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IDW Revolution box set

Hasbro convention exclusive
by yo go re

It's time for a trip through history!

Explosions rip across the Earth - and all sides blame Optimus Prime and the Cybertronians! GI Joe refuses to go quietly - and they assemble heroes big enough to stop the invaders. Action Man and MASK Mobile Armored Strike Kommand fight for humanity - but where do Rom and the Micronauts stand?

Rather than simply doing another GI Joe/Transformers crossover set, this year Hasbro's SDCC exclusive was based on Revolution, the big brand-unifying event from IDW comics. And as such, it covers more than just two properties: seven, in fact.

Rather than a fun pseudo-comic, the front of the box shows a bunch of the heroes diving at the camera, while the back hides the villains and promises "Earth vs. Cybertron vs. Microsia & beyond..." The front flap opens so you can see the 16(!!) figures included, but the overall design isn't great. It does its best to showcase all the figures equally, but that leaves us with a ton of wasted space inside the packaging, meaning the box is about 50% larger than it needed to be. I kept the four GI Joe and the Transformers boxes, but this? Straight into the recycling.

Since this set has so much to cover, we're just going to start at 12:00 and go clockwise from there. That also works out nicely for your lazy neighborhood reviwer, because the figure at the top of the box is Jetfire.

Coming to us from an obscure little brand called Transformers, Jetfire is identified inside the front flap as "Autobot scientist." He's a nice, easy entry into what is sure to be a rather daunting review, because he is fundamentally a re-release of the "Thrilling 30" Jetfire that came out three years ago - meaning we can just link you to that review, dust off our hands and call it a day. Go us!

The short version is this: the robot is very poseable and all his removable armor and weapon pieces give you some nice variety in how you want to display him. Converting him is the good kind of challenging, though there's a hinge where his chest folds that might be a little weak, so be careful. Also, changes made to this mold when it was used for Thundercracker mean that the cockpit doesn't fit down against the fuselage properly, so you'll need to shave a little bit of plastic off. But hey, the truly important thing is that this time, Hasbro didn't waste time or money vac-metallizing the accessories, so you won't have to fix that. Surprising absolutely no one, they look better in plain red than in fake-metal red.

Our next figure is a real surprise - it's Leoric, of the Visionaries! This is particularly unexpected because Visionaries is not part of IDW's Hasbroverse... at least, not yet. This December, they'll show up in a Transformers vs. Visionaries miniseries that will spin out of the current First Strike event.

So what is Visionaries? Debuting in 1987, Visionaries: Knights of the Magical Light was set on the world of Prysmos, where a great cataclysm caused all technology to fail. It is a time where magic is more powerful than science, and only those who control the magic control destiny. And despite having lived and been adults with real jobs before the Age of Science ended, forsooth, everyone didst immediately revert to faux-medieval speech. Really? Virulina, one of the villains, was a news anchor, but as soon as the three suns align she starts talking like it's her first day at the Ren Faire?

Before the cataclysm, Leoric was the mayor of Valarak City; after, he was the prince of New Valarak. Apparently it only took 10 years for the population of Prysmos to embrace feudalism. [You think that's impressive? It only took the Republican party a few months to openly embrace white nationalism! --ed.] Beneath his removable helmet, Leoric looks a lot like GI Joe's Bazooka or Mutt - or maybe Hector Ramirez! He's got black hair and a mustache, just like the old toy did. Back then, the easiest way to tell the heroes from the villains was that the bad guys all had facial hair, but Leoric bucked that trend then and he still does now.

The head is new, but the arms come from Storm Shadow and the legs were originally seen on the action-featurey Pursuit of Cobra Snake-Eyes who lent parts to the Rock-Viper. The torso is entirely new, because that was the only way to create his distinctive armor - not a lot of GI Joe bodies with big, upward-raised scoop shoulder pads, you know? The armor is a bright blue, while the clothes he wears beneath it are a darker shade. All the good guys (the Specrtal Knights) accented their gear in silver, while the bad guys (the Darkling Lords) used gold.

