Toy Review: Combiner Wars Ultra Magnus

Our review of Combiner Wars Optimus Prime is (at time of writing) one of the most-viewed posts on this blog: I guess everyone loves the big red guy. Today, though, it’s the big blue guy’s day. I’d be lying if I said that Ultra Magnus hasn’t been one of my favourite characters in the Transformers milieu for a long time, in his various incarnations, so I was quite excited when I heard that a new toy of the character was being released in Leader size-class – slightly bigger than anything else in my collection.

He's pwning Galvatron in two of these panels. Take that, Galvatron.

Ultra Magnus, as seen in (Clockwise from top left) IDW’s More Than Meets The Eye comic; Toei’s Transformers: The Headmasters cartoon; Mystery of Convoy for the Nes; and Marvel’s Transformers UK comic.

So, if you want to find out my opinions of the new Ultra Magnus toy, you’ll have to hop behind the cut. There may be spoilers ahead for the current Transformers comic series More Than Meets The Eye.

The box as it appeared when I picked it up from the Post Office. Anticipation building!

The box as it appeared when I picked it up from the Post Office. Anticipation building!

“Consistency is Victory”

Every incarnation of Ultra Magnus is tall, (often even taller than the Autobots’ other heavy-hitters like Grimlock and Optimus Prime), pale-blue and characterised as a serious (sometimes to a fault), modest (sometimes to a fault), professional soldier, who is fond of rules and procedures (again, to a fault). Often, he wields a hammer of some sort. Well, almost every incarnation: RID2001 had an angsty rebellious Ultra Magnus, who ended up becoming a Super Mushroom for Optimus Prime; and of course in Shattered Glass, the crazy backwards universe, Ultra Magnus was basically Starscream with Skeletor’s face.

Ultra Magnus in-pack, with Minimus Ambus.

Ultra Magnus in-pack, with Minimus Ambus.

This Magnus certainly ticks all the boxes. He’s mostly based on his incarnations in the Generation 1 franchise, particularly the recent comic by IDW More Than Meets The Eye. So, let’s get him out of his packaging.

This is the last time I'll make the hammer.

Ultra Magnus and Minimus Ambus: All of Magnus’ guns and accessories can be clipped together to make a big hammer – referencing Transformers Animated and Transformers Prime.

This Leader-class Ultra Magnus is packed with two (non-firing) missile launchers, two large black guns and his “Partner” Minimus Ambus. All the guns and launchers can be pegged together to create a hammer that Magnus can wield as a melee weapon, but I think that the hammer looks a bit weird — and building it robs Magnus of his shoulder-mounted guns. I must admit, I’d’ve preferred the guns to be white (for G1 reasons), but the larger gun is fairly similar in silhouette to his original G1 weapon, and I’m pleased that the designers went for non-firing but cool-looking missile launchers over squeezing in firing missiles that would’ve almost certainly looked less good in order to have room for a firing mechanism. His guns have 5mm posts and holes (which are standard for most), although he’s too big to use them, wrapping his hand around bigger hilts. His articulated hands are quite nice, although they’re rather simple they do look a lot better than the even simpler “tubular” or “open” fists seen on smaller transformers.

Ultra Magnus' weapons. The Red circles indicate 5mm posts and holes.

Ultra Magnus’ weapons. The Red circles indicate 5mm posts and holes. This larger gun looks like the gun Ultra Magnus wielded in the G1 cartoon, more than the gun that came with the G1 toy, but the multiple-handles technology is the same.

Duly-Appointed Enforcer of the Tyrest Accord

The Leader Class Toy & The IDW illustration.

The Leader Class Toy, with Minimus Ambus, & The IDW illustration.

Magnus is a satifyingly bulky ‘bot, with ratchet joints at the knees, elbows, hip and shoulders, and a cylinder-joint holding the head in place. He can’t look up or down, but his limb articulation is fantastic. Additionally, since his shoulder-mounted missile launchers are pegged in, they can be rotated 360°. His hands have fixed thumbs and cylinder-jointed fingers – all 4 fingers on each hand are on one cylinder joint, with the top finger slightly more extended, so his hands close naturally on the hilts of his guns.

There’s no argument, looking at his robot mode, that this toy is first and foremost the Ultra Magnus of More Than Meets The Eye. Details around the belly, knees and shoulders, and the missile launcher design make it pretty obvious. What’s less obvious, until you take a deeper look, is this:

Where's the cup holder?

Ultra Magnus’ chest has a hollow space, which contains a cockpit – complete with chair, footrests and a dizzying array of switches, levers and instruments.

Minimus Ambus fits nicely into the cockpit, and the front closes around him.

Minimus Ambus fits nicely into the cockpit, and the front closes around him.

Now when I started this review, I said that there would be spoilers for More Than Meets The Eye. This whole toy is a spoiler for MTMTE; Ultra Magnus is (secretly) a suit of armour — a battle-mech or Jaeger, if you will — for a much smaller transformer, who literally pilots the larger ‘bot around. This is an awesome detail, although I suspect it might be confusing to a non-MTMTE-reader. Ultra Magnus has a history of being a smaller robot in a suit of armour, but it never used to be such an extreme size difference as now.

