Top 12 Transformers of 2018

Aight, we all know how this works: I pick my 12 favourite Transformers from 2018 and write all about them in a really longwinded way because I suck at shortform and hmmm? What was that? Why 12? Ah, well, that does have a short answer: 6 Megatrons, 6 non-Megatrons. Why 6? Because odd numbers make me nervous and I can’t be arsed to do 8 apiece.

But before I start – a quick guide explaining my personal criteria when assessing a toy. It’s a simple, three-part process:

  • Is it fun to play with and pose?
  • Does it look like the character it’s meant to look like in the continuity that it’s referencing?
  • If not, does it carry its own style well?

Begin.

The Megatrons

6. Honorable Mention: Beast Wars Transmetal Megatron [1998]

Ah, Transmetal Megatron. How I love thee. Let me count the ways: 1) you haven’t broken yet 2) please don’t break 3) no I’m never putting you back in dinosaur mode you shed enough plastic as it was transforming to robot mode 4) Hasbro why did you use this goddamn plastic to make such a beautiful toy I can never play with again 5) *incoherent screaming*

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Don’t move. His ability to stay in one piece is based on movement.

Or, to put it another way, had I bought the Japanese Metals version instead which didn’t have any problems of the Crumbly variety, Transmetal Megatron would have easily scraped the #2 slot on my Megatron list. As it stands he is at the back of a shelf and I worry that one day he will simply turn to dust, not unlike Spider-Man in Infinity War and oh no now I’m sad all over again.

5. Cyberverse Leader Class Megatron [2018]

Cyberverse Leader Class Megatron is the dumbest thing Hasbro have ever made, and I love him.

Just. Just look at him:

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He still doesn’t understand why Optimus won’t take him seriously.

Yes, I know the head is meant to be down for the tank mode. But that would utterly ruin this figure. This figure’s chief, crowning glory is that it is entirely nonsensical. And that’s brilliant. He’s a big old chunk of Megatron who is broad and tall and heavy and can’t really move around that much, but that’s okay because what he lacks in posability he more than makes up for in personality. He just screams grumpy old man having a bad day so he’s gonna make you have a bad day, and that’s quintessential Megatronness, that is.

I’ve entered him at #5 because his lack of posability makes his playability rather limited – there’s only so many ways to move a robot with no elbows or knees – but when you do pick him up you’ll find it hard to put him back down again.

And he has a turret that looks like a –

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Firework. Why, what did you think I was going to say?

4. Mastermind Creations (MMC) Tyrantron (IDW Autobot Megatron) [2017]

I haven’t read the IDW comics. Before I get six zillion tweets telling me to read them, yes, I know they’re amazing and I love what they have done for the Transformers universe and that they actually took time to look at social issues that would plague a robot society but I just. don’t. want. to. read. them. I am happy admiring their character designs and arcs from afar and buying good toys and generally getting on with my life.

I’m also still on the fence about Autobot Megatron as a thing in itself. On the one hand, it was an excellent opportunity to study the concept of redemption using a character who is so morally reprehensible, who has done things that most of us can only have nightmares about after we’ve really gunned the cheese that evening, who has killed more people than there are stars in the sky and therefore any punishment visited upon him will never reach the magnitude of the fuckshittery that he unleashed upon the universe even if you were to kill and revive him a million times…but on the other hand, I really feel like just pretending he was a poetic woobie who made a mistake and is all better now is a depiction that really didn’t do Megatron as a character any justice.

And that’s all I’ve got to say about that.

MMC Tyrantron, on the other hand, I just plain love.

My first thought as I took him out of the package is “he looks like he just stepped off a comicbook page”, and that for me is his chief strength. He’s unique against other Transformers in my collection because of his style, but that style isn’t so exaggerated that it looks out of place. (Ditto for his extra accessories which allow you to transform hahaha him into his younger miner self which are an excellent addition that wasn’t needed but is very much appreciated). His champagne-coloured paintwork is also a unique shade of silver that I haven’t seen before or since, and he just generally looks nice. Add to that some really good posability and expressiveness, and it’s no wonder he’s one of my favourite toys to work with when I’m making photocomics.

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Alas, poor me. And also this dead dude whose head I found I guess.

He just looks so up himself all the time. It’s great.

3. The Last Knight (TLK) Voyager Megatron & Wei Jiang Rendsora [2018]

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The Last Knight Voyager Megatron is the best non-Studio Series Movie toy that Hasbro has ever made. Yeah, I’m serious. He’s a legend. In robot mode, he has no kibble. In vehicle mode, he has no kibble. The transformation is staggeringly simple but also employs a lot of moves I simply haven’t seen before. He’s super duper posable and comes with a really cool sword. And he’s the best plastic incarnation of my favourite Movie Megatron design. What’s not to love?

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You will love this version of Megatron or so help me we will be having words.

