Cliffjumper's Review: RID AXER
Zartan's Sister's Bike
End of Line Recolour
"No prey is too large, no fee is too small."
Axer learned his craft hunting down microchip smugglers in the slag swamps (sewage works? – Ed.) of Cybertron. Following a rescue mission into a black hole, Axer joined Galvatron on Earth to keep tabs on his "operation." At least that's what he tells himself as he cries himself to sleep every night. This custom-designed all-terrain turbo cycle is equipped with heat-seeking proton missiles and quadraphonic sonic blasters. Actually, that should probably read “He transforms into” rather than “This”, but I doubt even Hasbro read these things since they all became “This toy is badass and has an attitude and could drop-kick you into the sun, RAR!”. I miss Bob. He brandishes an arm-mounted magnetic destabilizer cannon in robot mode. Axer, that is, not Bob. Though he might. Resents Scourge as leader (Axer again).
Axer used to be a nobody Action Master. He used to come with a motorcycle. Then, in 2001 he became a motorcycle, thanks to the aforementioned rescue mission into a black hole. Don't question it, it's science
. This was a lucky turn of events as Hasbro needed someone to recolour 1995-vintage G2 figure Road Pig into to face-off against another cross-dimensional idiot, Sideways, in a late-line two-pack for the Robots in Disguise (RID) line.
Axer's alternate mode is a Harley Davidson bike of some description (the same model as 1986 Protectobot failure Groove), which is good. Bike Transformers have generally been a problem over the years, not least because many of Takara/Hasbro's designers tend to think anything with two parallel wheels is a motorcycle, and the actual look of the thing isn't something they need to worry about. However, Axer looks like an actual real motorcycle rather than a robot straddling a pair of wheels doggy-style. In fact, the machine has very few visible robot mode parts – the back of the head is well disguised under the headlight, and the fists are relatively hidden clipped underneath. The whole thing is also very solid – there are no gaping holes in the toy. The only real concession to the robot mode is the Laser Rod gimmick – down the left-hand side of the bike there's a large clear plastic rod which looks like a very strange exhaust system. This lights up (red, seeing as you ask) when a discreet button on the vehicle's fuel tank is pressed. Axer also has a kick-stand underneath allowing the bike mode to stand (well, lean) without falling over.
The colour scheme is marvellous too – Axer only uses silver and black plastic, but it's well arranged, with silver paint picking out the engine detail on the sides and flashes of gold trim used smartly to break up the black.
The most fun feature about Axer's motorcycle mode, though, is the size – somewhere between a Scout and Deluxe figure in today's terminology. The thing is at close to 1:18 scale, which means he's a perfect size for interaction with G.I. Joe or other 3.75”/4” figures (the toy was actually reused in Japan as a vehicle for the Microman range). Considering Hasbro owned G.I. Joe at the time (and were occasionally looking at crossover opportunities around then to give both failing franchises a lifeline), this probably wasn't an accident. This isn't just a matter of balancing a figure on the seat, but the handlebars can also be gripped and the legs arranged realistically along the sides (though for best results a post-2007 'G3' figure is recommended).
Style and fun all in one. And that's just the vehicle mode.
Transforming Axer is simple, but therein lies the strength. Getting a robot out of a motorcycle shouldn't be particularly tortuous, and it's worrying how the line has regressed from Axer – designed in 1995 and still good enough in 2001 – to abominations like, well, anyone from the Revenge of the Fallen (ROTF) line who turns into a motorcycle. It's a transformation that is fun; it can be done in a few seconds, but doesn't get boring. It can take a couple of tries to master doing without getting the wire for the Laser Rod tangled, but after that you're golden.
The figure's robot mode is only around 4.5” tall, about the right height for a design of this complexity – he's not small and fiddly, but neither is he oversized and underdetailed. Axer looks surprisingly coherent considering his chest is just the seat of the bike with the headlights and windscreen hanging upside-down over it; the key here is that it's obvious he turns into a motorcycle, but it doesn't restrict his movement in any sizeable way.
By this stage, Transformers had discovered decent articulation, and Axer has 9 points of movement (that's four more than the entire 1986 series of toys combined), six of them ball-jointed. And they're all useful – the ratchet joints on the knees can be tricky at first, but basically Axer can pull off all manner of dramatic poses. Ironically, his Laser Rod gimmick is the biggest obstacle, limiting the right arm's movement. However, it is possible to unclip both the wired LED section and the clear bar from the arm, though what you'll do with them after that I don't know – the former just hangs there, permanently connected to the torso.
The robot looks fabulous too – the gold trim is pushed to the sides in this mode, as is much of the silver, but the effect is surprisingly neat. Combined with a nondescript head (with nice light-piped eyes taking up the half of his face that isn't a faceplate), the overall appearance is one of low-key menace – like a ninja or a sniper. The slight asymetrical aspects – such as the wheel on the left leg as countering the Laser Rod on the right arm – give him something a little different. The only thing letting the side down is those hollow forearms – tacky, Hasbro, tacky. I used to think Axer was more boring than Road Pig due to featuring fewer colours, but on reflection - despite my ongoing loyalty to The Pig - Axer might actually be the more effective.
Gimmick-wise the Laser Rod itself is fun – being fixed to the right arm it can be brandished menacingly in one of Axer's many well-balanced poses, and can light up either by pressing the chest, or the wheel on his back. Simple, yet addictive. He's also technically in scale with G.I. Joe figures, though he's only about a head taller than most, making him look a little silly. He can, however, wear Wild Bill's hat.
Marks out of ten for the following:
9 – Not quite an all-time classic, but close.
8 – Nothing especially fragile, though the design is about a year ahead of Hasbro switching to 'harmlessly falls apart if you do it wrong', so he's not invincible; the ball-joint housings will most likely crack if you dismember Axer. However, they're nowhere near as rubbery and wear-prone as those on, say, the Cyberjets. Battery life for the Laser Rod seems to be excellent too.
10 – Slick alt mode, stylish and dynamic robot. Add in one of the line's more sensible (and less intrusive) gimmicks and interactive possibilities with other toylines and he's fun on toast.
9 – Great design boosted by a great colour scheme, complete with a range of movement that fits display as well as it does play.
8 – In context of G2 and even RID, this would be a 10; the bar has moved since then, but Axer still holds his own against figures 15 years more up to date.
9 – Relative obscurity means the two-pack can still be found for around £20 on ebay; personally I wouldn't go to a lot of effort to get the Autobot counterpart, but Axer justifies most of that by himself despite his size.
9 – One of the great unsung Transformers moulds. Despite the character's anonymity he's a worthy investment, especially as he won't look out of place alongside much more modern figures.
With thanks to Hound and Sadie!