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Transformers: Prime
by yo go re

The Decepticons have a long history of generic, interchangeable, cannon fodder troops, from the Seekers, Insecticons and Reflectors in G1 to the horde of unnamed bots running all over the world in Dark of the Moon. The newest addition to the ranks are TF: Prime's Vehicons.

Every Vehicon knows how likely he is to be dismantled - either by the Autobots, or by a Decepticon commander in need of spare parts. Danger is just part of life for them, and they welcome it. To a Vehicon, happiness is loyalty to Megatron and a warm blaster cannon.

The name "Vehicon" originated with Beast Machines, where it was the catch-all name for the villain group (since they were fully mechanical, as opposed to the heroes' semi-organic forms). This time the name is applied only to the footsoldiers, who happen to turn into sleek black sportscars.

While none of the Prime cars look like real cars, the Vehicon's car looks even less like a real car than usual. It looks like the Batmobile, what with the boxy frame and the big, pointed spoiler and all. Being jet black helps, too. The windshield and headlights are clear plastic, and the hubcaps are silver - that's the only color to be found on this 4¾" x 2⅛" beauty.

Actually, if you look at the car head-on, you can see it's clearly designed to evoke the Decepticon insignia: the scooped vents are the "cheeks," the ridge on the hood is the forehead crest, and the tailfin spikes are, well, the spikes. That's some dedicated branding on the Decepticons' part, and clever work on the designers' part!

The Vehicon's conversion is one of the best, most elegant processes we've seen in quite some time. It's really the legs that do it: after you pull out the sides of the car to become the arms, you flip the entire roof (from hood to trunk) over, and then it's all folding; fold the tailfin into the roof, the roof into the windshield, the windshield into the hood, and then fold the front of the leg and the foot down to complete the limb. It really is a thing of beauty. All that's left is to pull up the head and straighten out the arms.

Despite being an identical mass, Vehicons are not mindless drones. They've been shown to have different voices (usually whichever actor hasn't already voiced three characters on that episode), and hints of personality. They even have conversations amongst themselves, which is not something drones do. Clone Troopers eat meals and talk about things; Battle Droids just wait in storage.

Another way that you can tell these aren't just faceless minions? They have faces. That's a little bit literal, but it counts. The head is silver, with a dark purple eyeslit that makes him look rather Cylonic. The head appears to have horns and... tusks, maybe? Whatever, you can also interpret it as a stylized version of the Decepticon logo.

The Vehicon body is thin and angular, and has a lot of sculpted detail. The best spot of that is his chest, which presents a silver tech panel behind a clear plastic plate, almost like we're seeing his internal workings behind an embedded windshield. From a design standpoint that seems like a pretty blatant weak spot, but maybe Cybertronian glass is stronger than Earth glass. He still has wheel kibble on his shoulders and legs, but it's there in the show, so that's life.

The figure comes with a blaster rifle thing that can be plugged into the car or held in either hand. Or, if you want to be more show-accurate, you can tuck his right hand away and snap the gun onto his forearm. You know, since the 'bots on Prime just morph their weapons out of their bodies. The gun is solid black, and has a triangular barrel. Hasbro's stock photos show a few purple apps to bring out the details of the weapon, but those aren't the only apps that had to be cut for budgetary concerns.

The mass-release Vehicon is a smaller toy than the "First Edition" version was, but he's also got a better look and a smoother transformation. Like Cliffjumper, this is a case where the second crack at the figure works better. Unfortunately, bad casepacks have left the Vehicon very difficult to find, which is never a good prospect for an armybuilder figure. If you're lucky, you can find the new wave, which is packaged with a DVD featuring a single episode of Transformers: Prime. Whichever release you get, though, the Vehicon is a great Transformer.

-- 11/27/12

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