Articulation: 11 total points - Swivel neck; 3 points each arm: Ball joint shoulder, bicep swivel, hinge elbow; 2 points each leg: Ball joint hip, ball joint knee.
Colors: Molded dark brown, purple; Painted gold, purple, silver, teal.
Release Data: Released in the United States in February 2015 at a retail price of US$9.99
Blackjack was designed with intent to be the Battlecharger Runabout (likely with a future recolor to be Runamuck) but that was abandoned, reportedly because it was felt that the character didn't make sense as a Stunticon. Oh, and they still couldn't use the name after the last time they tried to, but that probably didn't have much to do with it. Anyway, one new deco later and now we have an updated Micromaster. Honestly, the figure is probably more interesting looking like this than it would have been as Runabout OR Runamuck.
Front-loading here, but I really like Blackjack. Let's start with the articulation. By the numbers Blackjack isn't unusual, and in fact falls in a general pattern with Legends toys of having on average 11 points of articulation - not all of which are specifically intentional. On Blackjack all of that count is joints intended for posing without cheating any transformation joints in to it. That by itself impresses me, since in one interpretation that means it's designed with the most articulation out of the majority of this class of figure. But all of it also works really well.
The arms have the basic standard, with a well-ranged ball joint shoulder, and actual bicep swivel and hinge elbow, a combination that is rare at this size. Typically a ball joint does the job more than adequately, and the way Blackjack transforms I don't see any significant reason it couldn't have been used here as well. The wheel on the back of the bicep can slightly get in the way of raising the arm forward as it'll hit the chest, but it's exceedingly minor. The elbow can bend to just past 90 degrees, and does so with that really smooth but firm movement that we've been enjoying more and more in Transformers since Age of Extinction started giving it to us here and there.
There's no waist joint, but despite having a midsection unaffected by transformation, I don't think it would have been possible thanks to a 5mm port on the lower back that, if not bisected by the waist directly, the peg to make the swivel would have run through that space. Meanwhile, the neck swivel is smooth and the head easily turned. There's even plenty of clearance around it so you can get in there and move it. It is just a simple swivel, so no even wiggling up and down slightly, but that's not unusual here and you aren't going to miss it.
The legs are the most average in terms of build, just using a pair of ball joints each, but they have good range of movement and nothing obstructs them along the way. The only thing keeping the knee from passing 90 degrees is the rim of the ball socket; a cut-out in the right place and you'd get fantastic knee range. What's here though is actually enough for a good kneel, which impresses me. Usually this few joints won't let you accomplish a pose like that. It's as good a show of how well this otherwise simple jointing is pulled off. In more general use, posing with the legs is only hindered by the shape of the feet. The shins are big boots of car chunk, but the foot surfaces are rather smaller. The heel itself is only a thin spike, so there is a limited number of positions and angles where everything will catch and keep Blackjack standing. This isn't a case of oversight or design flaw as it is practical necessity, since the soles of the feet have to be visible portions of car and so need to fit a general kind of shape. In that frame of reference, I could easily see this having gone much worse, and since it is only a mild issue some of the time, I think it turned out quite well.
Blackjack doesn't share any particular design details with G1 Blackjack.
That's understandable since it wasn't made with that toy in mind. But it also
doesn't share much with Runabout. The head shape, the general look of the chest
with a big central window, and there are some tiny details behind the head
taken from the Battlecharger, but that's pretty much it. Everything else is
newly invented for this toy, and that's a lot to do with the Battlechargers not
having much detail to start with. But I'm good with this, because it
gives a chance to see some creativity exercised by the designers, and I like
where Blackjack went. Projections on the abdomen look like paired gun barrels,
there's generic sculpted shapes on the biceps, then highlighted in gold paint
to up the visual interest. The legs aren't all that special, but kneecap blocks
also painted over gold do a nice job of dressing things up. If you flip the
back plate up, you can see a thick coil spring molded in between the shoulders,
along with some generic vent detailing. There's springs on the inside surfaces
of the shins too - shock absorbers, obviously. Even the inner surface of the
back plate has some detail sculpting, in this case looking like segmented
plates. Nothing amazingly innovative or groundbreaking, but it all does a good
job to keep the figure really interesting looking so much that you don't
especially care if it doesn't look a lot like either Blackjack or a
Battlecharger. They didn't really map Blackjack's deco to this figure so much
as use Blackjack's colors and apply them like this was still Runabout. But it
looks good this way. The purple and gold naturally work together really nicely,
and the dark brown rounds it out nicely. The teal visor is a good extra bit of
color, and ultimately the whole thing just comes together in a really
Blackjack has a really neat transformation, and one that's not quite like
anything else I can think of. The back and chest form the hood and roof of the
car and flip all the way around the body to get to the right place, and the
arms turn inward to make the fenders and door panels, and everything clips in
around the legs. For being so unusual, the process is remarkably intuitive and
simple to run through. Blackjack is honestly fun to transform, and that's sadly
not a sentence I get to say nearly enough in talking about Transformers.
