REVIEW: TRANSFORMERS PRIME VEHICON
I'll readily admit, I tend to prefer the original GENERATION 1 TRANSFORMERS above all others, and haven't really followed or cared much for many of the Transformers concepts that have followed -- although I did enjoy Beast Wars immensely.
Nevertheless, I am pleased to see that Transformers continues to enjoy a substantial popularity in the toy aisles and in other forms of pop culture media, including comic books, movies, video games, and animated series.
And every once in a while, a particular character from a given Transformers concept will catch my eye in the toy stores, even if I haven't followed the concept all that much. Such was the case recently when I came across this character, VEHICON, from the TRANSFORMERS PRIME line of robot toys.
Now, I've never seen the Transformers Prime show. For one thing, I don't get the HUB Network on my Cable system. Among longtime Transformers fans such as myself, the series seems to get something of a mixed reaction. And from what I've seen from illustrations and advertisements, the more familiar characters are just a little too stylized for my tastes. But Vehicon amounts to a new character.
So let's have a look at the Transformers Prime series, and then at the Vehicon figure.
Transformers: Prime premiered in the United States on The Hub, on Friday, November 26, 2010, as a special preview. It aired officially on Monday, November 29, 2010. On February 11, 2011, the series started to air new episodes, under the name of Transformers: Prime – The Animated Series. Other channels air the series internationally. The second season began airing on February 18, 2012. A third season has been announced to air in the spring of 2013, and will most likely open with an arc of the Autobots facing a beast-like Decepticon.
Prime began with a five-part mini-series titled "Darkness Rising", which served to introduce the main characters and provide a back story on the Transformers and their war. In Jasper, Nevada, three young humans, Jack Darby, Miko Nakadai, and Rafael Esquivel, are accidentally caught in the crossfire in a fight between enormous robots that transform into vehicles. They are taken to the base of the heroic Autobots, where their leader Optimus Prime explains that he and his team consisting of Arcee, Ratchet, Bulkhead, and Bumblebee, are from the planet Cybertron, and not long ago the Autobots had a devastating war against the ruthless Megatron and his followers, the Decepticons. While this is going on, Megatron returns from a three-year-long exile in deep space, bringing with him Dark Energon, a substance able to revive the dead and he sets out to raise a vast army of the undead and conquer Earth. In the conclusion to Darkness Rising, Megatron is seen in front of the Space Bridge waiting for his army of the undead to come through it; however, the Space Bridge explodes, and Megatron is seen no more. During this mini-series, Arcee's partner, Cliffjumper is killed in the first episode, setting the tone for the series.
In Season One, after Megatron's supposed death during the explosion that destroyed the Decepticons' Space Bridge, Starscream appoints himself as the new Decepticon leader, but to his annoyance, Megatron is found barely alive in the wreckage of the Space Bridge. Megatron remains in a coma for a large portion of season 1, until he returns to power and punishes Starscream severely for his actions. Throughout the series Jack, Miko, and Rafael develop closer bonds with the Autobots, and several new characters are introduced in the first season such as Bulkhead's old friend, Wheeljack, a former member of a group of Autobots called Wreckers, Silas, leader of a group of human villains known as MECH, the rogue Decepticon known as Airachnid, and the Decepticons known as Skyquake, Makeshift, Knock Out, and Breakdown. At the end of the season, the Autobots form an uneasy alliance with Megatron when Earth is threatened by Unicron the Chaos Bringer.
In Season Two, Optimus Prime has lost all memory of his previous life. He reverts back to when he was the data clerk Orion Pax, and Megatron tricks "Orion" into joining the Decepticons. Distraught by this turn of events, the Autobots attempt to use the legendary super computer known as Vector Sigma to restore the Matrix of Leadership as well as Optimus' memories, and they eventually succeed. The main theme for the rest of the season is the discovery of ancient relics from the Vaults of Iacon on Cybertron buried on Earth, such as the Apex Armor, an indestructible suit of body armor, the Star Saber, a legendary sword and the Phase Shifter, a device that allows its user to walk through solid matter, with the Autobots and Decepticons fighting over each new discovery which ultimately leads their battle all the way back to Cybertron. New characters introduced in the second season such as the Autobots' new friend, Smokescreen, the Decepticons' deadly allies, Shockwave and Dreadwing, brother of Skyquake. Also including a swarm of Insecticons and the fierce warrior called Hardshell.
