Sunday, 15 May 2016

TransFormers Collectors' Club 2016/Combiner Wars Needlenose

And so the penultimate year of the TransFormers Collectors' Club's distinctly variable Subscription Service begins. Being an international member, I tend to get my Club figures about three to four weeks after US members, and this year's Subscription Service looks as though it won't be an exception.

It brings with it, just like this year's BotCon Set, a sense of the Club coming full circle: its first Membership Incentive figures were the five components of a Superlink/Energon-style gestalt, Nexus Prime, and so its penultimate Subscription Service is creating a new, Combiner Wars-style gestalt. More than that, just like all the figures from BotCon, this is not a Timelines set, it's labelled in every way as part of Combiner Wars.

When this year's set was announced, I was intrigued, but pretty ambivalent - and hadn't expected the massive glut of awesome Combiner Wars/Unite Warriors stuff that subsequently appeared - so I signed up eagerly. I don't know anything about the Mayhem Attack Squad, or the variation on Thunderwing - Thunder Mayhem - which they combine to form, but the idea seemed cool, and I liked the idea of building another Club gestalt.

Let's see how the first component looks...

Vehicle Mode:
Not that I'm at all familiar with the G1 toy - I'm not even certain it came out in the UK, though I know (some of) the miniature HeadMasters did, so I don't see why the TargetMasters wouldn't - but the Firefly mold seems like an odd choice for Needlenose. I would have thought Skydive was the better choice, at least as far as his vehicle mode was concerned, and then Windsweeper should have been Air Raid, since both are swing-wing jets. Still, what do I know, eh?

Since the mold looks nothing like the G1 original, the Club have opted to paint him up to get it as close as possible. This means that, with the majority of his parts being molded in pale grey plastic, he has an incredibly extensive paint job. The entire nosecone section, for example, is coated thickly but evenly in blue paint, with red over the top of that for the canopy and some black over the small intakes either side of the cockpit. The robot's arms, far from being made to blend in, are entirely painted with a sort of pale lavendar. All the wings and fins are decorated with white and metallic green linework, and I'm pleasantly surprised to see that linework continue from the front wings onto the body of the jet. It still stops abruptly and unevenly - not even attempting to match the molded detail by the looks of it - but at least it continues beyond the wings' hinges, unlike Firefly's. Th tailfin is painted blue beneath its linework and, somewhat strangely, there are Decepticon insignias on Needlenose's stabiliser fins rather than his wings - as a result of their position on the G1 toy, I'd imagine. The trailing edges also have blocks of black and yellow, approximately over what would be his flaps, which seem to refer to a wing sticker detail that runs along the fuselage.

Even with all this paintwork, he doesn't look much like the G1 original... but this is a Combiner Wars update, so it's forgivable. This is one of the stranger Aerialbot molds - loosely a Harrier (which is cool) but chunky and quite clumsy... and those purplish robot arms really do stand out against the pale grey fuselage of the jet.

As well as a standard hand/foot gun (described as a Cryo Coolant Concussion Cannon) and Firefly's flamethrower (unaccountably intended to represent a 'long range rifle'), Needlenose comes with contemporary updates of his TargetMaster weapons, Sunbeam (the purple, red and white gun) and Zputty (formerly Zig-Zag, the black and yellow, double-barrelled gun), who are barely more complex than their G1 ancestors. Both are straight repaints of the TargetMaster weapons included with Generations Scoop, and it's really nice to have two such similar weapons to mount on his under-wing ports, rather than the silly flamethrower/rifle thing and the comparatively enormous hand/foot gun. Still, with these two weapons, it's an even greater shame that this mold lacks the topside 5mm port to mount one of the standard weapons.

