Sunday, 5 June 2016

TransFormers Collectors' Club 2014 (Timelines) Chromedome & Stylor

While I was very keen on the TF Prime Wheeljack mold, I wasn't sufficiently keen on any of the remolds released by Hasbro to pick any of them up - the Dark Energon version seemed pretty pointless (except as a homage to Slicer) and their repurposing as Dead End was garish and ugly. Takara Tomy's use of the mold as Arms Micron Wildrider is slightly more tempting, but what really took my fancy was the Collectors' Club's use of the mold as a very IDW-inspired Chromedome, released as part of their second Subscription Service group, from which I also picked up Barricade and Rewind.

But how does this former HeadMaster fare, now that his partner is a TargetMaster/Arms Micron?

Vehicle Mode:
G1 Chromedome was, frankly, a bit of a brick... he's also the only full-size Autobot HeadMaster I ever bothered picking up because I was already beginning to lose interest in the bulky, oversimplified rubbish Hasbro were churning out under the TransFormers banner after they'd milked Diaclone for all it was worth. He was a futuristic car of some kind, but more in the sense of, say, a fairly dull contemporary car decked out with extra chunks of 'futuristic tech' on his sides rather than actually being a car that looked genuinely futuristic. The TF Prime Wheeljack mold looks, if not wholly futuristic, then at least like a contemporary concept car. One of the reasons this is such a good match for Chromedome is that the windscreen wraps around from side to side, with no breaks for doors, just like on the G1 model.

Given that the original Chromedome was very much in the 'sensible car' category in his overall appearance, it's amazing how well-suited the Wheeljack mold is, thanks to some creative use of paintwork. A certain amount of artistic license has been taken in adapting his colourscheme and colour layout, but the end result is instantly recognisable. I've always been a bit dubious about brown as a colour for cars, but Chromedome wore it well enough in G1, and it works equally well - if not better - here. What's surprising is that so much of it is matte brown paint over the cream plastic. The pattern of red and silver paint on the bonnet cleverly references both some of the G1 toy's stickers and the red flap that covered his geared Tech Specs readout and, while the sculpted headlights are, for some reason, painted over with the same brown as the rest of the bonnet sections they're in, he does have headlight sticker-referencing blue paint on the sides, just ahead of the front wheels. The paint on the roof serves the dual function of looking like the roof of the G1 toy while featuring duplicates of the bonnet details which need to end up on Chromedome's chest. The cream plastic and paint towards the back is broken up with red stripes down the sides, red tail-lights and a red spoiler, and the hubcaps are painted a goldish colour to reference the original toy's gold chrome.

Stylor, being a crossbow-type weapon, isn't exactly suited to mounting on a car at the best of times but, with this mold's only two 5mm ports being on the sides of the vehicle, just above the rear wheels, he looks like he's just kind of hanging off the side of the car rather than being in a position to be useful. He's also large enough that, even with the arms of the bow folded back, they'll tend to drag on the ground.

Robot Mode:
I'm not following the IDW comics at all, but there's more to the similarity with their artwork than the Nick Roche-designed head sculpt. The large shoulders and slim legs seem quite appropriate and the overall build, while nothing like the G1 character, is certainly close enough to the IDW redesign to work well.

It's much more obvious in robot mode that the front of the car - now his shins - is molded in cream plastic and painted over in brown, because the inner parts become visible from some angles. What's quite odd is that Fun Publications decided to paint his thighs mostly cream, with only the recessed panels on the outer and inner sides showing the brown plastic. Given that Chromedome traditionally has fully brown legs, this seems like a strange move, but, to be honest, I think fully brown legs on this figure would have been dull, so I like the additional paintwork. The arms, meanwhile, manage to be largely cream, like the G1 figure, just with some brown and red showing on the car flanks that make up the outsides of the arms.

Given the structure of the chest, the paintwork does a fair job of mimicking the G1 figure's car bonnet chest, even down to using the recessed red block to represent the cover over the Tech Specs readout in this mode. Looking at the details of the chest, it seems a shame they couldn't somehow have painted the fake windscreen red and had more silver on the main roof section, but that wouldn't have looked right in vehicle mode.

Wheeljack's swords don't seem to be the most appropriate accessory for Chromedome, but perhaps one could argue that they are some kind of extreme 'mnemosurgery' tool? Stylor, meanwhile, only fits into his fists using the main peg when they are twisted inward slightly at the wrist, due to the protruding wing mirrors on the forearm car panels. Using the smaller peg on one side of the bow would work better, except that it's a much shorter peg.

