REVIEW: TRANSFORMERS UNIVERSE DARKWIND
Some people dislike recolorings or reissues of any action figure type of toy. To me, it depends on the toy. But sometimes, there's sufficient reason to reuse a given set of toy molds that is not only more forgivable, but also results in a cool toy, that may even be an entirely different character. One can certainly understand the toy company's reasoning in wanting to get as much use out of the molds as possible, seeing as they are the most expensive aspect of manufacturing the toys.
I would also think that would be particularly true for TRANSFORMERS. These are quite probably some of the most complicated action figure toys around. Along with having to represent a reasonably humanoid robot with a good range of articulation in keeping with modern action figures, that same toy has to have the ability to switch back and forth between a reasonably plausible vehicle or animal or whatever other "alt" mode it has.
A typical humanoid action figure, such as a superhero or a G.I. Joe or whatever, might have a couple of dozen parts making up its overall structure. A decent-sized Transformer might have that many screws and rivets holding the rest of the robot together, never mind how many parts THAT entails. On top of that you've got the assembly of the thing at the factory, and it's no wonder that Hasbro wants to get more than one use out of these molds whenever possible and appropriate.
And, for the most part, it is agreeably appropriate. Consider the recent Universe line. The same set of molds were used to turn out Prowl, Silverstreak, and Smokescreen. But they were all well established characters within the Transformers concept, and they were all colored very differently from each other. Similarly, the "Seeker" planes all used a similar set of molds, to give us the likes of Starscream, Skywarp, Acid Storm, and others.
So we come to a Toys "R" Us exclusive addition to the Transformers Universe line, a character bearing the 25th Anniversary logo on his package and hailing from Generation 1, by the name of DARKWIND. And he's clearly a recoloration of the Transformers Universe incarnation of the popular Autobot -- or should that be Aerialbot -- known as Silverbolt. But that doesn't make him any less of a legitimate character, or toy. And in fact the color scheme given to this Darkwind toy does have precedent within the Generation One universe, as does the character, albeit under a very slightly different name -- by one letter.
WikiPedia was of great help here. Darkwind's original name, back in the day, was actually Darkwing -- with a "g" at the end. Here's what WikiPedia has to say about the character:
Initially called Darkwing, the name was changed to Darkwind - possibly for trademark purposes, or so people don't think he's a crime-fighting duck. All his fictional appearances use his original Darkwing name, although the latest toy is officially called Darkwind.
Darkwing never has anything nice to say, but says it anyway. He believes life is pain, and it's his goal to make sure others suffer it more than he does. Darkwing combines with Dreadwind to form the super jet Dreadwing.
In the Marvel Comics run, The peaceful planet of Nebulos had earlier been visited by the Autobots and Decepticons in Marvel Comics' Transformers series, and when they departed, only ruin was left in their wake. To prevent such horrors from occurring again, Nebulan scientist Hi-Q detonated a bomb in the planet's atmosphere which "poisoned" the planet's various fuel supplies and resources – although harmless to Nebulans, the "poison" was toxic to Transformers. This was the fate which befell Dreadwind and Darkwing when they came to the planet looking for the departed Scorponok, and refueled from Nebulan resources, causing their bodies to cease functioning. Their rotting, immobile hulks soon became tourist attractions. Meanwhile, Hi-Q's jealous partner, Hi-Test, had vowed to outdo his contemporary, and hired criminal Throttle to steal Hi-Q's latest fuel conversion theories, which he had dubbed the "Powermaster Process." Using this data, Hi-Test bio-engineered his and Throttle's bodies, and offered partnership to Dreadwind and Darkwing, who accepted; the two Nebulans transformed into engines and connected to them, supplying them with untainted energy direct from their own bodies. The Powermasters ran roughshod over the planet, but were eventually defeated by a new team of Powermasters, including Hi-Q himself, bonded with Optimus Prime, and exiled from Nebulos.
Dreadwind and Darkwing soon entered into a partnership with the robot-eating Mecannibals, hiding their own robot nature by dealing through Hi-Test and Throttle, whose job it was to find other robots for the Mecannibals to feast upon. Setting their sights upon Autobot Pretenders Landmine and Cloudburst, the Decepticons lured them into the Mecannibals clutches, but in a strange twist of fate, the Pretenders were sent to gather spices to improve their flavor.
Dreadwind and Darkwing pursued them to make things difficult, but when the fact that they were robots was revealed to the Mecannibals, Landmine and Cloudburst departed while Dreadwing and Darkwind fled.
