As you all can imagine it was a bit tough deciding what to do for my first Transformers themed review, as I needed an “angle” that would help separate it from the myriad other reviews that can be found all over YouTube and the Internet (but a big shout out to YouTube’s Thew Adams, best Transformers reviewer in the history of All Mankind!).
I presume most of the people who will even read my reviews will do so less because they are hardcore Transformers fans and more because they are curious about our newly formed, nascent website! So, immediately I will eschew such typified features as documenting action figure articulation (when photo poses can say so much more) or step by step transformation reviews, and will only point out such features when they are exceptional (admittedly, I have to be careful, as this very first reviews already features such exceptions!). Also, my reviews will sometimes feel as much like articles or essays. Take from it what you will.
It hit me pretty early on that I should probably try to do reviews that can reveal some of the deeper lore of the brand for people that don’t already know it. It hit me even harder when I realized I could focus on an area that most people don’t even realize is a feature of this brand:
L-LLLLLLL-ladies! Yep, I just said that.
But here’s a hint: three new wonderful female character toys were released in the Transformers: Generations line in 2014/15, with, two more characters included as part of the new Robots In Disguise animated series for 2015. Three more designs (retooled from some of the earlier toys) are soon being released as exclusives by Takara Tomy in Japan and, in 2016, we will have our first five-team member female combiner, Victorion! So, see a pattern here?
I decided to zero in on this, in part, because I meet so many younger fans who are now coming into Transformers solely from either the live-action Bayformers things-done-blowed-up-real-good movies or more recent cartoons and asking me, “Why are there no girl Transformers?” Apparently they are not paying very close attention! To cut them some slack, there are yet many other so called “hardcore” fans who mistakenly believe that Arcee is the first female transformer! (She is, incontestably, the most well known and popular female Transformer; it wont be long before I review her).
Which brings us to ORION PAX and ELITA ONE!
I think most people would be surprised to learn that Optimus Prime was once a younger, idealistic dockworker (sic), err, data clerk named Optronix “Orion” Pax. I would think that people might be even more surprised, or at worst amused, to know that he had a girlfriend named Ariel! It goes that in most of the discontinuous, yet intertwined Transformers canon that Orion Pax is recognized for his intelligence, diligence, and bravery, and is oft selected by a mythical group of elder robots (either spiritual or governmental) to either go on a quest for, or much more heroically, just be handed over The Autobot Matrix of Leadership (“Hey, you, random nitwit! Take this all powerful ancient thingama-bauble and lead us into war!”), and be reformatted into a larger more powerful robot apparently fortuitously renamed as Optimus Prime.
Better still, Orion Pax and Ariel can have the living energon beaten out of them by a former miner-turned-gladiator-turned political turncoat named Megatron and be left for dead, only to both have to be rebuilt more powerfully as Optimus Prime and Elita One to save their chrome craniums, respectively!
(Note that cleverly for Optimus Prime and Elita One, their names do, in fact, have the same connotations, which also relate to the core mythology diety names of Unicron and Primus - all variations of The One).
Such confusion from the foggy mists of time! After all, this was all at least nine million years ago!
Equally, it’s not quite clear why there were female styled Cybertronians in the culture before the war between the Autobots and Decepticons broke out. One of the original 13 Primes, Solus Prime to be exact, was styled as “female” and no doubt all such female styled robots created were divided from her cellular structure. Nor is it clear why a sexless, non biological race of sentient robots would become attracted to each other regardless of their bodily styling - but hey that brings the door wonderfully wide open, doesn't it?
What is clear is that most of the fembots (a derogatory term, to be sure) were but one band of a larger exodus of refugees fleeing the war torn, ailing planet, under the protection of a Metrotitan, who formed their own colony and culture (planet Caminus) and thrived on their own. (Thank you, writer Maighreed Scott for IDW Comics for that!).
Very few female styled robots remained on Cybertron to fight the good fight, but it’s clear that Elita One, who even Optimus himself thought dead, secretly remained and led a shadow female strike force against Decepticon tyranny during the millions-years long civil war. All other female Cybertronians became thought to be extinct!
Botcon 2007 exclusive Elita One was part of a Transformers Collector’s Club attendee purchase and not part of a larger boxset, so she is mercifully not terribly difficult to find for a decent price (between 30 and 50 dollars, which seems much for a deluxe scaled figure, but is actually on target with just about anything else of rarity from that many years ago). Although this toy is terribly flawed and which we will talk about momentarily, her hot pink and neon powder-blue highlights absolutely POP with eye-pleasing 80’s retro tones (Jem and the Holograms, eat your friggin' hearts out), and are, along with a spot on animation accurate head sculpt, the saving graces of this uniquely vibrant figure (Transformers Wiki.net, in their usual cheeky manner, refers to her as Barbie Dream Boat!).
In all actuality, this figure was recolored and recast from a previously released and universally derided figure, Transformers: Cybertron’s Thunderblast (2005) a rare female Decepticon. Her non-existent transformation schema (see I told you about exceptionality!) consists of neatly (or awkwardly, depending on your level of crass, elementary boy humor) folding her limbs away and closing her “shell” parts around her to form a contemporary, very Earthly speedboat (are there adventures of Elita One yet to be told? Of course!).
