. Below the waist, while his hips are ball jointed, their range of motion isn't great when coupled with the pinned knees and no thigh swivel. The feet, molded at an angle for a slightly splayed-leg look when standing, don't offer the most stable footprint as they curve slightly upward toward the back to facilitate smooth transformation, so he's quite prone to falling over backwards. All that said, he can stand reasonably well on the edges of his feet in the more extreme poses.

Apparently based upon the G1 Autobot Micromaster Sky High, Flanker takes his name - and almost his colourscheme - from a Decepticon Micromaster. His vehicle form is a nice, compact shuttlecraft with no discernible cockpit (probably wise, given his apparent size) and his robot mode is, frankly, not much better than Tailgate's partner, Groundbuster.

At least his TargetMaster gun form is slightly better - in that it's actually a gun - though the large wings with the undersides painted white don't look quite right. Amusingly, Takara Tomy released Swerve and Tailgate as a two pack, with Flanker repainted to resemble IDW Swerve's 'My First Blaster' weapon. Shame Hasbro didn't think of that... Not least because that could have given the model something closer to Sky High's colourscheme...

This is actually a pretty cool set and, while I know next to nothing about IDW's Swerve, he makes for a decent Legends class toy. Since I never owned any Micromasters, Flanker's homage - and colour change - are entirely lost on me, but he's at least as good as the average Arms Micron, and his paint job is far better than Groundbuster's, even if his articulation is identical.

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