Well, its that time of year again. Or it would be, if I ever bothered with awards type things before. But you know, I never brought enough Transformers in a single year to justify one before. Bloody Combiner Wars, making me spend money. A few ground rules. This list largely derives from things I've brought this year. Combiners are treated as a single release, but their individual parts can be recognised too. Here we go, but first, the honourable mentions.
Honourable Mention: Ultra Magnus And Minimus Ambus
One of the few collector slanted releases without a combination focus, this represents the first truly good toy in the modern leader class. A great rendering of the character with lots of play value, whom is suitably big, and has an Animated inspired hammer gimmick. This writer is particularly pleased that Hasbro bit the bullet, and created a Minimus Ambus toy, despite the predictable and extensive complaints from G1 purists, and disappointed that Takara chickened out and made it Alpha Trion. The pair don't make the top ten proper due to the hollow construction, and the well-intentioned, but regrettably loose, opening hands.
Honourable Mention: Devastator
When it comes to being a colossal big green and purple robot, Devastator was no equal. Seriously, if you want a big bloody thing to step on people, he's your guy. His presence is commanding, and there's a strong 80's feel to events. Unfortunately, that 80's feel is also a weakness, individual Constructicons having patchy articulation and proportions, which means they don't make it into the top ten, fun as the set undeniably is. Takara's version may made have the cut though, with its improvements.
Number Ten: Silverbolt
Combiner Wars toys have often have simple yet elegant engineering, doing exactly what they must do in each form, but Silverbolt demands recognition. While having a solid robot form, and a characteristically flawed Concorde mode, his transformation into Superion's torso via a handstand was pure genius. This is easily the most innovative engineering this year, and possibly for the last three. That's not his only strength though, as the robot form nails the character, looking nicely heroic. This is definitely one of those toys you don't mind seeing remoulded, although maybe Scattorshot was a step too far.
Number Nine: Air Raid
The Aerialbots are the archetypal Wave 1 releases, big names highlighting what the toy line is about, but not the best of that line overall, as the bugs are being worked out. While still the best toys these characters have ever got, the Aerialbots are associated with unconvincing altmodes, articulation weaknesses, and Powerglide being a nuisance in gun mode. Coming out in Wave 2 however, Air Raid shows a sudden up-tick in refinement, so much so that had the rest of the team been of a similar standard, they'd be making a bigger showing today. His joints are tighter, 5mm ports are plentiful, and the overall appearance is great. The jet is about as convincing as it can be given the largely white robot mode, and you can have five different guns on it at once. Its a crying shame, given the rampant recycling that characterises Combiner Wars, we are only seeing this mould again in exclusive boxsets. And its an even bigger shame that UK fans had to import this guy to complete Superion.
Number Eight: Blackjack
While both literally and figuratively overshadowed by other toys on this list, Blackjack makes the cut for being exactly what he needs to be for his price point. He's a nice little car. His transformation is new and interesting, but familiar. His robot mode is effectively articulated, and he has a hand weapon, unlike so many of his kin. With so many of the Legend pricepoint being inferior remoulds from 2013/14, or of questionable use in the combination thing, Blackjack's only real competition is the juuuuusssssst-released Shockwave, which I don't have. Blackjack only fails due to a fault in Motormaster's design, preventing a secure connection in chestplate form, but let's not hold this against him. They took a single piece plastic accessory, and made it into a showstopper.
Number Seven: Transformers: Devastation
As an 80's original fan whom actually likes new things, I often feel that G1 fans get pandered to far too much. Rose tinted glasses aside, the 80's cartoon was a poorly made toy advert, and we've had much better fiction since. But, applying that style to a video game? One made by Platinum Games, masters of the spectacle fighter? Even I was interested. Overcoming obvious time and money restrictions, captures all that was great about the cartoon, and applies to a frenetic combat system with loads of 80's hair metal. A heady cocktail of nostalgia and bone-crunching gameplay, TF: D's only sin is that there is not more. Sequel please. DLC please. Game inspired redecos please.
Number Six: More Than Meets The Eye #47
Now for some Mood Whiplash. Some things aren't worthwhile because they are fun. Some things aren't nice. Some things are worthwhile because they are are challenging reads that go to dark places. Some things....some things, make you cry. This is one of those things. As compelling as it is tragic, this issue breaks new ground for transformers media.
Joint Number Five: Dead End And Protectobot Streetwise
I knew both of these toys would have to appear in this list somewhere, but separating them proved impossible. On the one hand, wehave the best deluxe of wave two, with possibly the most gorgeous car mode this year, and works well in all four modes. On the other, Streetwise completely changes the toy visually, and address the two common complaints of Dead End, by avoiding the “grey biceps” flaw and replacing the club with a triple barrelled shotgun. He's not as nice to look at Dead End, but he's not ugly at all. The aggressive recycling of moulds mean its probably you'll have either version or both in some form, and while familiarity breeds contempt, these are still great toys.
Number Three: Protectobot Rook
The best deluxe toy in all of Combiner Wars, bar none, and probably its singular break-out character. Strong enough to be a worthwhile purchase even if you never touch the rest of the line, Rook's main selling point is play value, backed by competence in all other things. He's big, he's visually interesting, and very functional in all four modes. But that all pales in comparison to his party piece, the ability to use combiner accessories as hulk hands. If you like your toys to be fun, Rook is your man. G1 purists? Come on. Get over it.
Number Two: More Than Meets The Eye Omnibus Volume 7 “Elegant Chaos”
I could fill this list with individual issues of MTMTE, and I'd have no trouble defending it. Its just that consistently good a series. Comics Alliance just gave it two awards, for flip's sake. This omnibus however is notably highpoint for the invested fan. The conclusion to plot threads that James Roberts started as far back as 2011, this sees an epic time travel plot that goes back to pre-war Cybertron, and the very conception of the Decepticon cause. With horrific parallel universes, betrayals, political commentary, temporal paradoxes, intense character scenes, and sheer WTFery like Megatron's fear of needles, this volume is an exercise in excellence. If you are new to the series, maybe pick an earlier volume, but if you like what you see here, you won't regret working through the back catalogue.
Number One: Defensor And The Protectobots
I had almost no interest in the Protectobots prior to Combiner Wars, excluding First Aid's place in the MTMTE cast, but this team have found a place in my heart on merit. Simply put, wave 3 and the Protectobots was the best bit of Combiner Wars, and its looking doubtful that its last few releases are going to change that. While heavily based on retools, like much of the line, the retools were great, and the new moulds were real nice too. You just read why two of them were good, as for the rest? Well, Hot Spot arguably has the best individual robot mode of the line, and a classy torso mode, only just missing out from a Honourable Mention today. Blades is a nice variation on Wave 1's best Autobot. First Aid, despite my initial impressions, is a solid reworking of Wave 2's Off Road, and is holding together a fair bit better than that toy. Groove meanwhile attempts to bring some scale sanity to the team, works well enough by himself, and pulls off a chestplate mode. And most importantly for us Brits, this got a UK release, with all six members found in shops. Go get them.
Bad photography by me, other images Copyright Hasbro, and variously IDW, Activision, and Platinum Games.