Articulation: 17 total points - Ball joint neck; 5 points each arm: Double jointed shoulder, upper arm swivel, double jointed elbow; 3 points each leg: ball joint hip, thigh swivel, hinge knee.
Colors: Molded black, purple, translucent pink; Painted purple, silver, black, dark purple.
Accessories: Blaster Cannon
Release Data: Released in May 2012 in the US at a retail price of US$12.99
Every Vehicon knows how likely he is to be dismantled - either by the Autobots, or by a Decepticon commander in need of spare parts. Danger is just a part of life for them, and they welcome it. To a Vehicon, happiness is loyalty to Megatron and a warm blaster cannon.
The original Vehicons debuted over a decade ago in Beast Machines as an army
of lifeless, mass production drone Transformers under Megatron's direct
control. Today's Vehicons are much less diverse, even in fiction, but they fill
the same general story role in Transformers Prime. Except now the disposable
soldiers tend to have individual personalities, often distinct voices from each
other, and a vague will to live. But it's okay for the good guys to slaughter
If you recall last week when I was ripping in to Wipe-Out for being a solid black car with no visual interest at all, I said all the relatively recent black-based cars I could think of had some color of paint work on the body for visual interest. And then I got the Vehicon, who does not. But we'll get back to this point in a minute. The Vehicon is a pretty fantastic design as a car. Looking more than a little like a Cadillac, to my eye, it has this angular, squared style, with heavy, harsh lines that work really well to make it look mean. In some ways, it's even a little Batmobile-like, earning instant awesome points. In basic design, it's easily my favorite car body to come out of the line so far because it's so stylistic and so well-realized in that goal. The construction is great too - the car comes together in to a really solid unit, and doesn't leave any kind of wiggle room or give that'd lead to accidentally misaligning bits. Those wheels will always all four sit level and have plenty of ground clearance to roll freely, and the side panels will all make a perfectly straight line from front to back. It's a model of the kind of parts fit you always want to see in a car-mode Transformer.
Unfortunately, deco is VERY sparse. While sporting painted hubcaps, body coloring is limited to "glow lines" painted in a few panels, and not always ones that make much sense. The packaging shows a somewhat more comprehensive coverage in that deco, with a lot of the front end illuminated by paint, but the actual toy has lost that. Where it mainly retains it is on the rear panel, plus a bit more on the front fenders. Why the very back end of the car of all places was prioritized for paint defies even speculation for me. The canopy pieces are colorless clear plastic, with the roof and windshield frame painted in, and the headlights are cast colorless clear with small dots of the purple "glow line" paint down the middle. The purple is kind of easy to miss if you don't look straight at it, but at the same time the plastic pieces are thin enough and have enough different angles on top of each other that they look silvery-white under most normal lighting and successfully stand out as headlights. What is almost imperceptible even when you're looking right at it is the Decepticon insignia hood ornament, painted dark purple over black plastic for maximum minimum visibility. Really, the plastic and paint have a similar reflectivity, so the symbol just about vanishes in the glare of direct lighting. If any toy ever called for a silver faction logo, this would be it.
If anything, I feel like this really proves the point that even a little bit of actual color on a black car helps immensely to dress up the appearance. Even the tiny amounts of metallic purple on the body break up some of those huge fields of black, and even the colorless plastic adds some delineation just by the varying ways the light passes through it. The high gloss plastic with a very angular body design creates a lot of natural highlights to accentuate the lines and angles too. It's small things, but the toy thankfully manages just enough to not be intensely uninteresting to look at in vehicle mode.
So, when transforming this toy, what stands out is that the entire top-facing surface of the car peels forward. It's hard to conceptualize without experiencing it, but from spoiler to grill is a continuous series of hinged panels. When you pull out the rear fenders to release the tabs and you pull those panels up, you can see that essentially the whole robot is just laying there waiting to go, to the point that you can have the wheelbase still solidly locked together and free to roll even with the roof and hood panels hinged open. That these multiple panels all fold and compress to make only two-thirds of each lower leg is nothing short of an amazing process that works better than it has any justification to. Pretty much all the transformation complexity is focused at this point though, so the main body doesn't really transform and the arms are only a minimal change from vehicle mode. But man, those legs. I can't get over it.
The surprisingly complex formation of the legs pays off big time for the robot, who is left almost entirely free of vehicle junk and is very close to the show model. In terms of design accuracy, it's really a step up visually from the Japan-only First Edition Vehicon who wore a lot of the car shell out in the open in robot mode. The few remaining car elements on this Vehicon are consistent with the CGI model which keeps the wheels and (admittedly de-emphasized) fender panels exposed on the robot modes to keep a little visual indication that they transform in to something. Managing to have a complete vehicle mode and a robot that bears so little sign of turning in to that vehicle is a design accomplishment that really reminds me of the highlights of Transformers Animated which continually surprised me in being able to successfully merge exaggerated robot designs with actual toy engineering.