The big selling point here is the aforementioned Nick Roche-designed head, which fits in well both with the IDW comics look and the TF Prime aesthetic, with its heavy forehead, sharp angles and sweeping curves which exaggerate the details of the G1 original. Where it falls down is the choice of paint colours. The orange of his faceplate is all well and good, but the yellow used for the visor is ill-defined and virtually invisible in some light. This is actually true to his representation in the comics, however. If it weren't for the linework, Chromedome's visor would blend into the rest of his head... but that just means the head should have had either some linework painted on, or a dark wash to bring out the molded details. What's probably most impressive is that, just for once, the ball joint was kept in the right place - like Wheeljack's, it's right at the back of the head rather than in the middle - giving Chromedome both a decent range of head motion and a head that protrudes naturally forward from the joint and over the chest.

When transforming Chromedome, the topmost section of shoulder is supposed to remain angled down somewhat, both to further differentiate him from Wheeljack and so that the Autobot insignias are facing forward. This ends up making the arms look rather strange, as the joints are designed for the topmost section to be angled up, as they would be on Wheeljack. Having them angled down, the hinges at the bicep and elbow seem too far back on the arm.

I don't have a vast number of Arms Microns, even now, but I certainly feel that those packaged with the Club exclusives have been among the weakest. G1 Stylor transformed into Chromedome's head, but now he's effectively a TargetMaster rather than a HeadMaster... and he doesn't feel like the most appropriate choice for this mold.

Weapon Mode:
I guess it's sort of a crossbow-type thing. Unlike some of the Arms Micron weapon modes, this thing is replete with detail, though very little of it appears entirely appropriate to a bow of any kind, whether it fires physical projectiles or bolts of energy. About midway down each arm, a wheel-like detail protrudes backwards, suggesting this bow is of the stringed variety, but the tip of the weapon looks more like some kind of gun barrel. The back end, meanwhile, is an absolute disaster area, splitting off into what is obviously two robot legs folded back toward robot arms.

There are two 5mm pegs on this weapon - one on the underside, one sticking out the side of one of the legs - neither of which are ideally suited to Chromedome's fists. The one on the bottom leads to clashes with his forearm panels, while the one on the side is too short for good grip and, in any case, presents a strange way to wield a crossbow. He also features a socket on the opposite side, which allows him to connect up to other Arms Microns to form larger weapons... Sadly, I still don't have all the Microns I'd need to form any of the official combined forms.

Robot Mode:
Well, he certainly has G1 Stylor's colourscheme, even down to the orange painted face. Rather than having a folded up face on his back, he now has a three-part cape made up of the two arms of the bow and the gun barrel. The latter is just about long enough to touch the ground behind his feet, yet too small and too close behind to offer much by way of real support. He stands reasonably well, even so.

Despite the prominence of the Autobot insignia on his chest, the most prominent detail is the unfortunate position of the weapon mode's main 5mm peg, just above groin level. Going by the sculpted detail, it's very clearly sticking out of his belly rather than his robo-pants but it's otherwise so incongruous, one can't help but think of its placement as dubious, if not outright suggestive.

Another strange aspect to this figure is the resemblance to the G1 cartoon character Devcon. The head is a very clear homage to the animation model but, the more I look at the details of the body, the more similarities I see, from the circular details on his angular shoulders and the gun on his right forearm, to the panel lines on his chest, groin and legs.

Since the first year of the Subscription Service, there really haven't been many 'must have' figures (while I signed up for the current year - 4.0 - it was more because of the overarching idea than any of the individual figures, since all but one are Combiner Wars deluxes), and the only two of interest from 2.0 being the TF Prime repaints. Given the look of G1 Chromedome's vehicle mode, I'm somewhat surprised the Club selected the Wheeljack mold for their exclusive rather than, say, Bumblebee - either the First Edition mold or the mainline release would have made a fair Chromedome, I think... albeit not one I'd have been as keen to purchase.

I was lucky enough to be able to buy mine from the Club store in the short time he was available after the Subscription Service for that year was completed. He came with the usual bio card which, as is typical, manages to say very little about the character that isn't a vague reference to Club fiction, but it does include the gem of a phrase "inadvertantly nefarious", which gave me a good giggle when I read it. It spectacularly fails to mention Stylor at all, referring instead to Rewind, making the inclusion of the Arms Micron seem rather pointless.

My figure has a few loose joints, but stands and poses well, and is a far more interesting and imaginative reuse of the Wheeljack mold than either Hasbro or Takara Tomy have thusfar managed (with the possible exception of AM Wildrider...). Given that Hasbro and Takara Tomy are releasing a new Chromedome as part of the Titans Return/Legends lines, respectively, with its own new Nick Roche-style head sculpt, this version is unlikely to be the 'must have' Chromedome for the majority of collectors... but, for me, it's a more original take on the character, and I'm not overly fussed that he's not a HeadMaster.

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