Brainstorm - IDW Generations - Voyager Figure

Height: 18.5cm with Headmaster installed.

Articulation: 23 total points - Ball joint neck; 5 points each arm: Universal joint shoulder, bicep swivel, double jointed elbow; 6 points each leg: Universal hip, thigh swivel, hinge knee, hinge + tilt ankle; Plus 4 points specific to Arcana: Ball joint shoulders, hip hinge, knee hinge.

Colors: Molded turquoise, dark grey, off white, clear yellow; Painted silver, turquoise, red, orange, grey, blue, yellow.

Accessories: Pistols, x2

Release Data: Released in the US in December of 2014 at a retail price of US$24.99

Author: ExVee

A genius scientist and diabolical inventor, Brainstorm develops advanced weaponry for the Autobots. Although many of his inventions are deemed too devastating for use in actual combat, it's possible his laboratory itself is his most dangerous creation. Brainstorm frequently ignores proper safety protocols, and an unwary visitor to his lab runs a high risk of triggering some half-finished doomsday weapon. In spite of this, he is allowed to continue his work, proof of just how valuable Brainstorm is to the Autobot cause.

More IDW based characters are typically warmly welcomed by collectors with IDW's modern comic contributions representing some of the best Transformers fiction we've ever had in our fandom's history. So just designing Brainstorm to go with his current design model in the comics would have been enough to please many collectors. But learning that the toy was being designed as a functioning Headmaster was a complete surprise and pushed Brainstorm another step farther. Now Brainstorm sought to appeal to both those who desired an IDW representation, and those who might want something with more of the original Brainstorm toy in mind. Was the attempted fusion a successful one?

Robot Mode

Brainstorm is pretty big, actually kind of unnecessarily so. He's not really even taller than an average Voyager, but the slim build of the body and the extra bits rising over the head form an illusion of greater height. As one of the distinctly IDW-based toy designs, Brainstorm seems more than a little out of place at this size. Let's go ahead and clear this out - there's nothing in the toy, even down to its very simple transformation process that requires it to be this big, and even having a Headmaster function doesn't specifically require it. The only factor that could call for this size class is to maintain a desired proportion for the head to the body because I don't think the Headmaster could reasonably have been made smaller without becoming quite delicate, and it would look unusually large on a Deluxe body. Brainstorm does benefit from being a Voyager though. You get very stiff ratchets at the hips, softer at the shoulders, and maybe even a couple in the elbows. The feet which could get by with just being hinged to fold up for transformation also have a tilt joint added, and the elbows are double jointed. All the joints feel thick and sturdy, and give the toy a very solid look.

The shoulder ratchets could use some extra clicks between the existing points, as they go from too close in to the body for natural looking posing to a little too far out. You need to turn the arms at the bicep swivel a little to help get them to a more relaxed looking place near the torso. The lower elbow joint ratchets ... at least on the left. The right moves simply as a smooth hinge. Given the ratcheting effect is produced with grooves on the elbow disc, a needed ridge in the forearm side may not have formed correctly during molding, so your experience with this could vary. Even without the extra help, the elbows have the same kind of smooth solidity that we noted with early entries in the Age of Extinction toys. The wrists don't have jointing that's useful for poses, only having a pin hinge to flip the hands away for vehicle mode. A generally common issue finds the wrists loose to one degree or another. In my case they're loosest when at full extension for robot mode. They only move freely a short distance, and don't go so far as to look especially bad, but if any point in their movement had to be loose like this, it's about the worst spot for it. Another benefit of having a Voyager parts count to rely on, the forearms have hinged panels covering the space the hands hide in to keep large hollow spaces from being left exposed.

The skirt armor is hinged, though it's almost pointless for the side flaps. The front section is much more convenient and it can raise 90 degrees to permit smooth movement of the legs. The forward motion of the hip joints is smooth like most of the elbow movement, but as noted already going outward you have super strong ratchets that click like you're snapping through bone. It's impressive, but also a little bit scary when you begin thinking of what this kind of quick, high-intensity stress might do to the plastic over time. From there the legs are basically typical. The knee joint is a thick structure, specifically designed to only bend 90 degrees, though without a ridge at the side there's room for it to crunch tighter than that. The feet are very huge, and honestly there's no need for them to be. The toy is naturally well balanced and has no particular tendency to tip to any side under its own weight. The tilt joints are good for keeping the feet planted flat as far as the first outward click of the hips. Beyond that you're on your own, and it's where the long toe side comes in handy since there's plenty of room for the toy to find its point of balance and gain a stable rest position.

