Silverbolt and the Aerialbots: why have the Autobots ended up with jets, a mode in 1986 more commonly associated with the Decepticons, as their first combiner? Surely cars or construction vehicles would have been a better fit thematically but the Decepticons got both of those! Silverbolt's contribution to the combined form of the Aerialbots meant he was tall, with legs too close together, or shorter with legs further apart. Drove me mad. But over the years I've come to accept him as second in the flying Autobot pantheon behind Jetfire. Love the Universe version, though I owned the whiter Japanese version, even if he couldn't combine.
It is with some inevitability that one of the first Combiner Wars Voyagers is Silverbolt. How does he measure up?
Straight out the box Silverbolt is fighting a loosing battle with his case mate: he's about half the width of Prime and, although only half a centimetre smaller, looks tiny beside him. He looks thin compared to the original too, but retains a similar blocky look with no clues to his alternate mode from the front: all that is folded up on his back. Colours are good: a mixture of white, black, red and yellowy orange. He comes with a MASSIVE gun which looks similar to the original: this can separate into a shield and a gun for him to hold or peg into his forearms which each have a 5mm hole on the side.
Articulation:Ball jointed head. Turning shoulders which raise to the side. Both are heavily ratcheted for reasons which will become apparent later. Bicep swivel. His elbows bend. Yes really, they do! They're latched straight and excessive force is required to bend them. The reason for this will become apparent later too. Wrists don't turn but raise as part of the transformation. No waist joint. Hips have the same movement, and ratchets, as the shoulders. Thigh swivel. Double bending knee. For a Voyager I'd like turning wrists and a waist but I can understand why both are missing here.
Transformation: fold the red chest forward, fold the head back and replace the head. Straighten the arms along the body and fold out to the sides. Unfold the panel on the back of each lower leg. Fold heel spur into foot and then foot into leg. In turn turn each leg in 90 degrees, so the red panel is on the front of the leg, and then bend the knee so the lower leg is alongside the upper leg and the tab on the panel you opened behind the leg has pegged into the plane's tale on it's back. Turn each arm at the bicep so the orange panel faces up. Bend the arm 45 degrees at both shoulder and elbow pushing into the side of what was the leg: there's a round trough where the hinge on the wrist can sit. Fold the wings down with a tab under each slotting into what was the forearms. Fold the plane's nose forward and clip into place. Swing the tail fin up.
Silverbolt's jet mode is, as traditional, a stylised Concorde, a regular sight from my childhood back garden in south west London. In a lovely touch Silverbolt's rubber safety nose is hinged so it bends down! He's got a landing gear that fold down under the nose plus moulded, non moving, wheels under the rear of the jet in the red sections of the undercarriage. There's peg holes for his gun underneath, the hands provide 5mm peg holes on the side of each engine and there's two more under the rear of the jet should you need to tool the jet mode up.
I don't know..... as a stand alone toy Silverbolt feels like he's lacking that "something". Yes he's a jet with robot parts underneath but I was expecting that. The toy feels like there's something special missing as a stand alone unit.
Fortunately he's about to make up for that.
I think, given the updated case pictures from SDCC 2014 that showed a slightly distressed Superion, that I was expecting a floppy mess that went to pieces if you look at it wrong. Boy was I incorrect! Superion's torso is as solid as a brick. The genius here, that I'm not sure we've previously seen in a combiner core, is that the central robot is upside down in combined mode with the legs forming the body and the arms the combined robot legs. The smaller robot elbows, which might have been a liability here, are securely locked off. Superion provides a turning head, turning hips (ratcheted) that also move out to the sides (ratcheted) and a redundant upper thigh swivel. The limbs give you Shoulder, bicep, elbow, wrist, thigh, knee and ankle articulation. He stands pretty solidly when combined: I had him stood on the desk, with 2013 Legends Prime on his shoulders, I was rocking the desk and Prime wasn't falling off nor was Superion falling over. Articulation is great but if your robot can't maintain an upright pose it's worth diddly squat. Superion can stand up straight AND has articulation.
We have most of Superion's limbs at the launch of the range all of whom, like Silverbolt, have yellow flashes on their packaging to indicate they're Aerialbots: Alpha Bravo, Skydive and Firefly are in Wave 1 with Air Raid a remould of Firefly, following in Wave 2. So you can make a pretty decent Superion using those three with Dragstrip acting as a substitute, and for my preference serving as a leg with Alpha Bravo while Firefly & Skydive form the limbs. Powerglide is capable of forming an extra weapon for Superion, in addition to Silverbolt's gun, but is in no way essential. There's plenty of peg holes on the jets to get them to take their individual weapons with another on top of Superion's guns if you have a spare.
Superion looks the part too: they've nailed the essential features dead on here, no complaints at all concerning the likeness. My only issue is the head antennae: for safety reasons they're made of rubbery plastic. The bend VERY easily and I'm not sure I see them lasting forever. In addition one of mine sticks about 1mm short of it's target and won't lock into place on the combine mode. Opening the head up to investigate may be in order.
Silverbolt himself is the opposite to Prime for me: Voyager is OK but the combined robot Torso is miles better than Prime's. Legs that as a default point straight down is a good start!
Big statement time: I think the combined robot is one of the best toys Hasbro have made for a long long time and THE best combiner they've EVER made. It ticks all the boxes, it works, and Combiner Wars toys are just so fun to play with.
Buy Silverbolt and his friends. You NEED these toys in your collection.