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Blackjack's Review: Wheeljack

Name: Wheeljack
Allegiance: Autobot
Size Class: Deluxe Class
Accessories: Swords (2x)

So, the new Transformers: Prime Wheeljack was not one that received unanimous votes of approval from the fandom. While most characters retain aspects of their past versions, albeit refurbished to flow more smoothly with the movieverse-crossed-with-G1 universe, most of the characters have some sort of traits that ties them in with their more popular incarnations. But Wheeljack, instead of being a happy bumbling inventor, is instead now portrayed as a hardass Wrecker who’s more concerned about beating up Decepticons and avenging his friends getting hurt than making weird-ass plot devices or something. Hell, he uses swords now! Well, personally I find Prime Wheeljack, despite being merely a recurring character, to be far more interesting compared to his G1 counterpart… maybe it’s because I was introduced to Wheeljack in that issue where he and Jazz battled Circuit Breaker, Starscream and Frenzy, leading me to have Wheeljack as a fighter, not an inventor… but personally I always thought Wheeljack should be out there fighting Decepticons, instead of having his entire personality devoted to churning out silly plot devices before disappearing for the rest of the episode.

Prime Wheeljack is a very good and loyal friend to Bulkhead, a member of the Autobot crack team Wreckers, has a cool-looking ship, battles very well with his twin swords and guns, lobs grenades at the enemy… he’s a fun character, and he’s even more fun to see in battle. To date, he had caused the deaths of Makeshift and Hardshell (albeit the latter with Miko’s help), making him the Autobot who had killed the most named Decepticons. Not bad for someone who appears only once every six episodes or so, no?

So, anyway, Wheeljack’s design in the Prime show was very close to an update of the G1 character. While definitely being a Prime design, he takes many cues from the G1 design. First of all, his new alternate mode is basically a futuristic, modernized version of the Lancia Stratos which G1 Wheeljack used as his alternate mode. The windshield/roof becomes the chest, he has upward-pointing ‘wings’, his hood becomes the feet… and his head is a dead ringer for the G1 head. If he dons his battle faceplate, that is. Most of the time he is seen without it and has a mouth (with scars, no less). No doubt the same GEEWUN guys who complain about Movie Optimus being a long-nosed cab with flames and a mouth are now complaining about how Wheeljack has a mouth. Go watch your G1 cartoons, GEEWUN idiots. Go watch your G1 cartoons.

I ended up buying Wheeljack at retail, him being one of my few TF: Prime retail purchases before rubbish distribution meant that I had to order most of my TF: Prime toys online.

The name Wheeljack really hadn’t seen much reuse until recently. G1 Wheeljack was part of the original thirteen Autobots released, and got an Action Master toy near the end of G1. The name wasn’t reused for a long time until Armada, where it was given to a Sideswipe-lookalike Decepticon who used to be an Autobot. Armada Wheeljack was rather interesting...for the first episode he was in, before Armada sapped the life and characterization out of him and he turned into a generic Decepticon thug instead of an angry, traumatized Autobot defector. The name was reused in Transformers: Animated for one of the homage characters, but he didn’t get a toy. Wheeljack was supposed to be the name for the character ‘Que’ in the Dark of the Moon live-action movie, and all the games, prequel comics and the like used that name… but Michael Bay decided to change the chap(who looked nothing like G1 Wheeljack anyway)’s name to Que. Since Hasbro won’t ever get the trademark to Que they went ahead and released the toy as Wheeljack anyway. And then there’s this guy. There’s probably a Shattered Glass or Wings of Honor or Transtech version of Wheeljack, but I’m only listing versions of the character people actually, you know, care about.

On with the review!

Alternate Mode:
Wheeljack transforms into a futuristic, modernized version of the Lancia Stratos Turbo, which was the alternate mode of his 1984 counterpart. It seems to be actually based on the actual 2011 Lancia Stratos concept (albeit dolled up like a rally car), and to my untrained eyes it looked close enough although knowing Hasbro there were probably some trademark-dodging difference here or there. Wheeljack’s main body is white, with red and green racing stripes on his hood and roof. Some red angular triangles are placed sporadically yet tastefully on his sides, and his rear lights are red and yellow. Gray paints the intakes on his hood, as well as parts of the rear’s center, which resembles a ragtop roof in older cars. Rather tastefully there is a small area under the spoiler which is painted gray. The windows are translucent dark blue although it doesn’t show any specific robot limbs. The wheels are black with silver hubcaps.

It’s a very classy car, very chunky. All angles and sharp curves, it is a great, great update of the original Wheeljack’s similarly silhouetted alternate mode. Better yet, the fact that Wheeljack is filled with sharp angles and detailing means that the join lines aren’t really very visible from the outside. He’s got a fair bit of detailing as well… side mirrors, the aforementioned intakes, some nice panels… of course, Wheeljack really doesn’t transform much in the show.

The front bumper however, while actually sunken like that in the real Stratos, has two gaps that are very visible when seen from the front. The fact that it is sunken and that it leads to a wonderful, wonderful transformation that we will cover later, however, does lend me to ignoring this little problem. The back of the vehicle, as well, has a bit of a gap on the underside, although again it’s negligible. Breaking up the silhouette are two 5mm post holes on the rear of the vehicle where I guess you could mount weapons or something… but until the moment that I reviewed this toy I’ve never noticed it. Wheeljack’s tastefully busy deco distracts me, yes?

