REVIEW: TRANSFORMERS UNIVERSE MASTERPIECE SKYWARP
The Masterpiece Transformers have been rather few and far between in the United States, which is perhaps understandable. They're not inexpensive toys. They are, however, extremely impressive.
The line has been more extensive, again not surprisingly, in Japan, where several characters that have yet to make it to the United States, including a "Ghost" form of Starscream, as well as Grimlock and Megatron -- who has the problem of looking a little too much like a real gun -- have been offered.
To date, there have been three figures released in America in the Transformers Masterpiece line. The first was Optimus Prime, who is almost certainly the ultimate, never to be surpassed version of Optimus Prime of all time. Starscream has also been offered, and most recently, Walmart presented Transformers fans with another one of the "Seeker" planes -- SKYWARP!
Of the various "Seeker" planes, which include the three best-known: Starscream, Thundercracker, and Skywarp, as well as the second group: Thrust, Dirge, and Ramjet, as well as later arrivals Sunstorm and Acid Storm, Starscream is obviously the best known of the lot. Voiced by Christopher Latta in the original animated series, he made no secret of his ambition to overthrow Megatron throughout the series. By contract, his two closest compatriots -- and toy-wise, designed around the same airplane -- Thundercracker and Skywarp, weren't given quite as distinctive personalities or nearly as much prominence. They were basically thugs in the early days of the Decepticons on Earth.
Nevertheless, Skywarp has a respectably extensive character profile on WikiPedia, which I was able to call up, and herewith relate:
Skywarp, like his name suggests, is able to teleport at will.
Skywarp's original tech spec bio indicated that he was a master of sneak attacks, using his teleportation abilities to cause mayhem amongst the Autobots — and his fellow Decepticons when playing malicious pranks. However, his relative lack of intelligence means he needs to be constantly monitored by his superiors Megatron and Starscream, or else he would be useless.
According to original tech spec notes written by Bob Budiansky, found at Iacon One in 2006, the tech spec numbers were swapped for Starscream and Skywarp, but Thundercracker's were correct. Additionally, it was originally planned for Skywarp to have an Intelligence rating of 4 (changed to 7), but when Skywarp and Starscream's specs were swapped, Skywarp was given a rating of 9, in complete opposition to his tech spec which said he was not very smart
In the Marvel Comics, Skywarp was amongst those Decepticons ordered by Megatron to greet the new Decepticon arrivals from Cybertron. However, the arrivals ended up being Blaster and his team of Autobots. Megatron was about to attack when he heard a plea from Soundwave and Shockwave who were being attacked by Optimus Prime. Ignoring their cry for aid, Megatron instead led his Decepticons to the Ark which he believed to be defenseless. It wasn't — the Autobots' "secret weapon," Omega Supreme was guarding their headquarters soundly defeated the Decepticons, destroying Skywarp first. Losing Skywarp and the other Decepticons meant nothing to Megatron, who said they could easily be replaced.
During Galvatron's first trip from the future to the year 1986 (to defeat Unicron), Skywarp played a part in the future Autobots' plans to trick Galvatron into returning: Skywarp was still deactivated from his previous battle and was lying in the Ark along with the other defeated Decepticons. However, his body was painted to resemble Starscream and set up to be operated under remote control by the Autobots to trick Galvatron into thinking that Starscream had destroyed his machinery. A furious Galvatron destroyed what he believed was Starscream in a blind rage, but because Starscream played a role in Galvatron's creation, Galvatron believed that whatever actions he performed in the past would have no effect on his or Unicron's future and subsequently returned to his own time, unaware that he was tricked.
Skywarp was presumably rebuilt at some point, placed back into cold-storage and eventually rescued, along with the other captured Decepticons, by the Constructicons, who used a distraction to break into the Ark for that purpose. Skywarp (and Thundercracker) were ultimately destroyed by the Underbase-powered Starscream and was never seen again in the G1 comic. However, the Transformers: Generation 2 comic showed a black Decepticon jet using teleportation powers. It is unknown if this jet was a repaired Skywarp.
