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REVIEW: TRANSFORMERS GENERATIONS THUNDERWING
By Thomas Wheeler

I have to say that I have been very pleased with the Generations line of Transformers, especially for the fact that it has picked up where the Classics left off, and I really like the Classics. The Transformers Classics line did something that, as far as I'm concerned, needed to be done a long time ago -- it took the most notable, popular characters of the original, Generation One Transformers, and remade them for the modern day, with modern toymaking techniques.

Now, there are some who might question the necessity of doing that. And, there are some toy lines where I don't think it's necessary. I am a firm believer in the adage, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it", and there are several action figure lines I could name that I think should have been left well enough alone, because there wasn't anything wrong with them in the first place.

Now, there wasn't anything really "wrong" with the original, Generation One Transformers. Certainly the concept proved itself, and between the toys, the animated series, and the comic books, Transformers skyrocketed to the top of the toy-based pop culture world of the 1980's, an era that also saw similar levels of popularity for G.I. Joe and Masters of the Universe, which are also still with us in some form today.

But there was one thing that always bothered me just a bit about the original Transformers. As cool as they looked in both robot and vehicular form, and as interesting as the transformation process was in and of itself -- in robot mode, the vast majority of them couldn't move worth a darn. I was one of the few early supporters of the Action Masters line when it came along in 1989. Sure, they were small, and they couldn't transform, but at least they had a decent range of articulation, which was more than could be said for most of their transforming counterparts. The average Generation One Transformer could be taken from its vehicular form, or "alt mode", since some of them weren't vehicles, turned into a robot, and then -- it just sort of stood there. Most could move their arms. Not much else.

This had to be something of a disappointment for kids who would watch the TV series or read the comic book, and see these amazing giant robots running, fighting, interacting with humans, and the toys were capable of none of this. Even the package illustrations showed them in their robotic modes in action poses.

It wasn't really anybody's fault. The toys were designed first and foremost to transform, and they did so extremely well. The limitations of their robotic forms were secondary to this function, and were the best that could be designed at the time with the resources available.

But then, following the departure of Generation One, and the short-lived Generation Two, something -- happened. A new line of Transformers came out, called Beast Wars. Here, the Transformers turned into animal forms, not vehicles and other machines. This proved to be a popular concept, because it was certainly something different for the Transformers, and it was supported by a CGI animated series that was as intelligently and dramatically written as any science-fiction series airing at the time. It was hardly a "kids' show".

But more to the point, these new toys, in their robotic modes, had a far greater range of articulation than their ancestors ever had! They could move their heads, their arms, THEIR LEGS...! These were Transformers that really lived up to their place in the "action figure" aisle!

The Beast Wars came and went, as did the Beast Machines, and a host of more familiar robotic toys for various Transformers concepts in the ensuing years. And among these was the proof that it was possible to do Transformers in a format more akin to the originals, and maintain the articulation in the robot mode. I have little doubt that computer design played a huge role in this, something that would not have been as available in the 1980's. The proof of this has to be the Alternators line. The idea of taking a real-world car, and designing it to transform into a reasonably recognizable version of a well-established humanoid robot character, fully articulated, is something that is going to need some technological help to pull off.

Finally, what needed to happen, happened. The Transformers Classics. The best known characters of the entire Transformers universe -- or heck, multiverse, given all the concepts that had come and gone -- were given modern forms, and full articulation in their robot modes. Here was Bumblebee, Cliffjumper, Optimus Prime, Starscream, Skywarp, Grimlock, and many others.

The line has come and gone and returned several times, usually working its way in and around the toy lines based on the live-action movies. It has been Transformers Classics, it has been part of Transformers Universe, and now, it is the mainstay of Transformers Generations. I've heard that the next batch is going to be released under the name "Reveal the Shield". Well, they can call it whatever they want, as long as they keep it going. We Transformers fans know what this line is -- the most popular characters in a modern, properly-articulated form.

And joining the lineup, somewhat to my surprise when I saw him, is THUNDERWING. He never appeared in the animated series, which is seen by many fans to be as close to canonical history for the Transformers as possible. Most Transformers fans see the animated series in the same light as G.I. Joe fans see the Larry Hama-written comic book -- as the "official" history of the characters.

