Release Date: October 2010
Price Point: $10.99 (depending on retailer)
Retailer: General (Toys R Us, Target, Wal-Mart etc.)
Accessories: Missile pod, Blaster, Triple barreled cannon, Cannon/pickaxe weapon
One of the most exciting Transformers storylines to come out of the early days of the 1980's Marvel comic book was a two issue story where we readers were taken back to the planet Cybertron. Most of the earlier issues had focused on the adventures of the Transformers on Earth, so getting to return to the planet they came from was a treat, and part of that was the introduction of several new characters. Among them was the Decepticon ruler of Darkmount, Straxus. Straxus was a cruel leader who was seemingly destroyed only to return in a later storyline. Since then, he has made small appearances here and there even in the most recent IDW Publishing Transformers title. The character is often well thought of among more hardcore Transformers fans, so it was a pleasant surprise to learn last year that there would be a Straxus action figure after many years of just being a print character! Due to trademark issues however, Hasbro could not call the figure Straxus, so instead they went with the name of the city he ruled: Darkmount.
Straxus did not really have a ground vehicle mode in his comic book appearances, but for the sake of creating a playable toy he has been given one now! Transforming into a half track tank, Darkmount has many of the key features of a tank, tied in with some features of armored personnel carriers. The top of the vehicle has a very big "tank' feel with a turret made up of several angled sections and a long cannon extending out the middle. Directly underneath this turret is an armored section leading to sculpted treads. The front however has angled sections that look more like they were meant for a pilot to inhabit such as the left side cabin section. It is this area that has a wheel on either side, completing the half track appearance.
Hasbro and Tomy have had ample experience designing tanks as alternate forms for Transformers, and much of that expertise is put to work here. First off, there are no give away robot details in this form. No legs or arms hanging out anywhere. Overall its very nicely designed. The detail level on the tank is really impressive. Among my favorite details on this vehicle mode are:
- Lights sculpted into the front of the tank on either side.
- The aforementioned cabin section on the left side.
- The four additional small barrels at the base of the cannon.
- Several panels on the top of the front and turret sections that resmble panels for passengers to enter the vehicle (fictionally speaking). The ones on the front in particular are so well detailed they have handles and hinges!
- At the base of the cannon barrel is a diamond shape with two small triangles next to it. These are details carried over from Straxus' comic book appearance (and will appear in robot mode as well).
Darkmount is cast in dark blue, dark silver, red and black plastic. Blue is the dominant color in this form, with dark silver making up smaller sections like the end of his cannon barrel and panels on the back of the turret. The black is found on his front wheels while the red is used for the small clips at the end of his three weapon accessories. Paint applications are done up in silver, gold, white and blue. The silver is found at the base of the cannon barrel, his treads, windows and headlights. Gold is boldly applied onto the front of the vehicle, in between the two side sections. You'll also find a bit of it on the six missiles inside his missile pod accessory. The blue paint is used on the sides of his wheels, offering some color consistency with the blue plastic. Perhaps the most fun detail on this figure is the letter and numbers "M17" which are painted in white on the turret and the base of the vehicle. "M17" is a reference to "Marvel", the company that originally published the Transformers comic books and "Issue 17", the issue where Straxus first appeared. I love little homage references like this, but what's also cool is that the detail works even if you don't understand its meaning since many military vehicles wind up with alphanumeric designations on them.
I have to say that I'm glad the designers did not try to create a slavish version of the form Straxus took on in the comic books. Tanks are always fun, but the designers decided to do something extra special. Darkmount includes three small weapons, a missile pod, a tri-barreled weapon and a single barreled weapon. Each of these are connected via ball joints to a clip, and these clips can attach to any of two bars on the base of the vehicle or five bars on the turret. Not only does this give Darkmount a heck of a lot of extra firepower, but it adds a lot of fun to the potential ways you can configure him. I've found it best to put the missile pod and tri-blaster on the sides with the single barreled cannon on the top, but you can play with the combinations thanks in part to each of these weapons being on a ball joint. On top of that, you can turn the turret in a full circle, nothing is blocking its way (which does happen on some Transformers tanks from time to time).
Transformation to Battle Station Mode:
- Raise the turret section straight up, then turn it around.
- Swing the two dark blue panels on the front of the vehicle out at angles.
- Split the section of the vehicle with the treads on them and swing them out at angles.
- Move the robot arms out and rotate them around so you can bend them at the elbow joints and prop up the front of the battle station.
- On the back of the turret, swing out the grey bars and rotate them around so they form handles.
Battle Station Mode:
During his original appearance in the Marvel Comic book, Straxus barely transformed. When he finally did, the "big reveal" was that he transformed into a flying tank-like vehicle. Its main feature was a gigantic cannon in the middle with parts that flared out to the sides. It was that mode that inspired this variation on the vehicle mode. For the most part, this mode winds up revealing more robot parts such as the arms (which I'll touch on more in the robot mode review) but the best touch is having the handles on the back of the turret. This really reinforces the idea that this is a weapon emplacement and provides an extra bit of interaction with other figures. I also appreciate the homage intent behind even conceiving of this mode, and hey, how often do we get triple changers nowadays? With cost cutting and thin profit margins surrounding many action figures nowadays, it's cool to see a little extra being put into a figure that could have easily just been only a tank and robot.
Transformation to Robot Mode:
- Start with the figure in vehicle mode. Detach the clip on weapons for now.
- Lift the turret and swing out each half of it.
- Remove the barrel and rotate the end with the picks on it, then slide the grey piece with the four tubes on it down.
- Swing the tread sections of the vehicle out.
