REVIEW: TRANSFORMERS UNIVERSE 25th ANNIVERSARY INFERNO
Although the Transformers Universe line may well be taking a break for the duration of the sequel movie products (although hopefully it will be back with more Classics), there was one very interesting late entry in the line that I almost missed, and would have, had it not been for a mention in one of the leading toy magazines out there, and with a little help from some online friends. If this toy ever turned up locally, I never saw it.
Part of the "Voyager" Class of Transformers Universe robots, and as such a boxed product, this all-new Autobot is based on a popular character first introduced in Generation One -- INFERNO!
Inferno is, as one might infer (!) from a name like that, a fire engine. In his original Generation One format, he shared a lot of the same body molds with a second, less-well-known (but still cool) Autobot, who was designed as a construction vehicle, named Grapple. Both original Generation One toys were re-released several years ago when Hasbro was re-releasing a handful of the original toys.
In his original form, Inferno was a long red ladder truck, with a working extending ladder.
WikiPedia describes the character as follows: Inferno is a fearless Autobot who has a fire truck as his vehicle form. He relishes the attention he gets for saving lives and extinguishing fires any chance he gets, but Inferno's intentions are always noble, though he rarely gets involved in the battles.
Inferno would be a lot better at his job if he weren't so easily distracted. He genuinely wants to be responsible and perform his job well, but he simply cannot resist getting involved in combat. The rugged and powerful Inferno likes things to be as intense as possible, although he prefers the heat of battle to the heart of a burning building. He's not unaware of the seriousness of his function, and he does enjoy the chances it offers him to save innocent lives. It's just that Inferno can't turn down an opportunity to get into the thick of the action.
Inferno appeared in the Marvel Transformers comic, acting in a capacity similar to his animated self, although he had few notable appearances.
In the animated series, Inferno first appeared in the episode "The Insecticon Syndrome". His most prominent appearance came in "Auto-Berserk" alongside Red Alert. After a battle with the Decepticons ended with Red Alert being damaged, the Autobot became paranoid that Inferno and the others were out to get him. Red Alert deserted and teamed up with Starscream (who had been kicked out of the Decepticons after a disagreement with Megatron) to steal an Autobot device called the Negavator. After being damaged again, Red Alert realized what he had done and destroyed the Negavator, setting fire to the cavern they were in - and a guilty Inferno rushed into the fire to save Red Alert's life.
In the episode "Prime Target" the big game hunter Lord Cholmondeley captured a secret Soviet jet, leading to panic of possibly war. Cholmondeley then set his sights on the ultimate trophy, the head of Optimus Prime. In order to lure Optimus in Cholmondeley captured the Autobots Tracks, Bumblebee, Jazz, Grapple, Beachcomber, Blaster and Inferno. Windcharger and Huffer were able to avoid being trapped. When Cosmos learned of the location Cholmondeley was keeping the captured Autobots Optimus Prime accepted Cholmondeley's challenge to meet him alone. Although interrupted by the Decepticons Astrotrain and Blitzwing who attempted to ally with Cholmondeley, Optimus defeated the big game hunter and freed the Autobots. Cholmondeley and the stolen jet were given over the Soviets by the Autobots as punishment for his actions.
In "The Search for Alpha Trion", when Optimus Prime returned to Cybertron alone to save Elita One, Ironhide leads Inferno and Powerglide after him. On Cybertron the Autobots are briefly reunited with Chromia, Moonracer and Firestar, defeat the Decepticons and save Elita.
It is also worth noting that Inferno appears in the credits of Transformers: The Movie despite not actually appearing in it leading to speculation that Inferno's scenes were cut.
Now, there's something very interesting about this toy -- it's not listed as a Generation 1 character, but rather, is specifically noted as Generation 2.
Generation 2 was a follow-up to the original Transformers. After a year or so off the shelves, Hasbro brought back the Transformers as "Generation 2", with new Autobot and Decepticon logos, remaking many of the original toys in slightly altered forms, such as attaching a talking voice box to Optimus Prime's trailer, while also creating entirely new toys, such as Megatron's new tank mode (which I always thought worked a whole lot better than the gun).
Generation 2 got an official kick-off in the comics in a four-issue appearance in the pages of G.I. Joe, where it was revealed that Cobra rebuilt Megatron into his new form. This was followed by a twelve-issue stand-alone series that, generally speaking, presented a far edgier world than the original Transformers, and was scripted largely by Simon Furman, who has become one of the best-regarded Transformers writers ever.