The Mecannibals pursued the two Powermasters to Cybertron, where they took an assignment from Megatron to acquire the body of the deceased Decepticon, Starscream, hoping it would allow them to shake off their pursuers. Heading to Earth, they discovered that the energies of the Underbase that had destroyed Starscream continued to animate his corpse, but when Throttle and Hi-Test drained them away, they took the body back to Megatron for revival as a Pretender. Megatron's subsequent apparent death put the duo out of work, however, and they drowned their sorrows at Maccadam's Old Oil House, where they remained drunkenly unaware of some Mecannibals that had picked up their trail being dispatched by the Autobot Quickswitch.
Dreadwind and Darkwing participated in the attack on Unicron when the chaos-bringer assaulted Cybertron, and survived to serve under Bludgeon's leadership.
Darkwing appeared in issue #77 "Exodus!" where he was among the Decepticons who backed Bludgeon's plan to conquor an inhabited world for the Decepticons once they abandoned Cybertron, rather than go with the Autobot plan to start from nothing on an uninhabited world.
He aided in the raid on planet Klo, where they seemingly killed the Autobot Getaway.
Darkwing started as one of Bludgeon's troops in the Generation 2 comics. He attempted to sneak up on the newly enhanced Megatron, but was shot out of the sky in issue #5, "The Power and the Glory".
In issue #6 Frenzy and Rumble worked to rebuild Darkwing. In issue #7 Darkwing sent to steal Rheanimum, a potent substance Megatron intended to use in his quest for power, from the planet Tykos. Darkwing's rebuilt body based on the Generation 2 Dreadwing toy.
The U.S. animated series was canceled before Darkwing was produced, so he did not appear in the series, however, the redeco of Darkwing, known as Hydra, appeared as a regular in the Masterforce series in Japan. Darkwing's only true appearance in animated form was in the commercials for Powermaster toys.
Darkwing made his first IDW comics appearance in The Transformers: Stormbringer, where he lead an infiltration cell on the planet Nebulos. When Thunderwing arrived, Darkwing and the other Decepticons did their best to stop him, but when Ruckus, Crankcase and Roadgrabber were destroyed by the monster, Dreadwind and Darkwing both fled.
So, how's the toy? Really superb. I already owned Silverbolt and another recoloration, a Walmart exclusive named Skyfall, so I knew I would be getting an impressive toy.
When I first purchased this plane, as Silverbolt, I believed that the aircraft design was something that had largely been made up by Hasbro and/or Tomy. The original Silverbolt was based on the Concorde, a fancy supersonic passenger plane which -- admittedly -- didn't particularly look like a fighter plane, and was no longer the high-tech marvel that it had been in the 1970's and 1980's, when Silverbolt first came on the scene.
The new Silverbolt, and as such both Skyfall and Darkwind, of course, appeared to have some characteristics of the Concorde, with a rather long and narrow fuselage, but the wings and back of the plane were more fighter-jet oriented, with a distinctive modern, angular look.
It seems, however, based on the Wikipedia entry that I discovered, that Darkwind and his compatriots are in fact based on a single, actual, real-world plane, called an XB-70 Valkyrie.
The plane is described as a strategic bomber and supersonic research aircraft, officially retired in 1969. Of the two prototypes built, one crashed following a mid-air collision in 1966. The other is on display at the National Museum of the Air Force in Ohio.
Photos and diagrams accompany the article on the XB-70, and -- they're pretty close to Darkwind here, color notwithstanding, of course. The XB-70 is longer and leaner in appearance than Darkwind, and it doesn't look to have quite the same jagged back, which is what made me think of more modern stealth planes, but the basic shape is definitely there.
The entry on Darkwind indicates that he works out to being, as a toy, approximately a 1:222 scale version of the XB-70. That's probably based on length alone, since I don't think the shape is quite precise enough to calculate all dimensions. However, the entry goes on to say that, at that scale, in robot mode, at full size, Darkwind would be 178 feet tall.
That's a big robot... By contrast, Darkwing's original toy, in the Powermasters series of Transformers in 1988, was a Panavia Tornado jet which is 16.72 meters long. The toy was 20 centimeters long, making it 1:84 scale. The toy robot mode is 17 centimeters tall, so the real life robot would stand 46.6 feet tall. Which is still a pretty big robot, but not as big as the modern Darkwind would be if he existed in real life and was taking his plane mode more precisely from an XB-70.
So, how's the toy? Extremely cool. The color scheme is perfect, for starters. The illustration of the original Darkwing from Generation One, as shown on the WikiPedia entry, showed a robot that was mostly dark blue and light blue with a fair amount of purple. So is Darkwind. This makes him distinctly different from either Silverbolt, who is mostly white with some burgundy, grey, and gold, or Skyfall, who is predominantly black and red.
