Friday, 29 April 2016

TransFormers Collectors' Club BotCon 2016 Combiner Wars Airazor

(Femme-Bot Friday #36)
While the Club (and BotCon specifically) isn't averse to retreading old ground and presenting alternate continuity versions of the same character, it's rarer for them to present a BotCon version of a character they've previously done as a Club premium exclusive.

And yet, BotCon 2016 seems, to some degree, to have brought us full circle with the Club's/BotCon's output, harking back to the appearance of the Tripredacus Council in the very first BotCon comic, Descent into Evil, updated as a Combiner Wars gestalt. There were other references both to Beast Wars and BotCon 2006's awesome Beast Wars prequel Dawn of Future's Past, too, with attendee exclusives including a version of TransMetals 2 Megatron made from RiD/Car Robots Mega-/Galvatron, Terrorsaur from CW Air Raid, CW versions of  BW Tripredacus Agent Ravage, a second pre-Beast Wars Tigatron and even a CW version of a character who'd previously only been a Happy Meal toy.

The one that caught my eye, though, was BotCon's do-over of the reason I joined the Club back in 2007. Daring, perhaps... but was it foolish for them to take a mulligan on what is still one of my favourites?

Vehicle Mode:
Well I never, the Windblade mold gets another repurposing... What's that now? Four since she arrived last year? Though, technically, this is repurposed from the Slipstream retool that arrived right near the end of the year. Straight away, it's smaller than the Club's previous take on Airazor, but that's not necessarily a bad thing, especially since the colourscheme pays greater homage to the original Beast Wars toy (or the CGI character in the TV show, at least).

Looking at this figure for the first time, I was reminded of the early days of the Club, where they would frequently add a note to their photos "there is no black on this toy" - largely because their photography and/or Photoshop skills were such that just about any dark colour could end up looking black on-screen or in print. Airazor is cast largely in a nice dark brown, with the turbine frames, afterburners and tail fin being orange. Both colours are darker and richer than those used on BW Airazor, but that's fine, as it's all straying toward the CGI version rather than veering away from either. There's a very pale beige paint used on the wings and the nose, mimicking the pale feathers on her underside in the TV show, though it can't run the full extent of the underside due to the robot chest sitting there. The turbines and the cockpit are molded from a translucent green plastic, and the cockpit's frame is painted over so it stands out nicely. Also standing out are the robot's feet, sticking up out of the fuselage just in front of the tail. They've been a bit of an eyesore on every version of this mold, but having them painted yellow and orange doesn't do anything to disguise them.

This being based on the Slipstream retool, Airazor comes with two dinky blasters - photon cannons according to her bio - which slip loosely into place under the wings and never really point forward. They're quite heavily painted, though - coated in black, with yellow tips and silver details - so, while they look good at the moment, there's the question of how long the paint will actually last.

Other than that, this has all the same shortcomings as the very first usage of the mold, plus the tail never quite connects all the way to the tip. This issue has become gradually more apparent with each re-use of the mold, this and Slipstream being the worst examples. Nevertheless, on the face of it, this is an excellent re-interpretation of a pre-Beast Wars Airazor... In many ways a more sensible choice than the Energon Slugslinger mold, and certainly a more suitable colourscheme.


Robot Mode:
I had - and have - my doubts about this mold's suitability for Airazor, despite it seeming like a fairly obvious choice in jet mode. I needn't have worried, though, as she looks fantastic - despite many significant differences between this and her appearance in the TV show, there are enough hints of that character that it works very, very well. The torso - a simple repaint of Slipstream's - is nigh perfect. The only bit I don't quite understand is why they painted the fake cockpit on her chest in silver, when they could have painted it either green (to better match jet mode) or brown (to further the Beast Wars homage).

