Thursday, 21 December 2017

Titans Return Cosmos

Bizarre as he was, G1 Cosmos was one of my favourite figures - as a fan of vintage sci-fi, I really liked that a TransFormer had been based on the UFO from the celebrated hoax photograph by George Adamski, despite being completely incongruous in a line of toys whose terrestrial disguises were still largely based in reality. Trouble is, with such an outlandish - literally - vehicle mode, he became rather difficult to fit into later lines.

Thus, aside from a very basic disc-shaped saucer, very poorly articulated version in the late noughties and an aborted Titaniums version, it had been left up to the Third Parties to produce their usual plethora of versions of the same character, each with their own unique interpretation of the iconic G1 design of both vehicle and robot mode.

Then came the Thrilling 30 line, and a whole new version of Cosmos was released... Or was it? I certainly never saw it in shops, and couldn't easily find it online at a reasonable price. Thankfully, Hasbro deemed it worthy of a more widespread rerelease for Titans Return (since it had already been repainted as Marvel Comics' wheelformer spy, Scrounge, to partner with the Technobots). Needless to say, I snapped him up pretty sharpish... but was he worth the frustrating wait?

Vehicle Mode:
Well, this certainly ain't the Adamski-style UFO of yesteryear... It's actually kind of odd, to me, because it looks as much like a flying saucer as it does a flattened out submarine, particularly with its vestigial wings/fins on the rim of the saucer. Coupled with the vertical fin at the back, flanked with what look like engines or afterburners, it could almost be a fighter jet with a saucer shell added over the top, as some sort of grand Government-perpetrated UFO hoax.

Flying saucers are, I grant you, rather difficult to do 'right', because so many 'witnesses' and 'abductees' report such a wide variety of shapes and sizes (some even insisting the whole 'flying saucer' type is part of the government coverup conspiracy, and preferring some other imaginative format of craft as being 'real'), that just about everyone comes to the concept with some preconceived idea. That, I think, is why G1 Cosmos worked: Adamski's hoax photo was iconic - so much so that TFWiki describes it as "(inexplicably) the staple Japanese depiction of a UFO", though I feel some sort of citation is needed on that point. This new version is certainly a sort of flying saucer, with the usual sort of disc-shaped main body and a raised central 'cockpit', but this one bucks the trend by having a visible 'engine' tagged on the back, with the aforementioned afterburners highlighted with yellow paint. The whole point of a traditional flying saucer was that it wasn't apparent where the 'front' was - indeed, most seemed designed in such a way that they could fly in any direction with no loss of control or visibility, and the only suggestions of propulsion systems, weapons, etc. were on the underside. Granted, G1 Cosmos had sets of 'exhaust pipes' at the back, but these were a concession to the needs of robot mode rather than an outright rejection of the symmetry of Adamski's design. There are other, smaller raised details on the disc - both top and bottom - and panel lining just about everywhere, but this doesn't quite fit my preconceived ideas of either what a flying saucer should look like, or what Cosmos should look like in vehicle mode.

One other significant deviation from the G1 figure is that 30th Anniversary/Titans Return Cosmos has a couple of massive guns protruding from under the rim of the disc right at the front. These are painted in a dark gunmetal colour, just to emphasise that they are weapons. G1 Cosmos had a couple of nubs at the front which could have been guns, but equally could have been sensor clusters, or running lights - the point being, much of G1 Cosmos' detailing was mysterious - like a UFO should be - while the details on this one seem very specific.

Paintwork is kept to a typical Hasbro minimum, with the central raised area featuring panels on the front which have been painted in with silver, yellow and metallic cyan. The latter two mark the main viewports at the front and, while the yellow is quite sharp, the metallic cyan on mine was added a little haphazardly on one side, splashing over its frame. The front of the main disc features a couple of yellow arrows which serve no obvious purpose beyond being a reference to the yellow plastic of G1 Cosmos' legs, parts of which remained visible in robot mode due to his simplistic transformation. Here, they're just kind of like 'go faster stripes'... Disappointingly, the underside of the vehicle is the same green plastic as the upper surfaces, but at least the molded details there looks like continuations of the machinery visible on top, rather than being entirely identical. It's a nice effect, but I do feel the underside should have been handled differently. Then again, the underside features a gaping hole which could easily have been minimised, if not avoided altogether, so perhaps the design team had different priorities...

I do quite like this model, but have to admit the vehicle mode is a bit bland - both in the sense that it's a UFO without a defined style of its own, and in that the paint work is a bit bare-bones and ill-considered - the dark gunmetal paint would have looked better over the entire engine section rather than just having the afterburners painted yellow, some of the tech detailing on the top and bottom of the main saucer could have used a bit of paint, and the whole 'windscreen' section is really just a poor attempt at replacing the tech detailing sticker of the G1 original... Still, this version is certainly a huge improvement on the 2009 attempt at remaking Cosmos.

