Toy Review: Combiner Wars Legends class Shockwave

Remember back in January when we ran our Bruticus Week feature? Well, here’s Bruticus Week Redux, because, yes, it’s taken this long for us to acquire the final piece of that particular Combaticon puzzle: Bruticus’s gun, who comes in the form of a Legends class Shockwave. This dinky Decepticon has proven frustratingly tricky to source and, much as we wanted him, we weren’t prepared to pay the ridiculous scalper prices for which we’d seen him going. So we had a bit of wait to find him for a reasonable rate. Still, here we go at last: Bruticus Week Day 8: the Day Everyone Got Shot.

Looking down the barrel of a gun / Son of a gun, son of a bitch / Getting paid, getting rich

Pew! Pew!

Was he worth the wait? The only logical choice is to read on and see…

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Bruticus Week: Combiner Wars Bruticus Himself

Bruticus Week!

Bruticus Week: 7th and final day

And on the seventh day, we rested. Wait a minute no we didn’t, let’s try that again… now, are you guys ready?

Combaticons assemble!

Combaticons assemble!

And Lo on the seventh day, WE CREATED BRUTICUS!

Yes, thanks for sticking with us all week, now it’s finally time to take a look at the big guy himself….

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Bruticus Week: Toy Review Combiner Wars Vortex

Bruticus Week!

Bruticus Week!

Vortex, the Interrogator

Vortex is the intelligence officer of the Combaticons. He’s an expert at extracting information from captives who don’t want to talk. He got his name by tormenting non-flying enemies: picking them up and taking them on a wild ride through the air, dropping them and catching them again until they’re begging to tell him whatever he wants to know. And once he’s got the info, he can drop them and not catch them.

Vortex’s new toy looks like this in package:

Vortex In pack, with gun, hand/foot accessory and comic.

Vortex In pack, with gun, hand/foot accessory and comic.

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Bruticus Week: Toy Review Combiner Wars Blast-Off

Bruticus Week!

Bruticus Week: day 5

Blast-Off, Aloof Astronaut

Every family has its black sheep, that’s even true of over-aggressive-giant-combining-robot families. The black sheep of the Combaticons is undoubtedly Blast Off. Despite being part of a combining team, here’s one Decepticon who very much goes his own way. This is evident from his very first appearance in the G1 Cartoon. In Episode 61, Starscream steals the “personality components”of 5 renegade Decepticons from the filing-cabinet in which they’ve been incarcerated and fits them into abandoned WW2 vehicles to make his own personal army. As the freed personalities vivify each of the rusted hulks in turn, so those vehicles change. In most cases this involves updating from vintage 1940s machines to their more modern (by 80s standards at least) equivalents. Except Blast Off, who – without explanation – promptly turns from a B-17 bomber plane into… wait for it, a space shuttle. Oooo-kay.

Combiner Wars Blast off

Combiner Wars Blast off

Despite his predominantly camo-brown paint job (because they totally have mud in space, right?) Blast Off has never really fitted with the military aesthetic of the other Combaticons, in appearance or behaviour. Sure the Eagle will land every now and then for limb duty but his favourite company is his own and he’d rather fight at extreme long distance – ideally a laser strike from orbit – rather than getting up close and face-punchy à la Brawl. Even in space you can hear the roar of this Con’s superiority complex. But does his Combiner Wars incarnation still leave Blast Off feeling so superior? Let’s survey the situation….

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Bruticus Week: Toy Review Combiner Wars Onslaught

Bruticus Week!

Bruticus Week day 4

Onslaught, the Tactician

Onslaught is the tactician of the Combaticons, the brains of the group. In the G1 Transformers storyline, many Decepticon subgroups are lead by their strongest member, who dominates his followers by violence or the threat thereof, but Onslaught leads the Combaticons because they respect his superior intelligence, and his strategic and tactical acumen. In the Fall Of Cybertron video-game in particular, the Combaticons are described as the Decepticon military’s élite special forces unit. Whilst the majority of ‘cons are petty tyrants and brutish bullies, the Combaticons come across as actually being the sort of Proud Soldier Race Guys that the other ‘cons think of themselves as: disciplined, cohesive and organised as well as brutal and ruthless.

A Screen-shot from Fall of Cybertron: Onslaught projects a 3d-map to explain his plan to his fellow Combaticons.

A Screen-shot from Fall of Cybertron: Onslaught projects a 3d-map to explain his plan to his fellow Combaticons.

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Bruticus Week: Toy Review Combiner Wars Brawl

Bruticus Week!

Bruticus Week!

Brawl: Always Angry, All the Time

Since his creation in Generation 1, Brawl has been the same in every instance of the Transformers franchise in which he’s appeared: angry, loud, belligerent and ANGRY. Every Brawl across every iteration is grey-green, turns into a tank and likes fighting and stomping stuff. Brawl has been the Angriest of the Combaticons, maybe the angriest of all Decepticons, since 1986.

(Image © 1985 Sunbow Productions, Marvel Productions, and Hasbro.)

