With a newly revealed Amazon exclusive Nemesis Prime coming from Power of The Primes, I felt it high time to finally throw the notes at the one figure that's been pushing my buttons more than any other in the line and... It's just another Optimus Prime...
Entering the Power of The Primes line in its first wave of Leader Class figures, (because what's a wave one without an Optimus?) Prime not only provides a suitably scaled Autobot leader to those looking for that sort of thing, he also figureheads the pricepoint's new gimmick. Your Leader money doesn't just get you a Big Optimus, but a not-exactly-small Orion Pax too! Behold the new "Evolution" feature! Arguably making more sense within the conceptual confines of the concurrent Rodimus Prime, this figure is at its core an illustration of a single story beat. That of the humble librarian/dock worker/cop Orion receiving the power of the Matrix, getting his swole on and stepping out of the subsequent light show as the most perfectly shaped G1 Optimus you've ever seen. But does all that work for the gimmick of a toy you'll be repeating ad infinitum? Hold on, things might get a bit meta in here today...
Before attempting to begin untangling the very odd fictional knot this whole package represents, I can say I adore it. A perfectly sized, perfectly weighty, perfectly styled, perfectly articulated, perfect Optimus Prime. From the front. I won't try to make you think the faults this figure has impact on my love for it but in-keeping with the purpose of this exposition as a review, I will point them out. I couldn't care less that his arms are mostly grey, that his silver hands don't move or his back is a mess. The fact the alt mode is mostly a thin facade full of holes and bloated with extra robot mass is all up there with how his ankles are thin and his thighs are hollow. And there's stickers. Objectively, these are all glaring flaws that shout their presence at you from the screen no doubt. But in hand, it all melts away in the sheer radiance of the physicality of this figure.
Apparently engineered by the designer of the original Star Saber(!), a certain pedigree of experience is instantly noticeable upon handling this Prime. It's sublimely efficient in everything it does, from range of motion in joints, to how each half transforms, to - especially - how the Prime mode comes together. This moment of (I hesitate to say "combination") completion screams "Star Saber". It veritably drips with the ink of that blueprint and somehow feels like an implementation of what the designer may have wanted to accomplish on that historic piece, but also all the refinements to his skills since that day. At its most basic, this figure is a smaller base form which curls up into a cuboid to be slotted into the chest of a larger body made from the surplus alt mode section. Sounds a bit Star Saber, no?
While the action of pushing Optimus' pecs and head into place is supremely satisfying (a spring loaded catch secures the block in place, which is released by a switch on his backside), it's this motion that activates my over-analysis mode. Beyond a conceptual illustration of a single moment in the character's history rendered in a toyetic form, what's going on here? Are we meant to believe Optimus is just a super mode Orion regularly powers up into? Is this where the trailer disappeared to all along? Did we just never see Optimus' base form when he transformed like we never saw Ultra Magnus'? A very cool spin on the design to differentiate an nth Generations Optimus Prime quickly becomes a meta-textual minefield.
It's much more easy to reconcile the fictional portrayal of this dynamic with Rodimus, because really, how long did Hot Rod stay that way? But when considering the cartoon play out of Orion's ultimate fate - a route I'm picking specifically based on the figure's incredibly Floro Dery Sunbow design look - every inch of him was rebuilt into Optimus Prime. Orion Pax essentially died, never to return. Yet here he is every time you want to make Optimus a truck. I dunno man, it's one of those things you can easily think too hard about and that's our modus operandi here at the Refined Robot Co. I'm trying to unpack my deeper confusion at this feature but really it's best to just sit back and enjoy playing with this figure because above all, it is fun in a way that makes me feel incredibly... serene.
Punching straight to the heart of it, this is the only Optimus Prime I own with this particular set of iconic details. To me, it glows with the rightness of Don Figueroa's Dreamwave design. The only thing that comes close is MP-10, which I do own in the Year of The Horse version but y'know, it's gold and that... For a lot of people I can see this figure representing a kind of budget MP-10, a regular retail mass market Masterpiece Optimus. It's undeniable that it sings from the same hymn sheet as that figure but honestly, I think it improves upon its styling. That headsculpt is thrillingly perfect. The proportions are the exact kind of Action Hero fit. The fists, while immobile are sculpted in that power stance curl. Elbows and knees bend beyond ninety degrees. Ankles are afforded insane range to keep any pose stable. The whole figure feels more fluid than MP-10 or any of Hasui's recent designs. A hole in his back even allows the core of the Matrix to pipe light while in his chest! And that's just the Optimus mode.
Disemboweling Prime leaves you with his entire body minus head and Matrix cavity and Orion in some kind of robot fetal position. It's this chunk that forms the truck's cab, eschewing giving Orion an alt mode we never actually saw in the cartoon. As a robot he is particularly toon smooth, bearing a look that - quite honestly - I detest on screen. But here the robot feels really cool? Excellently articulated and full of presence he's certainly a hero robot. I especially love how his hip skirt pieces rotate with his hips rather than just folding upwards like on so many figures. A rote piece of Masterpiece level design we've seen many times that feels incredibly cumbersome in light of this piece of engineering. Overall, Orion Pax is a triumph simply due to the fact that by all rights, he should be one of the lamest Transformers figures ever, but he most certainly is not.
All in all, Power of The Primes Optimus Prime feels like a truly definitive stab at the character in the Generations line-up. It may not make the killing strike but you've got to be made of stone to not have it draw blood. The most G1 feeling robot mode the line has ever produced at the perfect scale with a Matrix, an alt mode made up of cab and trailer and a bonus Orion Pax mode. Of course tiny points along the way allow Optimus to interact with the line's wider gimmickry but all this is truly negligible compared to the execution of the gimmick that sits at the core of this figure. Like some singularity it pulls you in past the event horizon where you could put it down and won't let you go. ...Or maybe this analogy would better suit the dark heart of the coming Nemesis repaint which I can already say without a shadow of a doubt will be one of the best mainline releases of the year. This Optimus is just... Prime.
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