Robot Mode:
Despite being technically a Generations figure, Cosmos has almost TFAnimated proportions, with a very broad upper body, massive arms, then a tiny waist, small thighs and thunderously large lower legs, that look like a strange kind of knee-length boot, featuring cannons at the knee section. Of course, he's far more detailed than a TFAnimated figure would be and, aside from the curves left over from vehicle mode, rather more angular as well. Surprisingly, for the size class, Cosmos actually looks reasonable from the back, too, with the vehicle mode's 'engine' across his shoulders and the fin/afterburners flapped down to become a sort of jetpack, reaching down to his hips.

This version of Cosmos is molded in a fairly dark, muted green - truer to the G1 original - and features yellow plastic inside the forearms, where the Thrilling 30 version used a brighter green and had green plastic in the forearms. This makes him just that little bit closer in appearance to the original G1 figure than the previous version, but this is equivalent to a simple running change and it's a curiosity rather than a major improvement. Every other aspect of the colourscheme and paint job seems to be the same, with the cockpit/chest supplemented by a band of yellow on his waist, a metallic cyan grille just above his groin, yellow on each shoulder and a tiny Autobot insignia on the right shoulder.

While Cosmos has clearly visible weapons attached to his vehicle mode, these end up in the less-than-ideal position of his kneecaps in robot mode. What really bugs me about this version is that the G1 original had three fingers/guns on the end of each arm, while this version just has massively oversized fists - about 1/3 the mass of his forearms, by my estimate. The G1 character model - not to mention most Third Party versions of Cosmos - gave him hands in addition to the three gun/pipes, and something similar could easily have been done here... but, instead, the designer chose to give him disproportionately large, four-fingered hands with no wrist-mounted weapons (partly, I suspect, because of the TargetMaster partner provided with the Thrilling 30 release of this figure). Even with a separate weapon/partner, that seems like a strange decision for the character.

The head sculpt is very much more IDW than G1 - toy or animation model - which is a huge relief considering how silly his original 'crowned bucket' head looked. It's a very simple red helmet with yellow faceplate (the yellow paint both here and on his shoulders looking a little thin and possibly showing through to the plastic colour beneath), and his whole visor painted metallic cyan. What's quite odd about the sculpt is that the faceplate features a chin block, which seems to have appeared on just about every IDW version of Cosmos except the one that looked like this toy.

Transformation is surprisingly involved for such a small figure, but I guess any attempt to turn a frisbee into a humanoid robot isn't going to be without complications. It all works smoothly and is mostly intuitive, the only difficulty I had the first time round was that it's not immediately apparent that the waist has to rotate 180° to complete transformation. If I had a complaint about him, it's that his head simply slides up and down at the neck, clicking into place in robot mode, but the fit is a little loose, leaving his head with a quizzical tilt. On the upside, while it can be tricky to get everything perfectly flush in saucer mode, most parts do clip together to some extent, though the afterburner/tailfin flap doesn't like to peg into the folded-up forearms very firmly.

As with most of his size class, Cosmos has a lot of ball joints - knees, hips, elbows and shoulders are all ball joints, with the latter supplemented by transformation hinges in the torso and the at the bicep. It could also be argued that the transformation hinge below the knee is technically another point of articulation, but the lower leg already looks a bit odd, and breaking it up doesn't help. The bulky arms manage to be reasonably mobile despite their awkward shape and size, and it's surprising how much range the shoulders actually have thanks to the combination of ball joint and transformation hinge. The waist transformation joint can act quite effectively as additional articulation but isn't required to get this figure into a good, dramatic pose, and the afterburner 'cape' does get in the way a little.

Much as I am unimpressed by the vehicle mode, this updated and redesigned version of a G1 character could be one of my favourites from this year, purely because it's a competent update of a fairly obscure Mini Autobot who has been largely absent from the toyline despite continued presence in the associated fiction (specifically IDW's comics). One particularly disappointing aspect of the Titans Return re-release of this figure is that he wasn't packaged with the Micromaster-referencing, triple-changing TargetMaster Mini-Con, which was designed to 'dock' with Cosmos' cannons in vehicle mode and be wielded as a handgun in robot mode. It may have looked a bit crap but, in the light of the fact that the Titans Return price hike affected even this size class of figure, one can't help but feel cheated by a figure with some minor cosmetic improvements and a collectors' card, rather than an 'added value' partner figure. Granted, none of the other Legends class figures came with TargetMasters - or even Titan Masters - but that just goes to show how much better value for money can be got out of Takara Tomy's output, even at import prices.

Ultimately, this isn't quite the Cosmos I'd have hoped for but, while the Third Parties insist on Masterpiece scale for their Mini Autobot remakes, and while they skew rather too far toward the ugly, dumpy look of the animation model, this is about the best version available, short of getting the Takara Tomy version with its marginally better paint job... And, let's face it, it's better than the potential repurposing of the ugly Titaniums sculpt as a Voyager class Cosmos, or even just a Deluxe.

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