Skywarp's expanded Transformers Universe biography describes him as having a cruel sense of humor and that he loves to play practical jokes on his fellow Decepticons, usually involving his teleportation abilities. The bio also states that he's "not too bright and would be totally useless without the supervision of Megatron."
In the animated series, Skywarp was the first Transformer to awaken on Earth in 1984, and he helped bring Megatron and the other Decepticons back online. After laying dormant for four million years, he was reformatted to share the same Earthen appearance (an F-15 Eagle) as Starscream and Thundercracker, and was usually allied with them during attacks. During his first days on Earth, he soon showed his teleporting power to battle with Ironhide and Bluestreak.
Although a popular character in the Transformers universe, Skywarp seldom showed much function other than being a loyal Decepticon soldier, although he did seem to take a perverse joy in praising Megatron's brilliance as a leader in front of Starscream. Skywarp also appears to be the least-known Decepticon amongst the Autobots; while Starscream addresses him by name in "Roll for It", Optimus Prime only calls him by name in "Divide and Conquer".
Despite having very few functions, those few were a key part in those episodes. Examples include when he lost self control because of Chip Chase while holding super energized Megatron ("Roll for it"); When guarding the Andes Mountain he left to aid the other Decepticons in stealing the steel they needed, leaving Starscream and Thundercracker alone to guard the mountain ("Fire in the Sky"); he used his teleporting ability to teleport over the Autobots when racing in the Autobot Run and successfully hit them with the laser, forcing them to remain in vehicle mode ("The Autobot Run"); and when he was forced by Starscream to teleport him to Cybertron with the spacebridge, so that he could steal imprisoned personalities to create the Combaticons ("Starscream's Brigade").
In multiple episodes Skywarp is seen along with Thundercracker and Starscream to successfully attack Earth military in dogfights while in jet mode.
In the episode, "The Immobilizer", Skywarp attacked the Autobots with his "Bouncer Bomb," but it went wild and had to be destroyed by Megatron in pistol mode. This is the only time this ability has ever been seen in Transformers fiction.
After reading that comics history, Skywarp had a tough time catching any sort of break, didn't he? In the Dreamwave comics series, he reappeared alongside the other reactivated Decepticon Seekers, including Thundercracker and Starscream, and seemed none the worse for wear at the time.
In the Transformers Classics series of toys, Skywarp -- recolored from Starscream, understandably -- was offered in a Target-exclusive set alongside Ultra Magnus, who was a recolored Optimus Prime. Thundercracker and most of the other Seeker planes would see release in a BotCon set when it was presumed that the Classics line was ending. The Classics line actually continued under the Universe banner. To date, the only Seeker plane not to make it into the Classics/Universe line in some form or other (tough as those BotCon ones may be to find) is Sunstorm.
So, how's the Masterpiece Edition of Skywarp? Very nicely done, really. I'll admit, I don't have Starscream. I do have Optimus Prime, but I don't really think it's that fair to make a comparison. For one thing, Optimus was the first Masterpiece figure ever created, and clearly, the company went all out on him. He's both die-cast and plastic (weighing in at a very substantial three pounds), stands 12 inches in height, is articulated down to individual fingers, and has a light-up Autobot Matrix in his chest. That's a tough act to follow.
In comparison, Skywarp is about 9 inches in height, and is not die-cast. He has a couple of metal parts to him, but these are mostly for structural stability. None of this is intended as a complaint. It's merely an observation. You're not going to top Optimus Prime in this Masterpiece series, and I'm not sure it would even be appropriate to try. That doesn't at all mean that Skywarp isn't a cool and extremely impressive Transformer. He most certainly is.
Skywarp comes packaged in his robot mode, which is fine with me. Generally speaking, this is how I prefer to display my Transformers. And indeed, he looks entirely like a more advanced version of the original Skywarp. He is predominantly black, with significant amounts of purple and silver trim. His face is silver, with gold eyes. His lower arms are purple, as are some protrusions on his lower feet. He has a very impressive and rather complex pattern of purple and silver stripes in his main wings, which in robot form extend from his back. The purple used is a rather dark metallic purple. About the only downside to this is that is nearly obscures the purple Decepticon emblems on his wings. It might have been advisable to have outlined these in silver.