In plane mode, Darkwind appears to be mostly dark grey with purple wings, and metallic gold lightning bolts on the wings. In plane mode, Darkwind is just a little longer than 10" in length, with a 6-1/2' wingspan.
He has a button on the top of the plane, that when pressed, activates a series of different sounds, including engines and weapons. These also light up his engines and weapons in red, which is a distinct variance from Silverbolt, who lights up in green, although is the same color scheme as Skyfall. Wonderful thing, LED's...
As to the transformation itself, from plane (which is how Darkwind comes packaged) to robot:
The front half of the plane should be swung back over the back half. It will snap and lock into place. This has the added advantage of activating a button on the underside of the front half of the plane, which serves the same purpose of activating the sound and light effects.
Next, release the arms from the underside of the plane, swivel the hands down and snap them into place, and rotate the arms at the upper arm swivel at the the elbow joints are facing forward.
Following this, pivot the legs down. These emerge at something of an angle, but can be quickly and easily straightened. Then extend the feet, and swivel the legs so the feet are facing forward and the knees are properly positioned. As with the arms, this is done with a swivel in the upper legs.
Finally, push both legs up into the upper body. This will also bring the robot head up from its concealment at the top of the upper body. Darkwind's eyes will, at this point, light up and flash red, and he will made the traditional "transformation" sound from the original animated series.
In robot mode, Darkwind stands eight inches tall to the top of his head. However, since the nose of his aircraft mode, now on his back, extends upward beyond that, his total height is about 9-3/4".
It is in robot mode that more of the dark blue and light blue comes through. The purple coloration is almost entirely on the wings. In robot mode, Darkwind has a dark grey head, a dark blue body, light blue arms and legs, with dark blue lower arms and dark grey hands, and dark grey lower legs ending in light blue feet. The Decepticon emblem is right in the center of his chest. There is some silver trim on his arms, mid-torso, and knees.
Actually, for his size and fairly complex appearance, and special features, Darkwind has one of the easier transformation procedures I've encountered in recent years. Mind you, that's not a complaint.
In robot mode, Darkwind is very well articulated, and is poseable at the head, arms, upper arm swivel, elbows, legs, upper leg swivel, knees, and feet, although the foot articulation is more a part of his transformation than anything.
As to accessories, Darkwind comes with a fancy weapon that looks like it has stealth fighter wings on it itself. It's a long-barreled weapon that is mostly dark grey, and fires a light blue spring-loaded missile. Darkwind can carry this in his hand in robot mode, and it attaches to the underside of the front of the plane when he is in aircraft mode.
Darkwind has a fairly extensive personality profile on the back of his package, which corresponds well to his previously stated personality from Generation One. It reads: "There are those who might call Darkwind bitter or pessimistic. In his opinion, if you're not at least a little bit bitter, you're not paying attention. To Darkwind, life is one long, unending trial of pain and suffering. What's not to be bitter about? Some guys with his attitude wrote poetry. Others paint themselves black and mope. Not Darkwind. If life is going to be nothing but a pit of darkness, he's going to make sure that at least it's worse for everyone else than it is for him."
His various Power rankings on the package give him a "9" in Skill, "7" in Intelligence, Speed, Courage, and Fireblast, "6" in Strength, and "5" in Endurance and Rank. Not too shabby at all, really.
The package also has the 25th Anniversary Timeline graphic on it, clearly showing Generation 1, running from 1984-1991, with the phrase, "The Epic Origins".
So what's my final word here? This is an abundantly cool Transformer. In robot mode, he incorporates the look of the classic Transformers, with modern design and articulation. That's what the Universe line as a whole does best, and why I enjoy it so much. The character clearly have history in the Transformers world, and even if his name has been changed by one letter, any longtime collector is going to recognize who Darkwind is.
And just on its own, Darkwind is a cool plane, and a cool robot. The blue/purple/grey color scheme differentiates him well from the other two planes, well represents the color scheme of the original, and just plain looks cool on its own, for that matter.
If you're looking to add an interesting new Transformer to your collection, look no further, but you'll have to look at Toys "R" Us since he's an exclusive to them.
As to the other two, Silverbolt has been off the shelves for some time, and I don't think Skyfall made it much past Christmas 2009. But really, I'd recommend tracking them down as well, if you don't already own them. The end result will be a very impressive triad of Transformers.
The TRANSFORMERS UNIVERSE figure of DARKWIND definitely has my most enthusiastic recommendation!