"Generations" Thunderwing Toy Review


General Information:
Release Date: December 2010
Price Point: $10.99 (depending on retailer)
Retailer: General (Toys R Us, Target, Wal-Mart etc.)
Accessories: Missiles x 2, Missile launchers x 2, Drone

Thunderwing is one of the more interesting Transformers characters in the rich history of the line. Originally he was a "Mega Pretender", a Transformer with an outer "shell" that he could hide in or use as an extra body in battle. Unlike other Pretenders, Thunderwing's shell was able to transform into a vehicle mode and he himself could transform into a small vehicle that combined with the shell's vehicle (hence the "Mega" monicker). This character could have easily been lost in a pile of Pretenders that came out that year were it not for his appearance in the original Marvel Transformers series. There, he featured prominantly in a storyline called "Matrix Quest", where the Autobots and Decepticons went searching the galaxy for the Autobot Matrix of Leadership. In his quest, Thunderwing became consumed with it to the point where he even confronted the great Unicron himself! Over the course of this story, the character suddenly took on an unexpected prominance among Transformers fans, and what could have just been an obscure Generation One toy became a piece that many fans sought out at high after market prices.

Years later, writer Simon Furman would revive one of his greatest characters in a new incarnation. Instead of a leader of Decepticons, IDW Publishing's version of Thunderwing was a powerful, almost unstoppable force that united Autobots and Decepticons to stop. Given this popularity, it is no surprise that Thunderwing made an ideal candidate to be given a new figure as part of the "Generations" toy line.

Vehicle Mode:
Most "Generations" and "Classics" style Transformers have worked hard not to stray from the source material of the character if practical, and in the case of Thunderwing it's very evident that the designers looked closely at the original figure before designing this one. This version of Thunderwing is a very streamlined version of the original Pretender's design. The original Pretender shell formed a large vehicle, then Thunderwing himself essentially formed the nosecone in the front. This layout has been duplicated, but with less complexity. That sounds like a bad thing, but given the constraints of the Deluxe price point, it is not unexpected that this would not be a full replica of the Generation One Thunderwing in design.

What this figure does have is a primary figure (Thunderwing himself) forming a jet with a "Drone" attached to the nosecone, extending it outward a bit. This Drone is analagous in design to Generation One Thunderwing's vehicle mode, where he formed what amounted to a nosecone. In terms of design, the overall shape is very similar to Generation One Thunderwing. There is a nosecone in front with wings protruding out the sides. This leads to wings that sweep back at an angle. The ends of each wing have extra extensions that angle downward slightly. On Generation One Thunderwing, these extensions simply pointed out to the sides, but on this figure they sweep forward at a slight angle, giving the vehicle a much more dynamic look. The vehicle also has vertical fins, much like its Generation One predecessor. Another design homage to Generation One Thunderwing can be found on the sides towards the front. There you'll see his robot arms pretty prominantly if you look at the figure from the sides. These arms have weapons on the shoulders that point forward. Not only does this give him additional firepower in this mode, but it is a direct design correlation to a similar feature on Generation One Thunderwing!

Towards the front and back of the vehicle are thin air intake vents, each with a slightly different design. One of my favorite details is inside the cockpit, where there is a seat and control panel sculpted inside.

Attached to the underside of the wings are his missile launchers, each sculpted as a wide, pod-like weapon with additional sculpted missiles (non functioning) on the sides of each weapon. You'll find more "weaponry" on his nosecone, where the Drone attachment has two machine guns sculpted into it. I love this extra little touch because it is subtle yet adds a lot to the figure.

Where this Thunderwing differs a lot form its Generation One counterpart are the details on the figure. Instead of the large tubes and other such designs on the Generation One version, this version uses a lot of triangular designs in rows sweeping back along the surface of the vehicle. Other details include vents on the neck behind the cockpit and lines leading to diamond shapes on his wings. These details are also reflected in the small Drone that becomes the front of the vehicle. In addition to the aforementioned machine gun details, there are also thruster details in the back and small angled lines running along the surface of the vheicle. The overall effect gives you the feel of a very fast vehicle and not the rather bulky, "warship" like design of the Generation One version. The detail level is simply fantastic and I really enjoy the way it manages to use a different set of designs than the Generation One toy.

The primary plastic colors on Thunderwing are light grey, turquoise, black, purple and translucent orange. The light grey dominates the vehicle mode, making up most of the top section and much of the bottom section, including the covers on the landing gear. Turquoise plastic is seen most prominantly on his arms, which are clearly visible in this mode on the sides. Black plastic is found on the robot shoulder guns that form vents and weapons pointing forward in this mode. You'll find purple plastic in use on the rear thrusters as well as his missile launchers. Adding a nice dimension to the color scheme is translucent orange. This plastic is used for several parts including the cockpit cover, the missiles and a small hex shaped design on the Drone. This choice of colors is interesting as it does not entirely rely on the character's Generation One toy for reference. Several colors such as the light grey and purple definitely have analagous colors on Generation One Thunderwing, but parts like the turquoise arms for instance are references to Thunderwing's appearance in the Marvel Comic Books from the 80's and 90's where Thunderwing appeared with some green coloring on him, something the original figure did not have. I enjoy this combination of influences and find it most appropriate since the character originated as a toy that was then elevated in status by the Marvel comic book storyline.

Paint applications are done up in blue, gold and purple in this form. The blue is the most prominent color, making up a majority of the wing sections that swing back and outward. On each wing is a purple Decepticon symbol towards the edges. The gold detail is found at the base of the nosecone section, behind the cockpit. It's used to paint the vent details in that section and look really nice. Again, these colors take influence from the Generation One version of the character. Generation One Thunderwing had all these colors, especially the blue which makes up a significant amount of space on this figure. I would have liked a bit more color on the top of the vehicle. The light grey color looks rather plain without it. Ideally it would have been nice to have some color fill in the lines sculpted into the figure to bring them out more, but it's hardly a deal breaker in any sense.