At the New York Comic-Con on October 11, 2012, Transformers: Prime: Beast Hunters was revealed, and is set to be released in Spring 2013. The season will begin with the Autobots recovering following the Decepticons' attack on their base which caused Optimus Prime's fate to become unknown following the destruction of the Autobot Base. It will also feature the Autobots having to face a new beast-like Decepticon called Predaking and the return of Shockwave.
And where does Vehicon fit into this? Well, we first encounter the name Vehicon in Transformers: Beast Machines. This was the sequel to Transformers: Beast Wars. After spending an extended period of time on a prehistoric Earth, the heroic Maximals finally overcame the evil Predacons, and returned to Cybertron. But something had gone terribly wrong. Cybertron was a virtual cybertronic wasteland, and the only robots that seemed to remain were near-mindless slaves under Megatron's rule. He was now calling his army "Vehicons", rather than Predacons, emphasizing their machine nature over the animal forms of the Maximals.
However, it is just the name that has been carried over, much as one of the most popular characters during the Beast Wars era was Dinobot, who had the same name as an entire faction of dinosaur-like Autobots from Generation One. I don't believe there's any reason to assume any sort of relationship between this Vehicon and the Vehicons of the Beast Machines era.
The name Vehicon/Jetticon is used to describe the "Decepticon Troopers". They are usually the ones that Megatron sends out to fight the Autobots before the rest of the Decepticons come. They are usually lead by a "General" or higher rank of Decepticon, such as Starscream or Megatron.
Unlike previous versions of Vehicon drones, such as those from Beast Machines, these are not mindless, but seem to have separate personalities.
There are two varieties of Vehicon: Those that transform into Earth muscle cars, and those that become Cybertronian jet fighters; the latter are more frequently seen. There is also a servant class Vehicon used for mineral labour such as mining for energon. They have a slight difference in physical appearance, but are also portrayed as having their own personalities.
They have appeared frequently in the Transformers: Prime animated series. In "Darkness Rising Part One", they are sent to kidnap Cliffjumper and Starscream kills him. In the next episode, Megatron uses Dark Energon which revives him into a mindless Terrorcon zombie-like transformer. Soon after that he is killed by Megatron.
After Megatron's apparent death, some Vehicons refuse to take Starscream's orders while others are loyal to him, even to the point that they address him as "Lord Starscream". I guess some things never change...
The Vehicons are the most frequently killed characters over the course of the series, usually at the hands of Autobots. In "Con Job", a large number of them were a part of the strike force Starscream intended to use in an assault on the Autobot base.
When Megatron is revived, they are loyal to Megatron again. Megatron first orders them to "exterminate the pests" (Bumblebee, Ratchet, and Raf) as he has "his own extermination to take care of" (get his revenge on Starscream). After that, they continued to appear but had no major roles.
In "One Shall Rise, Part 3", they question Airachnid's leadership, before Soundwave battles her. Soundwave wins, and the Vehicons continue their wait for Megatron. When Megatron returned, they bowed before him as Megatron introduced their newest commrad, Orion Pax.
In "Orion Pax, Parts 1, 2, and 3", the Vehicons guard Orion Pax from any Autobots trying to rescue him like Arcee. When Starscream comes aboard, they attempt to arrest him, before he kills them. He steals Energon cubes and stumbles onto Orion Pax, whom he believes is still Optimus Prime. Not to long after that, they check in with Orion, and find Starscream. They tell Orion to stay in his quarters and one Vehicon chases Starscream, but is killed in an explosion. Starscream tells the Autobots the location of Optimus Prime and the space bridge. Two Vehicons force Orion to finish "Project: Iacon," but he kills them and goes through the ground bridge to face Megatron, who is ready to kill Arcee. They don't appear again in that episode.
