Easily the most impressive Transformers line in my opinion in recent years has been the Transformers Classics line. Here, classic Generation One characters received a modern upgrade in design and articulation, while generally retaining much of their look, personality, and identity.
The line went on hiatus during the release of the first live-action movie, but subsequently returned as Transformers Universe Classics. More recently, the line has simply become Transformers Universe, celebrating the 25th Anniversary of Transformers, and offering updated versions of characters from many different Transformers concepts over the years.
Still, there's something to be said for those from Generation One, which started it all, and one of the most recent additions is a popular Autobot from the earliest days of G1 -- HOUND, who is packaged with an updated version of a popular Decepticon, RAVAGE.
In Generation One, Hound was a military Jeep. In the new line, he's more of an off-road vehicle, that happens to be olive green in color. I also thought he looked pretty small compared to some of the others, in vehicular mode. But after taking a ruler to him, he's not THAT much smaller. Apparently, the original Hound was comparatively somewhat small, as well. Let's see about the character of Hound:
A first generation Autobot, Hound was released into Transformers' first year - 1984 and was one of the smallest of the standard sized Autobot cars. Hound's alternate mode is that of a 4X4 military jeep, and comes with three different weapons - a Missile Launcher, a Machine Gun and a Hologram Gun.
Hound is known for his love of the planet Earth, his tracking skills, and the ability to project highly realistic holograms.
During the first season of the cartoon, Hound served as the Autobots' primary scout and recon soldier, a role which suited him well because he quickly grew to love the varied natural landscapes of Earth. Hound was also instrumental in the creation of the original 3 Dinobots, as he captured holographic images which served as rough blueprints for construction of Grimlock, Slag, and Sludge. However, after a spurt of early appearances - perhaps most notably in relaying the pilot's backstory to Spike - Hound became increasingly absent from the show, showing up only when his holographic powers were necessary.
Hound's first appearance came in "More Than Meets the Eye", the three episode pilot created to launch the toyline onto television. Oddly enough the role of Spike's companion was filled by Hound in these episodes rather than Bumblebee. Hound was the first to introduce Spike to the concept of "transforming" and also gave Spike a tour of the nearby desert while beguiling him with tales of Cybertron. Hound would also end up being rescued by Spike, who nearly drowned in the process of saving him. While resuscitating Spike on the shore, Hound makes the mistake of thinking that the human Spike had "flushed his engine". Hound would be among the main cast of the pilot, almost playing as large of a role as Optimus Prime himself.
This changed however when the show moved into its regular season. Bumblebee became Spike's companion, and Hound took a backseat. However he was not without his notable appearances. In "Heavy Metal War", Hound is responsible for providing a hologram of a large, menacing robot designed to intimidate Devastator. This helped turn the tide in the battle against the Decepticons in that episode.
The episode "City of Steel" featured another major role for Hound. He and a few other compatriots were charged with tracking and collecting the missing parts of the Optimus Prime. These parts had been disconnected and used in various parts of Megatron's reconstruction of New York.
Hound also appeared in the Marvel Transformers comic, where his role was much the same as in the animated series. During the UK-only story Crisis of Command, Hound and Mirage combined their special abilities to capture the Decepticon spy, Ravage.
Later, during the Target: 2006 story arc, a spy mission alongside Jazz went badly awry, resulting in the capture of Jazz. From then on, Hound was an outspoken critic of Jetfire's headstrong tactics against Galvatron. Later, in the full US/UK continuity, he was among the scores of Autobots deactivated by the Underbase powered Starscream.
Hound's body was seen among the deactivated Autobots Ratchet was doing his best to revive in Transformers #56, "Back from the Dead".
However, he was resurrected at some point, as he appeared in the
Bringing in the continuity from the Dreamwave Comics series, which was based somewhat on the continuity of the animated series, when civil war broke out on the planet Cybertron between the Autobots and Decepticon factions, Hound joined the Autobot cause. After Decepticon leader Megatron killed the Autobot leader Sentinel Prime, a new Autobot leader was chosen by the Council of the Ancients. Hound was present when Optronix was given the Matrix and reformatted into Optimus Prime. Three Decepticon assassins attempted to kill Optimus, but were unsuccessful. Optimus then ordered a planet-wide evacuation of Cybertron (Transformers: The War Within #1). Hound was among those who reluctantly prepared for the evacuation (Transformers: War Within #2).
When Megatron and Optimus Prime disappeared in an accident with a space bridge, the Autobot and Decepticon forces splintered into smaller factions. Hound stayed with the Autobots under the leadership of Prowl. When Prowl and his team of Autobots confronted Trypticon, Hound, Tracks, Trailbreaker and other Autobots showed up as reinforcements (Transformers: The War Within - The Dark Ages #4).
Hound was among the Autobots who followed Optimus Prime on his mission on board the Ark. They were attacked by Megatron's ship, the Nemesis. After being boarded the Ark crash landed on Earth, where all on board were preserved in emergency stasis. In 1984 a volcanic eruption awakened the Ark's computer, Teletran-1, and it repaired all on board. It reformatted Hound in the form of an Earth Jeep.