Whilst a lot of folks have opted to buy Wei Jiang’s KO upscale because a) tall and b) diecast, I can’t give Rendsora this win on his own. After all, it’s Hasbro who have done all the hard work here; Wei Jiang copied their homework verbatim and tried to pass it off as their own essay because it’s in different handwriting with a fancier pen. Both lads are valid, but if you’re looking for a recommendation then I would suggest that you get the pair. Next to Rendsora the Voyager’s smaller size is charming, whilst next to the Voyager Rendsora’s slightly altered colour palette really pops. They’re complementary in the best way.

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Transformers: The Last Knight Part 2: There Are Two Knights Now, Suck It Earth

2. Perfect Effect Mega Doragon (Beast Wars Transmetal 2 Megatron) [2018]

I’ll be frank: when I first saw Mega Doragon’s solicitation images late last year, I had two simultaneous thoughts: 1) there is no way the toy will be that sexy in real life because that is a) illegal and b) impossible, and 2) I really need to get back to watching Beast Wars so I can understand why Megatron was turned into a sexy dragon man from being a sexy dinosaur man.

At the time of writing this post I am unfortunately still only on The Agenda Part 2 because I actually suck at watching television (I blame Netflix’s easy binge seshes that actually make me nervous about gunning whole shows now because of that emptiness you feel afterwards) but I am more than happy to report that yes, it is possible for a toy to be this sexy IRL. Every time I look at Mega Doragon I have to stop and go “…how??” to myself whilst basking in his majesty because Primus he is gorgeous.

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Don’t hate me because I’m beautiful. Hate me because I’m an asshole.

And because he is gorgeous I am willing to forgive some of the flaws which would otherwise keep me from enjoying another figure not quite so gorgeous – for example, the ‘shield’ on his right arm which for me is just a tiny bit too big and restricts his movement, and the fact that once his dragon-tail is equipped it’s quite difficult to move his head without popping one of the balljoints out. These are minor complaints, but Mega Doragon cost £140 and minor niggles become major ones the more pennies you shell out on a toy. I have seen many people over on TFW2005 complaining that he also has a balancing issue because of the heavy wings on his back, but honestly I have never had this – I’ve stood him up on thick carpet, thin carpet, and my desk and had no issues.

So if he’s so absolutely stunning why don’t you just marry him, Becka, why isn’t he in my #1 spot? That’s actually quite simple: his playability, for me, isn’t great. He is bursting with personality and has a really quite good range of joints, not to mention is the only figure I’ve spent over £100 on this year that I have actually had the guts to transform because the process is intuitive and fun, but I just don’t want to do any of the usual things I do with my toys with him – i.e. photocomics and taking them to work as my #deskbot. For a start, both his paint and his wings are incredibly delicate and have already been scratched despite me being more careful than usual, which on a toy this good-looking just makes me feel guilty. My MP36 has a lot of chips and paint-rub but for some reason that just makes him feel like he’s mine; on Mega Doragon, it makes me feel like I’ve just spilt custard on the Mona Lisa. And then tried to lick it off and made it all worse.

(No that doesn’t mean I lick my toys it’s a metaphor jesus chri-)

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Second place? Second place. That will not do, no. We’ll show them, won’t we Ducky-Poo? Yeeees. Yes, we will.

Secondly, whilst I have had no balance issues with him and love posing him and taking photos of him, he just doesn’t work well with other figures in my collection. Perfect Effect have given him a very distinct style, but it’s so distinct that he feels like he’s from a whole other toyline and doesn’t really “fit” in Transformers. Don’t get me wrong, Mega Doragon is beautiful and I recommend him to everyone. It’s just that, like the character he’s based on, he’s just too damn beautiful for his own good.

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I really wish Beast Wars had been made in the 2010’s so that Megatron could have been an Instagram-obsessed selfie fanatic. Yes, I’m serious.

1. Generations: War for Cybertron: Siege Voyager Class Megatron [2018]

I have to admit, Siege as a concept made me wary. The early product shots looked both similar enough to feel like a re-tread, and stylistically different enough to rankle my They Changed It Now I Have To Reconsider If I Like It buzzer. (I really do try to ignore that buzzer, but we all have one and you know as well as I do that the volume control sometimes goes a little haywire when knee-jerking is involved). Titans Return and Power of the Primes, whilst plagued with QC issues and slavishly adhearing to the headmaster gimmick even when it didn’t make sense, had managed to dig a bit deeper into the Hasbro archives than usual and spat out more interesting characters like Krok and Sky Shadow as a result, making it feel like the Transformers universe itself was a tiny bit bigger than usual. Going back to the same Generation One Season One Cartoon Cast after that, especially as Siege was announced roughly around the IDW comics coming to an end, the Bumblebee Movie being pegged as a soft reboot, and Hasbro’s push towards homogenising the brand  made me all kinds of nervous. G1 might be my favourite continuity, but it’s not the only continuity and it certainly hasn’t been the thing keeping Transformers alive all these years. My inner Beast Wars fan was particularly miffed by this direction.

