I think we’re over discussing the merits of non-transforming Transformers, right? It’s been done for a long time, but was really pushed to the forefront with the Hasbro RED series in 2020 and while there will always be a section of the fanbase that wants nothing to do with such a concept, it’s still an easy thing to justify. When the Transformers arrived on television sets in the early 1980s, they were giant robots that generally went from some kind of automobile to a humanoid robot. And those transformations were pretty unrealistic when compared with the toy. The character models needed to be kept neat and tidy for animation’s sake and if something looked a bit janky on the toy the cartoon could remedy that. As long as a kid could at least tell the character and the toy were one-in-the-same it was fine. And now there are collectors who want their Transformers to look, and move, like the characters from the show and what’s wrong with that? There will always be transforming toys to please the masses and these sublines can go off and do their own thing.
When Super7 announced it had grabbed the Transformers license many people were shocked. Transformers is basically an in-house property for Hasbro, so what benefit is there to Hasbro licensing it out to a company that is just going to make something it can already supply? Well, money, for one. Hasbro clearly doesn’t view Super7’s offerings as direct competition with their own stuff. And Hasbro, being much bigger, was able to pump out the RED series before Super7 was able to announce they’d be doing something similar (and apparently the RED series kind of caught Super7 off-guard). And they are different, to a degree. While both seek to replicate the Generation 1 look for its characters, they operate in a completely different scale and at a completely different price. Time will tell if Transformers collectors need both, but for now both seem to be doing all right.
I’ve mentioned before that I’m not big on Transformers. I basically missed it by about a year or two, so my first love when it came to a toyline was The Real Ghostbusters, while my cousin who was two years older loved Transformers and G.I. Joe. I had a toy here and there, but nothing I can even cleanly remember (I think it was a yellow car, but memories can be funny). I did get into the Generation 2 re-releases briefly. I thought Grimlock looked cool in blue, and I saved up some money to get Optimus Prime. I’d also add the tank version of Megatron, but I kind of stopped there since Transformers were way more expensive than an X-Men figure. It was basically a 3:1 ratio with basic Transformers, while that Optimus cost me 30 bucks in 1992 money! All that is to say that Super7’s line of Transformers really shouldn’t be my thing, but I have a nephew that really likes the brand and when he got setup in a new bedroom I decided to make him a clock in the shape of Optimus Prime because my grandfather had done the same for me and my sister (his mother) when we were kids. My clock was Leonardo and my grandfather modeled it after my giant sized action figure of the same. I wanted to do something similar with my nephew’s clock and the reference that worked best was Super7’s art for their figure. Now, he’s too young for this type of toyline, but I still thought it would be cool if I also got him the toy. And since I was buying one for my nephew, well, uncle needs one too! I don’t know when I’ll give him his figure, or if he’ll even care about Transformers come then, but these are the specific circumstances that lead me to owning this figure so I’m going to tell you all about it.
Optimus Prime is one of four figures in the inaugural wave of Super7 Transformers and he’s the only Autobot in the lineup. Super7 appears to want to go a bit deep, or obscure, with its choices while also recognizing it needed to include the Autobot leader in the first wave. This line is a 7″ scale line that seeks to emulate the look from the original cartoon. There’s going to be a lot of solid colors, less detail, and a bunch of stuff included as accessories pulled from the show. It’s a good approach as even the RED line from Hasbro deviates from the look of the show with its figures as both Soundwave and Optimus featured clear “glass” on their body when the toon would use a solid color. I believe this wave is also the first one released under the new pricing model of $55 a figure. Previously, Ultimates were $45, but then COVID happened. These went up for order in March of 2021, so a turn-around of 14 months actually isn’t that bad given the state of things.
Optimus comes in the familiar Super7 Ultimates! packaging. The box is a bit beefier than some of the other figures I’ve purchased from them, but it’s still the same slip-cover over window box. The outer slip-cover is rather nice as it has a reflective outline of the character and the window box has the familiar red and black grid pattern with an old school character power level grid on the back. Optimus takes up quite a bit of real estate in the box and the inner cardboard is mirrored, but the figure (and accessories) are so big that it doesn’t really add anything. I didn’t even notice it until I pulled him out.
Out of the box, Optimus stands at about 8″ in height, maybe a tick over. He’s a very blocky, chunky, figure and at first blush I’d say that, yeah, he looks like the cartoon character. He does not, however, give off that “Just walked out of the television set,” vibe as there’s almost no paint on this guy. Most of what you’re looking at is molded plastic. It’s not super shiny, which is good, but definitely lacks pop. It’s most apparent on the windshield panels on his chest which are just a light, flat, blue. Pull-up almost any image from the cartoon of Optimus Prime and you’ll see some white accents on the glass part. Why not paint that on? Super7 used decals with that effect for their vinyl version of this character, but decided against it here. I wouldn’t expect cel-shading out of Super7, but a little flourish would have been nice. Aside from that, most of the paint is found on the crotch because they used a plastic overlay (affectionately referred to as a “diaper” in most collecting circles) that’s quite soft and requires paint. The gray band in the torso is also painted and there’s the Autobot logo painted, or printed, onto the left shoulder. I wish the logo was raised or stamped in, but it’s clean so I guess it’s fine. The smaller details on the face are well-painted too.