Leoric mosly moves like a modern Joe, though the new torso only gets a swivel, not a balljoint. The original Visionaries were slightly larger than their Real American Hero contemporaries, which was due to the line's gimmick: they used cutting edge 1980s technology, aka "holograms." Holograms are created by firing lasers at a 3D object (though the invention of holograms predates the invention of lasers by 13 years), and using a special process to capture the resulting information - it's like photography, except it's "holography." The holograms on the Visionaries, like the ones on your credit card or driver's license, are reflection holograms, meaning you don't have to shine light through them to see them. Reflection holograms can be mass-produced by stamping the interference pattern (a hologram's "negative," in over-simplified terms) onto metallic foil, but in the '80s, they could only be so small and still look good - so the Visionaries toys' size was dictated by the space needed for their stickers.

These days that wouldn't be an issue, but it doesn't really matter, because Leoric's holograms aren't actually holograms: they're just standard stickers with a shiny metallic backing. That's hardly surprising for a limited convention exclusive, because the original toys' holograms not only limited their size, they limited their shelflife, too: the line wasn't a huge success, but neither was it a failure; Hasbro was making money on it, but they didn't have the in-house ability to create and produce the holograms, meaning all that work had to be outsourced; when it came time to decide if they should renew the line for a second year, Hasbro just decided it wasn't worth the hassle. Leoric's totem is a lion, which is also why his main weapon is that favorite of lion tamers everywhere, a whip. His staff gives him the magic power of wisdom in response to an activation phrase ("Whispered secrets of a shattered age, I summon you: renew this sage!"), so naturally it features an image of an owl.

They went to a lot of trouble, considering that the upcoming comic version of the character is going to look absolutely nothing like this. So technically, this figure is just by itself, not part of the big crossover. Moving along!

You may think I'm kidding, but this figure is easily the absolute #1 reason I wanted this set. There have been no shortages of Roadblock figures in Generation 3, from the
comics and the cartoons and the movies and everything else, but there hasn't been one like this. Why? Because this one is based on Renegades!

If roadkill's on the menu, Roadblock must be cooking. Corporal Marvin Hinton is the team's chef and mechanic - and the heavy weapons guy. (You can tell by that cool big Plasma Pulse Machine Gun he's got.) Roadblock's a cheerful loudmouth who loves singing along to the heavy metal in his headphones - but he's totally serious when it comes to getting the Joes out of danger.

That's Renegades Roadblock's bio from the official site, not anything found on the packaging here - the only info this set offers about him is "heavy gunner," but you expect more than that from us. You'll remember that Renegades was the new cartoon launched on The Hub, Hasbro's attempt to get away from the tyranny of Cartoon Network. Except nobody got the channel, so nobody watched the shows, and everything went to hell from there. Anyway, while most of the Renegades got released in the 30th Anniversary line, Roadblock never did. At last, our team is complete!

Most of the figure comes from an existing source - the entire body, in fact. It's a perfectly good choice for Roadblock, since it originally belonged to (a different) Roadblock, and Renegades followed every other piece of Joe fiction by making Roadblock the team "big guy." Animated Roadblock wore tan pants and a light beige shirt, so this toy does the same thing. His green vest is a new piece, and it also comes directly from the cartoon - the collar should be painted the same color as his shirt, but the gray pockets and the stripes on his chest are straight from the model sheet. Some fans mistook the lower edge of his vest for a beer gut; Roadblock isn't small, but he isn't fat.

Roadblock has always been bald, but Renegades' designer, Clement Sauve, mixed things up a bit by giving him giant muttonchops - that's how we could so easily identify this figure's origin. We knew this mold existed, since it showed up in that cancelled Retaliation giftset, but getting it in this set is a welcome surprise.

