A few weeks ago, when I was looking at TFWiki.net‘s article on Arcee, I read a quote from the writer of 1986’s Transformers: The Movie, Ron Friedman, regarding the character that really struck me, especially in light of the last couple of Transformers cartoons and the figures we’re looking at today.
And they were absolutely resistant to Arcee. I said I had a daughter who loves this stuff. There are other girls that like it. Put in a female Autobot!
It’s a good thing Friedman stood his ground. Today, not only do we have multiple iterations of Arcee across a few different cartoons and other media (my favorite being the blue bike from Transformers: Prime, though I still have a soft spot for the Susan Blu-voiced original), but we also have Autobots like Strongarm, the new heroine from this year’s cartoon Robots In Disguise (see my review of her figure from a couple of weeks ago), and the subjects of today’s toy review: IDW comic book stars Windblade, who had her own IDW comics mini-series last year and has a brand-new ongoing title beginning this year, and Chromia, a one-off character from the original cartoon who’s graduated to a supporting role (nearly co-star status, if last year’s mini is anything to go by) in Windblade’s storyline. The latter two, along with the Generations Arcee figure we looked at in January, were some of the last new Generations figures released pre-Combiner Wars, and honestly I never wound up seeing them in the wild; I had to order them from Big Bad Toy Store. Yay for Hasbro giving us more female characters in the line, but boo on them for tossing them in a later wave that stores were obviously going to under-order on.
Like all of last year’s pre-Combiner Wars figures, they come with comics; as with all of the latter waves, they’re chapters of the Dark Cybertron crossover that dominated the IDW Transformers comics for the first several months of 2014. Windblade comes with part 8 (she was in the next to last wave with Crosscut, Nightbeat, and Jhiaxus), and Chromia part 11 (as part of the final wave, with Arcee and rereleases of some of the earlier figures, Windblade included). I didn’t buy all of the relevant figures, so I don’t have the whole story, but I haven’t been impressed by what I have read aside from a few particular story beats. For instance, I certainly like that it brought these characters and current More Than Meets The Eye cast member Nautica into the fold. However, the big stupid plot at the center of didn’t interest me much — at least, it didn’t right up until the big climax, at which point it was kind of heartbreaking. I might sit down and give it a go one of these days in trade paperback. It is kind of irritating having bits of this twelve-part event packed in with a figure line that I doubt most folks are going completist on, and worse, as I said above, that had its final figures poorly distributed. Hasbro is doing this again starting with the second wave of Combiner Wars, but at least that line is going to have another incentive to go completist — the gimmick whereby all the figures at this scale become limbs for the next size class up, separated into familiar teams from the mid-1980s (Aerialbots, Stunticons, Protectobots, etc.).
Enough about the pack-ins. Let’s get to the ladies themselves.
Chromia, like Arcee before her, is based on a thin, stereotypically feminine animation design from the 1980s. However, the torso, most of the legs, and some other bits actually hail from a figure of Transformers: Prime‘s version of Arcee who, like Chromia, also transformed into a blue motorcycle. Surprisingly, although Chromia retains Prime Arcee’s collarbone-winged torso plates, from the reactions I saw it took a few looks for most fans to catch on. Most of the obvious reused parts appear in robot mode, but through the magic of a detailed new color deco breaking up her look in a very different way, Chromia does wind up looking like a very different bot. (Her arms are a bit beefier, too, which drastically changes her silhouette.)
Like most figures under the Generations banner, Chromia has a wide range of articulation, including ball joints throughout her arms (including her wrists!), at her hips, and in her neck. The joints in her hips, however, tend to be restricted by her bike-mode seat, which is supposed to rest against her rear end. Moving it back to free up her hips results in the conspicuous pile of bike mode stuff on her back becoming all the more conspicuous.
The white, blue, and bluish-white color scheme with splashes of red recalls some of the recent Ultra Magnus figures, but only really “pops” at angles where those red bits are more visible. Mine, sadly, has one of those glaring errors that frustrate anyone who either A) buys figures on-line, or B) finally finds a figure he or she is looking for after weeks of searching and only finds one: poor Chromia is missing a dot of light blue paint on her nose. I would be lying if I said it didn’t bug me, and while I get that BBTS had to send that figure to somebody, I really wish it hadn’t been me. There are also some instances of paint chips on her knee spikes, but only nitpickers care about that sort of thing. The nose bit, though, makes me cringe a little every time I look at it.
Transformation is fairly smooth once you get the hang of it; the instructions are kind of unclear on a couple of bits, which caused some bumps along the way, but once I got there everything tabbed and clicked nicely into place. (The key bit I was screwing up was pulling the shoulders down when they need to be all the way up to nestle snugly against those two sort of wing shapes near the front wheel.) It’s a sort of Tron lightcycle, reminiscent of the Technobots‘ team member Afterburner. While I wish it had the smoky brown cockpit area seen in early promo pics, it’s still a rad-looking bike.
