Review by Optimal III
At its core, I think the third-party scene within Transformers is simply (and mostly) the passion of the fans manifested into making toys they want. Rather than waiting to see if Hasbro or Takara will produce something that scratches a particular itch, various groups have risen up to create figures and accessories that span the breadth of the franchise. Sometimes they're based on something specific, other times just a modern and personal take on a character. A few are terrible, most are good or great, and some are absolutely excellent.
Meanwhile, IDW has been doing their thing with G1 comics since 2005, and has continuously blown it out of the water. Not everyone is happy with their take on the robots in disguise from Cybertron, but they've had a longer run than Marvel or Dreamwave for a reason. Personally, I was worried when I heard the "30 Days of Night" people got the license, especially after reading their initial pitch. But they surprised and wowed me on day one, and I haven't been disappointed since. Well, okay, New Avengers/TF was so terrible that I skip it every time I re-read my hardcovers (don't read it!). But hey, 4 stinkers out of 150+ issues and counting is still a great ratio.
My point is, now's a great time and maybe the best time ever, to be a Transformers fan. And not just because of 3P or comics. Although if you're into either of those things, you may have figured it was only a matter of time before the two met. This is what happened here.
Third-party companies can be divided into "established" and "new". Most of the established outfits have been around since last decade, and were a bit on the iffy side before they found themselves. But several have shown up recently and had their A-game on display from the start, such as ToyWorld. There's no overriding gimmick or theme to their work, unless adjectives like "awesome" or "quality" count. In their second year, after releasing a couple of Throttlebots, Headmasters, and a G1 Megatron, they produced Orion. This toy is based on Optimus Prime in IDW's G1 comics, post-All Hail Megatron and pre-Combiner Wars, which is roughly four years' worth of books. Now, Hasbro also created a figure based on this design in 2013, and Takara gave it a better paint job, but it's a Legends-class toy. There's nothing wrong with Legends figures, but for a look that Optimus Prime sported for so long, he really should have a more substantial toy to represent it, and this is it.
I've included these box pictures so you can get an idea of what the figure looks like by default. I've jazzed him up with stickers from Reprolabels, giving him even more of the comic book flavor. Also, the person I bought this from painted the eyes.
Additional contents include an instruction manual that would be great if the pictures weren't so small and the ever popular trading/spec card. It's actually made of a semi-translucent hard plastic, which is maybe the one major improvement/innovation such cards could use, so that's nice.
Orion's alt mode is a modern day tractor truck that's flat-nosed and rocks a straight wind deflector up top. All of the physical details of this vehicle one would expect are present. We've got windshield wipers, top lights, center and bottom lights, a grill, turn signals on the ends of the bumper, the bumper, and a spot for a tag. That's all fantastic, but one thing ToyWorld could have improved is the color details as Orion is fairly plain. Maybe they were trying to keep costs down, or trying to not look too much like the official art. All of the lights are actually present, and the windshields are clear, but with stickers everything is much brighter or reflective.
Up top, we see the one major way this toy deviates from the art. It's not that you can see what's going to become the robot's head, but that the wind deflector is more centered rather than all the way at the back. It doesn't make a difference I think, but I wonder if this was a stylistic choice or necessary to make the transformation work.
From the left side, we see more sculpted lines, especially denoting the rear door with window. The windows were always present, but are covered with stickers, which is also what that pattern is, and the red panel beneath the door. I accidentally missed a step during transformation, which is why you see that gap with the pegs. But rest assured, when done right, this truck is perfectly solid and looks even better than it already does. I don't remember if Prime's gun was carried like that in the comics, but at least it has a place to go in alt mode.
From behind we see shiny tail lights and turn signals covering red lights. Otherwise, there's the gun which now looks like it could be a type of exhaust. The space between the lights and the bumpers is a little unsightly, but it's the one area in alt mode that isn't ornate, so that's not a problem. After all, who wants to stare at the rear end of a truck?
In this comparison with G1 Optimus Prime, we also see the articulation available in alt mode. Both front wheels can be turned left or right, independent of each other. The similarities are obvious, but what really stands out here is just how much trucks have changed in 30 years.
Here's another shot of Orion with Grand Patriot and Knight Morpher Commander, the other third-party Primes that are out there. In alt mode, all that can really be said is they're very different vehicles. Oh, and Orion is the first one to not come with a trailer. Having one would have been cool, but it's not a loss either. Prime never consistently used one at the time.
Compared to CW Prime, it's again two different vehicles. Actually, I wasn't sure Prime had really changed from one to the other, because the art of his robot mode in the comics doesn't look that different, and we haven't really seen him in alt mode in a while. But he does in fact combine with Prowl, Ironhide, Mirage, and Sunstreaker now, so that makes it official.
