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Transformers Toy Review Archive (older series, 1984 to date)
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Warcry's Review: Prowl

"Logic is the ultimate weapon."

Prowl strives to find logic and reasoning in everything. A listener, not a talker. Has most sophisticated logic center of the Maximals. Able to analyze and advise on complex combat situations almost instantaneously. Fires highly corrosive acid pellets. Cybernetic eye and frontal lobe interact with wing mounted ion orbs, supplying limited telekinetic power. Afflicted with ironic, dry sense of humor. Believes himself to have been a great military strategist in a former life.

Prowl is a figure I bought solely based on name. The G1 version of the character was always a favourite, even though I really didn't see him do much as a kid. So when I saw that a Beast Wars version of Prowl was available, owl or not I had to have him. And when I actually got one, read the bio and found out that he was a telekinetic, somewhat spiritual reincarnation of the original I completely fell in love with the character. At the time I was just "yay Prowl survived the movie", but as an adult I can appreciate the character concept in far greater depth -- Prowl the eminently logical Autobot would never have espoused a belief in something as insubstantial as reincarnation, and probably would have scoffed at claims of telekinesis. The dry wit that the Beast Wars character is credited with is another contrast between the two, and I think the inherent contradictions between those things and Prowl's logical nature give Beast Wars Prowl a firm basis to be a lot more than the stuffy guy with no charisma (and occasional psycho) that G1 Prowl is usually written as.

IDW, naturally, ignored all of those questions in favour of making Beast Wars Prowl into Chip Chase in a robot body as per Binaltech, since they'd made the reincarnation story impossible by bringing back some G1 Autobots to be the absolute rulers of the Maximal government. But since every single thing about the IDW Beast Wars stories illustrates so clearly that neither Simon Furman, Ben Yee or anyone else at IDW had the slightest idea what people enjoyed about Beast Wars, I -- like most fans with a modicum of good taste -- ignore them completely.

Prowl also has the distinction of having some of the best box art of any Transformer released before or since. It's so cool, in fact, that there's no way the toy could possibly live up to it. The designers tried, though, and I think they did a pretty good job.

Alternate Mode: In a pun so obvious I'm surprised it took them four years to come up with it, Prowl is an owl. To be more specific, he's a Transmetal II owl with all the shiny chrome and cyborg parts that implies. He's got a nice, varied colour palette in this mode. Vacuum-metallicized bright blue is the dominant colour, though white, grey, pink, gunmetal blue, gold and transparent red are all present in varying degrees too. It sounds like a riotous mixture of too many colours, but it actually works really, really well. The blue paint on his wingtips that fades smoothly to white is a nice touch, and the chrome blue isn't overused like it is on some Transmetals. Unfortunately, like a lot of toys his age the chrome has started to chip, seriously detracting from the toy's good looks. The pictures included with the review do a good job showing how bad my Prowl looks now. He was hit by Transmetal Disease worse than any toy I've ever seen -- he started chipping almost as soon as I got him, and he still leaves little blue sparkles behind every time I transform him. The good news is that some Transmetals have better paint jobs, for whatever reason, so if you can find a Prowl that hasn't shed his paint yet careful handling can usually keep the toy from collecting any damage.

The mold is very detailed and highly asymmetrical. At a glance only the cyborg eye stands out, but on closer inspection you can see that his head crest, feet, legs and wings are all molded to have a lot of variations. What's mechanical on one side is organic on the other, and even the mechanical bits don't quite match. The resulting owl looks like some sort of Frankenstein's monster, cobbled together from a ruined owl corpse and whatever bits and pieces of machinery were lying around. In spite of a cheery colour scheme Prowl's beast mode has a very creepy look to it, one that all the Transmetal II figures aspired to but few actually achieved.

Being an owl doesn't open up many opportunities for dynamic posing, but Prowl is far from a brick. His wings are articulated at the body joint and can swing in on themselves at midpoint, so he can either be posed with his wings flapping wide open or with them tucked in alongside his body. His head can turn around 360 degrees in the creepy way that owls are known for, too. His feet and legs both feature ball joints, which doesn't help much for freestanding poses but does let you pose him to swoop down and attack ground-based Predacons, as owls do when they're hunting.

Beyond those points there's really not much to say about Prowl's beast mode. It's a fairly cool rendition of a cyborg owl, but there's only so much you can do with something like that.

Robot Mode: Prowl's robot mode uses the same colours as his beast mode does, and they look just as good here as they did there. There's a bit less blue chrome and a bit more white, but it's still a heroic, eye-catching colour scheme. He also looks just as mismatched as he did in beast mode, as the designers went to a great deal of effort to ensure that his arms, legs and head were clearly asymmetrical. But unlike so many of his fellow Transmetal II figures, the asymmetry is kept in check -- it stands out, but it doesn't overwhelm everything else about the figure like it would on Jawbreaker or Megatron. I'd actually go so far as to say that Prowl's the nicest looking TM2 figure I've seen in person.

