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Blackjack's Review: Special Ops Jazz

Name: Jazz
Allegiance: Autobot
Function: Special Operations Commander
Size Class: Deluxe Class

"Do it with style or don't do it at all."

So... Jazz. Apparently one of the 'iconic' characters in G1. Well, being someone who was introduced to the franchise the modern way—i.e. the live action movies—the reason Jazz stood out for me was the fact that the live action movie had a character called Jazz based on the original G1 version. The defining features of Jazz would be his visor, his taste for human pop culture, and his 'black' voice.

Rewatching the G1 cartoon and reading the Marvel comics, I really don't see why Jazz had such a huge fanbase. (Although ashamedly I'm a Jazz fan) He didn't do a thing in the original cartoon, and the closest thing he got to a spotlight episode was the one where the Autobots went evil and Jazz had to stop them with rock music or something. Like Prowl and Ratchet, Jazz never did much in the cartoon, while people like Gears or Hoist get an episode to themselves. But they become iconic parts of the franchise anyway. I suppose Jazz's popularity could be blamed on his famous voice actor, Scatman Crothers.

Now, the comics... well, he's nowhere as profilic as Ratchet or Blaster or Goldbug or Thunderwing or Grimlock or Nightbeat or Prowl in the comics, but he was always there, acting as Prowl's second during the early days of Marvel comics. He did a couple of things, the most memorable one to me being the one where he negotiated a cooperation with businessman G.B. Blackrock. Later on he would gradually disappear from sight like most of the first-year cast as more new toys are introduced, but unlike guys like Windcharger or Sideswipe who never got a chance to shine in the comics, Jazz had his moments. He was killed alongside many others by Starscream during the cast-cleaning Underbase saga, but was revived a couple of issues later by the Pretender process. Guess who had a new toy in the shelves? This would allow Jazz more appearances during the tail end of Marvel's run, especially since he got a new Action Master toy shortly afterwards. During the G2 comics, being one of the G1 toys repainted and rereleased, Jazz again got himself appearing in the G2 comics. Then again, most of the G1 cast who Simon Furman liked appeared in G2 as well, so it may not be the fault of the toy.

Like Bumblebee, Jazz did not reappear during post-G2 lines, although I do think a Spychanger repaint was released in the Universe line. Jazz returned to the main lines during the Alternators line that launched around 2006, where he got a toy credited under his Japanese name of Meister. This would prepare the fanbase, sort of, for the live-action movie in 2007. Jazz was one of the five Autobots that appeared in the Movie and in my opinion alongside Optimus Prime he's the one that is most faithful to the original design in design and character. Movie Jazz got ripped into two by Megatron, the only Autobot casualty. He proved popular enough, however, that Movie Jazz had toys released for him even three years after the first Movie. This movie buzz earned Jazz an Animated incarnation where he becomes a ninja Elite Guard, which isn't as over-stereotyped as Prowl. The OTFCC exclusive story Shattered Glass also had their own version of an evil Jazz.

Also, in IDW he's gotten some time in the limelight in the otherwise dire All Hail Megatron maxi-series, being one of the few things done right in the utter dirge there. His spotlight, on the other hand, is simply gorgeous stuff that every self-respecting comic book fan should read.

Still, Jazz has one of the largest fanbases for any Autobot. (He still lost the popularity contest for the Transformers Hall of Fame to Dinobot. Don't feel so bad; Shockwave and Soundwave lost too. Dinobot is just that badass) However, when Hasbro decided to remake G1 characters with modern engineering in 2006's Classics line, Jazz was left out. Considering the relatively small size of the line, it's really not surprising. But in 2008's Universe 2.0 line, the spiritual successor to Classics, iconic character Jazz again wasn't made into a toy, even though relative nobodies like Octane or Onslaught got all-new molds. With many of the 1984-era Autobot Cars getting new Deluxe Class molds, Jazz was among the few that was left out. Considering the rest of the remaining Autobot cars without a new Classics toy (Trailbreaker and Wheeljack) Jazz was the odd one out because he's one of the major characters in G1. However, come the third part of Classics in 2010, with the Generations/Hunt for the Decepticons/Reveal the Shield line, all three remaining Autobot Cars were released, although poor Trailbreaker got only a Legends Class toy. And the fandom rejoiced.

'Special Ops Jazz' (instead of the normal 'Autobot Jazz') is part of the Reveal the Shield portion of the line, with the gimmick being rubsigns. Unlike the good-mould-but-shitugly-colours Prowl, or pretty-but-a-brick Rodimus, Jazz has an excellent robot mode and an amazing vehicle mode.

I daresay this is the ultimate Jazz toy, being the composite of all Jazz's myriad incarnations — his three G1 toys, his Movie counterpart and his Animated counterpart.