It's not perfect, sadly. To trade off hiding most of the vehicle panels so well, the arms got very little attention. Being composed of the door panels and the rear wheel wells on the shoulders, the arms are jointed a bit awkwardly to make it possible for them to compress the vehicle mode length. The execution leaves the figure with forearms distinctly offset from the upper arms. While it can be mitigated to an extent by specific positioning, you get the hands turned upward and kind of lose the ability to have the arms at a relaxed pose. The forearms have some extra structure to make the illusion of added thickness and disguise that they're mainly just flat panels, which I appreciate a lot in this situation. The overall poseability of the arms is not really hurt by this design, the only sacrifice is that it looks weird. Plus, thanks to transformation joints, the shoulders get an extensive range of up/down movement.
The legs do well, having free-moving ball joints and thigh swivels, but the knee joint is a little restricted, getting less than a 90 degree bend. The odd thing is that it doesn't seem like this was a side-effect of how the figure transforms, as there's a relatively large space between the knee hinge and where the folded roof parts go. There's just an extra ridge of plastic on the base of the knee that blocks further movement. It may be structural reinforcement, but if it wasn't there, the knee would get a lot more room to move. Understandably there is no ankle joint of any practical use. The feet themselves are what I would call slightly eccentric; A very long toe makes most of the visible foot structure, and a small heel spur sticks straight down from the leg itself to make the platform. The Vehicon has really pointy shoes. I suspect Mamoru Nagano may have been involved. Amazingly for as small as the actual foot print is, the toy has no stability problems that I've encountered. For as much action pose as the toy can pull with the limited knee joints, it'll stay on its feet, even as improbable as it might look. Thanks to separate shin panels that fold over the collapsed car panels, you can't at all tell how the legs are constructed from a casual inspection, since all the robot elements are placed over top of it after the fact. One thing in this line I really like is that even looking from the side at the legs, the cross-section does not even look like a multi-layer composite. Only the colorless clear plastic stands out as out of place looking in the leg construction.
The robot mode easily shows where the extra vehicle paint had to end up going on this toy. The chest has relatively complex paint operations to make a really good look. Most of the chest is painted purple over black plastic, except for a surface below another colorless clear element, which is painted silver. The effect of the generic tech and mechanical detailing under a clear panel is pretty striking. Even the robot mode's Decepticon logo is under the "glass", and against the silver it at least manages to be a lot more visible than the one in vehicle mode. The majority of the paint clearly went in the robot mode, as even the head has about 80% covered in silver. But since the vehicle mode gets by pretty well with what it has, I have no real problem with focusing the deco effort on these parts instead. The robot really looks fantastic, and could have easily been left rather plain if the paint had to be skimped on.
Finally, the head captures that (modern) Cylon thing the Vehicons have going on, really only missing being chrome instead of silver paint. The super-narrow visor slit is light-piped, and can catch some glow off of normal room lighting, but really needs stronger, more focused light to get a strong effect out of it. A laser pointer would probably do wonders with this. The neck is ball jointed, but is mildly restricted with the shape of the collar and neck; The figure is intended to have the head hunched forward a little bit, driven by an automorph gimmick during transformation, but it's an independent step so you can leave the neck a little more straight if you want to. Unfortunately that will not increase mobility of the neck joint at all.
The Vehicon comes with a "blaster" piece. It has a 5mm peg, and a clip end to allow the toy to use it in multiple ways. The peg can be handheld or fit in ports on the rear fenders. The fender attachment is very, very tight, and thought it's not showing any signs of stress so far, I'm a little worried about that in the longterm. The hand fit is more smooth, though it does come with the downside of looking like the weapon is being held sideways. The clips are meant to work with notched sections of the front fenders which can be used in either mode, or the forearms in robot mode. Clipping the rifle to the forearm helps give the illusion of weapons growing out of the arm, and the fender notch offers a place to store the weapon in robot mode, plus leaving it looking more integrated in vehicle mode than pegged on to the side. The clip fit is incredibly tight and difficult to make work, and despite the clip being especially thick plastic I am seriously afraid of the bits snapping off at some point. In fact, as of this writing I have never been able to clip the gun to the right arm; the notch just seems too thick to accept the clip and I certainly don't want to risk breakage in the attempt. (Until it worked during photography later...)
The weapons is another place where paint applications were lost, which would have likely helped dress up the irregular edges and asymmetry. I also feel like this is a bit on the small side, especially since it didn't have to integrate within the vehicle structure at all. The upcoming Arms Micron version seems to be suitably beefier. ..or actually porkier, given it allegedly transforms in to a robot boar. If that design becomes available separately later, it might be worth thinking of adding to this figure to make the armament more impressive.
The Vehicon quickly became my favorite Prime figure so far. Great vehicle design, very inventive transformation to achieve a media-accurate robot mode, and then being a really nice robot. There's little more I could ask out of this toy. And the few elements that bother me, such as the arm design remain only minor annoyances that don't truly hinder the package as a whole.
On the Figurereviews.com Non-Numeric Rating Scale, the Vehicon would be Excellent. If it's true that Prime wave 4 will be containing two of these per assortment, it's great news because this is a figure I can recommend without any hesitation. Plus even if you really like the First Edition version, this one can still be your troop builder. Not only will it be less expensive and more easily obtained, but it's a great toy in its own right. Now just to wait and find out if the Jet Vehicon retool will keep all these excellent qualities while being a flying car.
|Date||May 31st 2012|
|Score||(9 out of 10)|
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