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Transformers Animated
by yo go re

Rather than an army of similarly designed soldiers, Transformers Animated had only one jetplane Decepticon. Yes, Starscream was all alone... until he showed up with an army of clones who all looked like him, but came in different colors.

Skywarp wouldn't call himself a coward. He'd call himself smart. So what if he runs away from combat? Fighting is dangerous! All those missiles and lasers could really hurt someone! As a clone of Starscream, he's got all the power and skill of the leader of the Decepticon air forces, but none of the courage or ambition. He could easily be one of the most dangerous Decepticons of all time, but since he screams and runs away the second a shot is fired, he's mostly just a joke.

The Animated Seekers all share the same vehicle mode, unlike, say, every other version of the Seekers ever. Yes, even the G1 editions got some slight retooling when we got into the second-tier guys like Dirge and Ramjet, but in Animated, it's the same mold from top to bottom. As such, Skywarp is the only one we'll be reviewing, but keep in mind it's the same for all of them; only the colors change.

The jet mode is some sort of nonspecific swept-wing design, with the wings pointing foward rather than back - even the tailfins point forward! The sculpt goes so far as to show us the flaps on the wings, which are slightly inset, rather than just being plain seams. The jet has five different air intakes, including one that circles the nosecone right in front of the cockpit. If you look through the canopy, you'll see the cockpit is surprisingly detailed, especially for such a cartoony source material. And yes, the canopy can be removed, but it's not meant to be.

Skywarp has retractable landing gear, one under the nose and two under rear thrusters. The rear set are designed to fit seamlessly against the body of the plane, so you may have a little trouble getting them out again. There are no guns under the wings of the plane, as there are on the cartoon, but the missile launchers can either point toward the back of the plane like exhaust flames or be flipped forward to attack Autobots. If you look closely, you'll see that the missiles have little monster faces sculpted on them. Awww!

Converting Skywarp isn't an impossible task, but it does have some problems. Kudos to the designers for integrating his legs into the main body of the plane, rather than just being lazy and tucking them underneath. You can still fake a Gerwalk mode. There's sort of an automorph feature where pushing in the plane's nosecone causes just about everything to swing into place (the arms come down, the wings flip over and the waist moves down), but it doesn't always work smoothly, leaving you to click things one at a time and potentially pop off the head. And believe me, there's nothing more frustrating than having the head pop off and rattle around inside when you're going from robot to plane. Oh, plus there are small flaps you have to move in the final step, and they're always going to pop off. Always. They're easy to put back on, but 10 times out of nine, one of them will detatch.

In robot mode, Skywarp stands approximately 7¾" tall. As we seem to reiterate in every one of these Animated reviews, the toy designs and the cartoon designs were worked out in tandem, so Skywarp looks almost spot-on. There's a strong G1 influence, from major things like the way the wings stick off his back to subtler details, like sculped rectangles on the top of his feet that match up to similar elements on the old version. The only thing that really stands out as "missing" are the towers on his shoulders - in other words, nothing major.

He does have a nifty "collar" running around the back of his neck, which gives him a rather distinguished look, if I do say so myself! The head is one of the elements heavily influenced by G1, even if it's been distorted through the Animated lens - in other words, huge long chin. He's got an underhanded smirk, which is just as light-piped as his eyes. It may have been too much to ask, but it really would have been great if Skywarp had a different expression, though.

See, the idea behind the clones of Starscream was that they all represented different facets of his personality - sure, they may have been colored like the Seekers of old, but that was just coincidence. This guy, for instance, was never called "Skywarp" in the script: he was just known as "Coward Starscream," as you may have guessed by his bio up above. So a confident "I'm gonna undermine you, Megatron, and take over" grin just doesn't suit him. He should look like more of a milquetoast. This is actually the second Coward Starscream - the first, Clone #3370318, was a lot more purple, while this one is mostly black with just some purple and silver elements (like the G1 Skywarp).

Articulation is plentiful and useful. Skywarp moves at the neck, shoulders, elbows, fingers, thumbs, hips, thighs, knees and ankles. His feet are balljointed, allowingthem to find a level surface and keep the figure standing even in some more outlandish poses. The finger joints on his are a bit loose, so they just flop around; but since that's only true on his left hand (and even then, not on the thumb), it's probably a one-off mistake.

His missile launchers are mounted on his forearms, but unless you read the instructions very carefully, there's a feature you'll probably miss: if you slide the launchers forward over the back of his hands, panels on the forearms pop open. It doesn't add anything important to the toy, but it really does look cool. Pretend it represents him powering up for a bigger blast. The launchers seem to be on a hair trigger, however, so be careful you don't lose the missiles. I know they're always shooting out by themselves when I have Skywarp in jet form.

So far, there are only three uses of this mold: Starscream, Skywarp and Sunstorm. By the time they did the Sunstorm release the mold was starting to degrade, and Starscream was just plain ol' painted the wrong color - a light blue rather than gray. So really, Skywarp is the best example of the mold. Plus, if you got the also-recommended Shadow Blade Megatron, you could pretend he and Skywarp are part of the same subgroup.

-- 01/26/09

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