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Transformers Classics
by yo go re

We told you before about the oddities surrounding the G1 Jetfire, and how that (coupled with shoddy plastic) made him one of the holy grails of Transformer collectors. It seemed that Transfans would never see another official Jetfire figure that was as cool as that first one, but 2007 proved that wrong.

Jetfire was once famous across the face of Cybertron. As a great scientist and explorer, he was the first to journey to the black depths of deep space, and the only one to ever face and defeat the star pirates of the Blot Nebula. It was because of his status as a hero that his sudden disappearance was greeted with worldwide dismay. He was discovered millions of years later, frozen deep within the Arctic glacier on Earth, and rose immediately to the challenge presented by the Decepticons. He is among the mightiest and bravest of the Autobots, diving into battle without a moment's hesitation, the stuttering roar of his particle beam repeaters drowning out all other sounds.

Jetfire was one of the most morally ambiguous TFs - not because he was wild and unpredictable, but because he chose sides based solely on logic. He weighed the options and picked the Autobots, despite being good friends with a lot of the Decepticons. Everyone is just afraid he'll realize he misplaced a decimal point or forgot to carry the one or something, and will turn against them.

The Transformers Classics line, designed to hold space between Cybertron and the movie, doesn't license real vehicles like the Alternators line, so Jetfire's vehicle mode isn't a real plane: it's a mix of the F-14 Tomcat and F-22 Raptor, with a unique, blocky nosecone.

Like most plane-based Transformers, Jetfire carries a lot of kibble on the underside of the vehicle mode. The arms are particularly blatant, though the designers tried to hide them by attaching various weapons to cover things up. Actually, it works fairly well - there are rocket launchers on the sides, and blasters nearer the center. The plane has retractable landing gear, and the wings can swing forward.

Fold down the vertical tailfins, and you can attach the included jet... booster... pack... thing. In the Macross universe, this thing would be a FAST (Fuel And Sensor Tactical) pack, an external module that gave the fighters more functionality. It's not the most aerodynamic thing, but I'm sure Jetfire doesn't care - Transformers are magic! The FAST pack attaches with two clips over the exhaust ports, and the boosters can be positioned on balljoints.

The transformation is complex, but not difficult. And in keeping with the character's Macross origins, you can even fake a "gerwalk" mode. GERWALK, for those not in the know, stands for "Ground Effective Reinforcement of Winged Armament with Locomotive Knee-joint" and is the term for the halfway point between the plane and the robot, when it's basically a jet with arms and legs. Poor, mutant jet.

The design of the robot mode comes in somewhere between the G1 Jetfire toy and the G1 Skyfire cartoon, though it generally favors the animation model.

Everything is more rounded than the original toy, but that could just be chalked up to a change in design asthetics in the past 20 years. The chest is very similar, though, as is the head - right down to the antennae over the ears. But you can't blame them for leaning a bit moe toward Skyfire than Jetfire - after all, since Macross Valkyries are still being produced and sold (still by a different company), so better to go that way than run into the same kind of legal troubles that came up in the '80s, right?

In this mode, the robot has a lot of weaponry. There's a rocket launcher on each forearm, and he has two blasters that he can hold in his hands. There are small guns sculpted at the sides of his chin, and the antennae can rotate forward to look threatening, as well. The booster pack sticks up behind the robot's shoulders, but if you slide back two panels, large guns pop out, and they can be folded down to point forward. This is one robot you do not want to eff with.

Part of the reason Jetfire is such an expensive, sought-after toy today is that the original had a lot of removable armor pieces. The Classics version has a little bit of this, but with a purpose: remove the launchers, the backpack and the helmet, and the stripped-down robot now really resembles the animated Skyfire. Yes, he's not as bulky, but the head is almost dead-on. And if you combine the two blasters, you get one big double-barreled gun. And oddly, the gun ends up with a functional sight - that's certainly unexpected!

Another unexpected bonus can be found on the instruction sheet. Most TFs these days show the transformation running only one direct, with just a small note saying "reverse order of instructions" to change back - not Jetfire! His instructions show the transformation backwards and forwards, just like the ones we used to get back in the day. Yeah, it's a small thing, but it's appreciated.

Transfans got an early sneak peek at this figure the year before he was released. IDW Publishing, the company that picked up the Transformers license after Pat Lee drove Dreamwave into the ground, released the first issue of their new limited series, Stormbringer, on July 19, 2006. And right there on the cover, big as life, was Jetfire. A new Jetfire we'd never seen before. The cover was drawn by Don Figueroa, the same guy who designed this toy - coincidence? I think not!

Jetfire is just about a perfect example of a figure in the Transformers Classics line: an excellent toy inspired by, but not a slave to, its G1 incarnation. Straight re-creations are boring, but an update that draws on the original while blazing a new and better path? That's awesome. The vehicle mode is nice, and the fact that his robot can bridge the gap between the old cartoon and the borrowed toy is damn clever. Classics Jetfire isn't a great toy because he's a lot like the G1 version, he's just a great toy, period.

-- 12/18/07

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