Generation 2, indicated by the timeline graph on the back of Inferno's box, which also commemorates the 25th Anniversary of Transformers, had its run from 1992-1995, ultimately making way for Beast Wars, which most Transformers fans regard as the major revival of the Transformers concept. Vehicle-based Transformers would continue, however, in the somewhat limited Machine Wars line, which was mostly repaints, although some of them were of toys that had previously not been released in the United States.
There was no distinct Generation 2 animation, although episodes of the original series were re-packaged and re-syndicated with some new graphics here and there, and marketed as Transformers Generation 2.
Here's something I didn't know, from WikiPedia: In the late 1990s, a knockoff of G2 Inferno with some yellow parts was sold in discount stores on a card reading "Transformers: Generation 3."
Yeah, right up until Hasbro's Legal Department found out about it, I'm sure.
So -- why would this Inferno toy, of a character established in Generation 1, be listed as a Generation 2 entry? Simply stated, in one significant respect, this Inferno does have one thing more in common with the Generation 2 version of Inferno than with the Generation 1 Inferno. The Generation 2 Inferno incorporated a water squirter. While the new Inferno does not actually squirt water, it does trade out the ladder for a spring-loaded missile launcher whose missile is molded in transparent blue and clear, and is indicated to be a "water blast" on the package.
How IS the toy, overall? I'll admit, one thing did surprise me a little when I got him out of the box. His overall proportions, relative to scale, are a good bit shorter than the original Inferno, who was clearly designed as one of those very long fire trucks that one sees, which as much as anything are long out of necessity to accommodate -- the ladder!
In vehicle form, Inferno is about 6-1/2" in length, 2-1/3" wide, and a little less than 3 in height -- not counting the "water" blaster. He is predominantly a deep red in color, somewhat darker than the original Inferno, with six wheels, all of which roll independently, a highly detailed if somewhat compressed driver's area, white stripes on the side, along with the words "FIRE RESCUE", a truck number of "401" (if this has any character significance I am not aware of it), clear sirens on the top, and a clear windshield, showing not only the drivers' area, but if you look closely, Inferno's head, upside down! That's a little weird, and it sort of makes one wonder if the windows were originally planned to be some other color than just straight clear.
The front of the vehicle has the Autobot insignia, and it's worth mentioning that it is the traditional Autobot emblem, and not the one that saw fairly short usage during Generation 2. Both the Autobot and Decepticon logos were reworked, the Decepticon one adding some additional details, but still looking reasonably familiar, and the Autobot one being almost entirely reworked and bearing more than a passing resemblance to the face of Optimus Prime. Those logos haven't been officially used SINCE Generation 2 folded, and it's just as well for the sake of consistency, in my opinion, that Inferno, although hailing from Generation 2, has the more widely-known Autobot insignia.
The overall detailing on Inferno, in vehicle mode, is truly excellent, with all sorts of sculpted detailing that looks extremely impressive and sincerely authentic. On some Transformers, certain compromises have had to be made to accommodate their robot forms. But there's very little of that here, and it's not hard to imagine a fire truck very much like Inferno racing down the road to deal with some emergency.
As to his transformation. Inferno is listed on his package as a Level 3 Transformer, or "Advanced" transformation.
Step one involves rotating the water cannon so it's facing backwards (it's probably also a good idea to set the "water" missile aside), and rotating the front wheels 180 degrees so they're facing the inside of the underside of the vehicle. What's rather amusing at this point is that the vehicle will still roll along the ground.
Next, you fold the grey side-panels on the vehicle out and forward, and then swing the legs down. Swinging the legs down sounds easier than it is. The back of the truck consists of both the arms and legs of the robot form, and they're all fairly close together. You want to swing ONLY the legs down, and what you're really doing is swinging the entire lower body down, which is actually a different moving point than the legs themselves. I discovered this almost by accident, and wondered if I'd done something wrong, which I hadn't. You want the lower torso positioned where, when viewed from the side, the legs appear to be emerging from the front wheel wells, downwards.
At this point, you want to split the legs, rotate each of them around 180 degrees, lower the feet, and also lower the front bumper.
Now it's time to deal with the arms. This is also easier said than done, as once again, the axis point is not where you'd think. It's actually along the doors to the cab of the fire engine, rather than a little further back, as it initially appears. The sides of the truck cab need to be rotated upwards at about a 90-degree angle, which looks very peculiar, as the arms are moved outward from each other somewhat, and then rotated outward so they are spread out to the sides.