Alternate Mode:
Jazz transforms into his Movie counterpart's alternate mode, a Pontiac Solstice. Although owing to licensing stuff, it isn't an honest-to-goodness replica like the Movieverse toys. Rather, it is a blend of Jazz's original alternate mode of a Porsche Martini 935 Turbo and his Movieverse incarnation of a Pontiac Solstice. The front end, for example, has Porsche lower lights identical to the G1 toy, but the hood and headlights are much more similar to the Pontiac.

He is coloured in a faithful rendition of his original G1 deco, a mainly white body with a blue racing stripe bisecting his length, and a red stripe inside that. The same red-within-blue stripe also runs along the lower side of his door and around the back rims of the wheel. The number '4' is rendered in white on the center of the stripe, and black '4's are painted on the doors. Of course the 'Martini' decals are absent, but I imagine Reprolabels or whatever can reproduce those for you if you like it. Personally I like my Jazz this way. Colourful enough not to be plain, but not overblown like the original toy.

His wheels and rearview mirrors are black, and his headlights and windows are all in translucent blue. The lower rims of the front end is painted red. He also has a spoiler, but unlike the massive curved one the original toy has, this one is more similar again to the Pontiac, although it's been moved a little forward instead of hanging off the very end. In my opinion this makes for a much prettier alternate mode.

It looks realistic, highly realistic, yet looks like it's rolled out of a cartoon as well, although not as cartoonish as Animated Jazz. The attention to detail isn't spared, although the rear parts of Jazz's alternate mode is sadly unpainted, including the two pairs of moulded exhaust. No big loss, there.

Jazz rolls well in vehicle mode, and a rubsign adorns the roof of the vehicle mode. Rub it and you'll see the Autobot symbol. I don't see why so many people give grief about the rubsign, it's not like it's noticeable from afar. No need to overreact and tear it off. Personally, silly as it is, it actually makes sense not to have an Autobot insignia in vehicle mode, robots in disguise and all.

His doors can open and latch on securely, although doing so will reveal Jazz's arms to you, which are otherwise hidden from view, even when you turn him upside down. More importantly is the gimmick. Behind the doors Jazz has these speakers, which he used in the episode where the Autobots go all evil, before Blaster surpasses Jazz as the resident music-addicted fellow. Flip the pieces of the window and the speakers now point outwards. The articulation on said speakers also means that they can point forwards, a la his original G1 appearance. It looks silly? Well, admittedly it does. So you can simply pluck them off and attach guns to the handles. Like, say, from Straxus or Tracks, which are perfect snuggly fits on Jazz's windows.

Overall, a supremely stylish vehicle mode. This Pontiac-Porsche hybrid is stylish enough to look sleek, but not overtly sleek like ROTF Sideswipe that you won't ever see a car like him on the streets. Much better than Jazz has any right to be, but this gem of an alternate mode pales to his robot mode.

Robot Mode:
Oh damn, Jazz has the sweetest robot mode of all Classics toys. The kibble is so well divided that it ends up exactly like the cartoon model. Nay, even better than the cartoon character model in that the lower legs are segmented and actually look like legs instead of random kibbly blocks. This looks like something that a kitbasher would make after a long effort, what with the beautifully molded lower arms and that stern yet cool face sculpt.

The original transformation is replicated almost faithfully, albeit with a little improvements here and there. The front end of the vehicle mode end up as the upper chest, the doors become the wings, the front wheels become shoulder guards of sorts, the roof end up at the back and the rear of the vehicle end up as the feet. Having the original Jazz toy as a comparison, you'll be astounded how faithfully they replicate the stickers on Jazz's midriff, stomach and legs. But instead of stickers on a flat surface, these all become moulded details of the machinery panels and whatever they are supposed to be.

The legs in particular always impressed me. All the pieces, instead of being contained in one single block and the feet on a ball joint like what they did with Prowl/Bluestreak/Smokescreen or Sideswipe/Sunstreaker/Red Alert, Jazz's lower leg is more complicated, with those segmented gray spring-loaded parts that served as feet in the original toy be used as parts of the lower legs. This Jazz has real feet, with a little 'high heel' behind it, making him look so much better than just having a block of car kibble as feet.

Jazz's headsculpt is done so wonderfully. I especially like the silver paint used for the lower half of the face, which accentuates Jazz's stern yet confident expression. His visor is light-piped and is a transluscent blue, while his helmet is black. The horns are well sculpted and proportional as well. With his chunky arms — thick enough to look muscular and powerful yet not too block as to look like bricks — and hands open, with fingers sculpted in a position with attitude, even standing still Jazz has got that badass look going for him. Those door wings behind his shoulders also add to the badass impression.

Articulation wise Jazz is highly superior to every other toy in the Deluxe class line so far, and none of his joints are hampered by unnecessary kibble or poor layout. His head is on a ball joint, his shoulders are both triple-jointed (hinge, ball and rotating), his elbows are double jointed (two hinges), his wrists are on ball joints, the wings are on hinges, the ever elusive waist joint is present, his thigh are double jointed (ball and rotating), his knees are double jointed (two hinges), there's another hinge halfway between the knee and the foot, and his ankle is on a hinge joint.

