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Transformers Power of the Primes
by yo go re

Thanks to a different kind of shape-changing robot, it's been a while since we had an official Transformers Tuesday. Let's see what's come out in that time.

Punch is an Autobot double agent. He converts into an alternate identity, Counterpunch, to infiltrate the Decepticon ranks.

Punch/Counterpunch is such a cool idea, but one that's definitely underused in the fiction. He was introduced late enough that he wasn't a major part of the cartoon (at least the US cartoon - he had more appearances in the Japanese Headmasters series), and was never in the Marvel comics. Heck, the IDW comics had a whole ongoing subplot about an Autobot spy in the Decepticon ranks, and spoiler: even that wasn't him! That, and the complexities of fully engineering him, is probably why the only toy we've gotten of him since 1987 is a Collectors' Club exclusive repaint. Until now.

Punch's head makes him look like he could be related to Optimus Prime: he has a silver mouthplate, two blue eyes, a helmet with ear antennae and a tall central grill crest, and yellow flaps over his cheeks. He's a bit unique among Transformers in that the top half of his head is a different color than the bottom half, so he looks like he's wearing a hat, not a helmet.

The figure's body is very boxy, with a lot of large, flat panels forming the chest and arms. The sculpted details are updates of the 1987 original, with two round ports at the edges of the chest, and recessed areas below those that angle in toward the center. Where the old toy had a sculpt that was meant to fake a narrower waist, this one actually has it. There's a raised shape in the center of his abdomen, but the details inside it are now quadrangles instead of circles. His chest and shoulders are yellow, matching his cheek flaps and giving him a heroic brightness. The thighs are black (save for the silver panels on the front of them), and we get an unexpected flash of color in the form of distinctive red hands. The rest of his body is a dark blue.

Punch moves at the neck, shoulders, biceps, elbows, waist, hips, thighs, and knees, providing for some nice poseability. He doesn't have any real feet to speak of - the legs just sort of terminate in flat stumps - but the legs are wide enough that stability shouldn't be an issue. The kibble that sticks backwards off his shoulders might get in the way of the arms' movement somewhat, but you can move around that easily. His gun is a single-barreled pistol, like he carried on The Headmasters. It's the same yellow as his body is, so it definitely looks like it belongs to him.

To convert punch to his altmode, straighten the kibble on his shoulders, open his back to unfold the kibble inside there, hinge the shins to the side and unroll the pieces inside there, then fild the legs in half and wrap all that stuff around the top to form the roof. It's weird to describe, and strange to see in action the first time, but once you try it out, it'll make perfect sense.

In the '80s, Punch changed into a Pontiac Fiero, clearly the most famous and timeless car ever created. Unable to compete with such automotive majesty, today's version becomes some sort of generic sports car. It's a low, sleek, two-door model with big vents on the hood and stylish red wheels. The gun can be stored under the car, but the clearance isn't the greatest, so it might end up scraping on the ground.

And then...

Counterpunch is a Decepticon double agent. He converts into an alternate identity, Punch, to infiltrate the Autobot ranks.

Sure, the little bit of fiction there is has always depicted Counterpunch as a false identity for Punch, who's completely loyal to the Autobots, but how could anyone ever be sure? The Autobots generally recruit anyone who wanders their direction and claims to hate bad guys, so all the Decepticons would have to do to get their agent in is maybe - maybe - shoot at him a little bit as he runs toward the Autobot-controlled zones. Or just give him an oversized T-shirt that says "Definitely Not a Villain" and call it a day. Maybe that would have been explored in "Legacy of Rust," the Punch/Counterpunch-centric miniseries announced at SDCC 2010, but that never came out (and likely never will).

Counterpunch's face is revealed when you tip the black helmet over the Punch side. He looks plenty sinister, with a blue face and red eyes. The fact that the mouth and chin are a small silver bump kind of makes it look like Counterpunch is wearing a ski mask, and that's the only place we're seeing his skin. He still has the antennae and forehead vent, but they look eviler on this side.

This robot loses the yellow, leaving him with an all-blue body. He gets kibble in the form of a windshield on his chest, which was a feature on the original toy, and wide shoulders that stick out sideways and allow us to see the car's wheels. Purple sections right below his knees are sculpted with the same shapes that were on similarly placed stickers in the '80s. There are stairstep vents on his shins, and while he still doesn't have feet, there are bits down by the ground that are clearly designed to look like 3D feet that have merely been foreshortened. Weird! Completing his conversion from good to bad, he even gets different blue hands.

The articulation is all the same on this side, thanks to two-way elbows and knees, so this is a good time to discuss mis-assembly. So far, all the figures shipped have had their shoulders assembled upside down, which makes it tough to get the arms in the proper position for the car mode. Luckily, it's a 10-second fix that requires no tools: pop the arms off the balljoint, pry the torso apart at the top, slide the blue shoulder joint off its peg, flip it over and push everything back together. That's it. Just remember that the flatter, squared-off side of the joint is meant to be at the top, not the bottom. We don't get a separate weapon for Counterpunch, but since this is technically a "Power of the Primes" release, it includes one of the new hand-foot-guns, so you could arm him with that if you felt like.

This release is an Amazon exclusive, for some reason, and includes a Prime Master figure for also some reason. The Prime Masters each represent one of the original 13 Primes, and the one here is Prima. Or Prima Prime, as the toy calls him. Prima Prime was the first Transformer Primus ever made. While others get powers and specialties, Prima's whole thing seems to be... "general excellence"? How boring.

The Prime Masters function like last year's Titan Masters, in that they fold in half to become little cubs - not quite heads, since they don't have faces on the front, though you could plug them into a neck hole, as well as the Prime Armor from this year. Prima (who Hasbro tried to convince everyone was pronounced like Louis Prima and not like "Prime" or "Primus") was previously available in this year's SDCC Throne of the Primes set, but this one is molded from translucent blue plastic and then given silver paint apps for the head, arms and legs. It's a nice look, but still doesn't explain why he's here.

The previous Punch/Counterpunch was a decent toy, for a repaint of an existing mold, but this one, with its own unique sculpt and engineering, is better.

-- 10/23/18

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