This miffment (if that’s not a word I’m copyrighting it, it’s my word now) lasted right up until I received Siege Megatron from Kapow Toys. I wouldn’t say I fell in love the moment I laid eyes on the packaging, but I fell in love the moment I laid my eyes on the packaging. Transformers packaging, for me, has been so boring for so long – seeing the oddly-shaped Siege box plastered with interesting colours and font choices really set it apart from…well, most other boxes containing robots I’ve received this year.

And handling Siege Megatron for the first time made me realise that Hasbro has this Siege toy line thing sorted. They’ve obviously gone back and looked at the Unicron Trilogy and its obsession with Minicons and translated that over to just how many weapons it’s possible to plug into a single figure (Cog, naturally, is taking this To The Extreme) and as a result created a line with really, really good playability. You’ll notice in the photo that Siege Megatron is holding his sword, and is the only figure to be pictured holding a weapon that isn’t attached somehow – that’s because it just feels wrong taking it off him. This is a figure that is meant to be holding a sword at all times. And that statement is coming from me, a person who immediately confiscates all packaged weapons as soon as a toy is out of its packaging to throw them into a different box and never look at them again.

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Compensating for something there are we, hmmmm?

Siege Megatron also carries what I would call “The Essence Of G1 Megatronness”;  sure, he’s a tank now – with the Decidedly Not Cartoon Accurate treads discreetly folded against his back – but he has the calculating scowl, the bucket head, the dull grey plastic, and the body proportions that just scream Generation One but he still feels like a different, new toy. This isn’t just MP36’s robot mode downscaled, but his own thing. And hell, I even like the mud splashes. I like that. Even if they make no sense because there’s no mud on a planet made of metal come on Hasbro that’s basic ecology that is.

The Non-Megatrons

6. Ultra Maxmas (IDW Optimus Prime) [2017]

I’m gonna be perfectly honest here: it’s the ears. I mean, the antennae. I mean…the adorable antennae ears. I have been assured by a friend (hi Andrew!) who loves Third Party toys for their engineering that Ultra Maxmas is exquisite and I fully believe him, but I am all about his personality and for me his personality is 99.9% them antennae-ears.

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Ssshh. He can hear you.

He’s also a hefty lad with a surprising amount of diecast, and the lankiest Prime to date. And he’s quite faithful to that one time in IDW comics that Optimus Prime had really long antennae-ears. What I’m trying to say is: wow he cute, look them ears! Awwww.

5. MMC Boreas (IDW MTMTE/LL Cyclonus) [2017]

As I said way up in my MMC Tyrantron review, I don’t read the IDW comics. But I do love me a good Cyclonus, and I feel like the teasing and release of Fans Toys Quietus has overshadowed this poor boy somewhat when he’s perfectly brilliant all on his own. He has oodles of personality, helped by his plentiful posability and some really quite wonderful wrist tilts, and is a lovely shade of blue that never photographs well but is a pleasure to look like in the real world.

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…And now I have to address his only, glaring flaw: he has a weird head. There’s no way around this one. The head is far too narrow and has a shape not unlike an almond, which when combined with the sculpt they’ve chosen makes it just look increasingly odd the more you stare at it. This is irrelevant when looking at the figure head-on, but any kind of sideways turn immediately clues you in and it is just a very strange design choice.

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Darling I love you, but why.

He’s otherwise still very lovely though, especially if you perform a teeny bit of custom work and deploy the IDW face on the alternate head with two horns.

4. Power of the Primes Legends Slash [2018]

“We’re going to make a new dinobot,” said Hasbro. “And she’ll be a girl!”

“Oh god,” said Becka, remembering the last time a company made a dinobot who was also a girl.

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“It’s okay,” said Hasbro, “we’re not Third Party! We’re not going to give her really obvious boobs which makes no sense either for a dinosaur nor for a lizard dinosaur. We’re going to make her wiry and cute and fun, with a bajillion joints and so much pizzazz that she’ll instantly improve any shelf she’s put on just by virtue of being there. And you can open her mouth in dinosaur mode so that it looks like she’s just told a really bad joke!”

“Oh good,” said Becka, forking over a wodge of cash in Forbidden Planet.

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3. Studio Series Voyager Starscream [2018]

Dorito Starscream is valid and has been since 2007. Literally in my case, considering he was my first introduction to Starscream as a character, and as I began with the Bayverse I’ve never experienced the aversion to their designs that plague so many other fans. I have had, however, an incredibly odd relationship to the Movie toys in that they look like the characters, which is great, but they’re also kibble-laden messes that make them incredibly hard to pose and transform, which is not great.