- In the middle area, swing out the gold section with the Decepticon symbol on it.
- Swing the central gold panel down and flip the robot head up, then push the gold panel back into place.
- Swing out the bottom panel on each half of the turret, then swing those parts out to begin forming the robot legs.
- Swing the middle section forward and clip it to the red clip on the back of the panel with the Decepticon symbol.
- Straighten out each leg, swing the ends out to form the feet, and then swing out the heel piece on each foot.
- Separate the robot arms from the panels that form the treads. The tread panels should move to the back and connect together.
- Swing the robot arms forward.
- Swing the front, blue panels from the vehicle mode out to the sides.
- The pickaxe weapon goes into either hand.
- You can now clip the weapons onto several points on the legs as well as the panels on his back to make the weapons over his shoulders.
When Marvel Comics introduced Straxus, there was a lot of freedom for the artist to make up his own version of what a Transformer overlord would look like since there was no toy design to adhere to at the time. The result was a robot whose features gave away nothing of his alternate form. There were no wheels or thrusters hanging off of him anywhere. Instead, he had a head designed to look almost like a giant hood over a face with a mouthplate. His wide body had thick, powerful looking arms and legs and his chest was rather generic, made up of some rectangles and curved sections.
Clearly for a transformable figure design Hasbro and Tomy had to go beyond this, but at its core several elements of the comic book design remain intact. These include:
- The head sculpt is based directly off of the comic book design. This includes the curved helmet section, inset mouthplate and narrow eyes. The helmet section however looks more like it was inspired by a Samurai's helmet, giving it some extra detail such as raised sections in a V shape on the top of the head.
- On either side of Darkmount's chest, there are diamond shapes with triangles above them. These are details were seen on the comic book version of Straxus as well.
- In the comic book, Straxus' torso design consisted of panels on either side separated by a middle section, and the same applies to this figure.
- Darkmount's arms are curved at the shoulder joint and then lead to more rectangular upper arms and forearms, similar to the design of the comic book Straxus.
- On each upper leg, there is a triangle design sculpted into the figure. These are elements that appeared on Straxus in the comic book as well.
Since Darkmount does actually have to transform, you do see evidence of his alternate mode in robot form, but the designers tried their best to work those elements into the design of the figure. For instance, the front panels from the vehicle mode become shoulder armor and the grey vent section from the vehicle mode turret becomes part of his waist. Overall, I really like the way the vehicle mode components were integrated into the robot mode.
Darkmount has quite a bit of detail all his own. The sides of his chest each end in vent lines. His mid-body and upper legs each have tubes and springs sculpted into them while his hands are sculpted to either be in a fist position or an open hand position (in part to accomodate his weapon). He even adds to the triangle detail theme from the chest and upper legs on his feet, where there is a large triangle on each.
When it comes to color, Straxus was literally all over the place from issue to issue (and sometimes panel to panel) in his original Marvel Comics appearance. Blue was always present in some way shape or form, but his other colors (which included gold, white and red) would change places on his body, so the designers decided to take the best of those colors and work them into the figure as best they could. The result is a figure cast in the basic Straxus colors: blue, grey (subbing in for the white in the comic book), black and red. The blue makes up most of his body including the chest, shoulder armor, parts of the mid-body and his lower legs. Grey is used for many of the alternate parts including his forearms and upper legs. The red is found on his upper arms (which is where they appeared in the comic book). There are some metallic, darker grey parts as well such as his clip on weaponry and the plate on his waist. Overall, this color pattern fits well into the scheme laid down by the comics and looks good at the same time.
The paint applications help add elements from the Marvel Comics. Gold, red, black and blue paint are used in this form to complete the visual picture. Gold is found on two sections: his chest (formed mostly from the center, front section of the vehicle mode) and his eyes. The center of the chest was colored gold (or yellow) in at least two panels of the original comic book, then it would change to red inexplicably, but I think gold was the better choice here. Red is used for most of the triangle details found on parts such as the head, chest and feet, matching their color from comic book Straxus. The black is used for the Decepticon symbol on his torso and finally the blue is used on his shoulder armor to provide continuity from the blue plastic shoulder pieces. Overall I think this is a fantastic mesh of the various color schemes seen in the comic book. It's bright, visually striking while still giving the character a dark appearance.
Darkmount has twenty points of articulation in this form. This includes five points on each arm and waist articulation. His arms have a very specific type of articulation, namely the ability for the forearms to turn inward. This allows him to use both arms to hold his pickaxe weapon, something not all Transformers can do since their arms generally just swing forward or back. I was very happy to see this extra bit of articulation thrown in as it fits with Straxus' appearance on the cover of Marvel issue #17 where he is using both arms to wield the weapon. The weapon itself looks great, with sharp looking ends and a long handle allowing boy hands to grip it easily. In the articulation point count, I'm not including the clip on weapons, which are each ball jointed. In this form you can clip them onto points on his back or legs, adding extra firepower and play value.
The instructions do note the ability to store the pickaxe weapon in Darkmount's back, but for the life of me I can't find a way to properly clip it or attach it to his back. Instead, it just seems to drop into the panels on his back and hang in there. It looks great when you do it, but move the figure around for play and that weapon will come out at some point. Best to keep it in his hands, I say.
Darkmount is an awesome figure by himsef. His vehicle and robot modes look fantastic and he has a great set of articulation points and weapons. What makes the figure more extraordinary however is that it's not one I think most fans ever thought we would get. Darkmount/Straxus is not exactly on the tier of characters such as Bumblebee or Optimus Prime, and seeing a figure of him really shows how deep into the mythology of Transformers the designers are willing to go. Highly recommended!