The wavy pattern on her upper chest and shoulder armour is a cute touch, though I'm not convinced it adds a great deal. The orientation of the lines on her shoulders seems to imply they armour pieces are meant to be left flapped down, which certainly works (and covers the use of brown plastic for the inner part of the shoulder, just above the bicep swivel joint), but it doesn't really suit the robot as a whole. I'd also argue that the molded details on the shoulder armour could have been picked out with a graduation of the beige paint, to give them a 'feathered' look.

One other interesting choice in the paint job is the multi-colour thighs - beige on the outside, yellow on the inside, with an orange stripe between them (all over dark brown plastic, as revealed by the gaps on the inner thighs!). With no molded detail to support the lines, it seems a bit weird, but it's heavily influenced by the CGI from the TV series.

The weapons work quite well for Airazor, whose TV incarnation didn't use the toy's weird claw-gun-thing, but instead had small blasters that transformed out of her forearms. The silver paint used on the small outer wings brings out the almost feather-like molded detail and the arms do look more complete with the weapons attached.

The head sculpt is the stock Slipstream head, though with no translucent parts... or, at least, the whole thing is painted over. It looks as though the base colour is black, with the front of the helmet getting both yellow and orange paint to frame the silver face, and her eyes are a light, bright green. I'm not sure how I feel about this version of the head as Airazor - it works (assuming a younger version of Airazor), but I can't help but think the Windblade sculpt would have been a better choice because of it's sweeping, curvy, feather-like details. As is traditional with FunPub's femme-bots, the artwork depicts her with lips darker than the rest of her face but, like Takara Tomy's Slipstream, the paint job doesn't match.

Considering the trouble I had getting this figure to stand, I'm not sure whether the heels were marginally extended for Slipstream, as I had thought. Of course, it could just be that one heel doesn't like to stay in place...


Aside from all the shortcomings of the Windblade/Slipstream mold (the heels, for example, may have been improved for the latter, but are still not entirely adequate), there are signs that this mold is already suffering from overuse - the aforementioned issues with the jet's tail fin aside, one of the afterburners likes to pop out of its joint during transformation and one of her shoulder armour pieces really doesn't like staying in place when the arm is moved. All of the joints are nice and stiff - slightly too stiff in some cases, and it feels as though the wings might break off as I move them around - so she stands well once properly balanced. One of her weapons doesn't like to clip properly onto her arm in robot mode, but I'm not sure if that's a problem with the plastic, the painted weapon or the pin that seems to protrude very slightly from her elbow.
The moment I saw photos of this figure, I knew I had to have it, however good or bad it turned out to be, because I'm a huge fan of Airazor. The fact that only 750 were made (versus 1200 of Tigatron, in case anyone's looking to complete that particular canonical pairing on their shelves) meant that they very quickly sold out, making eBay my only recourse. Thankfully, plenty of people seemed to have bought several, with the intention of making some of their money back by selling off their extras. Prices vary considerably - I picked up mine for a mere £70-odd ($100) plus shipping, but it looks to be about double that now and, even as a fan of the character, I'd be reluctant to pay that much for what amounts to a fairly small Deluxe with a premium paint job.

For those who aren't Airazor fans, there's probably not a whole lot of reasons to pay so far over the odds. The mold isn't the greatest, and there are other, far cheaper versions of it available.

One thing worth noting, which I only picked up on a day or two after I received Airazor in the post, is that the instructions describer her as 'Combiner Wars Airazor' rather than 'Timelines Airazor'. This puzzled me a little, so I had a look at the boxed set and, sure enough, it's labelled as 'TransFormers Generations Combiner Wars Predacus', not 'Timelines Predacus'... There's no reference to the Club's Timelines continuity anywhere, not even on the plastic bags she came in (one of which spells her name as 'Airrazor'). Furthermore, the box doesn't even refer to 'Dawn of the Predacus'. I guess there are behind the scenes political reasons for this, but it seems a shame that Fun Publications' final boxed set and attendee extras didn't even get their standard livery, even if they did get away with using their standard heavy card box and grey foam.

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