Sunday, 11 October 2015

G.I.Joe/TransFormers Collectors' Club 2015 Old Snake with Advanced Stealth B.A.T. duo

While the TransFormers Collectors' Club has been run by the same company as the G.I.Joe Collectors' Club for about ten years now (wow, that makes me feel old!), and despite the fact that TransFormers and G.I.Joe have crossed paths in the associated fiction several times, the two Clubs have only relatively recently started crossing over their exclusives. It started a few years ago, with the likes of Hound, Starscream and Jetfire being turned into G.I.Joe vehicles but, this year, the TransFormers Collectors' Club released a pair of crossover exclusives: Afterbreaker (formerly Technobot Afterburner) with Marissa Faireborn and Old Snake with Advanced Stealth B.A.T. Duo.

Since the former is a non-transforming toy - just an underachieving repaint of a GI Joe movie vehicle featuring a spring-loaded gimmick that either fails to work at all, or operates on a hair trigger - with a fairly nondescript G.I.Joe figure, that was an easy pass for me: one thing I may never understand is TransFormers toys that don't transform.

The latter is a different story...

While the Club traditionally supply their exclusives and boxed sets in large, sturdy boxes, with the individual models held securely in a foam insert, for this premium, they went with a bog-standard, card-backed plastic tray and bubble. Frankly, this looks like something you could pick up at Toys'R'Us rather than a Collectors' Club exclusive. Perhaps this is how the G.I.Joe Club presents its exclusives, and maybe their members are accustomed to - perhaps even appreciative of - this sort of presentation... but for me - and, I suspect, at least som other members of the TransFormers Collectors' Club - this is a real let-down.

Making matters worse, the bubble is glued to the card all round rather than having tabs wrapped around and taped down, so there's no way to get at the figures without either tearing it off the card or cutting the bubble. I'm not planning to re-sell these, but I am used to exclusives presented in such a way that the packaging remains intact after it's opened.

On the upside, you do get two G.I.Joe-style index-file bio cards but, again, you'd need to effectively destroy the packaging to really make use of them. This does not compare favourably to the TransFormers Collectors' Club's separate bio cards... even if the grammer and general content are a little better on these... Naturally, since the A.S.B.A.T.s are effectively drones, there's only one bio covering both rather than individual character bios... and I'm really none the wiser as to who 'Old Snake' is having read his file card, so they're not massively different to the TFCC's usual output.

Vehicle Mode:
For a G.I.Joe crossover, there can't be many no-brainer choices of TransFormers toys than TransFormers Prime Soundwave, and the idea of a sinister drone is clearly suited more to COBRA than to the fine, upstanding Joes. Decked out in mostly black with a few bits of yellow, this could almost be TF Prime Soundblaster, were it not for the red Battle Android Trooper's 'faceplate' painted onto the nose and the COBRA/Decepticon insignias emblazoned on the wings.

The black plastic hides the majority of the awkward robot detailing towards the rear of drone mode, but the yellow plastic draws the eye to other parts... and that doesn't really work in its favour. Yellow is also a decidedly odd choice of colour for something described as an 'Advanced Stealth' anything, but having it all black would have been pretty dull, I think. There are a few details on the wings highlighted in silver, but there's a certain sense that it's there to balance out the fact that the robot's hands are painted silver and somewhat obvious on the leading edges of the wings.

Where Soundwave had Laserbeak, the Advanced Stealth B.A.T.s each have a Nightshriek remote unit, which can get to the parts other, larger drones cannot reach. Or something. It's a neat way of explaining away the detachable flying thing, and I'm glad they went with Laserbeak rather than the decidely poor Ravage analogue packaged with Beast Hunters Soundwave.

One thing that became very obvious when I first got these two out of the packaging was that the rubber parts were molded in a softer rubber than the original Soundwave toy, though the effect of this is variable, depending on the specific part. In fact, I'm not completely certain, but it does feel as though there are more parts of this molded in rubber than there were on Soundwave. The rear fins on both of my B.A.T.s are bent outward due to the packaging (another good reason for sticking with the Club's usual foam inserts rather than the crappy plastic bubble!). They're reluctant to bend back to their intended shape...and I'm reluctant to apply any heat to the problem in case it causes problems with the paint.

Still, the mold is excellent, and the Cobra android colourscheme works pretty well in this mode.

Robot Mode:
And now he really looks like TF Prime Soundblaster - all he needs is a bit more silver, ideally covering all the yellow plastic on his legs...

