Wednesday, 25 November 2015

The Darker Side of Transformers #10

Transformers are primarily marketed at children with some figures and media aimed firmly at adult collectors but there are elements, from the creation of characters to manufacturing to storytelling that really aren't too wholesome. Here's a look at some things that are a little bit on the unpleasant side.

10. Bumblebee
Bumblebee has always been our way into the Transformers universe: the character is the smallest, weakest and most affable of characters which makes him easiest for children to identify with. Most adult collectors aren't big fans of the character for those weaknesses and it seems writers aren't either as the poor little guy has been riddled with blasters, been destroyed on at least 3 occasions, had his face crushed and had to walk with a cane for a while. In nature we know that the weakest of the pack is the one singled out by predators and Bumblebee is the Transformers equivalent. However it's worth noting that there is something else darker about Bumblebee.

While we think of Volkswagon Beetles as being cute cars (mainly thanks to the Herbie films), it was actually the brainchild of Adolf Hitler. With Germany's new autobahns (motorways/highways) in place Hitler wanted an affordable car available to the people so they could enjoy their new high speed travelling option. Adolf would approach Ferdinand Porsche about creating his Volks Wagen (People's Car) with strict instructions that it should be able to sustain a relatively high speed, have low fuel consumption, have easily replaceable parts to keep repair costs down and be able to seat 2 adults and 3 children. Volkswagens were to be available to the German public via a payment scheme to help people afford them.

With the outbreak of World War 2 the Volkswagen was instead used as a military vehicle (don't laugh) because it's air cooled engine made it perfect for use by the Afrika Corps and a variation was used as an amphibious vehicle. During the war the Beetle design was a status symbol driven by high ranking Nazi officers but post war Volkswagen made vehicles for the British army and finally started producing Beetles for the German public in 1945. By 1972 the Type 1 Beetle was the most produced car in the world and immediately recognisable, thanks in part to the Disney film The Love Bug, a film about a sentient Volkswagen Beetle. The Volkswagen had finally lived up to it's People's Car moniker and the loveable car was a perfect choice for the loveable Bumblebee despite it's dark past.

Wednesday, 18 November 2015

Iron Factory IF EX-03S Scouts & Sniper Review

I didn't even know about this set until TFCon 2015, amazing given that a) the prototypes surfaced close to a year ago and b) I am drawn to Iron Factory product like a Davey is drawn to rum.

Following on from a damn good Overlord and their Ultra Magnus meisterwerk City Commander (review to drop), the dark lord wizards of tiny revisit a couple of existing toolings to bring us the IF EX-03S five pack. Soundwave, Ravage, Buzzsaw, Lazerbeak and a rather outnumbered Perceptor are presented for your Legends collecting needs.

'Ultra Magnus, a cursory evaluation of Decepticon capability indicates whoever stuck me in that box needs a slap'

Utilising the mold originally released as Sonictech (their riff on Blaster/Twincast) works far better than I imagined for Perceptor. The boxy look suits him fine and he has been given not just a unique chest but two heads should you wish to display him IDW sniper style.

Which I do, ta

His shoulder cannon is attached by a piece that plugs into the figure's back. This is also designed to accommodate a separate cannon that allows for a more G1 configuration. A word of caution. The shoulder cannon ball joints are tight. Be careful when swapping them out the first few times.

One criticism I have with this figure is that when fitting the weapon in his hand, due to two painted surfaces rubbing against one another, paint chipping is unavoidable. Should've left the gun handle or inner hand unpainted. Irritating.

He looks right at home with his mold mate and the changes made do the business defining him as his own character. Round this off with his sniperceptor rifle and a perfect colour scene and what was initially met with a 'Well, meh' swiftly changed to a 'Hell yeah'. Job done.

Soundwave then. Whether blindly loyal, self serving opportunist or jilted hippy commune founder, he's a big deal. The Decepticon Communications Officer, like Perceptor, gets his own (beautiful) head and chest as well as iconic shoulder cannon. And just like Perceptor the retooled parts, while minimal, do a spot on job of standing him apart. This is a good Soundwave. Just look at those glorious colours!

Articulation on this pair is identical and well up to scratch for Legends sized figures.  Ball joints, swivels and hinges are all where they need to be. And in keeping with Iron Factory's play pattern, both are dotted with 5mm ports to really amp up their armaments. The set comes with the arsenal you see below and more, all you're really missing is a little canoe and some budgie smugglers and you could totally recreate that beach scene in Commando.


Transformation is quick and simple though this is where using the Sonictech mold causes problems. It's just not a very good alt mode. It's IDW Spotlight Blaster accurate, but remains a box with legs on top. I can imagine Soundwave blasting out er.. soundwaves from those speakers, but Perceptor? Maybe A Brief History Of Time as he scorches through the battlefield. It helps that both characters have had recent, mobile depictions that deviate from their original (but powerfully iconic) alt modes but still.. poor. Not the shining light of the package.

Move along please, nothing to see here..

A little imagination though, goes a long way..

As seen above, Iron Factory releases often come with their own private armoury. These gun packs are from the City Commander release and separate into two shotguns, missile pods, a hand gun and a blast shield, just the ticket for beefing up these little buggers.

These gun packs are what you get with the IF EX-03S set. The shields here though, they're a little more involved..

.. and this is legit amazing. With ball jointed legs, a hinged neck and ball jointed head, you get a far more expressive birdbot than first thoughts might suggest. These two properly spark that 'YES! Here is why I am in this game' feeling I love about the hobby. Lazerbeak and Buzzsaw shields should not work but do so well.

 The rest of the guns double up as a flight stand. Yep. Wonderfully daft stuff.

