Hasbro has declared 2015 to be the “Year of the Combiner”, and the first of its releases are on us now – the Aerialbots, the original Autobot Combiner Team that first debuted back in 1986. So today, we take a look at their newest member – Alpha Bravo!
Alpha Bravo is something that seems to be quite rare in Transformers lore these days – a new character! Back in ye olden days of the 1980s, all of the Aerialbots were planes, but Hasbro have decided to mix it up and throw a helicopter in there too. Though I’m traditionally a nostalgia buff, I’ve got no real emotional investment in the retro Superion so I think it’s a change for the better.
Going off TF Wiki he doesn’t seem to have appeared in any of the cartoons as yet, but he has appeared in some of the IDW comics (which I really must get round to reading). He’s a blank slate to me, so that’s fine. Hopefully he doesn’t end up being dreadful if/when he makes it to the animated world.
SCULPT AND ARTICULATION
Like many Transformers before him, Alpha Bravo is obviously heavily inspired by Japanese mech shows such as Gundam and Macross/Robotech. But one of the closest points of reference is actually from Lego – this guy, who you see in the photo to the left.
From a mech design standpoint, he’s kind of generic, but as an Autobot he’s quite distinctive. For starters, he’s got a faceplate instead of a mouth (which instantly boosts any character about 10 points in my book). Also, his primarily orange and white colour scheme really makes him pop in amongst my TFs, who are primarily dark-hued Decepticons. Bot mode alone justifies the purchase, in my book.
*swivel-hinged elbows (the hinge is also ratcheted)
The “toes” also move, but this is part of the transformation and won’t necessarily help with posing, due to their angle. Most of the articulation works very well – a bicep swivel might have been nice, but it’s not really necessary. The only real problem area (and it’s not a major one) is the hips. This is a problem I’ve run into a few times on Transformers figures. On most human-based action figures, the hip is usually some variation on a ball and socket joint, just like a real-life hip. Some Transformers are like this too, but most of them force a squared-off balljoint beneath an equally square or rectangular hip – naturally this creates an issue and will limit the poses you can place your robot in. Not a major drama, just something to flag.
The alt mode itself just doesn’t quite grab me, though. At first glance it kind of looks like a space shuttle (based on the nosecone) but it’s actually a helicopter. There’s nothing really wrong with it, but I think the rotor should be back a little further, and the relative lack of paint in comparison to the prototype shots makes it a little flat.
Still, it’s a huge amount of fun to transform between modes. It’s quite intuitive; I was able to figure out most of the broad strokes without looking at the instructions, but what threw me was the legs – the lower halves of the legs actually break open to conceal the upper halves when you’re going into vehicle mode. With this said, there’s still a lot of little tabs and slots all over the place that are very easy to get wrong. The ones holding the tail rotor down in vehicle mode are particularly tight – be careful when changing him back to robot, as you don’t want to break him.
The vehicle mode doesn’t make it immediately obvious that there’s a robot stuffed away in there, which is also nice – the main “tell” is the hands/missiles.
Alpha Bravo’s main accessory is his assault rifle, which can be held in either hand. It’s plain black plastic but has a couple of nice details, particularly the ammo feed. When he’s in vehicle mode, you can plug the gun into a 5mm hole on his underside.
Like all of the new Aerialbots, Alpha Bravo can serve as either an arm or leg for Superion. His default position is a leg though, so he comes with a “foot” piece.
Last but not least, he comes with a trading card which has nice art but isn’t very toy accurate – he looks more red than orange in it and also has two weapons. I might put it to use as poster on one of the Turtle’s walls or something.
I’m yet to see the Transformer who would be a contender for paint-job of the year, but Alpha Bravo’s is some of the neatest work I’ve seen in the Generations line as yet. No fuzzy lines or accidental overspray…it’s a nice change. It’s not amazing, but the only real weak points are the gold on his arms/missiles. The tampographs are also exceptionally well-applied.
Alpha Bravo has been available at both Target and Toys R Us in Australia. I’m yet to see them anywhere else, and based on prior waves of TF: Generations, I’d suggest getting in quickly.
Hasbro has taken an interesting approach to this and the next wave of Combiner Wars. Drag Strip (a Decepticon who is part of another gestalt, Menasor), was released as part of the same wave as Superion.
The Combiner Wars figures are more or less interchangeable between their particular gestalts, so you can make a complete Superion now…but you won’t be able to make a “true” Superion until the Menasor wave is released later in the year, as this includes Air Raid – who, irritatingly, is actually the only Aerialbot I had planned to buy.
The new Superion looks amazing, but I just don’t think I can afford him at the moment. Other toys have my finances locked down for most of 2015 – in particular, DEVASTATOR, who will no doubt cost a king’s ransom. Awesome as it would be to have two massive combiners to fight each other, I think I’ll just pick up Air Raid when he’s released and call it quits.
Taken solely on his own merits, Alpha Bravo is incredibly fun. His alt mode may be a little underwhelming, but he looks so great in robot mode that it doesn’t really matter.