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Warcry's Review: Thunderwing

Name: Thunderwing
Allegiance: Decepticon

Thunderwing is so single-minded and powerful that even Megatron hesitates to get in his way. He is loyal to the Decepticon commander, but once he is given an order, nothing stops him until the mission is complete. All too often, that mission is the annihilation of a world that has defied Megatron - a task at which Thunderwing excels.

Over the last year or so, Hasbro has shown a lot of love to the Pretenders of old. The Pretenders were tiny robots (about the size of modern Legends-class toys) that fit inside a larger shell. In the modern fandom, Pretenders are generally looked down upon for their simple transformations, alternate modes that looked like robots doing yoga and the fact that most of the toy's mass was given over to a poorly-articulated shell that looked like a spaceman/giant insect/ambiguously gay greased-up half naked wrestler dude. Because of that Hasbro has usually done their best to forget that the Pretenders ever happened. Up until 2010 the closest we got to a Pretender homage was Classics Grimlock, who arguably was more of a callback to Pretender Grimlock than to the original because he took a lot of design cues from the Pretender. But In 2010 and 2011 the Pretender homages have been coming in hard and fast. First off was Bludgeon, a Voyager-class toy released in the tail-end of the Revenge of the Fallen toyline. Setting the stage for what was to come, Bludgeon was designed with a robot mode that resembled his distinctive Pretender shell and an alternate mode that matched his inner robot. He was followed a few months later by a new Skullgrin, a redeco of the spectacular Straxus toy with Skullgrin's Pretender shell's goat-skull head.

But Skullgrin wasn't even the only Pretender in that wave. It also brought us the first new toy since the 80s for Thunderwing, who is arguably -- only Bludgeon comes anywhere close -- the most well-known and popular of the Pretenders.

Thunderwing is famous for his comic appearances, where he became Decepticon leader in the later run of the comic and generally made an idiot of himself as he blundered around trying to get his grubby hands on the Matrix. The original Thunderwing toy was a Mega Pretender, which meant that he had a transforming inner robot, as well as a shell that could transform into its' own vehicle mode and combine with the robot to make a super-vehicle. Because the shell could transform you almost never saw Thunderwing's inner robot, and (other than when the plot required it) his shell was treated as if it was a normal Transformer without a smaller guy riding around inside it. Because of that, it was a lot easier for Hasbro to base the new toy on the shell's robot mode appearance than it must have been for Bludgeon, whose shell couldn't transform.

Alternate Mode:
Although his original alternate mode was a nondescript alien jet, Thunderwing follows a pattern set by a lot of earlier Generations, Universe and Classics figures by adopting a recognizable Earth alternate mode. Unlike Generations Kup or Scourge, though, Thunderwing's toy takes the Earth mode as a base before blending in elements of the original Thunderwing's design. Because of that, Thunderwing's alt-mode manages to be clearly based on an F-22 while at the same time incorporating the bent wings and detachable nosecone jet that were the original Thunderwing's most recognizable features.

Thunderwing is mostly an off-white in this mode, with blue paint on his wings and canards and purple Decepticon symbols on the tips of his wings. His cockpit and a small spot on his nosecone are transparent orange, his jet exhausts are purple and he has two golden grilles just behind his cockpit. The alternate mode looks very 'clean' from afar, but up close you can see a lot of molded detail all along his wings, fuselage and cockpit.

Unfortunately, the illusion that Thunderwing is a jet only works if you're looking at him from directly above. His robot-mode arms are plainly visible from below or the sides, and not only was no effort made to hide them but they don't even lock into place. His legs and chest aren't exactly camouflaged masterfully from below either. That's not uncommon among Transformer jets, but compared to designs like the Classics Seekers or the recent Terradive, Thuderwing just looks outdated.

Thunderwing is very heavily armed in jet mode. He has two molded cannons on his nosecone, articulated cannons on each poorly-hidden shoulder and two more cannons on each elbow. On top of that, he comes with a pair of truly massive spring-loaded missile launchers that can mount on his wingtips. And if that wasn't enough, each launcher as two smaller, non-firing missiles molded onto the sides. He's absurdly well-armed, to the point where you can almost believe the world-destroyer hyperbole in his bio. But unfortunately, the handles on his guns are different sizes, one slightly too large to fit easily in his wingtip sockets without leaving stress marks and the other slightly too small to fit in without getting knocked out of place by a slight breeze.

Thunderwing's nosecone detaches to form a smaller, independent aircraft, something that's received no small amount of hype. On the original toy, this smaller jet would transform into Thunderwing's inner robot. This version doesn't transform, although it looks like a smaller, more streamlined version of the original. It's a neat little touch, something that I would qualify as going above and beyond the call of duty when it came to designing a new alt-mode for Thunderwing. Good show, Hasbro.

Robot Mode:
The first thing you'll notice when you get Thunderwing into robot mode is how tiny he is. Not only is he fairly short for a Deluxe, but his proportions are fairly normal so he doesn't have the same short-but-hulking feeling that Revenge of the Fallen Soundwave has. Thunderwing is a fairly simple toy, so his small size doesn't detract any from his play value. It's impossible to replicate his most famous comic scenes without looking fairly ridiculous, though, as Classics Voyager Prime, Classics Grimlock and Reveal the Shield Jazz all tower over him and even Bumblebee is only a hair shorter. A larger Thunderwing -- perhaps a even Voyager class figure -- could have incorporated a fully-functional inner robot and become the first true modern Pretender. But if all you aim to do is replicate Thunderwing's shell a small Deluxe does the job just fine.

