Sunday, 29 November 2015

Mastermind Creations R-13 Spartan

'You can't beat 'Wreck 'n' Rule'. Pure poetry' - Ironfist, LSOTW

Thirty years ago via Marvel UK's Transformers comics, we were first introduced to Impactor, the charismatic commander of the Autobot suicide squad known as The Wreckers.

Fiercely dedicated to both cause and troops while dishing out the sass to his commanding officers, here we had a disposable but nonetheless memorable badass confined to exist solely in print. Yet Impactor's harpoon handed shadow loomed large long after he was gone.

Fast forward to 2010 and the kids who grew up reading these stories were making money writing their own. Impactor was resurrected for the acclaimed and bruising IDW miniseries Last Stand Of The Wreckers, playing a pivotal role in a tale unafraid to lay bare the horrors of war.

Girls girls.. you're both pretty

His star in ascent once more but still doomed to shine only in the panels of comic book pages, iGear offered a glimmer of hope to fans in their proposed Presser figure yet this never came to fruition. Hasbro saw fit to release a Wreckers themed combiner team during the Fall Of Cybertron toyline, but I don't think I'm alone in saying that these fell far short of the mark in spite of good intentions.

Which brings us to today. Stepping up to the plate in 2015 are Mastermind Creations, one of the main players in the crowded unofficial Transformers market, and they're not messing about with their latest figure, R13 Spartan. Timed perfectly to coincide with the release of IDW's Sins Of The Wreckers, let's crack open the clamshell and get down and dirty with the Autobots premier (ahem) war criminal.

I was immediately taken aback by the look of Spartan. He's a gorgeous beast, ripped straight out of the panels he's been trapped in for far too long. And man does the toy feel solid. Modelled almost directly on the (arguably) more recognisable IDW interpretation, MMC have done a cracking job in bringing to life Impactor's intimidating, hard as nails silhouette.

Spartan's expression is fittingly cast in a permanent snarl, perfect for facing down invincible enemies and impossible odds, and the sculpted detail across the toy is pretty damn accurate to the printed page. The differences to his inspiration are most notable in the legs and forearms and these come about through the nature of transformation and alt mode styling. I think the tread legs look brilliant and love that whole torso section, especially the ludicrous safety rails on his tits.

Accessory wise, Spartan comes out of the box well prepared for a hard days hunting at sea. This whaling tool can be swapped out for your choice of drill or standard five fingered appendage. He also comes with a shoulder cannon and a 'stun gun', the name of which amuses me no end given the actual use of the weapon it is supposed to represent.

The colour palette is muted and matte, which has caused a bit of a stir in certain quarters but just have a gander at Burcham's sterling work in issue #1 of Impactor's latest adventure and you'll hear no complaints from me. Certainly not about the crisp painted detail across the torso and waist.

There's a nice clean aesthetic to this Voyager sized figure with what could be classed as kibble confined to the scoops on his elbows. These things can be problematic and are prone to popping off when posing the arms as they're only held on with friction. When you *snap* them back on they do fall in line but don't remain the greatest behaved of children. While tempted to glue them down, I'm also left wondering why this wasn't done in the first place, so perhaps not. These things are initially teeth gnashingly irritating.

Articulation is where Spartan really does kick into gear, as those good looks translate into some serious moves.

This..! Is..!

His large footprint makes him wonderfully balanced and the range of joints allow for subtle nuance as well as all out murder on the dance floor. MMC have opted for the use of friction and ball joints here, and the greater range of motion these allow over ratchets work very well in the toys favour. Impressive stuff.


Transform Spartan following the instruction manual and you may well find yourself reaching for the bottle while banging your head against a wall. Key steps are missed, that random little plug I hadn't mentioned until now isn't explained and giving up starts to look like a good idea. The annoying thing is that it's not even a particularly complex process, more of a precise one and reliant on things lining up perfectly for success. There's an official instructional video on the 'tube by Paik4Life which does a grand job. But then.. so should the instructions packaged with the bloody toy. +1 on the video guys, but let's get the printed page right too.

Halfway between adorable and ass kicking, Spartan's tank mode takes the biggest liberties in terms of comic book accuracy, but that just doesn't matter when rules are being bent to bring the Metal Slug from the er.. Metal Slug game series to Transformers. It's a chunky and compact piece of rolling artillery with a cartoony curve to its shape and a huge amount of detail within its treads. They don't actually roll alas, which is disappointingly predictable. Grown men who buy toys don't play with toys, yo. We're too cool for that shiz...

..which is handy because apart from being able to detach the turret from its pistons to enable 360 rotation and the hidden guns on its sides, play value in this mode is sorely limited. And for protecting us from ourselves, we thank you.

Snarking aside, this hybrid of IDW and SNK does look good and as a gamer I really appreciate the homage. Gives me the same kind of giddy geeky feeling I took from Maketoys Blindfire. The upcoming Commotus retool and repaint will look amazing in black and there are rumblings of an accurately coloured Metal Slug release as well. Bastard money grabbing geniuses. Of course, if these last two paragraphs had you scratching your head, pull up a seat and welcome to the side of the table our non-Transformers collecting friends sit at. I understand perfectly that this tank mode kind of lives and dies on your appreciation of its inspiration.

Spartan is quite the triumph. An overall feeling of quality and finish, here is a robot not just chock full of personality and posing options, it's also a justice done rendition of a fan favourite that for many has been long overdue.

The packaged instructions might make getting to the tank mode as hard as it could possibly be, but that's no fault in the design of the toy and once you get there I am a huge fan of the Metal Slug homage, despite its limited functionality. Fitting in right at home with the various Wrecker figures available, both official and unofficial, Spartan does a great job in making your Springer led shelf feel like it's missing something vital. C'mon kid, say it with me..


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