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Bruticus Maximus

Transformers Classics
by yo go re

The lifecycle of a toyline is fairly predictable. The first series will be easy to find, and linger on the shelves. The later assortments will show up after a delay, since the original toys are still hogging shelf space, but will still be fairly plentiful. The end of the line, however, will be a mad scramble to find incredibly rare figures, with many never reaching stores at all.

Slow and stupid might be considered drawbacks in most warriors, but not Bruticus Maximus. In him, these traits simply serve to highlight just how strong and indestructible he is. He is one of the strongest and toughest Decepticons ever built, with enough power to pulverize most autobots with a single blow. Missiles and artillery bounce harmlessly off his armor, and high-powered lasers just annoy him. Most Autobots consider any battle in which Bruticus Maximus takes part a losing proposition.

Like Superion, Bruticus was originally meant to be released in the 2008 Classics/Universe 2.0 line, but since distribution at the end of that one was crap (I still haven't found Inferno, Cosmos, Leo Prime... shall I continue?), the set never made it anywhere but Singapore and Australia. Hasbro, yet again showing why they're a better company than Mattel, simply repackaged the toy with no changes and shipped it out as part of the movie line.

This figure is a repaint of Bruticus Maximus, one of the three gestalts from Energon, so he follows the old "Scramble City" style of one large central "leader" and four smaller limbs. The Energon version was a bit problematic - two of his limbs were harder to find than the rest of him, causing headaches for anyone trying to build the whole team. Thus, getting the whole thing in one shot? Good deal!

G1 fans should enjoy the new paint schemes devised for this release. While the previous release had a blue and white torso and red, yellow, green and purple limbs, this one is specifically patterned after the original 1986 toy. His hands and feet are translucent red/orange, a holdover from the Energon toys. The big guy stands about 9¾" tall and moves at the neck, shoulders, waist, hips and knees. The shoulders, hips and knees have the same range of motion as balljoints, too - this guy kicks the old Bruticus' butt all over the place!

Of course, a gestalt figure is more than just a giant robot - the individual pieces have to be good, too. We'll start simple and work our way up, beginning with Brawl. "Decepticon Brawl," as he's known on the package, for legal reasons. Just as back in the day (and in the movie, too), Brawl is a green tank. Nearly 4½" long and 2" wide, the tank has an odd double-barreled turret. There are molded guns on the sides, and two on the front. The front of the tank has the serial number 1MJ9 - or turn it around, and it says "6ɾWl". Ha! How clever!

Changing Brawl to a robot is nice, but completely detached from the original toy. It's not immediately obvious how things work, and we always appreciate that. The "loudmouthed artillery gunner," as the box calls him, has small guns flanking his head. The gun barrels hang off the forearms, and the tank treads end up on the back like insect wings. A bit strange, sure, but hey, why not? However, since we've got the old vehicle (a tank) in the old color (green), it's not too much of a stretch to imagine Brawl got an upgrade somewhere along the line.

We move next to the blue-gray helicopter marked with a "V-1" - it's Vortex! He no longer has the chin gun or the Gatlings on the rear, but this is still a helicopter and it's still gray(ish). The cockpit is translucent red plastic, and both rotors - top and tail - spin when you flick them. Thanks to the tail, the helicopter is 5¼" long, and as long as you're not counting the blades, it's 2¼" wide.

On the original Vortex, the cockpit became the legs and the tail turned into arms. On this one, none of that is true. Vortex, the "Combaticons' interrogator," has a pretty simple conversion: the arms are under the helicopter, and the legs are quite obviously folded onto the sides. The only tricky part is when you have to spin the waist around. Yeah, real complex stuff. Still, the robot mode has a nice design, and even if there's nothing about it that really says "G1 Vortex" when you look at it, it's not a bad figure. His weapon and Energon chip are a rich crimson.

Now things start to get weird. Our next figure is Onslaught, the "Combaticons [sic] leader and strategic genius." Originally he was a flatbed truck, with an anti-aircraft gun loaded on the back. Now he's a heavily armored carrier with a rear-mounted missile launcher, which seems like a relatively logical progression. The vehicle is 5¼" long, 2" wide and at least 3" tall. All eight wheels roll, and the front is emblazoned with "0N-SLT" and the designation "C5" - his team ID number in the 1986 release.

Of all the new Combaticons, Onslaught's transformation is most like the old one - in that his legs are in the back, and his arms are (near) the front. Yeah, that's as close as it gets. The robot is navy and gray, not blue and green like the original, but the parallels are still there. The head doesn't try to duplicate the old toy at all - you can leave that to the other Universe Onslaught - instead resembling the kind of heavy, protective headphones worn by people operating heavy machinery. An appropriate choice, no? Being the leader, Onslaught's the biggest of the bunch: he stands 5¾" tall, and has a lot of truck kibble hanging off his back; fortunately his feet are designed with pieces on the heels to keep him from tipping over. The figure moves at the neck, shoulders, elbows, hips, thighs and knees.

Our next robot is brown and purple, which means he must be Blast Off, the "arrogant loner astronaut." He stands 4⅜" tall, and moves at the neck, shoulders, elbows, waist (with some difficulty), hips, knees and ankles. The feet are really nothing but flat panels, but other than those, the neck and the waist, everything is balljoints - an appropriate choice, since in 1986, Blast Off was the first Transformer to use the new-fangled things for his shoulders. There's really no strong visual connections between this Blast Off and the original version, but at least the kibble on his back might remind you of wings.

The G1 Constructicons were supposedly made from WWII-era vehicles that Starscream found laying around on an island. Fine, how does that explain Blast Off, the space shuttle? This release avoids that problem (and raises an entire new set) by making him a tank, the same as Brawl. Really, if he's a tank, why is he named Blast Off? And why does the box still call him an astronaut? Seems like poor planning, really. The tank has his initials - "BO" - and a star painted on the front, the lone tie to his extra-terrestrial leanings. His dark orange Energon weapon is a double-barreled gun with a radar dish.

And finally, we get the Decepticon con artist, Swindle. He's tan and khaki, a nice nod to the original Swindle's all-encompasing brown. There's no purple on him this time, but it would have been too visible on the altmode. The robot is a scant 4¼" tall, but has a swivel neck, balljointed shoulders and elbows, swivel waist, and balljointed hips and knees. His brick-red weapon is a five-barreled gun that can be held in either hand. The color goes nicely with his "desert adventure" paint apps, so it never looks out of place.

Swindle, like Vortex, turns into a helicopter. It's not as egregious here as it was for Blast Off: remember how in the official Alternators story, Swindle finagled himself a new body even though he didn't need it? Pretend he did the same here. He was tried of being a jeep, so he decided to take to the sky. Probably so he could more easily run away from the people he's ripped off. Appropriately, the identification markings on this helicopter are dollar signs - half because of Swindle's capitalist attitudes, half because it looks like the S in his name.

When I first got the Classics Devastator, I thought Hasbro had cheated us. Rather than five unique robots, there were only three: a central component, and two sets of twins; I didn't realize at the time that that's the way the Energon combiners had been made. The budget at the end of the Energon line was getting tight, with only enough room for about 10 new molds, so Hasbro faced a choice: make two combiners with five molds each, or three combiners with three molds. Obviously they went with the second, which is why all three of these Classics/Universe/whatever gestalts have repeats.

Of course, since all the figures plug together the same way, you can mix it up if you want, and trade some of those limbs around. Superion may not have been great, but Bruticus (Bruticus Maximus, if you want to get technical) is excellent. In fact, he's probably the best of the three.

-- 09/15/09

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