This is why if I had to give an award for Best Toyline of 2018, I’d firmly stick that hypothetical medal to the chasses of all the figures released under the Studio Series line. Hasbro have clearly learned from a decade of Movie toy engineering and are currently in the midst of releasing The Most Bestest Versions of every character to have ever graced our screens. For full disclosure, I currently own Starscream, Megatron, Ironhide, Ratchet, Bumblebee (VW Beatle), and Optimus Prime (Revenge of the Fallen) and I love them all to pieces.

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Look at him. Adorable.

But Starscream juuuuust stands a few inches above the rest in terms of – well, everything. He’s fun to pose in robot mode, his transformation is a delight (he’s essentially the Dark of the Moon Deluxe but blown up with a few slight alterations), and I really love the oatmealish colours they’ve chosen for him – they make his design pop. He also seems the most cohesive, and whilst mine has a mild QC issue (his, uh, pelvic flap keeps falling down) he’s the one I pick up and play with the most.

Will I be buying the version with the RotF tattoos? Jury’s still out. He looks brilliant, but then again who knows how many characters we’ll be having to buy by then. We might even get a 2007 Leader Class Megatron! (Shout out to my fellow lack-of-2007-Megatron-sufferererer Vangelus. We’ll get there. One day).

2. Power of the Primes Deluxe Blot & Rippersnapper [2018]

Blot and Rippersnapper are a Big Highlight for me in Galactic Hyper Space Year 2018 because, to be honest, I’m not all that bothered about Transformers what turn into monsters and stuffs – Beast Wars included. I like that show for its lore and characters, but the aesthetics are still a wee bit iffy for me. I like Transformers that are actually trying to hide, as opposed to Transformers who pull a half-arsed gorilla out of another half-arsed gorilla and no I’m not salty about Season One Monkey Dad turning into some bright blue gorilla nonsense in Season TwO YOU ARE SHUT UP

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What d’you want to do today, Rippersnapper?

But these boys are lovely and really show off the simple yet adaptable engineering that has gone into the Combiner Wars/Titans Return/Power of the Primes trilogy lines. They both essentially do the same thing – turn from a boxy robot into some kind of monster – but feel so different and their colour schemes mark them out as unique against the rest of my toy shelves.

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The same thing we do every day, Blot: try to be taken seriously.

Plus, they’re just damned adorable. Look at them. Aww.

1. Power of the Primes Leader Class Optimus Prime [2018] & Powermaster Optimus Prime [1988]

Power of the Primes Leader Class Optimus Prime and Powermaster Optimus Prime are the exact same toy, just displaced by 30 years each way. What you basically have here is a time machine that lets you look back into the imaginations of the toy designers in the 1980’s (Powermaster Prime) whilst also being able to guess how their toys would have ended up had they employed the use of ball joints (PotP Prime).

For those not in the know, both toys feature a smaller robot who turns into the cab of a truck, who can then curl up and fold into the trailer of the truck to make a larger robot. In essence, you have Orion Pax transforming into Optimus Prime – although Powermaster Prime, as I understand it, is just Optimus Prime turning into a taller Optimus Prime. Presumably to trample all over Rodimus Prime’s dreams and confidence, idk.

I got Power of the Primes Optimus Prime first because, to me, he’s the closest in aesthetics we’ve gotten to the G1 cartoon and I do love me some screen accuracy. (Yes, I am including MP44 in that assessement – there’s just something about him that doesn’t look right to me). When a friend then offered their Powermaster Prime for sale I only bought him because of the PotP figure, and I am so glad that I did. Both toys are hours of fun – just…you have the little robot, and you can make him a truck, and you can make the armour the trailer, then boop! Suddenly! Big robot! Stomp stomp stomp! Evil cackling! OPTIMUS CAN BE THE BAD GUY IF I WANT HIM TO BE, MUM.

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The man, the legend, the brick.

I also really dig the aesthetics of Powermaster Prime – he’s peak 1980’s Square Robot and his blank flace is very reminscent of the original 80’s artwork for G1 Optimus Prime. He’s so…of his time, you know? But in a way that’s also perfectly timeless. I’m pushing 30 so I can’t speak for The Youth Of Today, but I do have the feeling that if you were to show ol’ Powermaster Prime to a modern kid they’d still dig his gimmicks. Right before they break the legs, of course. Thanks for the heads-up on that, Sixo!

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So, that was 2018 in Transformers for me. I have to admit I bought way too many this year and I’m going to look to cutting down on spending in 2019 in anticipation of several Very Good But Expensive Boys being released in the first quarter (hellooooo MP Beast Wars Megatron and Unique Toys R-03 Mega!), but I’m pleased with them all and really looking forward to the direction the franchise is taking now – especially with the Bumblebee Movie getting rave reviews.

I hope everyone reading this will have or has had a very excellent holiday season!

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