REVIEW: TRANSFORMERS UNIVERSE CLASSICS SILVERBOLT
I remain hopeful that in the midst of the doubtless considerable movie-based toy blitz, that the Classics line doesn't get sidelined again. After the first movie, it was brought back under the Transformers Universe banner, and dubbed the Classic Series. It deserves to hang around this time, especially with such cool entries as SILVERBOLT.
Silverbolt's packaging is not specifically marked for the 25th Anniversary of Transformers, which is being celebrated in 2009. Some of the more recent entries in the series are marked for this. But Silverbolt was released slightly before this particular celebration was acknowledged on the toy packaging, so his box -- and Silverbolt is a larger, boxed Transformer -- missed out.
However, Silverbolt himself did not. There are images on his wings, a sort of Autobot take on a traditional Air Force symbol, which looks like the silhouette of the Autobot logo with silver stripes out to the side, and the number "25" in the Autobot symbol. Similarly, the designation "BOLT-25" is marked on the sides of the plane. So honestly, Silverbolt is acknowledging the 25th Anniversary of the Transformers a little more than some of the toys which actually come packaged on 25th Anniversary cards, since there are no specific 25th Anniversary markings on the toys themselves.
So who is Silverbolt? Well, several Transformers have used that name. The two most popular, though, would have to be the leader of the Aerialbots special team within the original "Generation 1" Transformers, and a member of the Maximals in Transformers Beast Wars, who had attributes of both a wolf and an eagle in a rather mixed animal form. The ultimate hero, that Silverbolt spoke in stentorian tones and used cliches that even the most stalwart super-heroes gave up decades ago. He was still a fun character, though.
However, that's not the Silverbolt of this toy. This Silverbolt is clearly based on the original member of the Aerialbots. Let's see about this character:
Silverbolt is the largest of the five Autobot-allied Aerialbots. He forms the head and torso of Superion.
A brave and grimly determined warrior, Silverbolt was appointed by Optimus Prime to command the Aerialbots, a task that keeps Silverbolt worrying more about his teammates than about his acrophobia. When transforming into a jet, he can reach speed of Mach 1.9 with range of 4500 miles. He is armed with an electrostatic discharger rifle.
Silverbolt's vehicle mode was based on the Concorde, the world's first supersonic passenger jet.
According to the animated series, which most fans tend to regard as "official canon", Silverbolt was recreated from a "low-flying transport" (which is ironic because the Concorde was designed for high-altitude travel), which is believed to be the cause of his fear of heights. He was given life by Vector Sigma and Alpha Trion with the other Aerialbots to combat their Decepticon counterparts, the Stunticons.
However, after defeating Menasor, Megatron escaped with the Decepticons' latest superweapon, forcing Silverbolt to confront his fear of heights to chase him down. He is a very level-headed robot that uses common sense and compassion to make his decisions, which later led Optimus Prime to name him the Aerialbots' leader.
Despite his fear of flight and being less adventurous then the other Aerialbots, he proved to be a great leader. He was able to lead the Aerialbots to many victories against the Decepticons and other combiners, like defeating Menasor again ("Cosmic Rust"), stopping the Combaticons from controlling the eastern oil fields ("Aerial Assault"), saving Rodimus Prime and the others from Quintessa ("Five Faces of Darkness"), fought with Scourge and Cyclonus ("Fight or Flee"), blasted Trypticon from the inside ("The Ultimate Weapon"), and later suffered damage while spying on the Junkions.
In the Marvel Comic, Silverbolt and the other Aerialbots were created on Earth by Wheeljack and given life by Optimus Prime using the Matrix. After their initial mission was deemed a failure due to only Silverbolt's personality being stabilized, Optimus Prime had their minds wiped clean and all five Aerialbots given life once again.
Unbeknownst to Prime, the Insecticon Bombshell piggy-backed aboard Silverbolt, and attempted to inject a cerebro-shell into an open wound Prime incurred earlier. The shell allowed Bombshell to transmit Prime's thoughts -- and the Matrix's creation process -- to Megatron and Soundwave, allowing them to bring life to the Stunticons. (Transformers
The Aerialbots were subsequently captured by Circuit Breaker and her Rapid Anti-Robot Attack Team, She then took them to her laboratory and dismantled them for study. However, to combat the threat of the rampaging Decepticon Battlechargers Runabout and Runamuck a deal was struck - if they cooperated in stopping the Decepticons she would let them go. Circuit Breaker then created a massive robot out of their parts, piloted by herself. After defeating the Decepticons, Circuit Breaker released the Autobots.