Eventually the combined forces of the Autobots on Earth, and their human allies were able to capture the Decepticons. A ship called the Ark II was built to take the Cybertonians back to Cybertron, along with some human companions. Optimus left a small portion of his Matrix with human Spike Witwicky, promising to return with Spike's father from Cybertron one day. The Ark II exploded shortly after takeoff. The human allies were killed, but the Cybertonians were lost in the ocean, again in statis lock.
Hound and others were recovered by a rogue military unit and reprogrammed as slave war machines. Megatron broke free and then freed his fellow Decepticons and Grimlock. Hound and the other Autobots who were found by Lazarus were abused by Megatron's troops, but were eventually freed by Optimus Prime.
Hound returned with most of the Autobots from Earth to Cybertron as prisoners of Ultra Magnus. Prowl's team returned from Cybertron and Hound aided with construction for the new Autobot City in Alaska (Transformers: Generation One III #10).
I found that reference to Hound and Mirage combining their talents to square off against Ravage interesting. I wondered why Ravage was packaged with Hound, other than the fact that Hound is a little smaller than most of the Transformers in this series, and it was a chance for Hasbro to produce a new version of Ravage, who is a popular Decepticon. It just seemed an odd match, though. But it appears they do have some history.
In vehicle mode, Hound is about 4-1/2 inches in length. He doesn't look nearly as military as he used to. The package refers to his vehicle mode as "Off-Road Mode", and indeed, I think the best description for the vehicle version of Hound is an off-road vehicle that could plausibly have military applications, but isn't necessarily specifically intended as such. Frankly, he looks like a cross between a military Jeep and a beach vehicle of some sort.
Transforming Hound into robot mode proceeds as follows. Fold the seat backs forward and down. Then pull the rear half of the vehicle back somewhat, and fold down the areas that were behind the seats.
Now, swing the rear fenders/bumpers back about 90 degrees, and fold down a small piece in the center of the figure. Next, fold the arms out. The illustrated diagram is a little vague on this point, but it's not too hard, as long as you rotate them out and bring them forward a bit so they don't get caught in the front tires.
Next, swing the arms down, and bring the front tires out and fold them towards the arms. Interestingly enough, this feature allows the tires to have a limited turning ability in vehicle mode, something quite unusual for a Transformer.
Finally, tip the upper body back just a bit, and swing down the front of the body. This pops the head up and forms the chest. It initially seems to be at a rather quirky angle, but really, the end result looks just fine.
And there you have Hound in his Autobot robot mode! In robot mode, Hound stands about 5-1/4" in height, and yeah, compared to a lot of the other Universe Classics, he's pretty short. However, he looks very much like Hound, the headsculpt is excellent, and he also looks stocky and tough. I'm not going to be the one to walk up and call him "shorty".
In robot mode, the Hound aspect really comes out. The headsculpt is perfect, and has the transparent blue panel on the back of the head which allows it to look as though his eyes are glowing when lit sufficiently from behind. The lower arms have gold stripes around them, and one notable part of Hound that I thought was missing -- the star on the hood -- is present and accounted for, bear one of his front fenders, which becomes part of his chest.
Hound is superbly articulated in robot mode, which is one of the reasons I like these toys so well. The original Generation One Transformers just couldn't move that much in robot mode. But these can. Hound is fully poseable at the head, arms, elbos, legs, knees, and ankles. He also has an interesting sort of lateral pivot to his feet.
He comes with a weapon accessory, which he can either hold in robot mode or it can be mounted to his vehicle mode, that's described as a hologram projector, in keeping with the abilities of the original Hound.
Now, let's consider Ravage. This Decepticon was originally offered as a small tape cassette and was part of Soundwave's detachment of cassette robots. Ravage has an extensive profile:
Not in possession of a conventional humanoid form, Ravage's robot mode resembles an Earth jaguar. He is capable of masking himself from many forms of detection: he walks without a sound, becomes virtually invisible in subdued light or shadow, and he can shield his internal electromagnetic radiation from monitoring devices. Superior sensors in his nose module give him highly advanced senses of smell, hearing and electromagnetic wave detection, and he is armed with two low-radiation one-megaton proton bombs mounted on his rear hips. Ravage's greatest weakness is the light - in addition to robbing him of his invisibility powers, he is simply particularly sensitive to it, and can be blinded by especially bright bursts.
Like the other cassette Decepticons in the animated series, Ravage was strongly tied to Soundwave, spending the vast majority of time not battling stored in his chest compartment. Notably lacking in the power of speech (barring one unusual incident in "More Than Meets the Eye, Part 3", although the incident could be accredited to the fact Ravage was merged inside Soundwave at that time), Ravage seemed marginally more intelligent than the animal he resembled -- capable of basic deductive reasoning and the ability to manipulate simple mechanisms -- but was treated by the Decepticons in much the same manner as a human being treats a pet. As Laserbeak's robot mode was modified by the Ark to resemble a condor, it stands to reason that Ravage's jaguar robot mode is the work of similar alteration, although how his robot mode appeared while on Cybertron is not revealed.