When Breakdown asked what was going on with the space bridge with the Autobots attacked it, Ratchet told Raf to patch in Agent Fowler to trick Breakdown into believing he's a Vehicon.
In "Armada", they are seen roaming halls of the Nemesis, at one point startling Bulkhead who had become trapped on board, but despite this Bulkhead manages to remain unseen, by the Vehicons and Megatron. During the Insecticon assault engineered by Airachnid, the Vehicons defend the ship alongside their leader Megatron, though they prove no match for the Insecticons, unlike leader Megatron. They are saved from further casualties by Airachnid's accidental imprisonment in an Insecticon stasis pod during her fight with Arcee, frees the Insecticons from her control. The Insecticons cease their assault and pledges allegiance to Megatron. Follow this, the Vehicons inform Megatron the ship power core has been damaged (by Bulkhead) and they are losing power, Megatron orders them to prepare for landing.
In "Flying Mind", Megatron has the Vehicons restore the power core using Dark Energon. However this causes the ship to gain a mind and will of its own. Realizing the ship is no longer under his control Megatron orders his forces to retake the ship at all cost. However the ship uses stasis beams to put the Vehicons, Insecticons, Knock-Out, Dreadwing, and eventually Megatron himself in stasis lock. They remain in that state until Jack, Miko, and Raf (who had boarded the ship with Agent Fowler to steal the Iacon datafiles) dump the Dark Energon that granted the ship life, freeing the ship crew.
Throughout the series, different voice actors have voiced the Vehicons, which I personally regard as unusual in and of itself. Among those voicing Vehicons have been: Steven Blum, David Kaye, Josh Keaton, Daran Norris, Nolan North, Kevin Michael Richardson, and Frank Welker.
So what we have here is one of the first real "army-builder" toys in the Transformers universe that I am aware of (admittedly, the line has been so massive over the years, and has undergone so many conceptual overhauls through various incarnations, that I suspect I've probably missed a few).
The information I researched added that several Vehicons appear in Transformers: Prime with a somewhat similar appearance to "The Revenge of the Fallen's" version of Soundwave.
So, how's the toy? Very cool, really. This is the "muscle car" version of the Vehicons. In vehicle mode, which is how he comes packaged, the Vehicon is about 4-1/2" in length.
Technically, on the back of his package, he's designated as a "Pursuit Car". But whatever the name, the Vehicon makes a very interesting vehicle. Personally, I'd say he looks more like a futuristic sports car.
The Vehicon is black, with just a tiny hint of metallic purple trim on the sides near the front, and on the back in a couple of narrow stripes. If I were to describe it, I'd probably call it "minimalist Tron". The Vehicon has transparent headlights, and windows. There is a small purple Decepticon emblem on the very front of the car.
Although very sporty in appearance, the Vehicon also has a very angular look to his automotive form. Except for the wheels, there aren't a lot of curved lines on this car. It's all straight lines and ankles, very few of which are right angles. This is a car with a lot of distinct edges.
Frankly, it works for a car representing the bad guys. Between the color and the style, the Vehicon definitely looks menacing.
Now, let's consider his transformation. Vehicon is given an "Intermediate" rating of difficulty, which is about standard for Transformers in this size range. So let's see.
Somewhat to my surprise, the pictorial instructions use, not line drawings, but black and white images that seem to have been computer rendered. This almost makes me wonder if they were derived directly from the toy design schematics, or even possibly from the show.
The first thing to do is to swing the side panels, including the rear wheels, out and back. Then, in a rather dramatic-looking move, you flip the entire top of the car over 180 degrees, based on a hinge on the front of the car.
Next, in a move that's a bit more easily drawn than performed, you split the entire former top section of the car down the middle. It's snapped in place with several small latches, and the best way to do this is one latch at a time.
Now, you fold the various segments of the former top down upon themselves. I have to say this is one of the more innovative transformation designs I've seen in a while.