Robot Mode:
Well, I suppose he kind of looks like the G1 original, if you squint... The existing molded detail has been adapted by way of paintwork to look sort-of like the stickers of the original G1 toy. He even has much the right sort of build, with a gradually tapering torso, slim waist and slender legs, with arms hanging well and truly away from the shoulder. The sculpted detail of the Firefly mold's chest isn't a perfect match but, presented all in grey, it works well enough though, bizarrely, the combiner peg does look very similar to the detailing of the central portion of G1 Needlenose's chest. His arms, with the exception of the sculpted guns sprouting from the backs of his hands, look like a more contemporary, detailed take on the square purple rods of the original. The weakest link is almost certainly the head sculpt which, being the stock Firefly model, repainted to resemble Needlenose, is only adequate. Gone is the knight's helm look, to be replaced by a generic TransFormers angular faceplate in a very boxy head.

What I find quite interesting - at least, when looking at my own photos now - is how much less intrusive the winged backpack is compared to Firefly. The grey of the chest stands out far more prominently than the same grey protruding awkwardly from his back. This stood out quite harshly on Firefly, being red plastic sticking out behind a silver painted chest and a few blue patches on an otherwise unpainted red torso with a white combiner joint in the middle. Needlenose is far more uniform, and his grey fades into the background more readily than Firefly's red.

This being an update of a G1 Double TargetMaster, the stock weapons can pretty much be ignored - I'm certainly endeavoring to do so with regards to the alleged 'rifle' that's clearly a frickin' flamethrower - in favour of the two TargetMaster weapons. Designed for a Generations Deluxe class figure way back in 2014, they're a decent size in Needlenose's hands, but they do look rather too much like folded up people in armour. In case you want a bigger weapon, and the Hand/Foot Gun doesn't suffice, Sunbeam and Zputty can, themselves, combine into a single, larger weapon which he holds just as well as he does the two individual guns.

TargetMaster Partners:
Back in the days of Generation 1, I quite liked the TargetMasters and HeadMasters, in that they looked reasonable (for the time) and served their functions. The HeadMasters all made uniformly squarish heads and the TargetMasters, by and large, made things that looked kind of like guns, and could be convincingly wielded by the larger robots. Then the Double TargetMasters came along, and replaced their predecessors with what looked very much like brightly coloured interpretations of Han Solo in carbonite, with fold-out gun barrels and 5mm pegs protruding somewhere inconvenient.

We already know that the designers and Hasbro/Takara Tomy are capable of creating new, halfway decent TargetMasters because of those that came with Classics Cyclonus and Masterpiece Rodimus Prime... so I'm really not sure what we're supposed to make of these. While I'm glad they're more than just bricks with fold-out barrels, they almost seem too detailed, too humanoid in overall shape. From the enormous moon boots to the crooked arms, they're not designed to be something that turns into a convincing weapon, which strikes me as a huge step backward. The most impressive aspect of the design is that the grip is designed to rotate for mounting on robot or vehicle modes, so that the TargetMaster's head is always hidden on the underside.

Don't get me wrong - I like the poseability (such as it is) and I like the way the grip can be folded out of the way for robot mode (because these are, apparently, robots rather than Nebulans)... but they look as if they've been developed from (or were intended for development into) little robotic superhero models, with their garish colourschemes and vaguely dubious 'costumes'.

Sunbeam pegs together in weapon mode quite well, and his barrel points straight forward, but Zputty doesn't like pegging together at all, his grip likes to pop out, and his twin barrels seem to angle slightly upward. The two also peg together - very loosely - via a slim peg on the underside of the barrel section of either one, which slots into the back of the other once the arms are splayed. This also mimmicks the G1 original, but the weird arms and protruding feet break any illusion this might otherwise have been able to create of being a gun rather than a folded-up little robot thing. Of course, the idea of a gestalt made out of components including one robot with combining robot handguns seems just a tad meta, but also adds to the potential fun of Thunder Mayhem.

I bought into this set largely in the hope that the whole gestalt would somehow exceed the sum of its parts. Not that the parts are in any way sub par, just that I have no real knowledge of or feelings of nostalgia toward the Mayhem Attack Squad or Thunderwing/Thunder Mayhem. It's an interesting idea and, simply by taking advantage of Combiner Wars' designs, it's bound to be significantly better than, for example, the Wreckers/Ruination made out of the War for Cybertron Combaticons/Bruticus. Of course, all this is now happening in a world where Unite Warriors 'Combiner Haunt Leader' Grand Galvatron exists, so just about any limited edition combiner would have to pull out all the stops to remain interesting.