In fact, everything about this figure comes from that set: the head, the body, the vest, and even all the accessories, which causes a minor problem. Roadblock gets most of his gear from Jungle Assault Duke - the assault rifle, pistol, flashlight and backpack - plus a couple knives. One of the knives can fit in the sheath on his ankle, but the other goes nowhere. Why? Look at the giftset again. It would have included a second vest, with another sheath on it; the inclusion of a second knife is a nod to that accessory, which was not included in this release.

Roadblock, in the IDW comics, does not really look anything like this, and he hasn't really had anything major to do in Revolution, so why include him here at all? Mark Weber, the outgoing GI Joe brand manager, explained: Roadblock's trademark was due for renewal, and it's an in-demand name, so if Hasbro didn't lay claim to it, some other company certainly would; that's why they chose him to represent the GI Joe segment of the brand. As for the fact that it's the Renegades version? The head and vest had already been tooled, but there's no Joe product on the horizon, so they were never going see a retail release. Like so many SDCC exclusives before him, it was "do it at SDCC" or "don't do it at all." And this was the right choice.

So that's been all fun and whatnot - now who's ready for some complex legal rights issues?!

The Dire Wraiths are the enemy of Rom: SpaceKnight - they're mentioned in the original Toy Fair pitch video, so they go where he (as a property) goes. In the '80s, that meant they went to Marvel Comics, who got the task of turning them into real characters. Since all the video said was "evil magicians" and "they can assume any form they wish," that left a lot of wiggle room. Since the Rom comics were set in the normal 616 universe, Marvel decided to make the Dire Wraiths an evolutionary offshoot of Skrulls, and designed big, troll-like bodies for them.

IDW's 2016 Free Comicbook Day Rom #0 included the Dire Wraiths. That same month, IDW registered for a trademark for use of the name in comics. Marvel, meanwhile, has never really stopped using the Dire Wraiths in their books (or the concept of "spaceknights"), so in February of 2017 they filed opposition to the trademark application. Fight! Fight! Fight! Fight!

Marvel definitely owns the distinctive appearance of their Dire Wraiths, which is why IDW had to design something entirely new. They're vaguely humanoid, though they can still shapeshift into nearly any form, but their skin is blue and their bulbous heads have huge, fangy smiles and six beady red eyes. No one would ever mistake IDW's Dire Wraiths for Marvel's.

The shapeshifting abilities are different, too: being related to Skrulls, Marvel's Dire Wraiths could change into anyone at all; IDW's are more like parasites, and can only copy a specific person once they've been infected. Rather than creating a totally new Dire Wraith body for this toy, Hasbro chose to make one that's only partially slipped off its disguise - the body is still seemingly human, but the head and arms are revealed. The body mold originally belonged to Doc, though there aren't as many paint apps on it here, and the arms are a clever re-use from the Zombie-Viper, as a way to represent the Dire Wraith's tendrils. Although the figure still has a holster on its right leg, it does not include a gun - only Doc's bag slung over its shoulder.

The Dire Wraiths predate Marvel's involvement with Rom, so of course IDW has the right to use them - as long as thy don't use the things Marvel created, like the distinctive look. Plus, the phrase "Dire Wraith" is vague/bland enough that there shouldn't be any confusion there: it's the same way that the Thundercats can fight the Evil Mutants without anyone expecting Magneto to show up. Obviously an IDW comic can't say "these are Deviant offshoot Skrulls, engineered by the Celestials," but shapeshifting space-wizards who fight Rom? That's perfectly okay.

Hey, speaking of Rom, let's speak about Rom.

Fortunately, we don't have to tell you all about Rom's long, complicated history, because Rustin already did that. It's super interesting, go read it. Anyway, just as Marvel owns the distinctive look of their Dire Wraiths, they also own everything they invented for Rom: things like "what he looks like sans armor" and "his name." That's why the Marvel character Prime Director Artour can take off his plandanium armor and go back to living on his homeworld of Galador, while the IDW character Rom K'atsema can continue to be a member of the Solstar Order and defend the planet Elonia with his symbiotic crystalline armor. Also, Marvel published a comic a couple years back called "Spaceknights," so if Hasbro wanted to contest that usage, they'd have had to do it back then.