I've already mentioned the Drone that comes with this figure. The way you detach it involves first swinging down the front landing gear, then pulling it off. It snaps nicely back into place and isn't loose at all. Under each wing is a missile launcher you fire by pressing the small black triggers. There is one slight issue with the launchers in that the pegs that attach them to the wings are not particularly long, so they don't ground very well in the pegs. A couple of times I pressed the button the entire launcher fell off (as the missile launched, much to my cat's delight). It does fit tightly and won't fall off if you're just holding the jet or displaying it, but I can imagine kids losing these launchers very fast with rough play so be careful with them.

Transformation to Robot Mode:

  1. Detach the missile launchers and set them aside for now.
  2. Swing the vertical fins down.
  3. Swing the wings outward on their hinges.
  4. Swing the rear wing section forward.
  5. Swing the nosecone section back on top of the wing section.
  6. Flip the vehicle over and swing the lower legs back.
  7. Swing the chest plate piece covering the robot head down.
  8. Raise the chest/waist section up.
  9. Swing the waist/leg section out and straighten out the legs.
  10. Swing each half of the feet out.
  11. Swing the chest/waist plate back into place.
  12. You can attach the missile launchers in the fists or on his wings for storage.

Robot Mode:
In the Generation One comic books, Thunderwing was portrayed mostly in his Pretender shell, giving him the appearance of an alien wearing armor more than a robot in disguise with lots of hard angles. This rather lean (but powerful looking) appearance was a very slimmed down version of the much bulkier Generation One action figure. This time around, the designers created a figure that is lean like his G1 comic book appearance while being able to transform as well. Like his Generation One comic book portrayal, he takes many design elements that are quite unique including a chest design with six sections that have vertical lines running through them. Tubes running along his beltline and legs also come directly from his Generation One design. Other elements that reflect this design are his lower legs which have a curved design, looking more like armor than blocky robot legs. His arms also reflect several G1 inspired design elements including clawed hands and the guns on his shoulders.

Thunderwing also figured prominently in an IDW Publishing storyline. There he was a Decepticon scientist who underwent a variant of the "Pretender" process, grafting organic and Cybertronian material together. This caused him to become very powerful - and insane. Some of the design elements of this figure are taken from that portrayal as well. The head design, while based on the Generation One design leans towards the IDW portrayal including the angled lines indicating teeth in the mouth and a crest flanked by two panels along with a thick brow piece above his eyes. The foot designs are more angled and look like they have claws at the end, which resemble the more angled feet of the IDW Publishing Thunderwing. Perhaps the most dramatic design element inspired by the IDW comics are the wings mounted on his back. I really like the touch of having the wings swing out, forming something of a "cape" on his back. While Generation One Thunderwing had wings on his Pretender shell's back, they were not quite as prominent or heavily featured in robot mode. Indeed, they were meant to be swung back out of sight. If you attach the weapons to the wings in this mode, they resemble the large thrusters seen on Thunderwing's back in that comic book.

Putting Thunderwing side by side with other "Generations" figures such as Red Alert or Soundwave really brings home just how different the aesthetic of Thunderwing is from your typical Transformer. He has a lot of small design elements you don't see often or as prominently in other figures including the aforementioned tubes on his beltline and legs and curved armor on his legs. I also include the ridged armor on his hips and the curved designs of his arms. Overall, I really like this sculpt a lot. I always enjoyed Thunderwing's portrayal in the Generation One comic books and to have a version much more in line with that portrayal is very exciting to this old skool fan.

This mode features a lot more color than the vehicle mode. This time out, you'll find green plastic joining the other colors from the vehicle mode. The green plastic makes up his arms, hip armor and upper legs. Most of the rest of the figure is cast in light grey except for the shoulders and feet, which are black and purple respectively. The paint scheme of this figure remains consistent with the vehicle mode, but makes greater use of those colors. For instance, gold is found on his face, arms, beltline and legs. Green paint is found on his chest, sides and lower legs. Black paint is found on his chest, waist and head. As mentioned before, many of these color choices were inspired not by the original toy, but rather his later appearances in the Marvel Generation One comic, which oddly swapped out green for many of the parts that had previously been purple. I really enjoy this homage to the history of this figure, which is of course part of the point of the "Generations" line.

Thunderwing has seventeen points of articulation in this form including four points in each arm and leg. Unfortunately, one design element actually causes limited articulation on the arms, namely the shoulder cannons. If you try to raise the arm straight up, the cannons push up against the wings. You could of course move the wings, then position the arm straight up and put them back, but that's hardly what most people would expect. That said, this is a rather crucial design element for the character and the arm can raise part way, so it is not a complete loss by any means, but I would be remiss if I did not point this out.

Thunderwing can wield his cannons as two separate weapons or you can combine them to form a larger (and much more impressive) looking cannon. This alludes to the rather gigantic cannon he was shown using in the Marvel comic book, which did not exist in the Generation One action figure. The Drone can stay on his back or be detached for separate play in this mode. Hasbro did mention at Botcon 2010 that the original idea was to make this Drone transformable, but the plans were dropped. Most fans presume this was due to budgetary concerns.

Final Thoughts:
I think many fans were disappointed that this figure wasn't larger considering the character's role in history. However, given that a majority of the new sculpts in "Generations" are of the Deluxe scale, I am very happy with the work done here. Thunderwing will definitely appeal more to classic Transformers fans, but even without that history this figure offers a cool looking jet, a robot with a rather unique aesthetic and fun play value. Highly recommended!

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