Ah, and who might that be skulking in the background? Why, it's everyone's favourite espionage specialist and if you were reading Marvel, one of the very first Transformers to be introduced to our hungry little minds.

A four treaded Cybertronian anti aircraft artillery (..wut?! I miss cassettes too, but don't be fooled into thinking these can't interact with the big man) transforms into an adorably buff feline. Ravage looks fantastic, with some great options for poses and a sculpt full of character.


Ah yes, something about interaction. ASSEMBLE!


Brilliant, ludicrous or just plain stupid, these are but a few of the options available to you in terms of using the minions/weapon packs to kit out their boss. This is one of my favourite aspects of the Iron Factory line. Pimping your figures with modular weaponry is an utter joy. Inadvertently creating a griffon combiner made my day.

'5 minutes. I leave you alone for 5 minutes'

In closing, this has been an absolute blast to review from start to finish. You get play and display options through the roof, some inspired takes on classic characters (the minions are superb) and in terms of bang for buck, a metric ton of bitesized fun that you're not going to get bored with anytime soon. The alt modes on the main figures are pretty rubbish but that gets eclipsed by everything else they have going for them. The Iron Factory line as a whole is hard to stop fiddling about with and this release might just top them all in that respect. Not bad for a bunch of retools and transformable shields. Highly recommended for Legends collectors or to anyone who just wants a great desktop toy.


Buy 'em here Iron Factory IF-EX03S 5 pack

Sunday, 15 November 2015

Iron Factory Evil Lord review

Iron Factory have been carving out quite the niche for themselves over the past twelve months, bucking the Masterpiece scaled and styled trend and focusing on, of all things, the Legends Class market. The smaller side of Transformers is courting noticeable attention of late with this crew, Shapeshift, DX9 and Hasbro themselves all vying for your coin. At 3rd Party prices though, it's big bucks for little packages. Worth the punt? Read on.

Does whom this release homage require any introduction? Overlord made a significant impact in IDW comics' highly regarded Last Stand Of The Wreckers and went on to serve a pivotal role in the ongoing More Than Meets The Eye series. A living weapon turned sadist, saddled with serious psychological problems and the blackest of humours, Overlord has left a bloody stain on the current Transformers run.

Iron Factory have taken this delightful iteration of the character as a base point, as opposed to the characters original depiction in Super God Masterforce. But within this toy lies a great big nod to its roots too.

Packaged in robot mode, Evil Lord impresses immediately in hand. The colours are dead on, the sculpt mirrors its source material well and it's detailed enough without being busy. Excellent paint apps pick out all the important bits and he packs mighty weight in spite of small stature. He just looks the bomb and does Nick Roche's design proud. Sadly he isn't sporting the Caligula lips he became famous for in the comics, but given that his face sculpt is barely the size of a baby's thumbnail, the potential for cocking it up is so high I'll happily take a standard evil grimace over a self obsessed Facebook trout pout.

Continuing to impress in the articulation department, this pint sized instrument of destruction crams in more joints than your average Daily Mail baiting hooded menace, finding the time to include both hinged toe and ball jointed ankle action. Then you realise he has not only an ab crunch but upper torso movement.. and the swagger achievement is unlocked.

I'm a massive fan of meaningful articulation in my Transformers. When done right, the character you can give to your figures is a joy. And a guy like Overlord needs to flex maniacal. His mini me delivers in spades. I can pose him like a cocky crotch thrusting bastard and as a weighing up the kill stalking menace. Top stuff.

This can store on his back (badly), in the box (possibly) or in the fire (likely)

Accessory wise he carries a big purple gun and a shield that looks suspiciously like the nose cone of a jet. You have to pop out his wing kibble to attach the shield though. It doesn't bother me. At this scale, partsforming is no issue. In fact, partsforming doesn't bother me full stop which is handy because..



That's something, eh?

Technically Overlord IS a Duocon, so at some point you have to accept that two separate alternate modes are going to require splitting the figure apart but damn son, this is like Sid's bedroom or a G9 flashback or something.

Actually, this is all pretty clever stuff that still involves some actual transformation. But if this engineering is a dealbreaker, walk away now. The main thing I take from this is that these design choices allow for such a good robot mode. And let's face it, they didn't muck about with the vehicle modes either.

I know, I know.. that peg is sticking up like a man championing prescription blue pills so let's just get it out of the way - my weapon is knackered. My Evil Lord's weapon, yeah? Flash maybe, I dunno. Sucks for sure. Isolated though? Seems to be. It remains a decent representation of the IDW alt mode. Albeit one with the kind of QC error you wouldn't want on a crowded bus.

Jet mode looks beast, the newly dominant black adding a striking contrast to the tank and robot colour palette and the lines and curves indicating power and speed. This one is a winner. Tiny landing gear too. Joyous.

Which brings us to the third alternate mode. The G1 toy and Masterforce character sported a great base mode which Evil Lord seeks to emulate but doesn't really pull off. The side pieces don't tab anywhere, the gun goes nowhere and as said earlier, that front ramp will spend most of its life.. elsewhere anyway.

 But I see why they did it; nostalgia and toy accuracy, and appreciate the effort particularly at this size, but no. Just no. I would have rather had the extra cost go towards a Decepticon flavoured weapons pack as seen with their previous releases.

Evil Lord is an ambitious figure, and almost a very, very good one. The partsforming will push some people away, the scale almost certainly limits his appeal. And personally the base mode leaves plenty to be desired. Plus cost.

But this remains a beautiful rendering of a notorious character from a company fast gaining traction as ones to watch. In a time where Masterpiece style, scale and scandal dominates, Iron Factory's small but perfectly formed gear is a welcome alternative, as well as delivering something that's just plain fun.