Thunderwing's colour scheme is...eclectic, to say the least. Much of him is the same off-white that made up the majority of his alt-mode. His chest has green and black painted details that come from the original toy. His arms and thighs, on the other hand, are a sickly aqua shade that was nowhere to be found on the original toy but somehow worked its' way into Nel Yomtov's palette when he was colouring the character for the comics. Golden 'tubes' run along the arms, thighs and belt, which were present -- but usually unpainted -- on the original toy. He has articulated black cannons mounted on his shoulders, which are an embellishment on the vague gun/handle details molded there on the original toy. Finally, his shins are off-white with aqua details and purple feet. He's very detailed and a lovely representation of the character.

Thunderwing's head and face deserve special mention. It isn't based either on his original toy or on his 80's comic look. Instead, Hasbro looked to his Stormbringer incarnation for inspiration and came up with something that perfectly represents the character it's supposed to be. With an off-white helmet, glowing orange eyes, a black and green crest and a golden face, Thunderwing looks aristocratic and respectable. But look a bit closer and you see that he's got a strange mouth -- not the normal one he had in the old comics and not the vaguely comical, toothy one the original toy had either. Made up of zigzagging spikes, it looks like a crudely-carved jack-o'-lantern and gives Thunderwing vaguely-mad, vaguely-demonic overtones.

He has nice hands as well. Like a lot of recent figures, his hands are sculpted open but they can still hold the standard 5 millimetre-handled weapons. It's a small thing, but every time I get a new toy with hands like this I'm struck by how much more 'real' they look than robots whose hands are big black blocks with a 5mm hole in them. Out of all the small, incremental improvements Hasbro has made in the last few years I think this one is my favourite.

Thunderwing is pretty kibblicious, though. Most of his jet mode winds up folded up on his back when he's a robot, and although Hasbro tried to integrate it by making his wings poseable -- you can leave them closed, or open them up to look like angel's wings -- all that kibble still gets in the way. The wings and his shoulder cannons want to occupy the same space if you try to elevate his arms more than a few degrees, and so his arms end up having very restricted movement.

Aside from that, Thunderwing's articulation is fairly standard. His hobbled shoulders nevertheless have ball joints, as do his hips. His neck is also mounted on a ball-joint, but can only really swivel from side to side on it. His wrists, knees and elbows have swivel joints, and his forearms can be twisted around 360 degrees. His hips can swivel as well...but only some of them. Before I bought the toy I heard reports of Thunderwings that come without the hip swivels, and the one I bought is in the odd position of having a swivel on one leg but not the other. The leg that won't swivel seems to be molded into a single solid piece rather than just being seized because the parts fit together too tightly, which suggests that the mold was changed some time after production started. It's very odd, and while I'm curious how this happened I'm even more curious to see which version we'll see going forward when the Black Shadow redeco gets released. Taking away a point of articulation on a figure after it's already gone to production might save Hasbro a pretty penny, but if that's what happened it's a pretty dire omen for what might happen to future figures. Thunderwing balances well, and all of his joints are tight, so even with his somewhat restricted mobility there's still a lot you can do with him.

Aside from his shoulder-mounted cannons, Thunderwing can also hold the two massive spring-loaded launchers that he uses in vehicle mode. He can hold one in each hand, or he can combine them into a single weapon using a set of grooves and ridges. The combined weapon is as long as he is tall so I'd recommend dual-wielding them instead. The weapons themselves resemble the cyclone cannon he had in the comic a lot more than the generic rifles his original toy carried, and the non-firing missiles on either side of them can do double-duty as mounting points for the now-ubiquitous 3mm 'C-joint' clip weapons. It smacks of overkill, really, but when you're so tiny I guess you start to feel like you need to compensate for something...

All in all, Thunderwing represents the character well but he could use some work when it comes to being a good toy.

Marks out of ten for the following:

Transformation Design: Thunderwing is a very simple toy. In fact, he only narrowly avoids being too simple for his own good. 4/10

Durability: My Thunderwing had a few stress marks right out of the package, and it seems like that's a fairly common problem. He doesn't feel like he's going to break but in the long term there may be problems. I could definitely see the wing mounts for his big guns cracking open in the future. 6/10

Fun: He's Thunderwing, which earns him a few points on its' own. If you don't share my abiding love for all things late-G1 Marvel, though, you'd probably find him to be pretty average. 6/10

Aesthetics: This is where Thunderwing shines. He's gorgeous on his own terms and a faithful representation of a character that hasn't seen a new toy since the 80s. The only drawback is his small size and how it effects his ability to pose with other figures. 9/10

Articulation: Bizzaro-thigh issues aside, Thunderwing leaves a lot to be desired because his kibble gets in the way. Compared to the fantastic new molds that were designed at the same time he was, he seems a bit primitive. 4/10

Price: As a Deluxe, Thunderwing is fairly cheap. His small size compared to the other toys that are being sold in the same price bracket means that he has to be a bit better than they are to be worth it, though. 6/10

Overall: I wanted to like Thunderwing more than I actually do. He's not a bad toy, but out of the recent batch of Classics-style toys he's one of the least impressive. If you're a fan of the character like I am and just owning a toy of him will make you happy, he's not going to disappoint. If you're not, he's just one more fairly average Decepticon for your collection and you won't be missing much if you give him a pass. 6/10
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