Such “shell-formers”, as they are known among the fandom, are usually only considered cool in the Beast Wars line, when it would normally be impossible to design a robot that could possibly transform into an organic animal! Although she has ball jointed and archetypal articulation, her “high heels” make it impossible to have her actually stand without also using the shells in their “open wings” formation to act as additional standing support (even then, don’t sneeze!) . Being part of the Cybertron line means both Thunderblast and Elita One come with a cyber-key to unlock a weaponry gimmick that, really, just isn’t impressive enough to bother documenting! Ha-ha!
Honestly, I wasn’t as harsh on Thunderblast (there's no need to review her seperately but she will be seen in other photographs to come) as some other fans were, but I definitely like this use of the mold much more. Maybe its just the gee-wunner in me (fan lingo for G1, the first generation of Transformers) or the fact that I am oft entranced by hyper colors; I could just stare at this figure for hours before some hypnotist doctor might have to come snap me out of it!
Notes: Despite her prominence as Op’s main squeeze and namesake, Elita One is absent for about 99.8% of the fiction, hence why her figure was an exclusive instead of mass retail. Most of her character details are from the few scant appearances she made in the original G1 cartoon (where Hasbro's engineering tech at the time never even made it possible to attempt to make a figure of her or the other female Cybertronians depicted at the time, not even Arcee). She briefly has a role in the movie universe comics from IDW (based on the Energon omicron Arcee toy) and in Transformers: Animated (2005), where she tragically is mutated into (SPOILER!) the villainess Blackarachnia (and while many fans would like to work this into the Beast Wars/G1 timeline, it doesn’t really work).
There is also not yet any toy produced to represent Elita One’s nascent Ariel form, although there are several alternatives that could stand in, the most obvious of which might be a 2007 Elita One repaint of Transformers: Energon omnicron Arcee (2003) and bizarrely released as part of the live action movie line of figures! Striving for more animation accuracy, one might look to the actual omnicron Arcee; Transformers: Animated Arcee (2009); or in extreme left of field, Transformers: Prime - Beast Hunters Arcee (2013; a mold that has been extensively retooled to form one of Elita One’s strike teammates, Chromia, who I’ll also be reviewing shortly).
OK, I'll take the high road and you...go find a body of water, probably on another planet somewhere!
Orion Pax (2010) was a mass-retail release as part of the Generations line, itself evolved from Classics (2006; classic G1 characters in more contemporary vehicle modes). At this time, Generations was also undergoing significant, err, um, transformations to tie themselves in more directly with current licensor IDW Comics, whose G1 inspired titles were becoming increasingly more popular under fans-turned pro authors James Roberts and John Barber. This particular design stems directly from those comics, and at my first glance, I knew I wanted a toy of their take on Orion Pax as quickly as possible, and Hasbro did not disappoint!
Just look at the photos and try and guess how we get from the Cybertronian truck mode to the robot mode? His truck fenders become knee-guards for crimey sakes! And where did the wheels go?
Such elements, including the ability to stand and balance in just about any pose, are the very hallmarks of a beyond great to thoroughly outstanding Transformers toy! The only design flaw of this figure is that the head plate stemming from behind his neck is a bit too large. Other than that he is simply leaping from the graphic animated pages of the comics and into our hands! Many of his design elements, colors, and proportions seem to have been purposely designed to recall the vibe of Classics Optimus Prime (2006), a figure that I never obtained in favor of an Ultra Magnus repaint (2007).
Notes: Although some other fans claim this is the first time Hasbro have ever produced an Orion Pax figure, they are only partially correct, depending on each particular fans point of view (see also, “personal canon” at TFwiki.net). E-hobby.com are a web-based toy company owned by Takara-Tomy, who own Transformers in Japan and still have patents on the original toy designs. In 2002, they repainted G1 toys of Kup and Wheelie into Orion Pax and Dion, striving to recreate their appearances in the original G1 animated series episode, “War Dawn”.
War Within Optimus Prime (Titanium line, 2005) was the first mass retail Cybertronian version of Optimus Prime produced; but the figure wasn’t really representative of the Matrix bearing Optimus as much as it was the pre-matrix “Optronix” (um...Orion to his friends). Following that, the videogame War For Cybertron (2009) retcons all previous histories and shows no real difference between Orion’s pre and post Matrix bearing design (apart from growing larger), and Hasbro indeed produced a figure that represents either. It’s sequel, Fall of Cybertron, (2013) gives us a bulkier, more powerful looking Optimus without much explanation, so it could be assumed that he’s post Matrix, retroactively branding the WFC figure as “Orion Pax”. Or, not, if you prefer!
I am going to continue with this theme for the next few Transformers toy reviews, but will break to review books (both TF and otherwise), some music reviews, of course there will be lots to talk about with the new 007 and Star Wars films just around the corner (already, wow!). Check back weekly, or just often! I never know when I am going to post, but we are just getting started!