I have, in all honesty, been debating whether or not to put Thunder Mayhem up on eBay the moment he's complete but, now he's actually beginning to arrive, piece by piece, I feel more inclined to hang onto him, if only because it's one of the last things the Club will be putting out. It's certainly a shame that their Timelines branding has been replaced with Hasbro's own Combiner Wars labelling and, while the bio card is the usual single-sided card, the instruction sheets are the flimsy, cheap stock that was used for Airazor's instructions.

The bio itself starts out strongly, but contains a couple of obvious grammatical errors and, while it explains Needlenose's stock weapons - or, at least, names them - it doesn't say a single thing about what Sunbeam and Zputty actually do as guns. You'd have to look up his G1 bio to learn that Sunbeam becomes a 'light beam discharger' (which sounds like an overcomplicated way of saying "laser gun"), while Zputty - assuming he's basically Zig-Zag - may still be a 'slightly inaccurate, twin electrostatic overloader rifle', which basically kind of sounds like a taser.

Needlenose himself is pretty good considering he uses a stock head - the paint job does pretty much everything it needs to, making him sufficiently different rather than outright unique. The only issues I've had with the figure thusfar are that the swivel joint above his left elbow is a touch loose, but not enough to cause problems when posing, even with the combined gun.

The funny thing is Needlenose reminded me of a friend's comment about my collection many years ago - that, despite the many different colours of robots on the shelves, the abiding impression was of grey. Needlenose isn't the most exciting opening salvo in a gestalt, and his accessories are just plain irritating, but he is only one part, and there's lots more to come... Grabuge/Ruckus has already started turning up at US addresses, so I should have mine in about a month. We already know that Spinister - another repaint of the Alpha Bravo mold - comes with the same two TargetMaster figures, just in different colours. Probably the most potentially disappointing thing about Thunder Mayhem is the torso, an adaptation of the Hot Spot/Onslaught mold with a new head for the basic robot (Bludgeon) and the gestalt... and the latter could make or break the set.
According to the default configuration, Needlenose
becomes Thunder Mayhem's left arm
Excitement Factor for Thunder Mayhem: 4/10


  1. Good review Gord. I bought Needlenose as a young 'un and used him as my Starscream/Leader of the Decepticons as a kid, mainly due to lacking a Megs and plane bad guys, so I was excited to see to see him rock up via the club. But I must admit, while they've done a decent job on the colours, it doesn't grab me as much as I thought it would.

    The colours seem OK, but just come off a bit drab in robot mode and no new head, while understandable is disappointing. Needlenose had a unique style. The target masters, as I discovered with scoop are just crap looking weapons, which makes me sad are also a tad naff. Sunbeam I think was a light discharging weapon causing blindness. Seems to be a popular weapon after reading through my Universe book.

    Um, obviously I'm skipping this, I wish him and Spinister tempted me, but I doubt the club will do a good job on any of them.

    1. Glad you enjoyed the write-up and the trip down memory lane. Needlenose isn't the most exciting start to the Club's fourth Subscription Service set.

      What I find sad about these new TargetMasters is that only these two molds were ever created, and they're being recycled twice within SS4.0 alone. They feel very half-baked. Thanks for the clarification on Sunbeam's weapon function - always nice to know for certain what these things are meant to be, even if they don't really look like guns.

      From what I've seen of the upcoming lineup, there won't be any really exciting components, so it's really up to Thunder Mayhem to decide whether I end up keeping the set... and we still haven't had any really clear photos of the new head.

  2. P.S
    For me, that bio is horrible to read.

    1. ...Yeah. Not one of their best. I recently managed to acquire an older BotCon figure which was sold without its bio card... and, honestly, I don't miss it in the least.