Monday, 13 July 2015

TransFormers Collectors' Club 2015 Members Incentive (Timelines) Lio Convoy

(Members Incentive Monday #11)
Over the last few years, I've been quite ambivalent about much of the Club's output. Membership figures have been fun, but the exclusives - and particularly the Subscription Service after year one - have been eminently avoidable... Just as well, considering the import charges I normally end up paying. In fact, overall, during the time I've been a member (wow... almost ten years now?), they've hit very few home runs.

But this year, something pretty miraculous happened. The club announced that one of its premium exclusives would be Nova Prime, based on the 'Thrilling 30' Orion Pax mold, but with a new head... and that this would also be used to create the 2015 Members Incentive figure... a reimagining of one of my favourite Beast Wars characters, none other than Lio Convoy!

Vehicle Mode:
I have to say, I was never interested in the Orion Pax toy... it was basically just another Deluxe Class Optimus Prime, with a vaguely interesting transformation, but looking a bit boring in both modes. Before seeing photos of this, I really wasn't convinced by the idea of the Orion Pax mold being used as Lio Convoy. And, at first glance, it was a terrible choice... I mean, Lio Convoy turned into a lion... this is just a pickup truck with weird fin things on the back. It doesn't take long, however, for the impression to arise that the front of the truck is painted like a white lion's face. A cartoonishly happy lion, to be sure, but it's definitely a lion.

One painted detail I really don't get is the red box on the roof... I wonder if it's intended to reference the button on the BW Lio Convoy that spins his mane-blades, or perhaps the one that deploys two of his missile launchers... but it seems like a waste of paint.

I gather this is meant to be some kind of Cybertronian truck and, while it looks rather alien compared to some other pickup trucks in the toyline, it's not really that different. It doesn't even appear to be in the same league of looking Cybertronian as the War for Cybertron version of Optimus Prime. The built up parts of the bonnet and front aren't that greatly built up, giving the impression of a sort of 1950s Hollywood vision of a futuristic pickup truck. The back end, where the bed is taken up by a set of four strange 'wings', furthers this impression.

Other than the grey sections at the front and back, there's not a great deal breaking up the masses of white plastic. There are painted details in black, blue, gold and red, but the gold in particular seems somehow anaemic, and the coverage on the 'wings' is less than ideal - it doesn't even get to the edges in some places.

The mold has mounting points for both of Lio Convoy's weapons - slightly recoloured versions of the axe and rifle packaged with Orion Pax - though it comes across like an afterthought, as if the designers felt obliged to mount the weapons somewhere, but couldn't be bothered to figure out proper storage, so the axe mounts on one side, the rifle on the other, and they just look like weapons tagged on to the sides of a truck.


Robot Mode:
I have to admit that it initially took rather a lot of effort to see this as Lio Convoy despite a rather excellent redistribution of vehicle colour and some fairly appropriate robot specific paintwork. Part of it, I guess, is the 'dual purpose' head, which also serves as the Club's Nova Prime, but the main problem is the lack of a friggin' great lion head on one shoulder. The silhouette is otherwise pretty good - Lio Convoy has to have a broad, powerful-looking upper body, and this mold certainly delivers. The legs aren't quite right, with the lower parts being far too bulky in comparison to the thighs, but the paintwork does a decent job of referencing the mechanical parts on Lio Convoy's mostly Beast mode legs.

One obvious thing it's missing is the chest panel that opens to reveal the Matrix chamber... but this mold manages to cheat that, by having silver-painted tech details behind a translucent red/pink chest window. It does seem weird that the Maximal insignia has been stamped on the lefthand side of the window, rather than over the square central panel behind the window, but I guess it's an attempt to remain true to the original toy, with its asymmetrical chest moldings.

The red paint on the forearms is supplemented with gold details that seem to be more of an Orion Pax/Optimus Prime reference than Lio Convoy - if any other paint had been required (which it wasn't) I feel grey would have been more appropriate. Again, I do wish the application of gold to the 'wings' was a bit more extensive, but, they work fairly well as they are to reference the sections of mane that end up on Lio Convoy's forearms. The waist really should have been painted with a dark metallic colour rather than black but I guess it looks OK. It might also have worked better if the arms below the shoulder had been molded in red plastic rather than white, but the gaping holes in his wrists are, frankly, far more unsightly than the areas which are merely unpainted. Versus the character artwork, there seems to be a bit of colour missing - the hip joints and the raised panels on the fronts of the thighs, as well as the bicep sections, seem to feature an implication of silver paint, but the final model leaves them unpainted.

The weapons are... OK... The axe is referenced in the character bio card, but the blaster isn't... and the fact that it's fairly obviously an Optimus Prime sort of gun means it doesn't really fit with Lio Convoy, who - traditionally - has a bunch of missile launchers in the mane of the lion head on his shoulder... which isn't on this model. The axe looks pretty good, almost like one of the melee weapons from War for Cyberton/Fall of Cybertron, though perhaps a little more ornate.

The head sculpt is a bit of a downer... Having been designed to serve as Nova Prime as well as Lio Convoy, it's a bit of a halfway house, probably looking more like Nova than Lio. The sculpt also looks strangely squashed - not least in overall width - and sort of angled backward, so that his chin seems to be jutting out. The shade of blue used is far too light, and the silver coverage of his mouthplate and 'ears' doesn't seem extensive enough... but at least the head is a decent size.


In spite of my ambivalence toward this mold generally, I have to admit the transformation is fairly good fun. The way the whole sides of the vehicle concertina down onto the lower legs seems quite wasteful, but the way it's done leaves the distribution of mass looking reasonably good. The hinges that bring his shoulders into place can be a bit floppy, and the shoulders only barely fasten onto the 'wing mirrors', but it's fairly well thought out considering it's all too apparent that the back of vehicle mode features the robot's arms just kind of hanging out in the truck bed.

Poseability is where this thing gets a little disappointing... though only a little. The head is theoretically on a ball joint, but its movement is restricted to rotation, with barely any tilt. The legs look like they should have excellent range, but the knees are quite heavily restricted, only reaching about a 60° bend, if that. Thankfully, the hips and ankles feature good, firm ball joints that support him well, while the hip rotation joint is virtually unlimited. The arms, being so blocky, and with such a tenuous connection to the torso, aren't great, but he does have wrist rotation.

The bio card is the usual Fun Pubs rubbish which paints the character as a bit of a liability, ensuring that neither the Predacons nor the Maximals can ever achieve superiority over the other and that "he interprets the brutality of war as nothing more than natural selection at work". Not exactly the greatest philosophy, considering he's billed as "Maximal Supreme Commander". Unlike a lot of their bio cards, this one at least mentions one of his weapons, though it's very vague about its function - implying much, explaining little. One can only hope that the Club comic will eventually clarify all... 

I mentioned in my writeup of the Club's 2012 members incentive figure Runamuck that I felt that year's pairing of free membership figure and premium exclusive repaint favoured the free version, and I think the same is true of 2015's. The mold in and of itself doesn't excite me, but the mostly-white repaint as Nova Prime - a character I have neither knowledge of, nor vested interest in - is utterly superfluous to my collection. Had it gone the other way round, I could see myself forking out for Lio Convoy as a premium exclusive because I like the original Lio Convoy, and I'm even vaguely interested in acquiring the BotCon Customising Class version of the figure, Galva Lio Convoy, since it references a rather rare (Lucky Draw) version of the Beast Wars toy.

The bottom line is that I really love this model and will steadfastly ignore all its shortcomings simply because it's a nice alternate take on Lio Convoy. Membership perks like this are why I stay with the club... Your mileage may vary.

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