And Thunderwing, in his original form, wasn't that notable a toy. He came along later in the run, as one of a sub-team called "Mega-Pretenders". Most collectors wouldn't place his toy in the same level as Optimus Prime, Megatron, Fortress Maximus, or whatever.

However, the character's prominence in the comic book -- both in the United States and the United Kingdom -- have this otherwise obscure character a considerable and almost frightening history, and allowed him to rise to a prominence that he otherwise surely would not have had.

And, I'll admit, "Thunderwing" is a pretty cool name. It's been used for a number of Transformers over the years, across several of the different concepts. Although vastly different characters, they have all had one thing in common -- the transform into jets. Apart from that, there's not a lot of similarities.

However, it is obvious that this Thunderwing is meant to represent the original, so let's consider some of his history, with a little online research assistance.

Thunderwing had a prominent role in Marvel's Transformers comic book as a Decepticon warlord, first appearing in issue #60 of the comic book. However, prior to that, he had several appearances in the Marvel UK comic. Now, there's no great continuity between the two, but it is interesting, as the British story shows how Thunderwing rose from being a young, promising warlord to the leader of the Decepticons.

His first chronological appearance was in a text story called "The Magnificent Six", where flashbacks revealed that he had once been a lieutenant of the sadistic Decepticon leader Megadeath. At this point, before Prime and Megatron were marooned on Earth, Thunderwing already had his Pretender shell.

Later, his trial for leadership, set by a council of Decepticon elders, consisted of hunting down and exterminating several Autobot prisoners released on Earth, but due to the intervention of Nightbeat and Siren, Thunderwing was taken offline. He later reactivated and went on a rampage before a Decepticon squad arrived to take him back to Cybertron. He beat the squad into obeying him and then launched a doomed attack on the Ark, in revenge for what Nightbeat did to him. While this attack was a failure, the drive and ambition he'd shown impressed the Decepticon elders, and they promoted him to Decepticon commander.

In his first U.S. Appearance, he was concerned with the Autobot Pretender Classics bringing hope to the Autobot resistance and increasing the number of attacks on Autobot bases. He sent a team of Decepticon assassins, led by Bludgeon, to crush the Pretenders and the entire resistance cell. The assassin group followed the Autobots down to the center of Cybertron, where they accidentally awakened the god-like Primus (whoops!), causing the events that led to the Matrix Quest.

Obsessed with acquiring the power of the Creation Matrix, Thunderwing followed the various Autobot squads, intending to steal the Matrix once they located it for him. During the mission, he was able to capture and severely wound Nightbeat's squad and fought the Classic Pretenders to a standstill before finally reaching the Matrix. However, the Matrix had already begun to become corrupted, and wanting to better understand the nature of evil, it bonded with Thunderwing (heck of a choice, right?) and became far more corrupt. The warlord became possessed by the Matrix, depriving him of his free will and unleashing him on the Ark.

The possessed Thunderwing was defeated by a joint effort between the Autobots and the Decepticons. Still holding the Matrix, he was hurled to an unknown planetoid, where he remained inactive until the corrupted Matrix revived him and used him to attack Unicron. However, the attack failed, killing Thunderwing and causing Optimus Prime to capture and revert the Matrix to its original state.

You know, I don't care how obscure your toy may be, if you manage to get hold of the Matrix, go nuts enough and get powerful enough to cause the Autobots and Decepticons to unite long enough to take up arms against you, and then are crazy enough to pick a fight with Unicron -- you're going to get noticed. And Thunderwing certainly did.

The Generation One version of Thunderwing would later appear in the Transformers Armada comic, as an interdimensional herald of Unicron, during a sort of crossover story that brought several Transformers universes together, briefly.