The design doesn't lend itself to having an excess of alt mode junk prominent. The nose folds up cleanly against the back, and while the flight wings are on the shoulders, they're also hinged so you can angle them as far as straight back if you need them more out of the way. In any case, they have never gotten in my way when posing the toy, and would really only tend to cause problems if you tried to fit Brainstorm in a crowded shelf space or other tight display situation. Thankfully the wings stand higher than the heads of most Deluxes, so you're still pretty well in the clear. The only thing I'd call an intrusive presence of the vehicle mode is the cockpit on the chest. Being that it has to hold the Headmaster in vehicle mode, there's a big empty space under the canopy, and nothing is done to try to disguise the void. Were it me, I might have tried to make the flip down panel hinge from the opposite side so it would be at the front and cover the space behind it more. A tampographed tech spec style readout can be seen through the transparency at the back of the chest cavity showing Brainstorm is quite fast, pretty smart, and not all that strong. Were this to be more true to IDW Brainstorm, the readout would have the INT column crudely filled in past the top of the meter where Brainstorm would try to exaggerate his own intellect.

Brainstorm's colors are pretty basic. The turquoise body has a few accents in silver, and a bit of red in the upper body, which along with the pale yellow tint of the cockpit canopy help put some variety in to the torso. Overall there isn't a ton of paint on the body itself. A bunch of what's here is detailing select surfaces with silver, and adding a little turquoise on the lower legs while the plastic colors do most of the work. I won't lie, some extra paint details wouldn't hurt just to make it more visually interesting, which TakaraTomy's Legends series release will be doing and that may be an option you'll want to consider.

Since the first act in transforming the toy will be removing the head, let's go ahead and talk about that. Arcana (never identified as such on the packaging, but for simplicity we're gonna go with it) is the most significant source of problems reported with this toy. It's not uncommon to find the head wedged very tightly in the neck socket, so much so that Arcana's own head can become separated before Brainstorm's head detaches. A contributing factor is the socket being covered in grey paint, increasing its thickness relative to what the toy was designed for. A similar problem was encountered on the retail version of Fall of Cybertron Swindle, where key tabs and slots had trouble fitting due to paint apps the tolerances didn't take in to account. It's possible to get a Brainstorm that works as intended; mine does, but at this point it seems to be an exceptional situation. You're meant to pull down on the grey section above the canopy before lifting the head off the body, because there's a small tab that helps secure the head in place. If the head won't come out easily, it's recommended to slowly and very carefully work using a small tool to help pop the head free. Take care here, as the side facing the back has the painted face details. Once the head is free, if you had problems the first thing you can do is to try to file away the paint from the inner walls of the socket. This might create just enough room to relieve the problem without needing to do anything more drastic.

Placing the head in the body is supposed to also release the back of the pilot's seat to reveal the tech spec readout panel, but that's another element that doesn't always work. Honestly, the Headmaster interaction was made too complicated. There's too many moving parts involved, and the precision isn't there to make sure everything will always work right. It's not the sole problem, but were it designed with a straight in plug without any catches or secondary triggers, there'd be a much better chance at success. Leaving the interior surfaces of the socket unpainted would not have hurt either. I was lucky, my copy of Brainstorm has the entire mechanism working correctly without any extra actions needed. I hope that it's a sign of the production having improved as it got going and not simply luck of the draw, but only time will tell.


Once you've gotten Arcana disconnected, the only thing that begins to approach "complicated" in this is bending the legs around at the same time as flipping the nose of the vehicle mode out so they can move past each other. And I think a second hinge at the base of the nose section might have eliminated the need for that inelegant maneuver entirely which at least for me increases the annoyance I feel at it. Everything else just folds or twists and pegs or tabs in place very easily. Oh, and Arcana is just unfolding the legs from the back of the head.

Vehicle Mode

The forward two thirds of this vehicle looks pretty nice. Not everything lines up quite like it looks like it should, but there's a nice flowing line, and a smooth, rounded quality to it that makes it a bit futuristic but still feel good as an aerospace fighter thing. But the trap of jet mode Transformers hits here again, and in the back third you find all the robot parts appended on. Because of the color layout you can get a really strong feeling that the "intended" vehicle is comprised solely of the turquoise parts of the fuselage and the wing blocks, and everything below that line doesn't belong. And the toy could support that structurally. All the "real" fuselage elements are solid, there's no empty spaces the extra robot pieces are closing up. If the shoulders were opened to drop the arms and the legs slid off at the thigh swivel mushroom pegs, you'd be left with an essentially complete vehicle. So it goes farther than cases of an arrangement of robot parts wearing an aircraft skin on top (Hi, Silverbolt) to where we have an actual vehicle structure with leftovers hanging out because they have no real integration with what's going on.

