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Transformers ROTF
by yo go re

The Autobots have no shortage of grumpy old-timers. Ironhide, Kup, Brakedown, Ratchet, Vector Prime... lots of 'em. Thanks to the Revenge of the Fallen toyline, the Decepticons are getting into the game.

Back in the distant past of Cybertron, when flight was a new technology, Ransack was first of the flying aces. He was a ruthless combatant, blasting his opponents out of the sky, and then strafing the helpless troops stuck on the ground without cover. He may be past his prime and equipped with outdated weapons now, but there was a time when Ransack was the most feared name on Cybertron.

Ransack is a Scout Class figure, so he's packaged in robot mode. He's skinny and weird-looking, in keeping with the movie's aesthetic. In fact, he's nearly skeletal: his arms are little more than hollow frameworks, and his face is undeniably patterned after a skull. The Terminator wishes he looked this much like a skull. Of course, it's hidden beneath a real oddball hat thing, but it's still there if you look.

The figure stands just over 4" tall, thanks to the doodads on his shoulders. Articulation is acceptable, with balljointed shoulders, hinged elbows, a swivel waist, balljointed hips, hinged knees and no small amount of ankle movement. The head is on a balljoint, too, but the actual shape of the head keeps it from working very well. The arms like to pop off their balljoints during conversion, but the design means they go right back on. He's got wings on his back that make him look rather like a locust, which is mighty appropriate when you consider that the first TF to bear the name was, in fact, one of the G1 Insecticons.

Similarly, the G2 Ransack turned into a World War Two plane, and the movie version becomes a plane as well - although his altmode comes from World War One. This is a a German biplane, a vehicle we can say with some authority has never been used as a Transformer before. Planes? Yes, many. Biplane? No. Closest were the Seekers in IDW's Hearts of Steel story, set in the 19th century, but try not to think too hard about the fact that there were no planes in the 19th century. As usual, its design is a mix of several sources, sort of a cross between the Albatross D.II and D.III, with a little bit of the Pfalz D.III thrown in for good measure.

The plane is more than 4" long, and has a 5" wingspan. The D.III was used all the way until the end of the war by the Luftstreitkraefte, the portion of the German military that performed air operations over land (there was also a Naval aviation group). The "D" designation - short for "Doppeldecker" - refers to a single-seat, armed biplane, and Ransack fulfills both parts of that. There's a single open cockpit, and weapons under the lower wings on both sides. Now, technically, the D.III had its guns embedded in the fuselage, but that's not flashy enough, so Ransack has a fat pair of bombs under the port wing, and a pair of machine guns under the starboard. There's also robot kibble under there, but you can only hide so much with flat wings.

German Jastas (fighter squadrons) were allowed to paint their planes however they wanted, which set them apart from the drab British crafts they were facing. Ransack retains the khaki wings, but the fuselage is gold, burgundy, grey and red - the red perhaps suggesting that the plane he based his Earth mode on was out of Jasta 11, the one led by Manfred von Richthofen, the famous Red Baron. The plane's landing gear is solid, but the propeller spins freely. The Iron Cross insignia on the wings has been tweaked to a be a Decepticon logo.

Ransack is a really cool little figure. I doubt he's going to appear in the movie, unless there are some flashbacks to the 1910s or a visit to the Air and Space Museum, but the toy is great fun. The robot is distinct, the altmode is unique, and converting him is fun - the way you have to twist the leg components around has a real "GoBots" feel to it, and that's a compliment. Yes, the arms tend to fall off when you switch him between modes, but that's not a real problem by any stretch.

The best part of the Revenge of the Fallen movie hoopla is that little oddballs like this, which might not get made any other time, can ride the wave of popularity straight to store shelves. Forget the rehashed Ironhides, Starscreams or Bumblebees, and go for something new. Or, in this case, something old.

-- 06/02/09

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