But everything that casual fans know about Rom - his silver armor, his weapons, the very name "Rom" itself - all predate Marvel's involvement, so they all get to stay the same. That's why Hasbro could release the Mighty Mugg, and that's why they can release this toy, too.

Rom's defining feature is that he wears a full suit of silver armor, and that his head looks like a toaster. Not a Battlestar Galactica slur for Cylons, an actual toaster. It's square, with grooves on the flat top, and the only facial features being two red eyes in a black slit. Naturally, this figure duplicates that description perfectly.

The original Rom figure was super blocky, because every action figure in the '70s was just terrible. He's always been drawn as slightly more organic in the comics, so this figure uses armored legs and large, muscular arms. It's a nice mix. The torso is new, with all the familiar classic design detail: a stomach that looks like another face, very angular armor over his shoulders, and rocket pods on his back. There is absolutely no mistaking this figure for anyone else (except, you know, the other Marvel spaceknights who wore similar-but-legally-distinct armor and still show up every so often).

Just as with Leoric above, the new torso only has a swivel joint between the upper and lower halves. That's better than the way the 4" Marvel toys have started having completely solid chests, but it's not as good as the reused GI Joe bodies we get in this set. The other articulation is good, even giving him swivel/hinge wrists. His only accessory is his Neutralizer gun. It's a shame they couldn't have found a way to make his Energy Analyzer and his Translator, too - then we'd have a total update of the original figure!

We may still be waiting for a 6"-scale Rom who could interact with our Marvel Legends, but thanks to this SDCC set, we can at least add him to the Marvel Universe collection.

Reminder: this guy isn't
Captain Action.

You already know the real-world history of Action Man: a British company licensed the molds for GI Joe, and gave him a less-American name; and just as Joe Colton gave rise to the GI Joe team, Action Man gave rise to the Action Force. But that's the old story, and IDW is doing something new.

The Action Man Programme (ah, British! Such a superfluous language!) was founded in 1586 by Queen Elizabeth I's spymaster, Francis Walshingham. He trained Christopher Marlowe to be the first Action Man, and the title has been passed down through the years, always with one supremely skilled operative serving his country. Like a more techy James Bond, but if there weren't 001s through 006s out in the field doing stuff at the same time. The current Action Man is Ian Noble, who's younger and not quite as highly trained as his predecessors, but he does his best.

Using a torso from PoC Destro gives Action Man the look of a man wearing some sort of fancy protective body armor. Since he's a fairly acrobatic young guy, his legs and his upper and lower arms are skinny. His suit is blue with orangey-yellow highlights, which somewhere along the way became "the" Action Man colors. I mean, he started out wearing the same camo fatigues that 12" GI Joe wore, but these days blue-and-orange is as associated with Action Man as red and blue is associated with Spider-Man; but sorry, dear readers, I don't know when or why it happened.

The head is new, and it's very... distinct. Which is a polite way of saying it's homely and weird-lookin'. It's super narrow, but the eyes are set too wide, and the ears are too far back on the sides. His hair poofs up in the front in a way that just makes you want to punch him. (Not at all to be confused with the "shaved on the sides" haircut that attracts punches for a totally different reason.) His chin is prominent, but his cheeks are sunken, giving his a face that's nearly as much of a crescent as Mac Tonight's.

(And holy crap, I just found out Mac Tonight has been Milkshake Duck'd by the same impotent losers who ruined Pepe the Frog.)

((Man, try explaining that sentence to someone time-travelling to the present from even two years ago.))

Action Man may be a super secret super spy secret agent, but he still uses normal weapons. In this case, that would be an assault rifle and a pair of MP5K submachine guns. Three guns, two hands, no holsters - unless he knows how to juggle, something's always going to be laying on the ground.