Screen-cap from The Transformers, ep. 62 Starscream’s Brigade: Brawl has been conscious for all of 10 seconds, and he’s already waving a gun around and issuing death-threats.

As well as appearing as a member of the Combaticon Combiner team, Brawl has appeared solo in the War For Cybertron video game as one of Megatron’s sidekicks (before rejoining his team-mates in Fall of Cybertron), and was one of the advisers who would assist Decepticon players in Transformers Universe, appearing over comm channels to instruct players exploring the Decepticons “Central City” Free Roam map or performing Crisis missions. Brawl was rather amusing as an advisor, constantly complaining about the non-combat missions and whinging about the uselessness of the Vehicons.

On to the toy…

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Bruticus Week: Toy Review Combiner Wars Swindle

Bruticus Week!

Bruticus Week: day 2

Swindle, The Arms Dealer

Swindle is one of those characters who doesn’t change all that much throughout his many appearances in the Transformers mythos: G1 Swindle, TFA Swindle and Aligned Continuity (that’s TF: Prime and the War For/Fall Of Cybertron video games) Swindle are all much of a muchness, which is a tribute to the instantly recognisable aesthetic and distinctive characterisation that this Decepticon has enjoyed all along. Swindle is an enthusiastic profiteer: an arms dealer who sees the Autobot/Decepticon war as an opportunity to sell a whole lot of guns, ammo and the other grim necessities of war. It’s a depiction that reaches its zenith in Transformers Animated, where Swindle is shown to have his own personal transwarp storage dimension, the doorway to which is inside his chest, so that he always has access to his vast stockpile of dubiously acquired guns and gadgets in eager readiness for a quick, no questions asked, sale.

"Trust me..."

“Trust me…”

Swindle is not only my favourite Combaticon but (after Starscream) one of my favourite Decepticons full stop, so ever since I heard Bruticus was set to be a part of Combiner Wars I’ve been looking forward to getting my hands on this figure. Was he worth the wait? Let’s find out…

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Bruticus Week: Introduction

Bruticus Week!

Bruticus Week starts here!

The Combaticons

The giant Transformer Bruticus is a Combiner: he is made up of five independently sentient components known as the Combaticons. In the original G1 cartoon, the Combaticons first appeared in episode 62, “Starscream’s Brigade”.

The Combaticons were renegade Decepticons, whose brains were placed in cold storage by Megatron as punishment for unspecified crimes. Rescued from prison by Starscream, they assist him in one of his many failed coup-attempts against the Decepticon leader, combing into the gigantic Bruticus to defeat the equally gigantic Devastator.

Starscream rides Bruticus

In The Transformers, ep. 62, Bruticus helps Starscream in his latest attempt to overthrow Megatron. It doesn’t go well, of course. (Don’t think too much about scale here.)

The Combaticons returned in many subsequent iterations of the Transformers franchise, bringing their particular brand of violence and mayhem wherever they went.


For Bruticus Week, we’ll be looking at the five newly-released Combiner Wars Combaticons, and their combined form Bruticus. These Combaticons form part of the Generations toyline, and are strongly inspired by the original Combaticons. Combiner Wars isn’t entirely a repeat of Generations 1, however, more a tribute or homage, and it’s not without its own innovations and modernisations. (G1 purists leave in disgust here. Good riddance, you stick-in-the-muds!)

Ma'am,. can you say which of these 'bots blew up your house?

From The Left: Blast-Off, Swindle, Onslaught, Brawl & Vortex.

This week we’ll have one post for each of the five Combaticons, building up to a look at the mighty Bruticus himself. We’re starting tomorrow with the wheeler-dealer extraordinaire, the Del Boy of the Decepticons: Swindle.

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.

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Toy Review: Combiner Wars Mirage

So, when the Combiner Wars toyline reached the UK I wasn’t massively impressed. All the figures looked a bit same-y to me, perhaps because the Aerialbots were (mostly) the first wave to arrive, and they’re all jet planes. I liked the Optimus Prime, but I wasn’t impressed with much of the others. I decided to just buy any figures who stood out and looked interesting, rather than try to collect a whole team. (I figured early on that this policy would produce an anomalous result towards the end of this year: “known Decepticon sympathiser” AddAltModeR loves all the Combaticons, so the whole team have been pre-ordered.)

Autobot-wise, I’ve been largely disappointed. Among the Protectobots, only First Aid tickled my fancy, and among the current wave, which is made up of previously non-combining characters joining to form a new combiner called Ultra Prime (I appreciate the RID2001/Car Robots reference!), I’ve only really liked Mirage. Now, Mirage is a re-tool of the Decepticon Drag Strip, with a new head that more closely resembles the G1 cartoon version of Mirage, and a white colour scheme. I didn’t like Drag Strip much, on the grounds that he’s super-garish: lemon yellow and magenta is not a tasteful combination. Mirage is, suitably for a robot aristocrat, a much-more classily-attired bot.

Mirage in-pack. He comes with a sword, a giant hand/foot, and a comic.

Mirage in-pack. He comes blister-packed on a card with a sword, a giant hand/foot, and a comic.

So, my thoughts on this figure… Continue reading