Sunday, 24 April 2016

DotM Mechtech Que (aka Wheeljack)

When Hasbro decided to cancel the Dark of the Moon toyline early, it has to be said that there were probably sound business reasons for doing so - the line was, in a lot of cases, a step backward and the law of diminishing returns had applied itself quite harshly to the toyline. Still, this evidently left Hasbro with stocks of packaged figures that weren't going anywhere for a while.

It seems that Takara Tomy eventually released 'Autobot Que' in their own packaging, while the Asian market received Hasbro's release of 'Wheeljack'. The character was only ever referred to as 'Que' in the movie - a nod to James Bond's Quartermaster, apparently, and so possibly only a nickname - but the technical genius and the sack of gadgets are certainly Wheeljack through and through.

Considering the brevity of his role in the film - introduced with no explanation, stuck in the background with minimal dialogue, handing out weapons, then unceremoniously captured (off screen) and executed (graphically, on screen) by Soundwave and his team - it's no surprise that Hasbro didn't mind not making him (easily) available to the fans... But is he worth tracking down?

Vehicle Mode:
For whatever reason, I continually get confused over the logos of BMW and Mercedes (both are round and their cars are extremely, boringly similar?) so I kept thinking that Que was a BMW. He is, of course, the Mercedes-Benz E550 - as indicated by the model number stamped on his boot (albeit not in the correct font!). The bulk of the car is molded in a quite lovely sparkly blue plastic, with the windows and headlights being a translucent grey. The front windows and part of the roof are all one section of this cloudy plastic and the metallic blue paint used for the roof and window frames is a terrible match - either it's too dark or too translucent in and of itself, allowing the plastic shows through, but it could be far worse.

I'm quite impressed with the paint job overall - it's a significant improvement on Hasbro's average in recent years, with silver paint used for the Mercedes-Benz badge (front and back!), the front grille, the exhaust pipes and the door handles, as well as rings around the hubcaps. He also has fully painted tail lights, which is something very rarely seen on any of the movie line toys. I'd have been impressed enough had they been painted red only, but the addition of silver improves things further. The front of the car has some black paint in the recessed parts of the bumper, but the weirdly-shaped lights in the outer panels are missing, both in terms of molded detail and paint, as is the line of silver running between the wheels on each side and around the rear bumper. I'd also say that the headlights could have used some silver paint inside the translucent plastic, just to help them stand out better - I mean, it seems odd to actually mold them in another plastic, then let them become almost invisible against the opaque blue.

In terms of molded detail, there's a heck of a lot to this model - even the little retractable water jets for the headlights have had their cover panel marked with panel lining though, strangely, the indicator lights aren't sculpted or painted on just ahead of the front wheels. Some brief research into the car suggests that some models actually didn't have front indicators, so perhaps this is one of those. One gripe I have with this figure is that the side panels don't line up properly, leaving small but visible gaps in the middle of the front doors. I've tried to correct this numerous times, but this seems to be either a flaw in the moldings or the assembly... and I've yet to see one online that lines up correctly. The left side of the bonnet also doesn't like to sit flush with the sides of the car, but that definitely looks to be a problem with plastic tolerances.

Que has two Mechtech ports - both on the front of his roof - but none of his accessories are ideally suited to mounting there and two of them lack the necessary peg. His packaging depicts the Mechtech toolkit/saw on his roof, which works well enough as the saw blade extends just beyond the front of the car when deployed.

Robot Mode:
Que's design left me very puzzled by the movie series. He (and Jetfire) seemed to imply that the physical features of a Cybertronian change over the course of their long lives but, even so, Que's bumbling, slightly hunched, ancient scientist look seemed daft. The design was pretty typical of what we've come to expect from the live action movie series by that point - overcomplicated, angular and fairly ugly, yet identifiable as something that might disguise itself as a vehicle - but the whole 'old man' schtick grated with Jetfire and just wasn't explained with this brief new addition to the robot cast.

There's a lot of new colour in robot mode - something of a jumble, in fact. The bulk of the body is a mid-grey plastic, with the arms and legs using pale grey and cyan as well. He's quite extensively painted, but uses a slightly goldish paint on the torso, groin and hips. This all seems a little excessive and unlikely given the colour of the car, and there's a section in the middle of the chest where the Mercedes-Benz logo is sculpted in, giving the impression that it should have been painted silver and, by extension, that the surrounding area should probably have been painted metallic blue. The colouring of the legs almost works because the goldish paint leads directly down from the torso, but the cyan that remains still seems out of place. The lower legs are also surprisingly gappy, because the feet get folded up into the shins for vehicle mode, with only a small tongue protruding up from the top of the feet attempting to distract the eye from the space they vacated. The arms, meanwhile, just look messy - cyan biceps, mid-grey forearms and hands, but pale grey elbows in between, without a hint of paint anywhere on them... Seems as though Hasbro could have cast most, if not all of the cyan parts in the mid-grey for a more consistent end result.