IDW's take on Action Man is a lot more interesting than "GI Joe, but with a different name." There's something that feels inherently "British" about spies, moreso than any other nationality. Maybe because espionage feels more genteel and refined than overt military force does, or maybe just because Jason Bourne doesn't have the same cultural cachet as James Bond. But if you're going to have an adventure series, then yeah, the Americans are the military, and the Brits are the spies.

Hasbro already dipped its toes into the crossover/co-alignment well back in 2008, when "
Specialist Trakker" appeared in the regular Generation 3 lineup. Sadly, nothing else ever came of it - not even a Miles Mayhem, to balance out the ranks - so Revolution has to start things all over again.

You remember how the Fast & the Furious franchise started out with Vin Diesel hijacking VCRs (not even DVD players, but VCRs) from trucks on the highway, and is now about fighting international cyber terrorists through the power of family? IDW's MASK is the logical extension of that. [I defy you to find any way in which that is logical --ed.] Matthew Trakker was a genius-level engineer and physicist by the age of 10, but when his father, Cornelius, was murdered, Matt became withdrawn and got involved in illegal street racing. While travelling the world in search of races, Matt became aware of economic injustices and began using his scientific skills to improve urban infrastructure in the areas that needed it. Now he drives a flying car.

While the helmet-that-they-weirdly-insist-is-a-mask and the chest harness are the same pieces the previous Trakker had, the rest of him is new. Well, noew to him: they're all reused GI Joe pieces, just put together in new and exciting ways! The torso has a lightly armored sculpt, the sort of thing you might like to wear if you were about to drive a Chevy Camaro into the sky, but the legs seem to have been chosen more for their kneepads than anything else. The upper and lower arms come from two different sources, but since they both have a touch of padding on them, they blend together well. He keeps his red-and-gray colorscheme, though this time the jumpsuit is darker and the armor is lighter, making the two sections the same overall color.

The helmet is removable of course, allowing us to see Matt's bare head beneath. This is also not the same sculpt as on the old toy, because instead of a super-grumpy blonde dude, IDW's Matt Traker is black. Considering how little personality any of the MASK characters had in the '80s, no one will give even the slightest crap if they get reimagined.

In addition to the Spectrum mask, this figure comes with the same machine gun as the previous release, but he does not include the little helicopter backpack. Clearly Hasbro couldn't create an entirely new version of his Thunderhawk vehicle, but maybe instead of a Jetfire whose inclusion seems pointless beyond thumbing their nose at Harmony Gold, this set could have included some car-based Transformer repainted in MASK colors? I don't know, can anybody think of a recognizable Transformer whose altmode is famously a Camaro? Anyone? Bueller?

GI Joe's move, as a brand, from 12" figures to 3¾" figures was inspired by Takara's Microman figures - Takara licensed the original 12" molds to create Henshin Cyborg, then decided to create their own 1:3 scale version of that called Microman. Mego licensed those toys from Takara and imported them to the US as Micronauts, and then Hasbro copied the engineering to create their smaller Joes.
Ha ha ha! Recursive!

While the other properties in this set only got a single representative (or two, in the case of Rom), we actually get nine Micronauts! They're all unarticulated figures on plastic bases, but still - there are a lot of them! I don't know much about the Micronauts, but that's okay: just as with Rom, everything Marvel made up for their Micronauts comic, they got to keep, so IDW is having to start from scratch in a lot of ways.

We begin with one of the most recognizable Micronauts, Acroyear. That's pronouned "uh-KROY-er," not "AKRO-yeer." The original toyline called Acroyers villains (the name appears to be a portmanteau of the Japanese word for evil, aku, and "destroyer," so really "Akroyer" would have been a better and more comprehendible spelling), but the Marvel comic made him a hero - IDW splits the difference, calling the Acroyears a fearsome mercenary force, but having a single member defect to the good guys' side. Acroyear wears white and black armor, carries a green sword, and has two red turbines on wings emerging from his back.

