Monday, 20 May 2019

Combiner Wars Shockwave

As one of those G1 toys that transformed into a gun - albeit a sci-fi laser blaster rather than a real world handgun, like G1 Megatron - Shockwave has more recently become 'problematic' as a toy. He hasn't had a great number of toys since the 1980s, and they've tended to be tanks of one form or another.

The only version of Shockwave to appear in the Generations line was based on his appearance in the Fall of Cybertron videogame, and looked weirdly spindly in robot mode, with an unimaginative - not to mention largely unidentifiable - alternate mode, so I didn't bother picking it up.

Then came Combiner Wars, which gave us a more G1-styled Shockwave, complete with a built-in reference to the TV show... But is a Legends class Shockwave really worth bothering with?

Alternate Mode:
While described as a 'cannon', Combiner Wars Shockwave's alternate mode is just ambiguous enough that one could easily say it's a self-propelled gunship, with the emphasis on 'gun', because there's a prominent - albeit entirely opaque - gunsight toward the back, and the entire front of the craft is the gun barrel. There are small, grey wings on the sides and miniscule fins at the back above what could conceivably be some form of propulsion, but much of the detail is deliberately vague about its purpose - literally the only thing that clearly defines this as a gun is the handle that flips down toward the back, allowing him to clip nicely into any Combiner Wars gestalt fist, giving punters the opportunity to reference that time in that episode where Bruticus uses Shockwave as a handgun. The simple fact that the handle stows away so neatly suggests to me that it's more of a bonus feature than a central part of the design.

Sculpted detail abounds but, strangely, a lot of the more interesting stuff at the front ends up on the underside of the barrel. Most of the top surface, in fact, has only the simplest of panel lining. The rear half starts to get slightly more intricate, but it's really only the rearmost quarter that's interesting to look at thanks to a collection of overlayed details that conspire to resemble the openings in the original toy for the speaker. Naturally, the underside reveals a lot of robot mode detail, including Shockwave's chest and waist (true to the G1 toy) and his arms though, frankly, the latter are pretty well visible from any angle. His hand and wrist-mounted gun stick out the back and are translucent pink plastic.

The paintwork is largely purple, with a small amount of silver that's really only intended to be seen in robot mode, but is there on the underside nonetheless. None of the grey plastic is painted, so some of it sticks out quite awkwardly - not least the parts inside the gunbarrel - while the translucent pink plastic is unpainted around the very front. The purple plastic, meanwhile, has a very fine sparkly component. The colour matching is rather better than my photos would seem to indicate, but the difference between paint and plastic is still fairly easily apparent. The only other decoration is the Decepticon insignias - one just in front of the gunsight on the top, the other in the middle of Shockwave's chest on the underside.

Robot Mode:
The predominance of purple carries over into robot mode, with the grey plastic becoming even less apparent from most angles, not least because that conspicuous grey gunsight collapses down into a surprisingly compact backpack along with the gun mode's grip. It's a far cry from the massive brick on G1 Shockwave's back, but then, this doesn't have to accommodate an oversized, outdated speaker for any battery powered effects. Similarly, the chest is far flatter than his G1 ancestor - it has the same window detail, but it's more proportional to the rest of his body, while the lower parts of his torso are split into more defined tiers. A central, silver-plated abs panel leads down into a detail at his waist that seems to resemble the old G1 toy's trigger in shape and style if not in size.

The bulk of the torso is molded in a faintly sparkling, rich purple plastic which matches the paint well. Along with the grey plastic of the biceps, shoulder joints, thighs, feet and neck/central shoulder piece, the only unpainted parts are the translucent pink plastic chest window, the rims of Shockwave's knees and his right hand/left wrist gun. The exposed translucent pink plastic breaks up the purple monotony pretty well, as the it catches the light in all sorts of interesting ways... but the chest window seriously looks as though it's missing some paint applications. Whether the frame would have been better painted purple or silver is a matter for personal preference (though the Takara Tomy version had its paint job based on the Action Master toy, so it featured silver paint around a translucent orange window), but some of the sculpted details, particularly those directly below the window, are certainly meant to be opaque purple. Rather than sculpting tech detail on the inside of the window, there are panel lines on the outside, with a bold black stripe running across, almost suggesting an opening in the window. On the whole, it looks OK, so my main gripe with the lack of paintwork around the window is that it leaves so much of what detail is there rather indistinct, even when the light catches it.

