Toy Review: Combiner Wars Blackjack

Blackjack!

Blackjack!

Tiny figure, but not a tiny review: The newest addition to our collection of toy robots is Combiner Wars Blackjack. Not a recent figure, but it appears that the UK has missed out on this little chap, and only had his retool as Rodimus. Thanks to internet shopping, I was able to pick him up despite never having seen him at retail.

Now, I love the name Blackjack for a Decepticon thug: I suspect he’s not named after the card-game: the Oxford English Dictionary defines a blackjack as a flexible lead-filled truncheon, and gives the following delightful example sentences:

Firehoses were turned on and soon three thousand picketers, thugs, and police rumbled in the streets with clubs, blackjacks, wrenches, chains, and tear gas.
Bats, clubs, sticks, blackjacks, Brazilian fighting rods, rocks, and Japanese club sticks are just a few of the more favored tools used in beating people to a pulp.

Let’s not beat around the bush: this guy was conceived a scummy, nasty little ‘con. Incidentally, whilst he resembles the G1 Micromaster Blackjack, he’s also got a strong resemblance to G1 characters Runabout & Runamuck (those two guys looked pretty similar), so I wonder could he have been conceived as one or the other of those guys, but trademark issues caused a name-change? I guess we’ll never know unless someone as Hasbro or Takara spills the beans. He also looks a lot like the “Ground Soldier” units from Transformers: Devastation.

They're Finely-Ground Soldiers by the time Grimlock has finished with them.

Concept art of the Decepticon “Ground Soldiers” from Transformers Devastation. They’re Finely-Ground Soldiers by the time Grimlock has finished with them. (Image © Platinum Games, Hasbro.)

And of course, it would be remiss not to mention Blackjack’s recent appearance in IDW’s Combiner Wars comics:

Blackjack receives his orders from Starscream. Image from Combiners Wars #16, © IDW & Hasbro.

Blackjack receives his orders from Starscream. Image from the comic packed-in with Combiner Wars Mirage (Combiner Wars #16),© IDW & Hasbro.

The IDW comic character has an interesting look; with body and colours clearly based on this Blackjack but the face of the G1 Micromaster Blackjack. I suspect this is a concious decision; the original Blackjack’s face allows human-like expressions, which this new Blackjack’s armoured faceplate can’t do.

Blackjack is nicely-articulated for such a small figure, with ball-jointed shoulders and hips, and hinged knees and elbows. His head rotates widely in the horizontal plane. he’s remarkably stable, and passes the one-leg test with ease on a level surface.

Ki-Ai!

Blackjack passes the one-leg test quite nicely, and holds some fairly dynamic poses.

Blackjack in robot mode, from various angles.

Blackjack in robot mode, from various angles.

His colour-scheme is a pleasingly simple black and purple with gold accents. His Decepticon symbol (on his right shoulder) could be a bit clearer, but otherwise he looks good. He’s equipped via 5mm post with an axe-like weapon that becomes a spoiler, a gun, or some bizarre combination of the two, for his alternate mode.

Blackjack in car mode, without his attached spoiler.

Blackjack in car mode, without his attached spoiler.

Blackjack’s alternate mode is aesthetically pleasing but nothing special: he’s very dark grey, but not quite black, which means his black tires don’t “disappear” into his sides. He has a nice clear Decepticon icon (Decept-Icon?) on the bonnet of the car, and rich golden windows. His robot-mode weapon can peg into the two holes at his back to mount as a spoiler with a forward-pointing tube. Actually, it can also mount the other way, to but that just looks weird to me. In this mode, Blackjack can peg onto Combiner Wars Motormaster, and other bots made using that mould, such as Combiner Wars Optimus Prime. However, I couldn’t get Blackjack to stay in place long enough to take a photo, as he fits quite loosely onto Optimus, falling off with the slightest disturbance. I don’t have a Motormaster to see if this problem exists with him, too, but this doesn’t bother me, since I’m no fan of the Stunticons. To be quite frank, his combined mode looks a bit daft anyway, since he is basically lain horizontally across the combiner’s flat chest. I would have been much more impressed if he could fold flat into some sort of breastplate or something. I have noticed that Shapeways user cnomis has made a new component that allows a much different mounting for Blackjack, but I can’t help but feel that this functionality should have been included in the toy by default.

The most obvious comparison in alternate mode is his G1 counterpart:

A new challenger approaches!

Combiner Wars Blackjack and G1 Micromaster Blackjack, from the Sports Car Patrol set.

La plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose.

Combiner Wars Blackjack & G1 Blackjack in robot mode.


Combiner Wars Blackjack is remarkably true to the G1 character, despite his very different transformation. G1 fans who are nostalgic for this (admittedly minor) character are likely to be reasonably satisfied should they pick up this new Blackjack for their collections. His articulation and his aesthetics are certainly satisfactory, but his combiner gimmickry is less so, since he won’t stay combined. All in all, since I didn’t get him for combiner gimmickry, I’m chuffed with the little fellow, but I suspect that those who get him for combiner-ish reasons will find him disappointing.

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6 thoughts on “Toy Review: Combiner Wars Blackjack

  1. I think this is one of the most aesthetically pleasing ones I’ve seen yet! I especially love the poses he was able to be put in. I think it’s a case of simpler is better for me and this is a pretty simple look for a Transformer!

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    • Complexity tends to increase with size for transformers (excluding stuff like Rescue Bots, aimed at younger children), and I think that the Legends size-class is one of the sweet-spots. There’s just enough complexity to make the figure interesting, but not enough that the figure’s defining feature is complexity.

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      • That makes sense – I think this one has a simple colour scheme, which is why I like it. I do like the attention to detail on the model itself, but for me a lot of a toy/model is how good it looks from afar. This wins it for me 🙂

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