Biotron is the largest Micronaut in this set, since his original toy, "Robotman," was designed to be a piloted mecha the other figures could ride inside - it could also turn into a tank-like mode, making it the first toy in history to transform from a robot to a vehicle. The Biotrons in the comics are unliving machines that only achieve full activation when paired with an organic interface - in other words, when somebody is piloting them; the one on the Micronauts team seems to be getting more autonomous, though. His silver head is a reference to the way all the Microman toys had vac-metallized heads, and is also why he would have been conflated with Destro if Unit:E hadn't been scuttled.

The next figure gets his name from a vintage Micronauts figure, but not even a bit of his appearance. This bald, stubbly fellow looks like a real brute in the art on the front of the box, and inside, we learn that he has no legs, just a single large wheel. His name is Oberon, and back in the day, that name belonged to... a horse. A horse that sometimes had wheels instead of legs, yes, but a horse nonetheless. This version looks pretty cool, with his blue and purple clothes accented by silver mechanics, but how do you get from a horse to here? And if they didn't want to draw comparisons between the two, why use that name?

The little green guy is Quin-Tillus, who is based on the old "Time Traveler" toy - aka, the most basic and generic of Micronauts. The originals were clear, but a series of opaque ones were released at the tail end of the line, including one in green - not as bright as this figurine, but it's still a clear connection. He has black gloves and boots, rather than white, but his armor is the appropriate silver. His chest armor ends up looking similar to the frame on the Visionaries' chests, so maybe IDW can forge a connection there. His pose makes him look like he's ready for a fight - or trying to surruptitiously pick a wedgie.

Phenolo-Phi is based on the Space Glider figure, which is why she has small grey wings on her back. Her parents were an artist and a military engineer, and their daughter takes after both of them. While on a tour of her father's research station, her parents were killed, and Phen grabbed a prototype glider suit to escape - since it was a prototype, she doesn't actually know everything it's capable of. Her uniform is white with green accents, and she's armed with a large black gun. Her brown hair is pulled into a long braid that trails all the way down her back.

In 1979, Mego released its first US-original Micronauts characters, a group of evil aliens. One of those was Antron, a four-armed invader from the Thoraxid galaxy. It was never made clear whether Antron was an individual or just a member of a species, but now it seems the latter, thanks to the introduction of Xant. Xant is orange where Antron was purple, and he does not have a glow-in-the-dark brain, but his thick lower legs look like they'd definitely be able to support the weight of the weapons he has on the end of every arm.

Baron Karza is the big bad of Micronauts, which you could probably have guessed just by the fact that he looks like a more evil Darth Vader. He wears black armor with red lights in it, but he trades Vader's cape for two missile launchers. The missiles and the highlights on his armor are red. The figure stands a full head taller than the others (other than Biotron), because the original Baron Karza was about twice the size of the other Micronauts.

The final two figures are a little odd. They're identified as Betatron and Gammatron, who, in the comics, are two of four robots built from the salvaged wreckage of the Micronauts' ship to help the team. There, they're based on toys from the vintage line that were basically stupid cars. Here, not so much: they're original designs, and the packaging implies they serve Baron Karza. How very odd!

Gammatron is the taller, insectoid figurine. He has purple digitigrade... boots? His legs appear to be green, so unless he changes color part way down, those must be clothes. The central body is black, with a large bulb at the end. The chest is big and the arms are skinny, but there's thick purple and red armor before the three-fingered hands. Two round purple flaps stick off his shoulders, and his only facuial feature is a red V-shaped slit for eyes. Betatron, meanwhile, is the little pod-shaped bot, done all in green with silver and black accents and a single red eye. This is the only figure without a base, since its four stumpy legs will keep it plenty sturdy.

So that's the Revolution box set. The packaging isn't great, but the contents are mostly excellent. Mostly. (There are plenty of better choices for the Transformers slot than Jetfire, but the other figures make up for it.) Everything has its little flaws, but nothing major, and none of these figures are likely to be seen again.

Now; who wants to buy a Jetfire?

-- 10/10/17

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