One of the things that elevated Ravage's popularity, I believe, is that he actually made it into the Beast Wars CGI animated series. Now given the power of speech, albeit with a Russian accent, he was briefly allied with the Maximals until he returned to his Decepticon roots.
Following the end of the Great War, when the Decepticons finally met their defeat at the hands of the Autobots, some of Megatron's army were granted amnesty and were reformatted along with the majority of the other Transformers on the planet into new, smaller energy conservative forms. Thus, Autobots and Decepticons became Maximals and Predacons, each ruled by a council, but with the Maximals firmly in control of the planet.
Ravage put his espionage history to work serving under the Predacons' ruling triumvirate, the Tripredacus Council, as a covert agent--in his new bipedal Predacon body, his stealth abilities were enhanced from invisibility in darkness to true invisibility.
Despite his new body, his alternate mode was still a cassette tape (a nod to Ravage's original form, the CGI version matching his 1984 cell-animated illustration). It is interesting to note that while Ravage had a new body in Beast Wars, when he transformed he still made the same classic transforming sound as the original series Autobots and Decepticons, unlike the Maximals and Predacons' quieter, more metallic sounds.
When a rogue Predacon known as Megatron stole a Transwarp cruiser and traveled back in time with the goal of altering history to ensure Decepticon victory in the war, the Tripredacus Council outfitted Ravage with a Transwarp cruiser and dispatched him to pursue and, under the guise of arresting Megatron, eliminate all Transformers on the planet. Doing this would prevent the Maximal elders from ever finding out about Megatron's rebellion. Arriving on prehistoric Earth, Ravage allied with the local Maximals after helping them fend off a Predacon attack.
With the Maximals' cooperation and the aid of Tarantulas, a Predacon secret police mole hidden in Megatron's forces, Ravage successfully arrested Megatron and put him in captivity. His craft was out of power, and while the Maximals sought energon to re-energize it, Megatron and Ravage were left together...long enough for Megatron to reveal that his plans to alter the timeline had been obtained from a message left by the original Megatron, Ravage's former commander.
Discovering this, Ravage immediately switched sides along with Tarantulas (who was working towards his own agenda in any case), siding with Megatron in attacking the Maximal base. During the attack, Rattrap infiltrated Ravage's cruiser and planted a series of bombs on Tarantulas and quickly made his escape. Tarantulas exploded and the ship's interior was engulfed in flames. Ravage, piloting the ship saw the flames flying towards him and raised a fist of defeat, screaming out his last words: "Decepticons forever!"
Ravage was consumed by the explosion and the ship crashed, nearly taking out Rhinox and Rampage with it.
Small wonder the Beast Wars series is held in such high regard with writing this impressive.
Toywise, I still have my original Ravage, about the only original Transformer I do still own. The new Ravage is cool, and somewhat more -- three-dimensional? One minor problem with the original Ravage is that while he transformed superbly well and was distinctly more articulated than most, was that he was still pretty flat, no wider than his cassette mode. The new Ravage is designed in such a way that the legs extend out from the body at the hip, allowing for more dimension.
It's hard to say whether the new Ravage is better articulated than the original one. I think the safest thing to say is that he's differently- articulated.
Ravage sort of gets the short end of the stick on the packaging. He's mentioned, of course, almost offhandedly. The packaging says "AUTOBOT HOUND" and below that, "RAVAGE Included", but the only Decepticon logo is the one that is on Ravage himself. He doesn't have any tech specs or profile of his own. He does fold up into a cassette, and can be carried on the back of Hound, presumably as a prisoner. He's described in his animal mode as a panther, not a jaguar. Hey, close enough. Either one can be dangerous.
Hound's profile reads as follows: Chief tracker and scout for Optimus Prime, Autobot Hound packs some of the most sophisticated sensing technology of any of the Autobots. He is capable of tracking even the most stealthy and light-footed Decepticon - namely Ravage - through rivers, across bare rock, and even through the air by the spare whisper of electromagnetic radiation the robot panther leaves behind. Though Ravage can hide almost perfectly in even the slightest shadow, no amount of skill can prevent Autobot Hound from finding him.
So, that's fairly balanced. Hound's various power levels are as follows: He gets a 10 in Courage, a 9 in Skill, an 8 in Intelligence, a 6 in Rank, a 5 in Strength and Speed, and a 3 in Fireblast. Ravage does not have any rankings.
So what's my final word here? This is a cool set. Hound may be a little smaller than some of the other Generation One Universe toys, but he always was, it seems. He's still cool. And it's cool to see Ravage back, who's generally done better for himself than one might have expected.
I remain hopeful that this Transformers Universe line will continue through the sequel movie and well beyond. There's so much that can be done with it. In the meantime, AUTOBOT HOUND and RAVAGE most definitely have my enthusiastic recommendation!