For those who skipped the paragraph detailing the specific places of articulation, I don't blame you. But point is, Jazz has a lot of articulation. He can go in every single cool kickass move you can think of. Kung-fu kick? No problem. Leaning on a wall with one foot crossed over the other? No problem. Arms akimbo? Yoga position? Running? Jumping? You can do all that. In fact, the only cool thing he can't do is cross his arm in front of his chest, but putting his arms in an akimbo position is cool enough.

Jazz comes with a gun, although not a dinky gun that comes with the likes of Prowl or Sunstreaker. While still not long like, say, Astrotrain's or Rodimus', it's still large and chunky enough to look threatening. Kind of like a particularly large handgun or a SMG. It is stored under Jazz's front end in a folded position like a hairdryer, and can even stay there in robot mode. Nifty hiding place, who would think of checking the chest? You'd think weapons are hidden in wrists, the back, the hips... it can then be unfolded to a gun that fits Jazz perfectly. The gun is based on the gun that came with Jazz's Pretender toy, with the circular stock evoking his original toy's handheld blaster thing. Jazz's hands, while looking cool like that of a Gundam instead of an ugly block with a hole drilled through it like most Transformers toys, can hold the gun securely in his grip. Like Bludgeon or Straxus and Tracks and Terradive and many other new toys, Jazz has got open arms with holes that are the same size as the 'standard' gun hole, so Jazz can hold, say, Astrotrain's ion blaster, or Optimus Prime's funky rifle. Since it's open he can even pose with Drift's swords or Straxus' battle axe. Or wield Chopster like a crazy madman.

I've always thought that scene in Escalation where Jazz transforms, and his gun pops out and unfolds out of a recessed compartment, and he catches it mid-air, to be one of the coolest things he did. It's not much, but it's cooler than everything Drift or Hot Shot has ever done combined.

Robot mode done to perfection, with enough style to replicate his most iconic moments. Why, if you have the toys Jazz can easily beat Stranglehold's face to the floor! Or go toe-to-toe with Megatron! Or bend down and shake hands with a human! Or hold his hands to his ears and listen to Madonna! Or bop Springer and Blurr down like a jackass! Or tear the Predacons single-handed with that new Tracks toy you bought! The possibilities are endless.

That's not all, nooo. Jazz's speakers can flip out from his window-wings, but there's a bonus. The speakers are on pegs that many modern toys are implementing, so they can be removed and other weaponry, from, say, Tomahawk or Straxus, could be attached to Jazz's wings to make him look more hardcore. The sides of Jazz's gun's barrel can also have the speakers clip onto the sides, making it look like some sort of awesome sonic sci-fi gun. The speakers can move in front of the barrel to look like some sort of crazy big hi-fi gun, or fold so that they point forwards from the sides like amplifiers. Or you can go the sane way and attach more guns to Jazz's gun. Yeah! Trigger happy!

See, this is one of the moments where Hasbro played it right by delaying the release of iconic characters instead of doing all of them in 2006 or 2008. Otherwise Jazz might've ended up done as a mediocre toy that looks great but is limited in gunctionality like Rodimus, or vice versa like Prowl. Definitely Jazz is one of the highlights of the line, and if this is a measuring stick for the Classics-era figures to come... well, I could just see myself buying a lot more. Kup, Scourge, Windcharger, Thunderwing... if all of them are half as good as Jazz is, we'll have one of the most fan-pleasing lines ever.

Marks out of ten for the following:

Durability: 8/10 The gear mechanisms on Jazz's lower legs worry me, and they tend to jam when not transformed in order. But unless you're that much of a barbarian, they won't exactly, you know, snap off like Movie Blackout's.

Transformation Design: 10/10 One of the best designs in toy engineering. Not too far off from the original, too.

Aesthetics: 10/10 He looks as good as any of his fictional appearances. Arguably better because he has actual feet.

Articulation: 10/10 Again, perfect articulation. Jazz has excellent articulation and the balance to pose properly. Articulation wise, he can even outcompete a Leader Class toy. He's badass.

Fun: 9/10 A proper Jazz toy with a gun. Well, okay, there isn't quite as many scenes that you can replicate, unlike Thunderwing, but he can still slam Stranglehold's face to the floor, dig?

Price/Value: 9/10 One of those toys that a fan won't regret buying. Unless you're the G1 fanatic who thinks the G1 toy is better than this.

Overall: 10/10 One of the new Classics-era toys that is simply perfect and doesn't leave me wondering 'why didn't they add this' or 'why can't they make this bit better'. Simple perfection. Very few toys strike home in all the categories. In fact the only way for Jazz to be better is that if they included the shoulder missile launcher or the wrist grapple hook, something that couldn't possibly be in the budget of a Deluxe class. A perfect toy, and a must-have for any self-respecting Jazz fan, or Classics completist.
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