The low detail approach just makes Optimus a little plain looking. I think the figure would have benefitted from at least some panel lining which would be in-line with the cartoon’s presentation. Obviously, Super7 tends to think less is more, so I’m not shocked by their choices, but a little let-down. For $55 this could have been better. I also find it interesting they opted for an off-white or light gray shade for the crotch, thigh, smokestacks, and fuel tanks when the cartoon was pretty consistent about making those parts white. I associate the gray coloring more with the toys so it’s a bit of an odd choice. It just looks a bit dingey, so I would have preferred white, but it’s more of a nitpick than anything. Worth pointing out is that the right smokestack on mine came rather warped. It’s nothing I don’t think a little hot water or blast from a hairdryer can’t remedy, but I review these things as they come out of the box to give you the best idea of what to expect.
Where the design is going to cause further problems is with the articulation. Now, I have the Voltron from Super7 so I had an idea of what to expect here. Plus I know from experience and just from what the company has told us that they prioritize the look over the articulation. Super7 believes articulation is fine, but that most collectors are going to put their toys on a shelf in a fairly basic, or neutral, pose. I don’t really agree as I think that’s what five-point figures and vinyl toys are for, but I’m not the one running the company. As far as I’m concerned, Super7 can take whatever approach it wants so long as it’s consistent which is why you won’t hear me complain about the lack of double-jointed knees and elbows. Super7 just doesn’t do them. This toy is, however, still an action figure so it should be judged as one and in doing so there’s some good stuff here, and some very not so good stuff.
For starters, Optimus has a head that sits on a double ball-peg. This is a welcomed sight as the last Super7 figures I looked at featured a single ball-peg. Since he basically has no neck though, his range is going to be limited. He can look up and swivel with a little tilt, looking down is basically impossible. Once you introduce the ab crunch can the figure look down a bit. And that ab crunch is well-hidden and feels smooth. I’m not too worried about paint rub on the grill piece, though the figure doesn’t get any reverse crunch movement out of it. It strictly allows him to bend forward a bit. At the shoulders, we have an interesting setup. There’s a hinge inside the housing for the shoulder, with a pivot point just outside that, and a hinge just beyond that. This allows the bulky shoulders to swing out and come over the top of the torso allowing Prime to raise his arms out to the side past the usual 180 degrees. He can basically be the “Y” in a performance of “YMCA”. Unfortunately, Super7 apparently used up all of their creativity here because the elbow is a different story. There’s a biceps swivel above it, but the actual hinge bends maybe 45 degrees, if I’m being generous. The general accepted range on an elbow is 90 degrees, and that’s considered passable. My Hasbro RED Soundwave can do full curls and touch his shoulder with his hand to illustrate how big a difference this is. The comparably bulky Voltron could nearly get to 90, which I felt was satisfactory given the character. Not even getting close with Prime though is really unacceptable for a premium action figure, and at $55 a pop, that’s what this is. All Super7 had to do was cut out some relief on the forearm or elongate the piece where the elbow exists. It wouldn’t cost anymore to have done it right, nor is it going to ruin the look of the figure. It just feels like they hit a mild trouble point and decided not to address it at all thinking this amount of range was acceptable, but it’s not.
Moving past that unfortunate piece we have hands that peg into the arms and feature a single hinge which is fine. The waist has standard rotation so I’m assuming it’s a peg joint and not a ball. At the hips, we have the usual ball-pegs that Super7 likes and they’re fine. They’re pretty big so they don’t look as scary as some of the pegs on the TMNT figures and you get a swivel and range out to the front, back, and side. If you read my Voltron review, it was this spot that I deemed unacceptable on that figure as it just had pegs with no ball so that figure only kicks forward and back which is terrible. Optimus thankfully has normal leg function, though that diaper piece limits how far his legs can move. It will flex, but I wouldn’t want to leave the figure posed with too much stress on it. The knees are single-hinged and can achieve a 90 degree bend with no problem, it’s the ankles where we hit another roadblock. Optimus has rigid plastic alongside the lower legs so the ankles are effectively in splints. They hinge up and down and there is an ankle rocker, but it’s functionally useless because there’s just no room. Again, this could have been solved without cutting into the sculpt much. They could have brought the toe portion of the foot out a little further and it actually might have been more screen accurate. Doing so would have allowed them to just put a swivel point there. They also could have done what Hasbro did and do a drop-down ankle joint. That’s probably the better way to go, but there’s a number of things that could have been done, but Super7 opted for none. While Optimus can actually widen its stance, unlike Voltron, it can’t be widened much because eventually the figure can’t stand on its feet because there’s no rocker. It’s just a bummer.