The rear wings of his plane mode are positioned in the package photograph as pointing back from about hip level, but in the package, they're displayed as running down the sides of his legs. Technically, this was done to fit him in the package, but it's not a bad look in general, as far as that goes, and they don't hinder his leg articulation. The upright tail fins are painted in a non-metallic purple, and have metallic purple and silver stripes.
Significant portions of Skywarp's torso are silver in color, including the jets that comprise either side of his chest, and arc over his shoulders. The jets can be popped open to reveal hidden missile launchers. Indeed, there's quite a few special features to this robot, although most of them are in plane mode, which I shall discuss momentarily. However, one other robot mode special feature is that Skywarp has a second face. The basic one that he's displayed with is a fairly neutral expression. The second face has something of a smart-ass grin on it. This has to be a carryover from Starscream, but it works on Skywarp just as well.
As one would expect, one of the most significant features about Skywarp in his robot mode is his articulation. Skywarp is fully poseable at the head, arms, upper-arm swivel, elbows, wrists, legs, upper leg swivel, knees and -- well, sort of the ankles, if you count the positionable "heels" of his boots, which are really intended as positionable jets in his plane mode. The elbows and knees are double-jointed.
Additionally, there are the hands. His thumbs and forefingers are independently articulated, and the other three fingers are also poseable. All four fingers are not only poseable at the base, but have a second joint further up. The thumbs, forefingers, and finger groups are all on ball-and-socket points at the base, which works well for the thumbs and forefingers, but is a little weird on the finger joints. Cool, but weird.
One thing about the stance of the figure. the base of his feet are comprised by the jets of the plane, and they're designed to be movable in jet mode -- adjustable jets, really. When Skywarp is in robot mode, you should made very certain that the jets are pointing straight down. Skywarp's balance is pretty dependent on that.
Then, of course, there is the transformation itself, which takes up all of one side and part of the reverse side of a very large piece of paper. The directions are entirely pictorial, and when it comes to reviewing Transformers, I've generally tried to explain these as best as I can, since I think it helps to have written instructions.
The first step is easy enough -- remove the weapons from Skywarp's arms. Then fold his hands in, rotate them about 90 degrees, and then rotate the entire arm from the swivel down at that the elbows are pointing outwards, and then move the hands so they face forward (relative to the robot).
Now we come to a big step. Raise Skywarp's entire torso and wings, and then clip his crotch into place. Next, rotate his feet 180 degrees parallel to the legs, and slip them down against the leg. Then fold out his smaller outer wings.
Next, bring his legs together and clip them together, and then clip the rear wing assembly flush to the legs.
The next step is a slightly peculiar one based on the instructions. Raise the outermost section of the back up 90 degrees, and then bring the nose of the airplane section up 90 degrees as well. What follows is a three-stage flip-flop action that looks like it makes sense in the pictorial instructions but which I'm really not sure I can explain verbally. As far as I can tell, the end result leaves the robot's torso inverted and pointing back, and the nosecone of the airplane now on the front, but pointed down.
After this, you open the canopy, fold down the seat and cockpit, snap the canopy back down, and then bring the nosecone up into place. At this point, Skywarp should be looking a lot more like a plane than a robot.
Following this, you fold the arms in, and bring the robot's torso together underneath the plane in another step that is more easily viewed in the instructions than explained. Fold the back piece down, swivel the wings around, adjust a few more parts, and Skywarp is now an F-15!
The transformation, although if memory serves is actually somewhat similar to the original Skywarp, is also a LOT more involved, and quite complicated. This is not a Transformer for the impatient or the inexperienced.
In plane mode, Skywarp looks very impressive. He's nearly 13 inches in length with a wingspan of close to 9 inches. The detail work, showing panel lines and such, is exceptionally well done. And the large Decepticon emblems on his wings are far more evident here than in his robot mode, as is the striped detailing.
