Saturday, 3 October 2015

Combiner Wars Air Raid

When Hasbro declined to release the second wave of Combiner Wars toys across Europe, citing a lack of interest from vendors, that left collectors with an oh-so-nearly complete Superion and/or only the first component of Menasor, potentially leaving many fans unable to complete their contemporary sets of Generation 1's biggest rivals, the airborne Autobot team and the Decepticon road warriors.

This, obviously, is where the online retailers prove very useful... though the final component of Superion, Air Raid, sold out pretty quickly almost everywhere (mine is actually the US-style package, meaning I got a comic rather than a collectors' card, but pretty much everything else is standard) so I consider myself quite lucky.

But, of course, it's still a Hasbro product, so was it really worth the effort of tracking it down?

Vehicle Mode:
Whereas the original Air Raid transformed into an F-15 Eagle, the Combiner Wars version becomes and F-14 Tomcat... of a sort. I guess Hasbro/Takara Tomy feel that the F-15 is the iconic form of the Decepticon Seekers, so having an Autobot who also turns into that particular jet could confuse the current generation of child collectors. Of course, that doesn't take into account that the three main Seekers are likely to be released as Legends class and Leader class figures in the Combiner Wars line, the latter being retoolings of Generations Jetfire, so the Seekers' 30-year-old 'iconic form' doesn't necessarily seem that important here.

I was convinced that one of the original Aerialbots did transform into an F-14, but my brief research suggests I was very mistaken. Even the TFC Toys version of Air Raid was an F-15 (built in such a way that it could probably be repurposed as a Seeker with minimal effort), so the switch of model for CW seems rather pointless, all told.

However, it's a nice-looking jet. Naturally, it suffers from the same shortcomings of the rest of the CW Deluxe Aerialbots - the super-chunky undercarriage and the very visible robot arms - but, from most angles, he looks decent enough. His paint job references the G1 model more than adequately (certainly better than Skydive's), and livens up the look of the jet with silver, red and gold(-ish) stripes. Like Skydive, with whom he shares his tail end, he has no landing gear. This being an F-14, it has a functional 'swing wing' feature, which is quite a pleasant inclusion, considering the wings also fold back for robot mode.

Air Raid not only shares his tail section with Skydive, but both his weapons as well - exactly the same double-barrelled 'handgun' and exactly the same gestalt hand/foot missile launcher. As with Skydive, they look a bit daft mounted under his wings, but he does have a 5mm port on top of the fuselage for attaching one or the other. Again, like Skydive, neither option really works in that position.

One further similarity to Skydive is that, molded into the very front part of his wings, just before the swing joint, a pair of missiles on each side protrude slightly, right above the folded-in robot shoulders. Not sure if that's meant to disguise them further or draw attention to them but, for the most part, it has the latter effect on me. I also find the very stark contrast between Air Raid's white feet and the black body of the jet means the back end doesn't look as good as it did on Skydive... though that's not saying much.

Robot Mode:
Air Raid has much more the classic (if not Classic) Aerialbot silhouette - his torso is very boxy and his arms appear to be in a more natural - humanoid - position than Skydive's. But when I say that his main upper body chunk is 'boxy', it's not without detail - the 'chest' area is wider than the 'waist', and what seems to be the typical miniscule CW rotating crotch piece. There's some quite nice technical detailing in the sunken sections of his chest and on his arms, with splashes of the gold-ish paint on both to break up the red and white.

Of all the Aerialbots, Air Raid's colourscheme is almost certainly the weirdest. While basically a black jet in vehicle mode, his robot mode is red and white, which could almost be considered Aerialbot 'uniform' colours were it not for Skydive, who's red, black and grey in robot mode. Of course, he uses those colours in both modes, where the vast majority of Air Raid's black parts are essentially redundant in robot mode. It's puzzling to me that, having thrown the idea of uniform colourschemes out of the window, even back in G1, Air Raid wasn't made to have a bit more of an individual in robot mode. Still, what's there is nice enough, though his lower legs seem rather plain despite having more paint applications than Skydive's... I guess that's what happens when white plastic is used, versus grey, and the dumpy feet are left unpainted...

Since his weapons are basically identical to Skydive's except in colour, I won't bother going into too more detail - they work just as well in robot mode as they did for Skydive, which is to say the double-barrelled blaster is hollow and looks a bit rubbish, and the hand/foot missile launcher looks a little large for a hand weapon. It's a shame Air Raid's weapons aren't unique, as they were in G1, but I suppose it's a reasonable way for Hasbro to cut costs. That said, Air Raid is the only one of the Aerialbots whose handgun is molded in white plastic rather than black, which just seems inconsistent. He's also the only one to have 5mm ports molded into his forearms... This, coupled with the 5mm ports on all the jets' wings, almost suggests that Hasbro are daring some enterprising Third Party company to create weapon sets for the Aerialbots.

The head sculpt is more the traditional, G1-gestalt-limb-style box head, though far more detailed thanks to the size increase. It's mostly based on Air Raid's G1 cartoon appearance, too, though slightly more angular and with a strangely Terminator-esque face - the mouth/jaw area looks to have been made for a much larger head than the dinky nose and squinty eyes. Still, it's a very strong, if perhaps excessively human sculpt. While it's a shame that the head features no light piping, the metallic sky blue paint on his 'cap' extends all the way down the back of the head.

With Air Raid's entire rear end being of the same mold as Skydive's the only really significant differences in transformation are the simplified deploying of the arms - they just pull out and up from the body - and the fact that his swing-wings can be swung right up to stick out behind his head, rather than dangling down or sticking out behind as they do with the other jet-type Aerialbots. It's a very clean, simple transformation, very much in the Classics/Generations line of simply updating the existing scheme rather than reinventing the wheel. And, let's face it, if it came to a toss-up between a more complex transformation and sturdy articulation, those who favour Hasbro/Takara Tomy's output over the Third Parties will always be happy with the improvements in articulation in these reimagined G1 gestalt components.

Air Raid's articulation is generally good - much like all these new Combiner Wars Deluxes - though the clumpy lower legs with their dumpy, unarticulated feet can be awkward despite offering a good stable base. The major disappointment with this figure is that, like Skydive, his ball-jointed neck only really offers rotation as the molding of the back of the head prevents him looking up. Another inconsistency, as the three other Aerialbots have much more mobile noggins.

While I'm ultimately not fussed about Quickslinger/Slingshot - being a straight repaint of Firefly with a new head - had I not been able to acquire Air Raid, Superion just wouldn't feel right - quite apart from being incomplete, there's already one character substitution (Alpha Bravo), and fudging two would have been taking it too far.

Air Raid serves as good evidence in favour of Hasbro/Takara Tomy's recycling of parts of a mold as he feels unique despite sharing the molds for everything from the waist down (and weapons) with Skydive.

One other thing to note is that the comic packaged with Air Raid started to fall apart within moments of removing it from the packaging as it's glued together rather than being saddlestitched. Other than that, it's a nice inclusion... and almost has me curious about IDW's Combiner Wars comics series. I would have preferred to get a version of this toy with the collectors' card, simply because I have those for the other four but, equally, it would have been nice if Hasbro's European branches brought out the versions packaged with the comics, since it's all advertising for their products.

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