Super7 is certainly not known for articulation, but what it’s Ultimates! line is known for are accessories, and Optimus does okay in that regard. We get two heads with this figure, the toon accurate one that comes on the figure and a toy accurate one for those who prefer that look. I had that toy and loved it, but I really have no use for the alternate head. For what it is, it’s fine. Optimus comes with fist hands in the box and the figure can swap to a trigger right hand, pointing left, open right hand, and an open left hand with a peg on it. What’s missing are just normal gripping hands, which is a problem I’ll get to in a second. Interestingly, the fist hands have a matte coating on them and you can see where it ends near the peg. The other hands don’t have this and as a result are a bit glossy. It’s not something everyone is going to notice, but given the choice, I would have liked all of the hands to have this matte finish. For the trigger hand we have Optimus’ gun which matches the old toy and the show. The handle is at an angle though and I can’t get the trigger finger onto the actual trigger. If the angle wasn’t so steep it would be fine, but it looks kind of dumb as a result. The gun is also just molded, black, plastic with an ever so subtle graphite finish. For a more melee approach, Optimus has his orange, Energon, axe. It pegs into the forearm in place of a hand and it’s done in orange, translucent, plastic with a frosting on the shaft portion and it looks pretty damn cool. It’s just tough to find a natural axe-swinging pose given the figure’s articulation limits. There’s also this energy net thing (Energon binder, per the listing) that’s sparkly and made of soft plastic. I guess you can wrap it around a figure. It’s fine for what it is.
For the peg hand, there’s a basketball. The lines on it are sculpted in, but the black paint in those lines isn’t well done. I’ve seen images of people with pretty nice looking basketballs so mine might be worse than most (the second Prime I bought looks to have a better basketball). The ball fits nicely into the peg, and it’s this sort of goofy accessory that people may find charming about the figure. It would be nice if the peg hole was smaller though so it could better fit on the end of the pointing finger hand. It’s do-able, but the ball sits so low that it doesn’t convincingly create the illusion that Optimus is spinning the ball on his finger. There’s also the Matrix of Leadership thing that would normally go in Optimus Prime’s chest, but without gripping hands he can’t really hold it so it feels rather perfunctory since he doesn’t have a chest cavity to place it in. There’s a little, painted, Spike Witwicky that’s mostly in scale with Optimus which is kind of neat. There’s a big surfboard for Optimus as well which is pulled from an episode of the show. It’s rather plain looking as it’s just a gray-blue shade of plastic and it could really use a stand of some kind. There are peg holes on it and it’s pretty easy to get Optimus onto the thing, but I don’t know if I’ll ever use it. Lastly, we have a jetpack which is just a big old hunk of plastic that snaps into the rear of the figure. I like that Super7 was able to make it removable without a peg hole, but it’s rather boring looking. It’s at least really light so it doesn’t throw off the figure’s balance, but again, I’m not sure if it’s something I’ll ever use.
In many ways, this figure is largely what I expected. I knew the blocky design would present issues with the articulation, as it had with Voltron, and I expected Super7 to keep it simple. With the shoulders and even the ab crunch, Super7 actually surprised me in a good way. They also surprised me in a bad way with the very limited elbows and ankles. I do strongly believe that for a figure to be considered articulated in this day and age we need elbows that hit 90 degrees (or near enough) and ankle joints that provide for better stances on the shelf. The ankle is hugely important for a figure because that’s the joint closest to the surface. Bad ankles limit posing or cause figures to fall over. Optimus Prime doesn’t have the falling problem, but that’s because he pretty much has to keep things vanilla. Which is a real bummer because I was hoping to be able to pose this more dynamically than my Masterpiece Optimus which is really too heavy to attempt much out of fear of it falling over. And if the figure isn’t going to move great, it needs to make up for that with the paint and this figure doesn’t really try to do that. I don’t think the included accessories make up for that either.
I’m not a huge Transformers fan so it’s hard to say if my reaction is more forgiving than the average fan or more harsh. If you’ve been on the fence about this one then there’s a good reason for that. At least the solicitation images paint a fairly accurate portrait of what you’re getting. If you want a more toon accurate Optimus in a much bigger scale than the Hasbro RED series, then this might do it for you. If you were expecting a dynamic posing figure that looked like it stepped right out of the TV then I don’t think this figure is for you. A subpar action figure in 2022 is also not without value. There is certainly a “fun” aspect to this figure just in the size and the some of the silly accessories, mostly the basketball. On a subjective level, I can be okay with this thing and not regret my purchasing decision. Objectively though, this is a real tough ask at $55 and it’s not something I can give a blanket recommendation for. If you know what you’re in for and like what you see, you may feel differently.