It doesn’t roll great, but it’s a motorcycle Transformer; it can’t really stand on its own without a kickstand, for crying out loud. (It’s obscured somewhat by the gun stored on her leg in the first picture, but it’s there.) That doesn’t take away from the fact that it’s a Cybertronian vehicle on the cooler side of the spectrum, the sort that makes me nostalgic for the flood of dumb futuristic vehicles the line brought us back in ’87 and ’88. (Of course, it doesn’t take much to make me nostalgic for the dumb futuristic Transformers vehicle designs of those years, but this makes me feel it rather acutely.)
If not for that one key flaw, I would be 100% happy with Chromia. She’s a pretty good action figure, and a very good Transformer despite the wild alt mode (which I know probably isn’t to everyone’s taste).
Sadly, I can’t say quite the same for Windblade.
Unlike Chromia, Windblade is an entirely new character, the result of a series of fan polls at Transformers.com back in 2013. Her Japanese warrior motif aside, most of her key characteristics (alt mode, weapon, faction, gender, and color scheme, among others) were chosen by the Transformers fan base. I’d say that, gender aside, most of them were pretty obvious choices; hell, that color scheme on a jet evokes the old sword-wielding Armada Starscream toy — which is funny since Starscream, now “wearing” that particular body design, was a key supporting character in Windblade’s first solo storyline.
As a figure, Windblade is a little more limber than Chromia, with slightly deeper knee bends and a little extra range at the shoulder for extra cool sword posing action. Her alt mode wings hang off of her shoulders in a way that allows them to be manipulated for function (moved out of the way for poses) or fashion (set just right for maximum effect). I really like that.
On the other hand, I don’t like her heels. They give way all too easily; set her down and apply even the slightest downward pressure to settle her into a pose, and they’ll recess into her boots. I know Hasbro & Takara-Tomy’s designers know how to add a slight, soft “click” to joints to lock them into place — why didn’t they use this here? No idea.
Also, that fan in her “hair” took some serious effort to remove. The yellow paint on it had stuck to the plastic of her head. So much work to so little effect.
However, her other major accessory is mostly a win; I love her curved, purple blade and its awesome fade to clear white at the end, and the fact that she has a scabbard for it to hang on her “belt” or on her back is just icing on the sweet, sweet cake. It doesn’t hold very firmly on her leg, though. Thankfully there’s a slot on her fighter nosecone (on her back) that it tabs much more firmly into. Also, I wish the sword handle were just a wee bit longer to make two-handed poses a little bit easier.
Sadly, her transformation is a nightmare. Complex, fiddly, and poorly described by the instructions, it makes those wings attached to the shoulder joints that are so cool in robot mode into objects made of hate. There’s an assembly that’s supposed to lower the shoulders to around her midriff that kept bumping into the fan behind her head, so I assumed it was supposed to stop midway, which made tabbing the wings into place pretty much impossible. There are pegs under the wings that the hands are supposed to grab; leaving that arm midway made that step entirely impossible.
You can sort of see my error from this view: those hinges you can see flanking the cockpit are supposed to be pushed back and flush to the sides. That askew leg on the top of the jet, to your right, however, is just built that way, as is the center fin that doesn’t want to hold together. Also, if you look at it from the top there’s a giant hole in the middle of the jet, only somewhat mitigated by the way the sword & scabbard mount to the bottom of the plane. And yet, if you do that the rear landing gears don’t touch the ground. The conspicuous legs on top would probably be mitigated if there were hinges allowing the feet to lay flat, but I wonder if that would also compound her problem standing up that the heels not locking creates.
On top of these problems, the way the head stores in vehicle mode also has me checking Windblade’s nose for any paint chipping every time I switch her back into robot mode, though Chromia’s problem right out of the box probably just has me paranoid. I have been remiss in discussing the paintwork on her face, which is truly remarkable for a figure released in a regular case assortment you’d see at Walmart and the like. There is some stunning fine detail work on her face and on the edgework on her head crest and up her “hair,” and mine has no egregious missed spots or slop. Pretty amazing considering my super-obvious problem with Chromia.
For all my whining about Windblade’s transformation, I’d still recommend her as a super-cool robot action figure, and maybe a video review or some nice photos might help you be happier with the transformation than I was. Chromia I’d recommend without reservation, though as you can see with mine you might try hunting one down in a store before spinning the roulette wheel on-line (though with Combiner Wars around the corner/out in some stores now, your window for finding her locally is closing fast).
All things considered, I’m pretty happy having had the opportunity to add four distinctly different females to my Autobot ranks in about a month’s time. Having all these ladies on shelves around the same time is a first for The Transformers — one that’s come at the tail end of the franchise’s thirtieth anniversary — and I’m hoping it happens again sooner rather than later. Though next time, guys, would it kill you to give us some lady Decepticons?