In robot mode, Orion stands at a bulky solid 7.5 inches or so. And when I say solid, I mean solid. His hip skirts hang lose till they go horizontal. His hands rotate at the wrist and have an open/close grip. His head rotates from side to side, he has bicep swivels, and his feet/toes rotate and tilt downward. Those blue plates above them can be popped outward to allow for more relaxed poses. Everything else is at least a ratchet. His knees and hips are stiff ratchets with swivels. His elbows are stiff ratchets. His shoulders are actually smooth ratchets, and can swing his arms outward.
Everything on the toy looks like it converted somehow from one form to the other, which are the best kind transformations. Still, like with alt mode, his robot mode suffers a bit from a plain color scheme. Hence, why I stickered all the lights on his midsection and skirts, along with the rib section under his chest. Strangely, his head crest is actually yellow, but it definitely looks better to me in silver. The Autobot symbols on his shoulders are stickers too, but thankfully, they've got a distinct place to go.
There's not a lot going on from behind or on the sides besides his arm plates, which kind of look like shields. But all the vents, the wheels inside his legs, and the back plates break things up enough to keep him interesting from any angle. You may also see the small strip of translucent plastic in the back of his head, which light-pipes his eyes.
I already described his articulation, but now you see him in action. He isn't a contortionist, but he is limber enough to keep you more than satisfied. This is impressive when you consider how thorough his transformation is. Now, the one thing people tend to complain about with Orion is how hard it is to transform him. Words like "draconian" and "Hell" tend to pop up. Honestly? I don't think it's that bad, but it's definitely challenging the first time or two. Also, you have to follow the specific order of the instructions, or you will be punished. Trust me when I say the reward is worth it though. I could hold your hand and walk you through it, but that's no fun, so instead, I'll just explain what's going on with the trickier sections.
With his legs, once you get them separated and folded down, you're basically spinning the wheels around further to the inside and sealing them in with the side panels from the mid and rear sections of the truck. And once completed, you actually push the whole lower leg itself further out, giving him the proper space.
For the midsection, once everything is detached and separated, his grill retracts, and the parts with the front wheels flip up and in to encase it. This is the one part where you may actually damage the toy if you don't go in order because...
...the plates that fold out to become his back tab into his mid-section. If you've already set his back, you won't be able to force the mid-sections, and doing so might break the pegs that keep them attached to the wheels. Or you may actually get the mid-sections in there, but pull the wheels out of them in the process. In that case, you can unscrew the body to fix it. After that, the back plates formed from the wind vane adjust and peg in to finish the job. This shot also shows the one gap in robot mode, the cavity that stores the head.
Everything else is pretty easy, so moving on, we scope out the laser rifle. It's pretty similar to Prime's signature weapon, but beefed up to match the stature of the figure. It's covered with stickers, but the butt is actually translucent plastic like the other little bits around the trigger. The peg handle is surprisingly short, but Orion's grip holds it firmly.
That's what happens. And you get to look into his blue, painted eyes. I don't know what the person I bought this from was thinking, but thankfully he did a neat paint job. And it's thin enough that they still light-pipe.
With further comparison, Orion and CW Prime are definitely two different animals. One looks like a retail Voyager and the other something more. With G1 Prime, it's the witnessing of evolution. With KM and GP, Orion comes out looking more substantial, even if he didn't have stickers. Like, he's actually worth what he retailed for.
And as usual, Orion's chest opens up to reveal a removable Matrix. Obviously he can't run his fingers through the grips, but it's still a good accessory. You can even push the inner crystal out of the casing, akin to him using the Matrix to save Cybertron and depleting it. This action resulted in many things, particularly him leaving Cybertron and the Autobots to maintain peace, and dropping the name Optimus Prime to go back to being Orion Pax.
Orion is an amazing figure no matter how I cut it. As a third-party figure, he's exemplary and easily the best Optimus Prime to be had right now, so he's the one to get if you're not a 3P enthusiast but an Optimus fan. Outside that bubble, he's still amazing and almost on par with today's Masterpiece Transformers. I say almost only because his color scheme, his paint job is lax in comparison to the MP figures. And because he's not bigger. I mean he's fine as is, but I believe an MP-like Prime needs to be at least as big as MP Grimlock. Regardless, he's no slouch and if you think he needs a touch more detail and color, the sticker set from Reprolabels will only run you $15.
The tough choice about Orion is which version you want and if you can afford it. This, the original, has been hot since he came out in 2013, and is now very hard to find used for less than $300+, never mind MISB. I got so lucky when I got mine for $100, because the seller had intended to turn him into a custom, painted the eyes, and then gave up. The second version, readily available now, is a black "Nemesis Prime" style figure that also comes with an energy ax for $110+. More recently, TFSource got an exclusive set made for BotCon 2015 limited to 200 pieces that includes Orion and Hegemon (G1 Megatron) in G1 Marvel comic colors with a box adorned in G1 Marvel style art, which I look forward to getting. But whichever one you go with, if you do go with ToyWorld's Orion, you're going somewhere great.
|Posted 30 June, 2015 - 17:34 by Optimal III|