In issue #27, "King of the Hill!", Perceptor summoned his fellow Autobots Blaster, Hot Spot, Jetfire, Omega Supreme, Ratchet and Silverbolt in order to decide who should take leadership of the Autobots. After an attack by the giant Decepticon Trypticon the leader was chosen - Grimlock.
When Starscream returned to Earth after absorbing the powers of the Underbase, Silverbolt and his Aerialbots were amongst those in New York first to attack... and also amongst the first to fall in battle.
Later when Optimus Prime was deciding which one Autobot to restore life to, he considered Silverbolt but imagined that after a while, he would resent being chosen over others.
Silverbolt was finally restored to take part in the battle against Unicron thanks to Grimlock's supply of Nucleon. Fortunately, Silverbolt managed to purge his system of the Nucleon before it froze up his power to transform.
He subsequently appeared in the Generation 2 comic as the Aerialbots were attacked from all sides by Jhiaxus' fliers - until Thundercracker and Skywarp unexpectedly bailed them out, leading a Decepticon armada into the fray.
In the Dreamwave Comics, which seemed to be based more closely on the continuity of the animated series in some respects, unlike previous interpretations of Generation 1 Silverbolt, Dreamwave comics had all the Aerialbots being made on Cybertron before the Autobots came to Earth. They were one of several teams that used the combiner technology first used to create Devastator to make their own combined form.
The Aerialbots came to be among the Autobots on Earth in the 1980s and gained the forms of Earth-style jets. Upon the awakening of Optimus Prime in Dreamwave's first mini-series, the Aerialbots were among the Autobots summoned by Optimus to rescue the remaining Autobots, who had been turned into mind-controlled weapons of mass destruction by a human arms dealer.
I always found Silverbolt's fear of heights a particularly interesting personality quirk. Here's this Autobot who's designed to fly, has taken on the form of a decidedly fast plane, but he's afraid of heights.
The Aerialbots, really, were a counterpoint to the fact that while the Decepticons, early on, had a number of flyers, including the three fighter jets Starscream. Thundercracker, and Skywarp, and indeed somehow all of the Decepticons were capable of flight, the Autobots were unable to fly, and had alternate modes that were all ground-based vehicles. They needed air power and finally got it -- admittedly right at the same time when Megatron created some nasty cars.
The original Silverbolt was indeed based on the Concorde, and the toy certainly looked the part. The new Universe Classic Silverbolt is definitely not based on a Concorde. That doesn't make him a bad design, however. Technically, the Concorde is retired. The plane was first flown in 1969, entered regular service in 1976, and was retired in 2003. Only twenty of the aircraft were ever built, and were used by British Airways, Air France, Braniff International, and Singapore Airways. The Soviet Union managed to steal some Concorde blueprints and built their own counterpart, the Tupolev Tu-144, nicknamed the "Concordski" by other nations.
I'm honestly not sure the new Silverbolt is based on any actual aircraft, in his vehicle mode. That's not to say he doesn't look extremely impressive. Indeed he does. And he has a more military flair to him. Although a silvery grey in color, Silverbolt looks very much like someone took an SR-71 Blackbird, gave it the more angular wings of, say, a folded-winged F-14, and threw in some of the odd-looking jagged detail of more recent stealth fighters, such as the F-117A.
In plane mode, Silverbolt is a little over ten inches in length. He looks best from an overhead view, and the underside clearly shows a lot of his robotic body. However, three small landing gear struts can be lowered, and each of them has a rolling wheel. Nice touch.
Additionally, in robot mode, Silverbolt has some light and sound effects. Pressing the button near the back of the plane causes the jets to glow red and make a launching noise, and pressing it again results in flashes of green light near the front of the wings, and a sound of Silverbolt opening fire on, no doubt, approaching Decepticons. He also comes with a large gun that can be attached up front, but this almost looks a little silly. It has a spring-loaded missile, described as an "electrostatic bolt" on the package, and arguably it works better as a hand-held weapon in Silverbolt's robot mode.
As to transforming him. The first thing you do is fold the front part of the body over the back half. It hooks into place very effectively. Interestingly enough, this does not disable the light and sound effects, as there's a sort of secondary button in the front half that doesn't really do anything on its own, but it does allow for the now covered main button to still operate.
Next, you bring down Silverbolt's arms, fold out the hands, rotate the arms so that the elbow joints are properly pointed, and then fold the arms back.
Now you bring down the legs. The illustrated instructions are a little vague as to how this is accomplished. What happens is that you pull on the legs, and they rotate out in a curve, and then fold all the way down. Then you rotate these around, extract the feet, and finally shove the lower torso area up into the chest region.