Prowl's beast mode head ends up square on his chest. The red dome on top of it can flip around to reveal his spark crystal. Pressing the button on his shoulder will send his head spinning. On it's own it's not a very useful feature, but if you flip his wings around and down the whole assembly will spin. As an attack it's not particularly useful, since he could just punch anyone close enough to get hit with the wings. As an action feature it also leaves a lot to be desired, because most of the time when you try to use it, his wings get caught up on his arms or legs or the table he's standing on and don't actually spin anywhere. It's an unobtrusive gimmick, though, and certainly doesn't do any harm even if it's not especially impressive.

Unusually for Beast Wars toys Prowl's silhouette bears a striking resemblance to the Fuzor Silverbolt, who also has wings on his shoulders and claws on his feet. Those features are actually implemented much better on Prowl, though -- his wings fold in on themselves to save space, while his legs have more joints for maximum poseability. I also find it very impressive that two very different beast modes resulted in such similar robot layouts.

Prowl isn't without his flaws, though. The one that bugs me the most are his wings. They lock in place in beast mode, but when he's in robot mode they don't. They'll sit on his shoulders well enough, but if you bump him they'll move out of place or shift around more than I would like. It's not a huge annoyance, but it could have been solved pretty easily with another set of tabs on his torso.

Poseability is a bit of an issue too. Although Prowl has about a billion ball joints -- his neck, shoulders, elbows, hips, ankles and mid-shins are all ball-jointed, along with swivels at the knee, waist and wings -- he has some problems. Prowl's upper body is very heavy, and he tends to default to a "legs posed as far apart as they can go" stance just due to gravity if you're not consciously trying to pose him some other way to avoid it. If memory serves this happened even when he was fresh out of the box, so it's not an issue of joint wear. His legs actually are very poseable in spite of that since the extra joint increases the number of poses he can stand in without losing his balance, but it does require a bit of care and patience. His arms have some posing issues too, though not because of any inherent flaws in their design. The problem is that they're blocked by his large wings and owl head from a lot of angles, which both restricts his range of movement and means that from a lot of angles you can't actually see his arms anyway.

The other problem that gets under my skin is the lack of accessories. Prowl's box art depicts him diving down (one assumes on an unsuspecting Predacon) while brandishing an awesome-looking two-bladed weapon. That weapon doesn't exist. His right hand does have a very small claw molded onto it, which might be meant to represent the weapon in question but in reality looks like just an extension of the bracer he's wearing over his right forearm. Unfortunately, Prowl's arms are a tad stubby and they can barely reach past the owl head on his chest. Because of that, he really could have used an accessory to make him look just a bit less silly.

Transformation Design: I mentioned the wings that don't solidly connect anywhere in robot mode earlier, and a lot of parts don't snap into place in beast mode either. As long as the joints stay tight that's not a problem, but if they start to get loose it will be. Aside from that I'm actually pretty impressed with how well they managed to implement an owl Transformer, which on the face of it doesn't sound like a good idea. 7/10

Durability: Blue sparkles everywhere. If you can get one with a good paint job, though, he's a very well-built figure. I can only judge him based on the one I actually own, though, and that's not going to result in a great score. 4/10

Fun: I've owned him for thirteen years and I still enjoy playing with him as much as I did the day I got him. The flaking chrome might detract from his looks, but it's a testament to how much I've played with him over the years. Prowl's one of the most fun Beast Wars Deluxes I've got. 9/10

Aesthetics: Fresh out of the package, with all the chrome intact...I can't lie, he'd be a 10/10. But thirteen years old and a bit beat up, I can't rate him quite so highly anymore. But even with chrome missing, I think he still looks good. 8/10

Articulation: Prowl has a lot of articulation. He can't get the most out of it, though. 7/10

Price: Since he wasn't on the TV show, Prowl isn't very expensive. The issue with him is less price than it is availability. Finding any Transmetal with good chrome could take a while, and in Prowl's case it'll be twice as hard because the mostly-white Prowl I'm reviewing here was released in about-equal numbers with a mostly-black variant. If you're patient, though, he can be had for around what he would have cost at retail in the 90s. 9/10

Overall: I do like Prowl, quite a bit. Transmetals scare me, though. Like the figures made from quick-deteriorating gold plastic, their long-term survivability is way lower than a regular toy. When I've been presented with the choice I've always picked up chrome-free redecos of the Transmetal molds (many of which were released under the Universe and Armada labels), but Prowl's mold has never been reused. He's such a cool toy that I think he's worth the risk, but the chrome is such an important factor in his looks that when it starts to go the toy loses a lot of it's appeal. I'd never get rid of my Prowl because I loved him so much as a kid, but with almost any other toy I'd toss him and go looking for a replacement. All of those things factor into my final rating, but even with his flaws Prowl still has a lot of good things going for him. 7.5/10
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