Friday, 20 September 2013

TransFormers Collectors' Club 2013 (Timelines) Circuit

So, here we are, halfway through the first year of the TransFormers Collectors' Club's all-new Subscription Service. One pretty dull entry, one pretty awesome... and now an update of an Action Master. Who'd have thought a range of barely-articulated, non-transforming action figures could inspire such a move?

Well, it's certainly not unprecedented - the Club updated Banzai-Tron for BotCon four years ago, then Double Punch and Slicer the following year, and they turned out pretty good. In 2011, there was even the gaudy repaint of Thundercracker in his Action Master colours. Then there's another former Action Master - Jackpot - still to come from the TFSS1.0 and yet another - Treadshot - scheduled for next year's Subscription Service.

Thing is, Action Masters are still pretty obscure, and the very fact that they were non-transforming figures means they can be tricky to match to an existing, transforming robot. Some were clearly based on simplified forms of proper G1 toys... but others clearly weren't. Lucky, then, that Hasbro had already got in on the action, repainting the 'movie' Lockdown mold, giving it a new head and weapon, and calling it Axor. Due to the reuse of Action Master molds, all the Club had to do was release the same model in a new colourscheme and, hey presto, you have Circuit.

Vehicle Mode:
When I first saw mocked-up images of this, two thoughts occurred to me. The first was "Ach, mein eyes!" I mean, let's face it, the Club has produced some lurid colour schemes, particularly with its Generation 2 Redux theme in 2010... but bright yellow, magenta and cyan, all on one model? Surely that would cause migraines, if not seizures in some unfortunate people? Once I'd got that out of the way, the second thought was that, not knowing much about Action Masters, I didn't connect Axor and Circuit, so I couldn't understand why such a bizarre mold was chosen by the Club for such an obscure character.

And, in many ways, I still can't understand why this mold was chosen, either for Axor or Circuit. Ignoring the fact that they had both been non-transforming robots, so a certain amount of artistic license could be employed, this was derived from the movieverse reinterpretation of the TransFormers Animated bounty hunter, Lockdown. It's not just a muscle car/street racer... it's covered in spikes. Lockdown got away with looking like something out of a bondage gear catalogue because his colours were dark and subdued, and his character fitted the look... This thing..?

So here you have a mostly sunshine-yellow car (bright and warm, almost orange, as opposed to the quite desaturated, burnt yellows used for movie Bumblebees, for example) decorated with bright cyan on the bonnet, rear wheel arches and - bizarrely - the tyres, desaturated magenta for the arc patterns on the roof and sides, all the spikes, the side exhaust pipes and the rear side panels above the wheel arches, and orange for the front bumper and what almost looks like a small cargo bed in the back, along with miscellaneous small details. It's a weird colourscheme... but it's very true to the Action Master. Considering how much paint has been lavished on this model, it's a real shame that the rear bumper, exhaust pipes and signal lights are unpainted.

For the most part, vehicle mode looks pretty solid, though the bright colours - and the contrast between the plastic and the paintwork - do highlight some of the seams that might otherwise pass unnoticed. There are parts that don't match up properly - most notably the windscreen, which doesn't sit flush with the bonnet, and the two rear side panels, which leave quite ugly gaps between then and the orange rear panel.

Another couple of things bother me about this vehicle, though: the spikes protruding from the tyres are rubber, and the robot's axe weapon sticks out at the bottom, very nearly level with the tyres. Also, considering its proximity to a molded seam in the rear signal lights, I'm baffled by the choice to put the split in the car's rear where it is... the extra seam could have been incorporated better.

The engine block is removable - because it doubles as one of the robot's weapons - though it leaves an ugly, unpainted hole in the bonnet. Unlike the TF Animated model, there are no concealed, transforming bits... so the 'weapon' does just look like a custom engine block.

In all honesty, this looks like a bit of a clown car... Possibly a homicidal clown, but it's just too garish for anything else.