In the IDW comic book, Thunderwing appeared in the Stormbringer mini-series. Thunderwing was the first Transformer scientist to realize that the war between the Autobots and the Decepticons was also killing Cybertron. He tried to find a way of ensuring Transformers could survive the inevitable deterioration of their homeworld, with the invention of the bio-cybernetic grafting technology, where protective outer shells -- certainly a nod to the Pretenders -- would be created from "bodily tissue" extracted from living Transformers. Showing it to Megatron, the Decepticon leader rejected it as an abomination (and if Megatron thinks something is an abomination -- hoo, boy!), and stripped Thunderwing of his rank. Desperate, Thunderwing tested the grafting process on himself. The result was a disaster. Thunderwing was transformed into a supremely powerful, but completely insane being, and went on a rampage that devastated even more of the planet before facing a combined Autobot-Decepticon force at Thunderhead Pass that defeated him, leaving his sentience burnt out.

Okay, that's twice this guy has gone so nuts but been so powerful in the bargain that it's taken both the Autobots and the Decepticons to put him down.

As for the original toy, the same online research mentions that Thunderwing transformed into jet. His Pretender shell also transformed into an interstellar jet, and was able to combine with his vehicle form. His original tech spec profile was rather generic, describing him as an untrustworthy and ambitious spy. His appearance and prominence in both the US and UK comics drive his toy into meteoric popularity, despite the relatively small number of Thunderwings produced.

I'd say so. I don't even remember the original toy, and up until recently, though the character was largely the creation of the comic book!

So, how's the new toy? Very impressive, and clearly it takes its design cues from the comic book incarnation of the character, which I assume is acceptably close to the original toy, although obviously there is no Pretender shell this time around.

In vehicle form, which is how Thunderwing comes packaged, he resembles a futuristic, but not implausible jet. He is just shy of 6-3/4" in length, and has a wingspan of 5 inches. Thunderwing is rather angular in appearance, especially the wings, which are the most futuristic aspect of his appearance, with sharp angles on the top, and a slight forward sweep jutting forth at the tips of the wings. The front of his aircraft mold is more conventional, with slightly more curved lines and an obvious cockpit. I doubt very much that there's any actual, real-world plane out there that closely resembles Thunderwing, but I'd bet if you turned this toy over to an aircraft designer, they might be able to come up with something close that would actually fly.

Thunderwing is mostly an off-white in color, with blue trim on his wings, and little blue wings at the front hear the cockpit, whose canopy is a translucent orange. The tips of his jets in the rear are purple, which make for a good match for the purple Decepticon emblems that appear on the forward-swept tips of his wings. It's worth noting that the very front of his plane mode detaches to become a "recon drone".

Transformers toys use a numerical ranking system to denote the difficulty of their transformation process. Thunderwing, interesting enough, rates a "2", which is described as "Easy". Most of the Transformers in this particular stage tend to get a "3", for "Intermediate". However, if you flip Thunderwing over, it's rather easy to see how he got that "Easy". Readily apparent on the underside of the aircraft is Thunderwing's head, torso, arms, and upper legs.

This presents one with a Transformer that looks good in vehicle mode only from the top and at a slight angle. Get to a side view, and Thunderwing's robotic appearance becomes obvious. However, I also tend to believe that it really couldn't be helped. Clearly, the designers wanted to create a Thunderwing that, in his robot mode, looked as close to the classic version as he appeared in the comic book as possible. And Thunderwing's robotic appearance is pretty unusual in some respects, which I will get to once we've completed the transformation.

Back in the day, instructions for Transformers were provided in both illustrated and written form. These days, it's just graphics, and sometimes, I have found, that's just not quite enough, especially when you're transforming a three-dimensional object based on two-dimensional instructions. It is my hope that by providing some written instructions in this review, that I can make the transformation process a little easier for you. I've also found it useful to keep the package back, which has a photograph of the toy in robotic mode, on hand for visual reference.

The first thing to do is make sure Thunderwing's landing gear is retracted. Right out of the package, it already should be. Next, fold the upper wings flat against the outer wings. Then, take the outer edges of the outer wings, and rotate them outward at an angle.

Now, take the front of the plane, and along the double hinge and post that will appear, raise it up and back relative to the rest of the aircraft. Then take the back of the plane, and flip it up and over, 180 degrees. Then snap the front of the plane against the flipped up back part of the plane. By now, Thunderwing should be looking more robotic than aircraft-like.

