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Special Ops Jazz

Transformers Generations
by yo go re

What's in a name? If you're Hasbro, not much. They currently have two Transformers lines running: there's Generations, which is in the spirit of Classics/Universe 2.0, and there's the adjectiveless Transformers that serves a continuation of the movie line. At least, it did - the one that was supposed to be the newest iteration of movie toys is now offering some figures that would have fit better in Generations.

Jazz falls in love with every world he visits. The tiniest hint of alien culture is enough to fascinate him for hours. His ability to immerse himself in a new civilization makes him an ideal undercover agent - he blends in with the environment, absorbing every bit of data he can, and looks for the anomaly that tells him Decepticons are present.

Jazz is a classic Transformers character, having been around since the start. He used to be a Porsche 935 Turbo, but this version is a generic "sporty" car that actually owes a lot to the movie version's Pontiac Solstice body. The car is 5" long, 2¼" wide, and 1⅝" tall. All four wheels roll, and the glass is translucent blue. The red and blue stripes are a nod to the Martini Racing stripes the old one had.

Jazz's 1984 tech specs said that he could disorient his opponents with 180dB stereo speakers, but that's really more than "disorienting": the eardrum breaks at 160dB, and the loudest sound physically possible is 194dB. 180dB is what a flashbang grenade puts out, but that's only for an instant - sustained sound at that level would physically kill hearing tissue. In any case, you can actually fold speakers out of Jazz's windows, to finally re-create that old skill.

The current theme for the toys is called "Reveal the Shield" - basically, it means the toys have rubsigns, so big whoop. All that really means is that you'll have to pick through the figures carefully to find a sticker that's been applied straight (and good luck with that). It's important to note that Reveal the Shield isn't the name of a new toyline: Jazz is still part of the unnamed movie line (despite being better-suited to Generations), so calling this "RtS Jazz" is as silly as "NGA Mindwipe" or "HftD Insecticon."

Converting this Jazz is very similar to the old version: all the pieces are in the same general places, and you start by opening the car's doors. If we're being completely honest, I kind of miss the way G1 Jazz's arms crossed over to hide beneath the hood - this version's arms are much more straightforward. That's a rather silly complaint though, isn't it? He also has what Hasbro likes to call a "dramatic head reveal" - as you fold the hood down, the head raises automatically.

Love for Earthen culture has always been Jazz's main personality trait, but this is the first time there's ever been a tactical reasoning behind it. Usually he's just a culture junkie with no deeper meaning, but the idea that it makes him better at spotting Decepticon infiltration is actually pretty clever. After all, the Transformers thought machines were the dominant lifeform on Earth, so they can really use someone who actually knows what's going on around him.

The design work on Jazz is really impressive. Yes, the head is an update of the original toy, but we expect that; it's the less obvious details that make this figure shine. Look at the way his shoulders stick out of the hood, or the deep trenches on his forearms. His wheels end up on top of the arms, rather than behind them, but that's a nod to the cartoon. His abdomen is grey, and the pattern sculpted on it is similar to the matching area on the old toy. Ditto for the "vents" on his crotch and hips, and the shapes molded on the front of his hips. His upper legs are white, and his shins are black with inset squares (on '84 Jazz, those had stickers over them). There are striations on his shins that recall the matching lines on the flip-up metal feet from Generation 1. This is a top-notch update!

Jazz's chin is surprisingly pointy, but otherwise the head is good. His visor is the same trans blue plastic as the car's windows, so theoretically he'd be light-piped, but the screw that holds his entire head together goes right into the "pipe" part, blocking most of the light coming through and rendering his eyes inert, for lack of a better word. Maybe a lighter blue would have helped?

The figure is highly articulated, as you expect from a modern TF. He has balljoints for the head, shoulders, wrists and hips; hinges in the elbows, knees and feet; and swivel biceps, waist, and thighs. He has real feet, and they're sculpted with an angle to them that accommodates a natural stance. Nice! His hands are the new open style, rather than blocky fists with holes drilled through them, and he has a fold-out gun that stores beneath the car's hood. It's vaguely reminiscent of Classic Pretender Jazz's Semi-Automatic Ion Pulse Gun. The speakers can still fold out of the window, or they can be detached and plugged onto the gun to form a super gun.

Special Ops Jazz (so named because "Jazz" with no modifiers is uncopyrightable) is one of the first Reveal the Shield figures, and the first to show that this unnamed movie line isn't actually a movie line at all: it's whatever Hasbro wants it to be, and as long as the toys are good, who cares what packaging they're in? Jazz is great, paying honor to the best of everything that's come before, but it's not the old references that make him good. Even if this was a totally new character, Jazz would be a completely solid toy.

-- 12/07/10

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