Friday, 31 July 2015

Mastermind Creations Reformatted: R-10 Salvia Prominon (Ancress)

(Femme-Bot Friday #29)
Since this is quite likely to be the last proper Femme-Bot Friday post for a while, I figured I should keep back something special. Not kept back long, mind you, as this is one of my most recent purchases... And, sure, it's yet another iteration of MMC's Azalea mold, but this one actually gets a new head... and, rather than being a homage to a mere femme-bot, Salvia Prominon is their take on Solus Prime, the first female Cybertronian and one of the Thirteen, the original Primes.

Packaging:
The box is the standard thing for the Reformatted figures - similar to the standard Azalea rather the con-exclusive box-in-slipcase that the Asterisk version had. It's a nice matte-finish box with CGI of the figure on the front, actual model photos on the back, touches of silver foil for some of the lettering on one side, and some nice spot varnishing to bring out the detail and depth of the images. Inside the magnetically-sealed flap is a black-and-white lineart picture of Salvia Prominon with small touches of colour here and there, as well as the all-important large window showing off the model. It's a good, solid box, but the matte finish seems prone to scuffing.

Inside the box is another instruction manual/comic featuring another part in the story that started with Azalea. While it's a nice addition, there's so little dialogue or notation that it's a little tricky to follow... though I gather I'm currently missing a part, either from Zinnia or Eupatorium... but that's not quite enough to encourage me to buy either at this point. That said, this package does include Zinnia's 'fenders', so I would be able to 'complete' that figure, should I choose to pick one up in future.

There's also the usual collectors' card, with the box art picture of Salvia Prominon on one side and her stats on the other.


Vehicle Mode:
Ooh, shiny! Aside from the impressive colourscheme - when have we ever seen this much gold paint on an official Hasbro product? - the obvious differences here are that her accessories have to be mounted differently to the Azaleas, simply because of a couple of new parts. The hammer splits in two, with the hammer itself occupying the space formerly occupied by the blasters, right at the back of the vehicle. The handle, meanwhile, plugs into that curious 'belly button' socket that's been in the waist block ever since the first version of the mold - giving an idea of the long game Mastermind Creations were playing with this project - forming what must be the first unique vehicle mode weapon that any of these Reformatted femme-bots have had... Assuming it's to be considered a gun of some kind.

With the rear section already occupied, the pistols have to plug into the 'thigh holster' pegs and the swords have to plug into the calves. While this doesn't look great, it does give her extra 'wings' to complement those that spring out of her knees.

The colourscheme is curious. In what little artwork of Solus Prime I've seen, she tends to look fairly plain and generically silver. Ken Christiansen's version shows some evidence of pink and gold/copper, though Salvia Prominon is more of a very pale pastel purple, for the most part, molded in two subtly different shades. Translucent turquoise appears on her cockpit, wings and the spiky things that end up as her shoulders, and there there's those great swathes of gold paint. And, by God, it is gorgeous!

In some ways, I wish they'd been a bit more sparing with the gold paint, or at least applied it to details or in some kind of pattern, rather than in these massive blocks of paint coverage. Even just having a couple of unpainted patches or lines on the nosecone would have made a difference, but another colour or another shade would have been better. It does feel weird to be almost complaining about an excess of metallic paint, but that just goes to show how far this is from Hasbro's average output.

I have to say I'm warming to the alternate mode presented by this figure and the variants. The more I look at it, the more 'complete' it seems to be, though this one loses a few points because it's required to use the 'splayed wings and nosecone' form by the robot's shoulder armour, which will not fit underneath the normally reconfigurable 'fender' pieces. This does leave Salvia Prominon with only the emptier-looking alternate mode but, with the head of her hammer occupying so much space at the back, the gappiness of the rear end isn't quite so noticeable on her as it was on Azalea.


Robot Mode:
More shiny! It's actually surprising to find that Salvia Prominon actually looks unique, despite the head, shoulder armour and chest plate being the only newly-molded pieces on this version. The colourscheme of two shades of pale purple, translucent turquoise and masses of gold paint do wonders to differentiate her from Azalea, even the Asterisk version. Curiously, her groin has been left unpainted but, molded in a vaguely goldish beige plastic, it's not the most striking feature and doesn't detract from the overall look of the model.

The pistols and swords are the usual thing, packaged with every Azalea variant so far, so I won't bother mentioning them beyond noting the gold paint and translucent turquoise blades look very good. The main event, weapons-wise, and one of the few things making Salvia Prominon unique in the Reformatted femme-bot line, is her hammer - based very closely on the Forge of Solus Prime as depicted in the TransFormers Prime TV show... though, if this is supposed to be the same hammer, Salvia Prominon should theoretically be at least double the height of Azalea, rather than the same size. There's plenty of molded detail on the hammer itself and the handle, and both are thoroughly coated with more gold paint was well as a dark, subtly brownish gunmetal. Curiously, the hammer is screwed together on each face and I've read that some folks have had to unscrew it to separate the handle for vehicle mode storage. No such trouble with mine, but it was a very tight fit.

Oddly, the head sculpt seems disappointingly plain when compared to the original Azalea sculpt, largely because it has a very Optimus Prime-like mouthplate. The sculpt itself reminds me a lot of Transmetals Airazor, though the paintwork and colourscheme are obviously quite different. The mouthplate, side panels and band of her crown are painted silver, while the central crest is gold, and her eyes are painted something like AllSpark Blue. Other than that, the head is mostly unpainted, apart from a small piece at the back which has been painted to match the surrounding plastic.

Terrible photo - hopefully to be replaced soon...
Aside from having marginally more trouble getting the head into - and out of - its vehicle mode position than I had with either Azalea, and the aforementioned lack of 'compact' mode due to the larger, spikier shoulder armour, Salvia Prominon's transformation is identical to the other Reformatted femme-bots, so there's nothing to discuss on that score. However, the new weapon does fill one of the vehicle mode's most significant gaps with some success. It still doesn't look perfect, but I really am starting to appreciate the alternate mode a lot more than I did when I got my first Azalea.

Articulation, naturally, is exactly the same as all the others, so it's good to see she can wield her hammer in both hands. It'd work well enough if she was only able to hold it in one hand or the other but, despite the rotation-only joint at the wrist, it's fairly easy to get her into a decent two-handed swing pose.

The big disappointment for me is that, aside from the head and the upper body accessories, there are no remolded parts... I would have hoped that some of these variants would have, for example, a new chest (as opposed to a new plug-in chest plate), variations in the wrist and hip armour, if not the arms themselves, or perhaps newly designed feet. New fender pieces would surely have been achievable, even some new alternative method of attaching her fenders in robot mode would have been good, too: perhaps allowing them to attach to the hips to form a kind of skirt along with the large butt-flap. MMC have mass-released four of these figures and con-exclusived two more, with only two new head sculpts between all six iterations. The base model is excellent and the new head sculpts are pretty cool... but it's been crying out for just a tad more variety since the original Zinnia variant. Much as I like this model, its colourscheme and its opulent coating of gold paint - and I'm certainly glad I bought it - I can't help but feel a little aggrieved that opportunities for greater variation or for further improvements have been missed.

If nothing else, Salvia Prominon could surely have been given entirely new weapons to go along with her hammer. The same pair of identical blasters and identical swords is getting pretty boring, and no amount of colour variation is going to make them seem exciting.

That said, literally the only thing keeping me from buying Eupatorium is the rather sad lack of vehicle mode specific paintwork... Which goes to show how awesome MMC's femme-bot mold really is.

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