For two very obvious reasons, Shockwave doesn't come packaged with any weapons: firstly, he is a weapon and secondly, his left arm incorporates a weapon in his robot mode. As a homage to the G1 toy, both forearms are molded in translucent pink plastic, with all but the fist and gun painted over, so both look pretty effective, though the gun arm looks strangely stubby because the unpainted area reaches almost to the elbow. Due to the way he transforms, he does end up with large chunks of his vehicle mode hanging off his forearms, but the sculpted detail at the tips could be taken to be additional guns, and the panels have quite a bit of detail of their own, so they don't look too bad. Shockwave's right hand features the standard 5mm grip, too, so he can wield weapons from other Combiner Wars figures should you have any going spare.

There's never really much to say about a Shockwave head sculpt: it's a roughly hexagonal wedge with a yellow eye and a couple of antennae... It looks OK, but this one is a little small for the body - almost as if an even smaller Shockwave is sitting inside a Legends class power suit - and, from the back, it's almost completely hollow. The big surprise is that the paint budget evidently allowed not only for the prerequisite silver for the antennae and blob of yellow eye paint, but a coating of black on the recessed area Shockwave's eye inhabits. Aside from the hollowness, it's very well done, but it really could have done with being a touch larger... it's not as if the chest cavity below wouldn't have accommodated it.

This version of Shockwave is easily the most G1 Shockwave Hasbro have produced since G1, but nevertheless has an entirely different transformation. The robot's legs, rather than his arms, become the gun barrel, the arms end up on the back end of the gun... and that's really all there is to it. I quite like that the sculpted detail on the undersides of Shockwave's knees becomes detail within the massive gun barrel, but it could have done with some sort of paintwork, as the grey plastic alone looks terribly cheap there. The foldaway handle fits well into the hands of a Combiner Wars gestalt, but the gun sits at a slightly upward angle because the grip isn't perfectly straight.

Given the number of ball joints, Shockwave ends up being very poseable, even managing to balance well on one foot, despite the angled footprint and limited ankle movement. There's no waist rotation, but he does have upper thigh joints, which can get him close enough to the sort of pose a waist joint can help achieve.. Additionally, the range of the hips is practically unlimited, and the knee bend, being a transformation joint, is very impressive. Awkward as the ankles are, it's surprising how little they affect his ability to remain stable in a cool stance. The combination of hinges and ball joints in the arms gives excellent range, though the bicep joint is for transformation only, so his elbow bend is limited to the 90° offered by the ball joint. The neck is a ball joint, sunk into the grey plastic panel in between his shoulders, and it offers a great range of expressive movement thanks to the short stalk between the joint and the head.

While I feel that so diminutive a representation is a bit of a waste of the character, I can't deny that allowing him to be wielded by Bruticus, for example, makes for some pretty cool possibilities in play and display. I'm also very glad Hasbro didn't try to shoehorn Shockwave into a combiner limb, however cool it might have been to apply his gun arm look to a gestalt. Of course, with the grip designed solely for Hasbro's own Combiner Wars hand/foot weapons - with a squared-off chunk of plastic just in front of the 5mm peg - he can't be wielded by any of the smaller, individual figures, and he's also not compatible with Perfect Effect's Perfect Combiner hands.

Nevertheless, aside from TargetMasters and the Seacons, this is the first time a toy of a specific G1 character has actually been designed to transform into a weapon to be wielded by another figure, particularly a gestalt... and it's been done so well that it makes me feel a little disappointed there wasn't a Legends class Megatron to do the same... Especially considering the CW Leader class figure wasn't wonderful, the Titans Return version was just a repaint of Blitzwing, and he was entirely absent from the Power of the Primes line.

Given how cool this tiny fella is, I currently don't feel a pressing need to obtain the weird, overpriced Siege version with its dodgy vehicle mode... but that may change if I ever see it in a shop. This is far from being my ideal Shockwave figure (I'm almost tempted by MP-29+), but it's a perfect fit for the Combiner Wars line.

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