The next step is the only one that comes across as a little tricky. It took me a moment to figure out what the instructions wanted me to do. Take the ENTIRE front of the torso -- not just the chest, and swing it outwards ninety degrees. Honestly, it's hard to tell that this is even something you can do with the toy, but it's certainly a crucial step.

Next, swivel the legs down. The upper legs have been hidden in the torso until now. I found this a little tougher than it should have been, as the figure was assembled quite tightly. This is not something I object to, but I certainly didn't want to break the toy. However, I did manage to get the legs down. Then split the feet open, snap the torso front back into place, and Thunderwing is completely in his robotic form. And yeah, I'd say it's fair to call this one "Easy". And I really don't mind the break, either.

In robot mode, Thunderwing stands about five inches to the top of his head. That's a little short for a Classics-style Transformer, but given this guy's temper, I'm not going to be the one to tell him that. Besides, if you count the front of the plane mounted to his back, he's six inches tall.

In robot mode, Thunderwing looks very much like his Generation 1 comic book counterpart. Here the designers had a distinct advantage. Since very few of Thunderwing's robotic parts are required for the plane's appearance, which is as much as anything almost an "add on" to Thunderwing's back, they were able to take the comic likeness of the character and really match it very precisely.

Thunderwing's head, honestly, looks like a nastier version of Megatron. It has a similar shape, but a more pronounced brow, black in color, and a gold face with a rather jagged mouth. The character was actually portrayed as having fangs in the comic book! His eyes are orange, and are designed with the feature whereby the back of his head is molded in translucent orange, and when struck by light from the back, his eyes appear to glow. Unfortunately, in Thunderwing's case, the front of the plane on his back tends to get in the way of this somewhat, so it doesn't work as well as some who have this feature.

Thunderwing is a fairly ornate robot. His chest, although mostly off-white in color, has several large black panels at the shoulders and abdomen, and these ridged areas of bright metallic green everywhere else. His arms and upper legs are dark green in color, are somewhat ridged, and have these gold, highly ridged panels on them. His hands, very stylized in appearance, have sharp, almost claw-like fingers.

Thunderwing's lower legs are off-white in color, with ridged dark green panels on the side, and his feet, which emerge from the front and back of his legs, are purple in color. They do not extend flat, which makes Thunderwing look just a bit like he's standing on tip-toes. Fortunately, given the design of his feet, he nevertheless stands very well.

Thunderwing's accessories include a couple of spring-loaded missile launchers, which he can either hold in his hands, or attach to his wings, but he also has a couple of smaller blaster cannons attached to his shoulders, which rotate somewhat.

The detail work on Thunderwing is considerable, and extremely well-sculpted, and equally well-painted, and neatly painted. I have no complaints about any of this whatsoever.

And, of course, in Robot mode, Thunderwing is very well articulated, one of the main high points to this line as far as I'm concerned. Thunderwing is poseable at the head, arms, upper arm swivel, elbows, wrists, legs, upper leg swivel, knees, and feet, although that last one is more part of his transformation than anything.

Creating a better character profile for the package back than Thunderwing clearly had the first time around, his card back reads as follows: Thunderwing is so single-minded and powerful that even Megatron hesitates to get in his way. He is loyal to the Decepticon commander, but once he is given an order, nothing stops him until the mission is complete. All too often, that mission is the annihilation of a world that has defied the will of Megatron - a task at which Thunderwing excels.

His various power rankings give him a "10" in Fireblast, "9" in Strength (yeah, really don't want to pick a fight with this guy), "8" in Speed and Endurance, "7" in Courage, "6" in Intelligence, and "5" in Rank and Skill. Then again, if you've got a "10" in Fireblast, close is probably enough.

So, what's my final word here? Thunderwing may have been a somewhat obscure toy originally, but the character certainly wasn't, thanks to the comics. And thanks to a more recent appearance than the 1980's courtesy of IDW, this maniacal Decepticon's presence continues to be known among the modern fans, and I'd say that's fairly reflected by the toy, because it hasn't been that easy to find. However, any longtime Transformers fan will certainly want to add it to their collection. Especially in robot mode, this definitely looks like Thunderwing, and as such as a most distinctive Transformer!

The TRANSFORMERS GENERATIONS figure of THUNDERWING certainly has my highest recommendation!