Sadly there's nothing particularly distinctive about the vehicle mode to talk much about. It's a general sports/super car (with absurdly giant wheels). Its dual-existence as a stand-in for Motormaster's "roller car" is more than a little betrayed by some of the characteristics of the design. For instance, the passenger compartment being so perfectly centered in the length of the vehicle where it would generally fall more rearward than this. Similar detailing on the hood and trunk, although not identical, and an unusual symmetry in the shapes of windshield and rear window. It's not as bad as Motormaster's little car thing which was pretty much entirely reversible.
Quirks aside it's a cool looking car. When you stop staring and focusing on the proportions being weird in places, you can start to read the body lines and pick up that it shares a lot of expected or typical features of this kind of car. From the side the blocks at the very rear take the upward line of a spoiler, helping to complete the visual progression of the car's shape. The hood is not much on special details - though it does have a nice Decepticon tampograph - but the rear end makes up for it. There's an integrated dual exhaust to either side of the center line. There's tiny sculpted tail lights which go unpainted, but as with any of the details back here that's for the better. Serving as the robot's feet paint would be damaged and wear away especially quickly. Best to redirect those resources elsewhere. The big blocks that fill in the spoiler angles have venting on the rear face, probably suggesting they're part of what would be a complicated air dam system, and the sections below the tail lights are mostly empty save for some reinforcing bars which go with the rest of the styling to look like empty space for the benefit of weight or maybe aerodynamics.
But most importantly it just looks cool. Even the parts that I know look
conventionally wrong still contribute to a really great look for the car, and
at the end of the day that's what I'm gonna care about the most. Well, apart
from things like how sturdy it is, but fortunately everything comes together
very well so structural integrity is not a problem at all here. The front
wheels don't always want to roll smoothly, but that seems to be a result of the
tread pattern rubbing against transformation hinges under the bumper. Without
changing the shape of one or the other, there's not really any helping that.
And in terms of function, that is literally the only thing I have to complain
So far Blackjack is the only new mold Legends figure in the third series to have its own accessory. The only others so far have been holdovers from prior uses, and those were rare enough.
In vehicle mode it attaches at the back, forming an incredibly overwrought spoiler. The handle then becomes a cannon that lays over the roof. Because of how everything is laid out, the barrel will always aim upward rather than straight forward. Now, this attaches with two tabs, and something I noticed is how easy it would have been to put small notches in the door panels so that could attach to either arm as a cannon in robot mode. The difference in spacing between the tabs and the width of the doors is very small - enough to prevent it working as is, but not so great that accommodating it would have made unsightly spaces in the vehicle mode. It strikes me that visually this would work better as a combination shield/gun, and probably would have a much, much reduced impact on the poseability of the toy in this application.
Blackjack is quite simple in this. Plug it in Menasor's open chest. No transformation, just fit it in place. Now, the axe is supposed to attach sideways on the roof in two alternate slots, either to disguise the unmodified car-ness of the car embedded in the chest, or perhaps to have somewhere to go with the axe while it's busy not being able to do the logical thing and incorporate with the sword. Who can say...?
Axe aside, this is the one thing Blackjack doesn't do well. How a whole car works for your aesthetic preferences in Menasor is a matter of your own choice, but the fact is the connection is poor. There are two ports under the car that match the chest pegs in Menasor or Ultra Prime. One of them is fully in a solid piece of structural plastic, the other is split between two tabbed together pieces. One works okay, the other not at all - guess which is which? I had originally believed before handling Blackjack the problem might be the split port was being pushed apart when trying to peg on, but with the toy in hand I can see the connection between those parts is solid. So I think it comes down to plastic tolerances. The brown simply didn't cure to the point where this port would be the width required while the purple did more successfully.
Some have reported Blackjack just falls straight out, or otherwise comes loose very easily. My experience has been the one good port does a fair job of keeping Blackjack held on, even against Menasor being leaned forward. How much variation there might be between individual units I can't say. If careful, it might be possible to use thickening methods like floor polish to make the fit better without otherwise affecting how Blackjack behaves on its own. But you'll have to decide if a perfectly solid chest full of car is that important to you.
Blackjack is my favorite Generations Legend figure since they transitioned away from being data disc packs. On an individual basis the design is fantastic. It isn't forced to compromise for anything, not even interacting with a combiner. It is the best Legends figure it can be, and manages that while having to do extra work on the side. Others might come close, but nothing reaches the high point Blackjack has established.
I'm scoring Blackjack as Excellent on the Figurereviews Non-Numeric Rating Scale. I very much want to see additional uses, and that includes the Rodimus we already know is happening. And on that note, it's worth pointing out that it would be pretty simple for someone to design a small adapter piece so the axe can be clipped to the robot's back to take position like the spoiler wings and produce it through Shapeways. It wouldn't be vital for Blackjack, but it'd be a great finishing touch for Rodimus when it come along.
|Date||March 11th 2015|
|Score||(9 out of 10)|
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