To be fair, the legs are styled to look like maybe part of an engine structure to at least try to force them in to the larger picture of the vehicle mode, but the distinct color blocks happening make it hard to visually integrate one with the other. And in any case the forearms are pretty hopeless. The appearance of the robot mode was clearly prioritized, and some fans of IDW who mainly just want a Brainstorm that looks like Brainstorm and don't care if it has a good vehicle mode because vehicle modes are seldom utilized in More Than Meets The Eye will probably be fine with this. It's not enough for me. I'd sooner see more liberty taken with the robot mode to make sure that more of that robot actually joins in to the vehicle mode instead of being excess baggage carried around. The way the limbs are folded back and under is a carry over from the G1 toy design, but it's only imitating the movement without getting why you're doing it that way. That trick doesn't work with the rest of the way the toy is designed. This needed to happen a different way - for one thing making the forearms able to fold back and close in to the currently empty space just behind the cockpit would have been a good disposition without going very far off the design as it already is. From there, allowing the legs to fold differently so they could line up with the shoulder/wing-base parts and actually join the line of the vehicle mode would have done a great deal to tie all the robot parts together within the basic structure of the vehicle mode. Moderately inventive engineering was needed here, not just recreating the way the original toy transformed, but with the visual design of IDW applied to it.

Moving past that, I will give due praise for the vehicle being secured together very well. Tabs and pegs get firm grip and keep the otherwise movable parts right where they're meant to go. Even the nose cone which I feared as a drooping problem in the making is completely solid. For whatever other problems this vehicle may have structural integrity is not among them. The cockpit section is one solid chunk too, so there's no compromise for the accommodation of Arcana inside. The tech spec meter flips up to form the seat back. Arcana fits easily in, legs outstretched straight forward. There's nothing really to secure the pilot, it's more that there's just nowhere to go once the canopy is closed. As the vehicle gets moved, you'll notice the figure bouncing around a little bit in the cockpit. Having a little tab on the seat to stabilize Arcana might have been nice, but it's far from a major issue. It's not a bad effect either with the pilot inside. It does look like the figure is a little too big for the space - generally it'll look like Arcana's head is bumping against the canopy which definitely doesn't look quite right, but I do like the look of having a pilot in there.

Arcana itself is ...well, it sure is a Headmaster figure. The legs are hinged at the hip and knee, and are a solid unit, no individual leg movement. The feet are a big platform to help the tiny figure stay standing on its own. The neck is ball jointed, more for the benefit of Brainstorm so it has more than just a swivel movement at the neck, but it permits a little expressive posing for Arcana. The arms are a disaster though. The entire side panels of Brainstorm's head are on highly restricted ball joints, allowing them to swivel, but basically nothing else. These panels are the full depth of the bigger robot's head, and only have Arcana's arms represented in relief on the inner surface and picked out with a paint app. In practical application, it makes Arcana look like it has chicken wings rather than arms. The Brainstorm face is not hidden in any way, though being a faceplate and two small eyes it's not quite as bad as if it were a full detail face hanging out on the back. Arcana's face has a bit of detail, some tiny venting on the helmet and a basic face, including some kind of smirk or lopsided grin or something. While the face is painted red the the forehead vent has a blob of yellow in it, the eyes had no attempt at being separately painted and so just exist as part of the orange field of the face. But as Brainstorm's comparatively larger eyes didn't get the cleanest paint operations, I think it might be better that they didn't try.


Brainstorm comes with two pistols that serve as the mounted weapons for the vehicle mode. They can be left on the nosecone in robot mode to serve as the cannons Brainstorm wears in the IDW books, or plugged in to conveniently 5mm screw holes on the back to the same effect. And of course they can be hand held. I've found that holding the guns helps stabilize the hands in the looser part of their range of movement, by seemingly bracing them a little to the forearms. The barrels are painted silver along their length over the turquoise plastic, but there's a lot of other detail unpainted which still leaves an unfinished feeling to them.

Closing Remarks

So of course the big question here is what comes out on top between this and Fansproject's Smart Robin? Brainstorm is a nice robot that captures the look of the character model in a popular comic book, with a perhaps overly basic transformation that leads to a not entirely well executed vehicle mode. Smart Robin is loosely based around an entirely different character model that also makes a nice robot figure. It has a satisfyingly involved, but elegantly straightforward transformation and becomes a stronger vehicle form that still accommodates its pilot. These toys are going for different jobs. Smart Robin is never really going to be IDW Brainstorm, and Brainstorm is never going to have the level of engineering of a $70 unofficial figure. Smart Robin does more for me as a piece of toy design, but Brainstorm is really solidly built, captures a specific iteration of a character very well, and also costs about $25 while still being a Headmaster too. I like both of them, just for different reasons.

I think Brainstorm is too big, and that it could have done everything it's already doing as a Deluxe and fit in better with other toys based on the IDW designs. If you're cool with Brainstorm towering over most of your other Lost Light representatives, you've got nothing to worry about. Just be careful taking the head off for the first time. Brainstorm scores Very Good on the Non-Numeric Rating Scale. A little more simplicity might have been to the toy's benefit, but given it's the first real Headmaster Hasbro has produced in over ten years (going back to Armada and Energon), it still worked out pretty well.

DateDecember 10th 2014  
Score 6 stars (6 out of 10)  

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