Wheeljack rolls pretty well, and the swords clip nicely on his underside. The instructions give us a ‘battle mode’ where you plug the swords onto the gaps on the front of the vehicle, turning Wheeljack into a… rally car with two curved swords sticking out of his front. Other than being ridiculously silly and impractical, I would probably ignore this mode. What’s there to say? There aren’t any large limbs or heads poking out of the vehicle, no distasteful empty space… he would do better with some additional paint applications, but who wouldn’t? Far as I’m concerned, sculpt-wise and pain-wise Wheeljack has nailed it down.

Robot Mode:
Wheeljack has a rather refreshing twist on the transformation, especially in regards on his legs. I’m a big fan of how parts of the hood slide up and fold around the leg to shape how the leg kibble looks in robot mode. Wheeljack’s robot mode is a fair representation of the show’s character model. He is both stocky and muscular-looking, although there are some minor niggles. Let’s go with the inaccuracies first, shall we?

Being a big Prime Wheeljack fan, I’m a little disappointed that the ‘wings’ are these tiny nubs. I mean, they’re still there, obviously, but instead of two awesome protruding things like in the show, these are very small… not that there’s anything we could do without removing a huge chunk of the robot mode chest, so I could live with that. The windshields end up on the underside of his lower arms as well, since the show cheats and has it fold away into the chest. The biceps should be gray instead of white, and the gauntlets and feet are missing some black and white detailing respectively… all in all, pretty respectable and understandable changes from the show model.

Wheeljack shows considerably more grey in robot mode, with his lower arms, hands, shoulders, hips, face, parts of the thighs, knees and inner legs all cast in grey. Again, he’s a straight up ‘Priminization’ of the G1 character design, so there is a very, very close resemblance in terms of kibble layout. Since the show cheats for Wheeljack’s transformation, especially in regards to the chest, I’m happy that they included a small piece of white kibble under the hood that folds neatly under the windshield bits to form the white stomach parts.

Wheeljack’s head sculpt is the iconic G1-based faceplated one, instead of the one without a faceplate and with a mouth that was seen for 90% of his appearance in the show. Not that I mind, though… I’m a big fan of Wheeljack’s ears and faceplate and forehead crest. He has light blue light-piping, although it doesn’t work very well due to the wings blocking the light.

Wheeljack’s head can turn around and tilt up and down on a ball joint. His shoulders are double-jointed, his upper arms are jointed at the shoulder and elbow, his hands are on ball joints, his thighs are double-jointed, his knees are hinges and his feet are on ball joints. And those little knee spikes are hinged as well. The only major thing missing is a hip joint, and really it’s not very necessary. What is necessary, however, is the proper balance for Wheeljack to pull off loads of ass-kicking poses, and he has that. The feet are thick and sturdy enough, and Wheeljack’s center of gravity is low enough for him to pull off all sorts of funky sword-slashing poses.

Speaking of the swords… no longer an engineer armed with all sorts of gadgetry, Wheeljack decides to steal Drift’s thunder and take over the role of sword-slashing white rally car. In the show, of course, his hands can transform into chunky cannons, but the toy only has the swords. Sadly the blades are silver with grey handles, instead of black with silver rims and red hilts. I can forgive this, though. In addition of being able to be sheathed inside the sides of his back, Wheeljack’s arms have enough articulation to reach and pull out his blades. And, as mentioned before, he does look terrific posing with his blades.

All in all, a highly respectable robot mode, which may be one of the best Deluxe-sized Transformers I’ve ever owned so far.

Marks out of ten for the following:

Transformation Design: 9/10 Beautifully done. Wheeljack’s transformation manages to be fun, intuitive, and does not compromise either mode at all. Both modes allow storage of weapons, and, best of all, both modes are extremely show-accurate.

Durability: 9/10 Joints getting loose aside, I do not foresee much problems durability-wise with Wheeljack. Unless you are a real Philistine, Wheeljack will stay a solid figure in your collection. Watch out for yellowing, though… he doesn’t show any signs of yellowing now, but then it’s only been a couple of months since I tore him out of the safe confines of a bubble card.

Aesthetics: 9.5/10 The slight deco problems are a minor quibble, as is the entirely-silver swords, but other than those, Wheeljack is a dead ringer for the show model in both modes… and it is a very pretty and awesome-looking show model.

Articulation: 8/10 He’s lacking a hip joint, and has the standard amount of joints for a figure his size, but the inclusion of those scimitars and the ability to pull off awesome poses without falling down is a big, big bonus.

Fun: 10/10 He’s a highly articulated robot with an excellent transformation, non-kibbly modes, and twin curved swords to hack his way through your Decepticon collection. Plus he’s a show character! And a Wrecker! What more would you want?

Price/Value: 9/10 Even with the overblown price at retail, Wheeljack is one solid toy that I didn’t regret paying the increased price for.

Overall: 9/10 Wheeljack is a highly awesome toy, with two great looking and solid modes. He’s guaranteed to entertain most fans with his articulation and swords. If you’re collecting show characters for Transformers: Prime, he’s a must get. As a part of the early waves, you shouldn’t have any problem finding Wheeljack at retail, unlike the rest of the line which seems to have been stuck in distribution limbo. Wheeljack is a great, great toy, and even if you’re looking for a substitute for Generations Wheeljack, I’d even go so far as to recommend this toy.
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