Robot Mode:
Weirdly, in this mode, I can sort-of see the reasoning behind this choice of mold for a former Action Master... only not. It was one of the most awkward in the extended movie line... and that's really saying something. This mold almost makes a virtue of asymmetry, with the arms and thighs molded quite differently.

Bizarre as it is, the colourscheme fits the model rather well... though maybe because it's a rather clownish model? He's certainly just as colourful, with magenta and orange plastic turning up on the arms and legs.

Circuit is almost improbably tall for a Deluxe class toy - just over 7 inches/18cm when standing straight, which is taller than a lot of Voyagers these days - and, due to the unusual way the legs are jointed, he actually gets slightly taller in some dramatic poses. This being a mold originally from the Revenge of the Fallen toyline, he features a Mech Alive gimmick - twist the legs at the knee and the orange core of the thighs rotate with them.

A common feature of the Revenge of the Fallen and Dark of the Moon toylines was the increase in the amount of rubber used for certain parts, for no obvious reason (other than the usual alleged 'safety concern' excuses). There's not a great deal on this mold, but the two rubber pieces really don't seem like smart choices: the left hand might fold away nicely enough, but the axe just hangs on the underside of the car. It's not even the fairly stiff kind of rubber that was used, for example, on DotM Crankcase's dreadlocks, it's the really ridiculously floppy kind. I can understand Hasbro not wanting Lockdown's hook to snap too easily, but the axe on this version of the mold seems to have a potentially sturdy shaft. Having it molded in rubber just makes it more difficult to transform into vehicle mode.

Since the head mold was originally used for Axor, and the original Axor and Circuit Action Masters shared the same mold, the head obviously a good fit, and it does look pretty good... but sloppy paint applications, not to mention an overall lack of paint on the face, make it look unfinished. Literally all you get is the 'U' shape on the forehead and a smear on the chin. It's a real shame, because there's lots of intricate detail there, lost in the plain yellow plastic. The light piping is good, but only really works when the neck is fully extended.

The engine block weapon - the only use of silver paint on the model - seems rather weedy when attached to Circuit's arm, particularly since, unlike the Animated version, it doesn't transform.

Getting Circuit from one mode to the other is not too complicated when you know how. The only really fiddly bits are getting the arms back in place for vehicle mode (with all that 'armour' getting in the way of everything) and getting the car roof back over his head.

One look at the photos above will probably tell you all you need to know about Circuit's articulation. It's not bad, but it is very much restricted on the righthand side... and since that's where his axe weapon lives, that's rather detrimental to the model as a whole. The way the rear of the car sits on his backside means the right leg can't move out much, or back at all.  The right arm has its ball-jointed elbow restricted by the curious and unnecessary piston gimmick on the forearm and the large slab of car shell tagged onto the outside of the arm. This panel can be rotated into a position which minimises its impact, but the car's window is then sticking out the bottom of the arm. The shoulder looks quite awkward, but is actually pretty mobile - it's the covered-over left shoulder that's restricted. Other than that, the left arm would be fine... were it not for a slightly loose elbow.

The bottom line here is that I'm more impressed with this model than I thought I'd be... though that's more to do with the original Lockdown mold not being quite as bad as expected, which has a knock-on effect for the Axor version and this repaint. Also, garish as the colourscheme is, it's not quite so eyewateringly migraine-inducing as the early Photoshopped mock-ups suggested. This certainly isn't one of the models I was looking forward to, but I'm certainly enjoying it now I have it.

I'm also very impressed that the folks at FunPub have created a bio for an Autobot who's clearly not very nice, and they haven't tried to sugarcoat it or mitigate it. It reads more like a complete bio that most of the things they include with their exclusives - compare and contrast to Slipstream's exercise in vague. It has me looking forward to seeing Circuit in the Club comic... and wondering how he came to be an Autobot!

One oddity is that the instructions show the model with the Axor/Circuit head, but Lockdown's hook weapon. It's a minor point, but I wonder if it suggests a change in the model at a late stage in production.

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