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.
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.
“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.
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 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.
Duly-Appointed Enforcer of the Tyrest Accord
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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…
Dealing With This Review, Right Now
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.