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Darkmount

Transformers Generations
by yo go re

If anyone ever tells you that Hasbro doesn't care about the fans, you show them this figure, and then you punch them in the mouth.

Few robots achieve the same legendary status as Megatron, but Darkmount is one. He is just as famous on Cybertron as the impenetrable fortress that bears his name. From there, he ruled his small corner of the machine world with an iron fist, controlling his subjects with an equal measure of fear and pain. So terrible was his rule that even Megatron gave him a wide berth, and treated him with the respect due to an equal.

The mysterious Darkmount is a fairly fearsome-looking vehicle. We've had tanks before and we've had trucks, but this is something in between. It's a heavily armed and heavily armored mobile artillery vehicle - in other words, a howitzer stuck to a truck. The thing looks like it would be incredibly tough to drive: compare the size of the cab/cockpit/whatever to the bulk of the rest of vehicle; even if that's a one-man pilot's seat, the proportions are way screwy!

Darkmount is a half track vehicle, with large tires in the front and tank treads in the back to better distribute the weight of the gun - no point in having mobile artillery if it gets bogged down in the mud, right? The main gun has a point of articulation that allows it to elevate, and the entire thing rotates. There are three additional weapons that can attach to the vehicle in various spots - kind of a random new feature, and not really a great one. There are attachment points all over the vehicle, which don't really look out of place on a heavy war machine like this, but the weapons themselves are only so-so, and the bright red clips that attach them look entirely too blatantly "toyish."

According to the instructions, Darkmount has three modes. After the vehicle is the "battle station," which in theory turns the tank into a kind of stationary gun emplacement, but in practice is just about the most half-assed thing you've ever seen. Mixmaster's terrible "battle mode" wasn't even this lame. The "best" part is that the articulation doesn't actually work the way the instructions suggest it does: you're supposed to fold down the tank treads and the robot arms inside them, but they don't pivot at the same point, so there is no way to do what they say. You can fake it, slightly, but the battle station mode is just garbage. It's like a fanmode, not something that should have been written down and given official confirmation.

The best way to describe Darkmount's conversion is "clumsy and inelegant." Parts that are supposed to move past one another don't have the proper clearance, so more often you get bits that pop off and need to be reattached. Depending on where you've chosen to attach the extra weapons, they may get in the way, as well. Like all things, it gets easier and more intuitive with repetition, so eventually your problems will go away, but the first few times through may be frustrating.

Darkmount isn't a throwback to a G1 toy, and yet the Transfans are all drooling over him. Why? Because he's a throwback to a G1 character. "Darkmount" isn't his real name - like the bio says, Darkmount was a fortress; the fortress belonged to Straxus, and that's who this is. They just couldn't call him that, because apparently the trademark was already taken. By what? Google says the only other thing that's ever been named Straxus is some minor character in a Doctor Who audio drama, and if that's getting in the way of Transformer toy names, I'll eat my hat!

We've mentioned Straxus before, in the Nemesis Prime review (one of them, anyway). Basically, he's a super-evil bastard, one of the guys who led the Decepticons while Megatron was missing for four million years. He appeared in two issues of the Marvel Comic then died, and is so damn obscure the only place he was even mentioned until TF Wiki came along was the Obscure Transformers Website - obscure is right there in the name!

Because the comics' coloring was for crap, Straxus' colors changed every issue - sometimes even between pages panels within the same issue! The toy tries to blend the various looks, with emphasis placed on his first appearance, in Marvel's Transformers #17 - that's what the serial number M17 on the vehicle mode is hinting at. His main color in this mode is still blue, as it was on the mobile artillery vehicle, but the upper arms and bright red and the forearms and thighs are gray. His body is covered in triangles, which seemed to be his design feature of choice. The golden chest comes from his second appearance, and helps add some spice to the party. A darker blue would have worked better - this guy is evil! He should be nearly black, not "IBM corporate blue."

In the comics, Straxus' head looked like a cross between Wolverine and a cobra - not a Cobra, a cobra. The toy's head is vaguely similar, but only because no one else has ever been close. The Darth Vader-ish mouth is still there, but his head-angles have instead become some sort of separate ridges. Plus, the head is very small on his body - which is particularly noticable because the body has already been downsized.

Straxus was always a fatty in the comics. His body had the bulky shape of a Pretender shell, like he should crack in half and have a skinnier robot hiding inside. This toy has a big chest and shins, but the rest of him is thinner and more proportional. He's got some really nice articulation, with balljointed ankles, hinged knees, swivel thighs, balljointed hips, swivel waist, hinged hands, swivel/hinge wrists, hinged elbows, swivel biceps, balljointed shoulders and a balljointed neck. The shoulders have this weird thing going on where if you try to move them a certain way, the actual shape of the joint makes the whole arm turn, but it's not too distracting, after a while.

As a comics-only character, Straxus didn't really need to have any logic behind his pretend altmode, so he changed from a robot with no identifying features to a knockoff of whatever it was Galvatron turned into. A flying space cannon, whatever. "Darkmount" doesn't have that luxury, so he's loaded with kibble - conversely, it makes him a more interesting design! With flywheels on his arms and tank treads jammed against his back, this is clearly something that turns into something else. The placement of the treads isn't very subtle, but you can pretend it's a power pack or something. It gives him an imposing bulk that would otherwise be missing.

Straxus' trademark weapon was an energy axe thing, and it's included with this figure, as well. Actually, it seemed to change appearance as often as its owner did: an axe one day, a scythe the next, a cudgel after that... heck, there's no reason a Transformer's weapon can't convert just like his body. This version looks like a pickaxe, which is fine, and can be held in either hand. The instructions suggest that the axe can be stored on his back, somehow, but good luck with that. Every posible combination we've been able to come up with is too idiotic to even take a picture of. Just leave it in his hands.

Whenever a toyline goes out of its way to cater to fans, one thing always happens: the fans start playing this game of one-upsmanship, fighting over who ges to be King Nerd by who can name the most obscure character and pretend its a favorite they'd love to see made. It's the same reason hipsters claim to be into bands you've never heard of; it makes them cooler (and therefore better) than you. Darkmount is the result of precisely that kind of idiocy. He's the Transformers equivalent of Star Wars' Ice Cream Maker Guy: the figure the fans shout for, but far fewer people actually care about than claim to. It's not a terrible toy (not while Galvatron still exists in the world), but it is disappointing. Or pehaps at best unimpressive. Get this one because you love Straxus and want his first-ever toy, not because you want a good TF. The design needs work, the conversion seems unfinished, and the third mode would have been better off removed from the instructions. Feel free to safely skip the upcoming Skullgrin repaint, as well.

-- 10/26/10


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