Next, you turn the arms along their upper arm swivel joints, and fold back the panels on both the arms and on the shoulder protrusions, which at this point are high above the cab and shoulders.
Now, bring the arms down, rotate the hands around a bit, and rotate the shoulder protrusions around, and bring them down, so they seem to be covering the upper arms.
Lastly, pop the head up, and fold up the small area on the back of Inferno so it doesn't look as though he has a see-through torso. And Inferno is now in his robot mode!
So, how is Inferno as a robot? Extremely impressive. He has a very sturdy appearance, as if he is ready for any sort of action, be it combat or emergency rescue. He looks enough like his Generation 1 counterpart so there's definitely a connection, but this is also a distinct robot in and of himself.
In robot mode, Inferno stands just a small fraction over 7" in height. That's pretty good sized for a Classics-type Transformer, but then Inferno's a pretty big guy, anyway. He's transformed enough, and I found this especially impressive, so that except for the obvious cab of the truck becoming his chest, it's a little hard to tell where the fire engine went. That's sort of cool in my opinion.
The former water-cannon is now a weapon attached to Inferno's lower right arm. It still operates the same way, though, and still fires the plastic "water" missile.
The head is an excellent likeness of the original, black with a silver face and some other silver trim, with a rather determined expression on its face. The head on my Inferno is a little loose, and is held in place by a rivet, not a screw, so there's not much I can do about it, but I have no reason to believe that this is necessarily the case with all Infernos out there, and it's a relatively minor point. The head has excellent articulation, able to swivel from side to side and move up and down, and the back of the head has been molded in transparent plastic, with a little transparent blue around the eyes, so -- as with many of these Universe Transformers, when enough light hits the back of Inferno's head, his eyes appear to glow blue.
In robot mode, Inferno's articulation is superb. I know I've said this endless times, but one of the things I really like about this Universe Classics line, is that the robots are much better articulated than their ancestors. However popular the original Transformers were, and I will certainly never malign them for anything except this -- most of them weren't poseable worth a darn in their robot modes. If they could move their heads and arms, that was generally about it.
This new Inferno is fully poseable at the head, arms, upper arm swivel, elbows, wrists, waist, legs, upper leg swivel, knees, and ankles. The overall range of motion is extremely impressive, and in some aspects is superior even to other Transformers of this type and series. The shoulder shields, for lack of a better word, do not hinder the arm movement. They move with the arms as needed. One other note. The photograph of the toy in robot mode on the package makes him look exceptionally skinny-legged for some reason. Maybe it's the angle or the lighting or something, but he's not as disproportionate in his robot mode as he looks.
Inferno's character profile on the back of his package seems to corroborate much of his personality profile as stated on Wikipedia, although also takes it just a little further. It reads: Though search and rescue is his primary function - and one he happens to be very good at - Inferno loves nothing more than a good fight. In fact, he will often abandon his duties, or even ignore direct orders, just to go antagonize Decepticons. He especially loves to get up close to his enemies, where the energy-damping field he generates to help suppress fires can eliminate the effectiveness of their weapons. He uses the chemical foam sprayed from his arm cannon to blind opponents as often as he uses it to put out fires.
His various power rankings are as follows. He gets a 9 in Strength and Courage, both of which make sense given his physical size and personality, an 8 in Endurance, a 6 in Intelligence, Fireblast, and Skill, although I wonder about the Fireblast one since he tends to shoot water and foam, a 5 in Rank, and a 4 in Speed. That one's also a little odd. Okay, he's a truck, not a race car, but he's a fire truck. They need to be able to respond fairly quickly.
So, what's my final word here? I am extremely impressed. Inferno may be the coolest Transformer I've come across in a while, and that's from someone who sincerely enjoys the Universe line and is pleased to have as much of it as I do -- which is most of it, back to when it was called Classics. This is the sort of Transformer that really makes me hope the Universe/Classics line will be back, once the movie and its related product has run its course, as it was with the last movie.
At this point, I'm not sure how easy Inferno will be for you to find. However, if you can find him by some means, and you're any sort of Transformers fan, I promise you that Inferno will be a welcome addition to your collection. This is one highly impressive Autobot. The TRANSFORMERS UNIVERSE 25th ANNIVERSARY INFERNO definitely has my highest recommendation!