The thing that blew me away about this model is that they molded the visor in translucent red plastic, allowing for lightpiping that, almost criminally, in retrospect, was lacking on TF Prime Soundwave. Granted, the painting of his visor looked great, so it wasn't too detrimental to the overall look of the modes but, looking at this thing, it could have been so much better if only they'd used translucent grey or purple plastic. The blank, translucent red visor here suits the B.A.T. look perfectly, as do the armour plates on the chin. For a mold designed so specifically for one character, it's surprisingly effective.

The additional colour is fairly simple - silver for the collar, hands and a small patch at the elbow, a strip of yellow on the left shoulder implying a bandolier - but the Nightshriek unit adds patches of red and green to break things up and to refer back to the original humanoid B.A.T.s. It's minimal, but very effective, and doesn't look out of place when the unit is separated from the main body. I might have preferred a bit of silver paint inside the chest cavity - to highlight the fact that this is an android with a separate remote unit that docks with its body - but it's not a terrible loss.

The Nightshriek's larger wings are far more flexible than those of Laserbeak, but at least they weren't bent out of shape straight from the packaging. The strangest thing about the Nightshriek units is that, unless I misread the information on the B.A.T.s, what you have is a transforming android drone... with a drone unit.
"Yo, dawg (or should that be 'snake'?)... I heard you like drones, so we fitted your UAV with a UAV so you can drone from your drone"... Um. Yeah.

Given that this is a crossover, it's a little disappointing that the B.A.T.s are unarmed. Just a couple of the TF Prime Vehicon handguns would have been perfect additions to this package. It's OK without, but it seems strange for a COBRA android to be unarmed other than its drone and whatever armaments it might supposedly carry in its alternate mode.

Old Snake:
For several reasons, this was the part of the package I was ambivalent - if not actually dubious - about. I've no objection to G.I.Joe figures, per se, as the articulation tends to be pretty good... I even remember owning a couple of Action Force figures back in the day, before the line was absorbed into its more grandiose, American-styled progenitor (in fact, my sister and I once each had a full-size Action Man figure as well). The trouble is that this one comes with a long coat, and everyone knows that long coats molded in rubber absolutely ruin the articulation of any action figure. This guy's legs are effectively immobile above the double-jointed knee and no amount of ankle articulation can make up for that.

The figure does look pretty good, though, with its eerie silver mask under an almost comical floppy hat, and the wind-swept molding of the coat's tails. What little paintwork there is looks good, though my eyes are somewhat upset by the painting of silver buttons on areas where no detail is molded. The jacket could have done with a subtle black wash to bring out some of the detail, though it looks OK without, just not really like a premium collectable figure. I do like that the inside of his collar is painted red, but that does draw the eye to a pronounced seam in the neck... Not sure if that's a QC issue with my specific Old Snake or if it's common to G.I.Joe figures but, since I'm really not fussed about this part of the package, I'm not bothered enough to investigate.

The 'ab crunch'/waist articulation is decent though, again, the rubber coat causes problems. The arms are excellent, though he does seems to slouch... he seems no different in that respect to any other G.I.Joe figure, but the backpack and upturned collar seem to emphasise it. I guess a slouch is appropriate for a character identified as 'Old Snake', though... He stands reasonably well on his own, but does have a tendency to fall backwards when not plugged into his stand. Weirdly, though, the pegs on the stand are far too long for the sockets in his feet, so he seems to hover slightly above the stand and, with the coat restricting the movement of his legs, it can be tricky to spread his feet far enough to fit them to the stand.

His weapon is a simple pistol which fits in either hand or in the molded holster on the righthand side of his belt. I half expected it to be molded in the appearance of G1 Megatron's alternate mode, but it seems to be a fairly generic sort of gun.

While I strongly dislike the method of packaging, this is an excellent set. It hasn't made me want to start collecting G.I.Joe figures - though I'm open to the idea of a Baroness figure to go with my Aranea, if I ever see one I like the look of - but the redeco of TF Prime Soundwave is inspired and looks awesome. The fact that you get two of them, plus a G.I.Joe figure (and a couple of Energon Cubes, but they're a bit rubbish and I didn't think to include them in any photos) makes the set just about worth the asking price in my opinion... Then again, I do particularly like the TF Prime Soundwave mold, so your mileage may vary.

It's also worth noting that when my set first arrived, one of the two B.A.T.s had a couple of QC issues: one of the legs had a mis-pinned joint that left the slight inward tilt (mid-thigh) very loose and out of alignment in drone mode, and the Nightshriek unit had been assembled with two of the same yellow hinge, meaning it couldn't dock with the B.A.T.'s torso properly. This was resolved quickly and easily by contacting the Club (once I'd dug out the right email address - the contact form on the website didn't seem to work) who sent out a replacement and, since I'm an international member, didn't even require me to send the faulty one back. My sincere thanks go to Karen Lee at FunPub for sorting it all out so quickly and efficiently.

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