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Transformers: Prime
by yo go re

Part of the reason we're writing these Smarch reviews is to have the time to cover things we should have done already, but didn't. For instance...

As a former member of The Wreckers, Wheeljack is more than capable of taking care of himself. But he's glad to know that at least one of his old friends - Bulkhead - is still around, bringing the pain to the Decepticons.

The original Wheeljack turned into a Lancia Stratos racecar, and although the world of Prime uses its own made-up vehicle models, "Jackie" stays true to his roots with an altmode directly inspired by the New Stratos, a 2010 concept car that updated the old design for modern times (unfortunately, Ferrari wouldn't let them go into production). The car has a low, angular front end, a wraparound windshield, and a tiny spoiler across the back. There is no question that this is Wheeljack!

That comparison is only helped by the colorscheme. The body of the car is white with grey details, and there are red and green patterns painted on the roof, hood and doors. The taillights are painted (red and yellow, in different sections), and the "glass" is translucent blue. They didn't skip the paint apps on his hubcaps, either: those are painted silver.

Wheeljack has a really nice conversion process. The legs, in particular, are really cool: you flip part around, slide a section up and twist it to the side; the final product looks very straightforward, but is a complicated piece of engineering. His "head reveal" (as Hasbro likes to call it) is pretty awesome, too, but we'll let you find that out for yourself.

Prime was just as much about homaging Generation 1 as every other Transformers franchise is, but it wasn't afraid to make changes, too. The original WJ was something of a mad scientist, building stupid things that either didn't work or blew up in his face. The Prime version was a badass loner warrior - so they basically changed him from Forge to Wolverine, or from Donatello to Raphael. And yet it worked.

The head is classic Wheeljack, with the horizontal "ear" panels and a segmented mouthplate. On the cartoon, it's just a shield he can flip up for extra protection during battle, as is the style these days. What was wrong with some Transformers just having weird faces? They're not human - they don't all need a nose and a mouth, you know.

The roof and windshield of the car end up on Wheeljack's chest, and the hood is on his shins. The sleek angles of the car carry over nicely to this mode. He has small "wings" on his shoulders behind his head, small spikes on his knees, and surprisingly long, gangly arms. All the colors visible on the car can still be seen here, but there's a lot more grey. The windshield just hangs off the underside of his arms, with no attempt to conceal it. Wheeljack moves at the head, neck, shoulders, elbows, hips, thighs, knees, and ankles.

Wheeljack is armed with two swords, because Prime went into production too early for anyone to want to use Drift yet. It's not like this is the first time he's had a sword, anyway. The weapons can be held in his hands, or tucked into his shoulders for storage. In vehicle mode, they store under the car (or can stick out the front, but that's stupid). There's some sort of marking on the blades near the hilt, but it seems to just be random shapes; if it was meant to be real lettering - even made-up Cyberglyphics - it probably wouldn't be flipped to a mirror image on the opposite side of the blade.

The first time Wheeljack appeared on the cartoon, it turned out to be something of a misdirect, but when he turned up for real, he was pretty cool. No, his personality wasn't a direct copy of the 1980s, but the core was there, and even as a lone wolf hero, there was no mistaking him. No matter what personality you prefer him to have, this is a fun toy.

-- 13/14/13

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