Unlike most of the Dark of the Moon toys, Que has four separate accessories. Three are solid bits of plastic with c-clips - what looks like a Black & Decker cordless power drill, some kind of gun and a spear, all of which can attach to various points on his body via c-clips when they're not in his hands - while the other is the ubiquitous Mechtech weapon. This is pretty clever - just for a change - in that it's designed to resemble G1 Wheeljack's toolkit. Pulling back on the slider sends the circular saw forward on a pair of thin but stable arms, while the saw itself spins thanks to the gearing. I'm not a huge fan of the Mechtech weapons generally, as most of them were oversized and unsuited to the character they were packaged with, but this one is perfect. The way the blade swings forward and carries on spinning is a neat touch, and the 'toolkit' is nice and compact when not in use. As well as being carried around by it's handle, it can plug into Que's forearms to allow the Mechtech saw to be used more directly as a weapon. Aside from the c-clip on his back for attaching the spear, there are two 5mm ports back there... but nothing really to attach to them.

The head sculpt is not entirely accurate, but it certainly gives the impression of the CGI character from the movie. Part of the problem is that it's molded in the mid-grey plastic, with translucent grey 'hair' parts protruding from each side, then it's painted stark silver from the 'eyebrows' down, giving him a rather clownish appearance. The details that could be a robo-stache are painted metallic cyan, as is the large, slotted screw 'mole' on his forehead, while his eyes seem to be something like AllSpark Blue. The two lenses just below his eyes haven't been given any special treatment so they blend in with the mass of intricate - and, frankly, quite ugly - detail on his face. I keep reading/hearing this head sculpt described by comparison to Albert Einstein, but Einstein wasn't bald to this degree and didn't wear spectacles. Que may look like a generic or stereotypical scientist, but he definitely ain't paying homage to Einstein. The 'proper' Wheeljack figure released - that is to say, a Mercedes-Benz E550 in something approaching G1 Wheeljack colours - had a new movie-style G1 Wheeljack head which was - no surprise - overcomplicated and somewhat ugly, but at least it had light piping.

Honestly, though, the vehicle mode doesn't really suit the idea of G1 Wheeljack - the E550 is a family/business car... The Lancia Stratos was a compact sports car.

Dark of the Moon's toy range managed to tone down the complexity of the earlier movie figures without resorting to the cheated detail and shellforming of most of the the Age of Extinction cars. There are quite a few visible vehicle panels on Que's robot mode - on the shoulder and hips most prominently - but others are folded away quite neatly on his back. The transformation of the legs reminded me somewhat of the TF Prime Vehicons, since the lower legs are formed from the top of the car, but there's a lot less folding up involved with Que. The arms are comparatively straightforward - folded back on themselves and tucked under the bonnet - and the head simply swings back down into the opened torso. I've heard that the feet are prone to breaking somehow if transformed incorrectly, but I'm at a loss to see how they can be transformed incorrectly as they're so simple and straightforward.

I have to admit I'm a little disappointed by Que's articulation - the range of the knees is quite small thanks to the large chunks of car rear hanging off behind them and, while the arms technically have excellent range (the shoulders are ball joints on the end of hinges, he has bicep swivel and double-jointed elbows) the car panels that fold around the front limit their range when in their proper position, or stick out at the wrong angle if the arms are moved around. On the upside, he has waist rotation and hip swivel that is independent of the ball joint there, and the feet can swing back and forward quite a way due to the way they transform. However, without much range at the knee, much of that is basically wasted. One feature I do quite like, though, is that it's really easy to pose him hunched over, because the feet are so large and the ball jointed neck offers sufficient range to have Que looking forward even when bent down. I find the bicep swivel rather too tight, making me worry that I'll break his arms while turning them sometimes, but he can certainly hold a pose.

Disappointing articulation, dodgy head sculpt and weird colouring aside, I think Que is a fantastic toy - it has all the detail of a movie figure and the transformation is involved and rewarding without becoming overcomplicated. The accessories seem better thought out than those of most of the Mechtech toys, and the alternate mode has a far better paint job than I'd expected... though that's likely only because it's a Hasbro release from the Asian market rather than the US/European market. This does mean his price is slightly inflated for what is quite a small Deluxe (his vehicle mode is smaller, even, than some of the Age of Extinction toys), but I managed to find him available in the UK for about £30 on Amazon, so there are some good deals out there.

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