After this, you flip up a couple of panels on what have now become the upper legs of the Vehicon, and then flip the front part of the upper legs, including these panels, down to become the fronts of the lower legs, and the panels have become the feet. This is a little indistinct on the instructions, but was easy enough to work out.
Next, rotate the lower leg portions containing the wheels back just a little (this seems to be for aesthetic reasons as much as anything), and then raise the car's spoiler, which is now in the top of the robot's upper body, and swing it backwards. This will raise the Vehicon's head into position.
The final step is to extend the arms. Interestingly, the instructions only show how to do this with one arm, but the angle needed to show the necessary transformation is a little odd, so it's pretty much a pictorial necessity. Needless to say the procedure works with both arms. It's weird and more than a little tricky, and I found myself having to sort of figure it out based on the toy, the instructions, and the picture of the fully transformed Vehicon on the package, but it ultimately worked out.
And -- the Vehicon is transformed. He also comes with a fancy blaster cannon that he can hold in his hands.
As a robot, the Vehicon is even more impressive. He stands about 5-1/4" to the top of his head, but the high shoulder blades, really the back wheels and fenders of the car mode, raise his full height to slightly over 6 inches.
As Transformers go, the Vehicon seems to have a surprisingly angular and slender body. However, this is much in keeping with the style of the Prime animated series. The standard design seems to be a prominent upper body, an exceptionally narrow waist, and relatively slender limbs. In this respect, the Vehicon fits the bill perfectly.
In robot mode, the Vehicon is much more colorful than his almost entirely black car mode. Much of his body now appears to be a very dark blue-purple. This includes much of his upper torso, as well as significant portions of his arms and legs. He still has some of the bright metallic purple trim visible, as well as a fair amount of silver, especially on his head and chest.
The Vehicon's head is almost completely silver, especially on the front and sides. Trying to find any recognizable facial features that correspond to anything human-like doesn't work too well. It's not a human-type face whatsoever. There's a narrow, angled purple slit for eyes, and a bit of a mechanical muzzle for the rest of the face, but that's about it.
The top of the head and the entire neck are black. There's a purple space on the top of the Vehicon's head, which allows for light to come through and make it appear as though the eye-slit lights up. This has been a frequent practice on Transformers ever since the Classics line got rolling, and when it works well, it can be a cool feature. It works reasonably well on the Vehicon.
The Vehicon's chest is mostly silver, showing some mechanical detail, with a Decepticon emblem in the center. Overall, much like his car mode, the Vehicon has a very angular appearance, even more than other Transformers appearing in this Prime concept.
In robot mode, the Vehicon is very well articulated. This is something I especially appreciate about modern Transformers. He is poseable at the head, arms, upper arm swivel, elbows, wrists, legs, upper leg swivels, and knees.
The toy also comes with a DVD of a complete episode from Transformers Prime.
The package describes the Vehicon as follows: Every Vehicon knows how likely he is to be dismantled - either by the Autobots or by a Decepticon commander in need of spare parts. Danger is just part of life for them, and they welcome it. To a Vehicon, happiness is loyalty to Megatron and a warm blaster cannon.
Well, as long as they're happy... The Vehicon's various power rankings are as follows: They get a "7" in Courage, "6" in Strength and Speed, "5" in Intelligence, Endurance, and Fireblast, "4" in Skill, and "3" in Rank.
So, what's my final word? Even if you're not a fan of Transformers Prime, this is a cool Transformer. And, if you have the means, he could also be a cool army builder, which isn't something that can be said about very many Transformers. His size allows him to work with other Transformers lines, such as Fall of Cybertron, or even the Classics. While his design is definitely out of Prime, I think that given the Vehicon's status as both a new character and a potential army-builder, he could fit in just about anywhere.
From a toy standpoint, he's certainly well made, looks cool in both modes, and I have to say he has one of the most unusual transformation procedures that I've encountered in quite some time. I sincerely believe that any Transformers collector would enjoy adding the Vehicon -- or Vehicons -- to their collection.
The VEHICON from TRANSFORMERS PRIME definitely has my highest recommendation!