The Irreducible Me

Whilst we’re thinking about Minimus Ambus, let’s take a closer look at the little guy.

Minimus Ambus in Robot and Car mode.

Minimus Ambus in robot (top) and car (below) mode. I couldn’t get a good shot against my usual white backdrop, becasue white-on-white isn’t great for contrast.

"The irreducible me"  - Minimus Ambus, MTMTE

“The irreducible me”
– Minimus Ambus, MTMTE

As you can probably see from the photo, Minimus Ambus is tiny (about 3cm tall) and exquisitely sculpted, with no shortage of details that reproduce his comic appearence very faithfully. His alternate mode is a futuristic car, as opposed to the dome-like hovercraft he transforms into in the comic (which sort-of resembles the alt-mode of Grindor from Transformers: Energon). He has tiny sockets in his hands, which presumably allow him to hold some sort of accessories – although I’ve no idea what.

His paint operations let him down a bit, there’s clearly missing paint from one eye which might be specific to this one, rather than a problem with the whole run. Also, I would have preferred his beard and moustache to be black like his car-mode windows. Meh. He’s going to be mostly hidden away inside Magnus anyway.

Piggy-back Rides, Autobot Style

Magnus’ alternate mode is a car transporter. His cab and trailer do not separate, although they are articulated, turning through about 210°, and he has two decks on which he can store cars, by which we do, of course, mean other Autobots.

Riding on Magnus' alt-mode is clearly the Autobot equivalent of getting a piggy-back.

In his alternate mode, as a car transporter.

He has a lot of 5mm posts visible on the side of his trailer section. Two at the front – so you can mount his missile launchers in G1 fashion – and four at the back to mount his two guns with two spares. The ones down by his wheels are fine, but the one at the top of his rear blue section is really stiff, and I was worried I might break him pushing things in.

Sometimes you have to wonder where the Transformers get their ideas for disguises. Where did you ever see an armed car transporter?

The missile launchers, mounted on the sides of the car-transporter.

Swerve called dibs on the top bunk, and wouldn't stop going on about it until Arcee acquiesced.

Ultra Magnus in his alt-mode, carrying Generations Deluxe Arcee and Generations Legends Swerve.

It’s not entirely clear whether Ultra Magnus is supposed to be partnered with Deluxe or Legends scale figures. He can only carry 2 Deluxes — one on each deck — but could easily carry 4 Legends, and as most of the Deluxe size figures in the Combiner Wars sub-franchise are combiner limbs, I would guess that the legends are a more natural choice. The ramps at his back end aren’t great, either. I’m sad to say that he can’t carry Classics Hot Rod/Rodimus, since that figure’s spoiler is just too wide to fit in the deck.

Hot Rod scanned a chav's car to get his Earth disguise.

Hot Rod/Rodimus’s spoiler precludes him from being able to ride on his second-in-command. I’m imagining girlish giggling coming from the upper deck.

Whilst incompatibility with a decade-old Hot Rod shouldn’t be a deal-breaker for anyone, I understand that a lot of collectors are annoyed about another scale issue: there is a ladder and a tiny door on Ultra Magnus’ cab that indicates him to be in scale with Minimus Ambus — assuming that Ambus is the size of a normal car.

12 yards long, 2 lanes wide, 65 tons of American pride! Canyonero! Canyonerroooo!

Minimus Ambus beside Ultra Magnus’ cab (top), and on his upper deck (below). Is Magnus huge, or is the door (and Minimus Ambus’s alt-mode) made for really tiny people?

Or course, the people who have complained most strongly about the scale of this figure on various fan-forums are the G1 purists, because G1 never had any scale inconsistencies or size-changing weirdness…

Soundwave superior, logical consistency inferior!

Y’know, except when a 10 metre tall robot turned into a portable tape deck. So, most episodes, really.

Dealing With This Review, Right Now

Not pictured; dinosaurs (cranky old geezers), dinosaurs (no, literally this time) and annoying rhyming child-robots.

Ultra Magnus with his fellow G1 movie protagonists, Springer, Hot Rod & Arcee. Magnus’s robot mode scales well with these other figures, which is pleasing.

Anyway, to sum up, Leader Class Ultra Magnus is a nicely-articulated, and clearly MTMTE-based figure with a few weird scale issues who would fit nicely into a MTME-inspired display, and looks quite good in both modes. He’s got a few little surprises that might amuse an MTMTE fan. He has nice accessories which can be attached in a number of configurations, although some of these configurations are a bit odd. Whether he’s worth your £45 depends entirely on how much you like the character.

From left: Ultra Magnus, Ultra Magnus, Ultra Magnus, and Ultra Magnus.

Yeah, I’m fond of the character.

5 thoughts on “Toy Review: Combiner Wars Ultra Magnus

  1. What’s the plural of Ultra Magnus? Ultra Magni?

    Whatever the word, you’d better not acquire more Ultra Magni (Magnses?) than I have Starscreams. I’d better get me some more Starscreams…


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