I decided to do a quick WikiPedia check of F-15 fighter jets. I suspected at the very least that they were probably considered somewhat outmoded, since Skywarp and his friends used this mode over 25 years ago. Seems I was way wrong about that.
The McDonnell Douglas (now Boeing) F-15 Eagle is a twin-engine, all-weather tactical fighter designed to gain and maintain air superiority in aerial combat. It is considered among the most successful modern fighters with over 100 aerial combat victories. Following reviews of proposals, the United States Air Force selected McDonnell Douglas' design in 1967 to meet the service's need for a dedicated air superiority fighter. The Eagle first flew in July 1972, and entered service in 1976. The F-15 is expected to be in service with the U.S. Air Force until 2025.
Okay, I'm suitably impressed. If you're interesting in learning more about the history of this clearly very impressive fighter plane, then I highly recommend the WikiPedia article on "F-15 Eagle". It supplies an extensive history of the plane. I just gave you the first paragraph.
Not a bad choice for the Decepticons, either, if you think about it. No wonder the Seekers were considered such a threat on Earth. And yes, the photos shown of actual F-15 Eagles in the WikiPedia article do match the basic appearance of Skywarp in his plane mode. Although admittedly, none of the ones in the WikiPedia article were black with purple and silver trim.
In plane mode, Skywarp has some very interesting capabilities. His rear jets are adjustable -- listed as "Adjustable Thrust Vector" in the instructions. He has an opening canopy and even a removable pilot. One might surmise that this is one of those simulated pilots that certain Transformers have been known to use to try to fool the populace, since I can't imagine any human being dumb enough to fly with a Decepticon. Skywarp also has extendable landing gear, and his nosecone swings open to reveal an additional device or weapon of some sort.
And even in plane mode, his articulation and detail is impressive. The ailerons on his wings actually work, for one thing. And you want detail? He has painted running lights. There's a tiny little bit of green paint on the tip of one wing, and a tiny little bit of red on the other. Given that this is the only bit of green on the entire robot, I'm impressed with this effect. Actually, all of Skywarp's painted detail, which is extensive and intricate, is very nicely done.
Skywarp comes with a very cool display stand, if you're inclined to use it. It's rather ornately sculpted, and bears Skywarp's name as well as a Decepticon emblem in chrome purple. It includes a transparent piece, which can be used to make Skywarp look like he's either hovering over the display base in robot mode, or used to present Skywarp in a somewhat more traditional "model airplane" display in his plane mode.
Any complaints? None. Just one little advisory. When he's in robot mode, make sure that his legs are fully snapped down into place. Otherwise, one of them might retract a bit under the weight, and over he goes. Wouldn't be good if you've chosen to display Skywarp on a high shelf.
Skywarp's package includes a character profile, which reads as follows: Skywarp is a cheap and dirty thug who takes simple joy in catching friend and foe alike unaware. Though he's too lazy to be an effective warrior without direct supervision, he puts immeasurable effort into planning the pranks which he pulls on whichever unfortunate target wanders into his sensor net. He'd rather lounge around on the airstrip than fight, but he's always ready to slash a few tires.
His power rankings are as follows. He gets a "9" in Speed, which would be expected from such a sophisticated airplane. He has an "8" in Courage, which is a tad surprising to me. He gets "7" in Strength, Intelligence, Endurance, Fireblast, and Skill, and a "5" in Rank.
So, what's my final word here? I'm extremely impressed. Okay, Skywarp isn't in the same league as Optimus Prime. Who is? He is, nevertheless, an extremely impressive Transformer, based on a well-known classic character from Generation One, and well-deserving of the "Masterpiece" designation. Skywarp is a Walmart exclusive, and may not be that easy to find at this point, but if you're any sort of Transformers fan, he's definitely worth tracking down.
The TRANSFORMERS UNIVERSE MASTERPIECE Edition of SKYWARP definitely has my highest recommendation!