This not only has the result of bringing up the head, but also -- much to my surprise and amusement, results in a sound effect identical to the sound we heard so often on the original animated series, anytime a Transformers turned from one mode to another, that sort of metallic ratcheting sound. Silverbolt's eyes also blink green several times.
As far as I've been able to determine, there's no other way to get Silverbolt's eyes to blink. The button on the back doesn't seem to effect them.
The end result is a superb -- Silverbolt. In robot mode, Silverbolt stands just shy of 8 inches in height, and that's to the top of his head. It doesn't count the front of the airplane that's hanging off his back. This makes him distinctly taller than most of the Classic Universe Transformers, who tend to average around 6 inches in height. Then again, Silverbolt is part of a different level of Transformers, a more expensive one at that, so really, I'd expect a bit more robot for my money, and we know that the Transformers have a fairly wide-ranging scale anyway.
Silverbolt is superbly articulated in robot mode. I've said this probably every time I've reviewed one of these Classics, but my single biggest gripe with the original Generation 1 Transformers was that, in robot mode, most of them weren't articulated. They could move their arms, maybe their heads, and not much else.
Fortunately, those days are well behind us. Today's Transformers are as well articulated in robot mode as most humanoid action figures would be, and that we would expect them to be. Silverbolt is poseable at the head, arms, upper arm swivel, elbows, legs, upper leg swivel, and knees. The degree of articulation he has in his wrists and ankles is more designed to accommodate the transformation.
Most of his articulation points are on little click-ratchets. Sometimes this sort of thing annoys me, but on Silverbolt, he still has a very wide range of motion, and a consistent level of articulation. I suspect the way he was designed and assembled with this particular type of articulation was to give a certain stability in robot mode to a toy that is admittedly heavier than it looks (doubtless due to sound-and-light making equipment, not to mention batteries thereof), and really, it's not a hindrance at all.
Any complaints? Not really. His lower arms and lower legs look a little hollow when viewed from the back, but he stands well and poses well, so I'm not inclined to raise a fuss about that.
Colorwise he's interesting. He looks pretty much like a modern incarnation of the original Silverbolt, but the original Silverbolt was more white than grey, and this new Silverbolt has a lot of a sort of reddish-purple on his torso that I don't recall the original Silverbolt having, who seemed to be predominantly red and white with some yellow- gold trim.
Again, this isn't a complaint. Some of the other Classics have undergone moderate color revision. What the heck, after 25 years, who's to tell them they don't deserve a fresh paint job, as long as they're still recognizable, and Silverbolt certainly us. In basic form, this is still certainly Silverbolt.
His character profile on his package reads as follows: "As the leader of an elite group of Autobot warriors known as the Aerialbots, Silverbolt shoulders a great deal of responsibility. He is a careful planner who never risks the lives of any of his men, unless it is absolutely necessary. All his care, however, hides a deeply insecure nature. Optimus Prime actually put Silverbolt in such a stressful position largely to distract him from his paralyzing fear of heights: a weakness he hopes the other Aerialbots never discover. He is a capable leader nonetheless, and has honed the Aerialbots into one of the finest Autobot units in the universe."
There's no mention here of the names of the other Aerialbots, or their combined form Superion, as they are not available. Even if Hasbro were to make the other Aerialbots, it would probably take a fair bit of work to make them into a Combiner such as Superion, with the pre-existing Silverbolt. There is, as of this writing, a rumor that the Aerialbots from Transformers Energon may be released in the Classic series, redone in Generation 1 colors, but that remains unconfirmed at this time. Be cool if they did it, though, but those would have nothing to do with this Silverbolt.
Silverbolt's power rankings are all pretty high. He gets a "9" in Speed, "8" almost across the board in Intelligence, Endurance, Rank, Courage, and Fireblast, "6" in Strength, and "5" in Skill. And for those of you who think he doesn't deserve that "8" in Courage, consider how much guts it takes to overcome your worst fear on a regular basis, and in combat situations. Then tell me he doesn't have courage.
So what's my final word here? I'm very impressed. I haven't bought a lot of these larger Transformers because not all of them are based on Classic Generation 1 characters. Silverbolt is, and this is really a very impressive update of the character. In plane mode, he's not a Concorde, but he is an extremely interesting design, and his markings offer a nice "on-toy" acknowledgment of the 25th Anniversary of Transformers. In robot mode, he's an impressive and impressively large robot that certainly calls to mind the likeness of the original.
If you're a fan of the Autobots, and/or the Aerialbots, and/or SIlverbolt himself, you really can't go wrong here. The TRANSFORMERS UNIVERSE CLASSICS SILVERBOLT definitely has my highest recommendation!