The Reverend's Review: Titanium War Within Grimlock
Grimlock (The War Within)
Commander, Lightning Strike Coalition
Titanium Series "Cybertron Heroes" (6-inch)
Grimlock fights not because he believes in the Autobots ideal of peace and freedom, but because he knows what Megatron really is. He was there at the beginning of the Decepticon movement, mudguard deep in the spilled oil on the arena floor. He knows what it is to feel the electron-surge of total victory over his foes. His coolant too has sung as he pressed his blade against the torso of a helpless opponent.
But to Grimlock, no weakness is worthy of respect, least of all that weakness that disguises itself as strength. Where is the satisfaction of crushing those who cannot defend themselves, or slaughtering a building full of unarmed innocents? How does madness like that prove one’s strength? Better to die fighting against an enemy so powerful that defeat is almost certain. Better still to turn that enemy back and drive him broken before you. To someday see Megatron so broken – that is why Grimlock fights.
In 2002, Dreamwave released its "War Within" series of Transformers comics, set on Cybertron millions of years prior to the G1 Ark's crash into Mount St. Hilary/Helens. The story arc allowed DW's writers a large amount of creative space as very little had been established in fiction regarding the Transformers' activities prior to their re-awakening on Earth. However, since none of them could have had Earth-specific alternate modes at this stage, Don Figueroa and Andrew Wildman had to redesign pretty much every character with a "Cybertronian" alternate mode. Several War Within character designs were produced by Hasbro as "Titanium Series" figures. By 2008, the line was being phased out, with Grimlock finally released as a Toys R Us exclusive. (BTW, the box art depicts some large views of Grimlock's crotch. WTH?!)
Grimlock himself plays a fairly large role throughout the series, leading the "Lightning Strike Coalition" through much of the original War Within arc and then hanging out with the other four future Dinobots in War Within: The Dark Ages. Despite not having a dinosaur alternate mode yet, Grimlock was depicted more or less in a familiar manner, with speech impediment, energo-sword and general bad-temperedness all intact.
Grimlock's alternate mode is... a Cybertronian whatisthis. I suppose you can't overstate the fact that an alien robot lifeform needing an alternate mode to its humanoid, bipedal one is going to have said alternate mode designed to its own specific, environment- and function-related needs, so maybe we're really better off not trying to speculate as to what Grimlock is. Regardless, I've seen him described as a "heavy tank", and also as an "all-terrain carrier vehicle". Well, whatever you want to call it, it's a four-treaded, fairly long contraption with a large cockpit or tower or sensor module or whatever at the front, and three pipes of some sort sticking out of the sides of the centerpiece. These, of course, are instantly recognizable as Grimlock's robot-mode wings. If they're actually weapons, they were never shown as such in the Dreamwave books. A small hole at the back of the centerpiece is to be used to mount Grimlock's rifle, although you can't reeeeally point it in any useful direction, and two posts on the side of one of his rear treads allow you to attach his energo-sword facing backwards. More on the sword later. Small wheels hidden under the treads allow the vehicle to roll, and there's a small Autobot sigil right at its front bumper. The rear piece of the vehicle is fairly flat and you can place much smaller vehicles on it if you're so inclined.
But you aren't buying the toy for the alternate mode, are you?
Even in his pre-G1 form, Grimlock is easy to recognize. He's quite hulking, with long legs, a massive yellow (not gold-chromed) chest, his characteristic wings and large upper arms. His head is almost dwarfed by his giant chestpiece, but not ridiculously so. Look closely and you'll recognize some of the details given to him in the DW comics - the "teeth" motif on his face and lower torso, the large treads that make up his upper arms. Unlike the original G1 Grimlock, his chest isn't a cube - his lower torso is crested by a wide, rectangular chestpiece instead, which adds to his brawny look without making the character hard to identify. He's a heavy, weighty figure, as would be expected of the Titanium Series. And, being a Cybertron Hero of the Titanium Series, Grimlock also comes with a little flat stand bearing his name and an Autobot symbol on the front. As snarly, grouchy, rather violent heroes go, he looks the part and generally looks it well. He's also covered in general detail - vents in the chest, some faceting around the Autobot sigil in the center of his chest, molded detail on his hands and upper legs, and both painted and incised detail on his larger grey lower legs. There were very few shortcuts taken in ornamenting the figure and it seriously heightens his visual appeal. Despite all that attention to his looks, Grimlock is still largely a dingy grey-brown color, with black upper legs connecting to red hips (just like the G1 version), offset by his dark yellow chest. It might be off-putting if you like your TFs rendered in screaming bright colors, but it looks very close to the Dreamwave rendition and conveys a degree of "all-business" that fits Grimlock's personality in the War Within comics.
Articulation-wise, Grimlock's head can rotate, his arms can move at the shoulders and two joints at the elbow, his wrists also rotate, and he also has joints at his waist, hips, thighs and knees. He comes with his sword and rifle. He's somewhat top-heavy as a robot, so his feet actually split apart in transformation to give him "rear toes" in an attempt to support him. The success of this is debatable - while its not the ridiculous, garish support system given to Energon
's Rodimus, the rear supports don't always hold firm under the weight of the toy, causing him to fall over backwards at times. Although he's very capable of making dynamic action poses, the top-heaviness of the figure may make displaying him in such a manner difficult if you don't brace him from behind with something - the wall, the back of your bookshelf, a larger figure, etc. The fact that his lower legs connect together with large pegs for transformation does make him easier to stand "at attention" without support, if you like that particular posture.
Now, the need for the figure to transform caused a few issues that you may or may not be able to live with. Because they had to hide his arms inside the large front treads of the vehicle mode, the tremendously strong Grimlock ends up with comically SMALL arms in robot mode. The effect is somewhat reduced by the large treads acting as shoulder armor, but the fact is that Grimlock's got little skinny arms capped with tiny little fists. It's just a little hard to imagine him getting brutal with those little Charles-Atlas-pre-exercises arms. Even harder to imagine him winning a fistfight with War Within Optimus Prime, as Optimus has bigger forearms and fists to hit with. Also, because of the same need to hide the arms in the vehicle mode, Grimlock's actual arm movement is restricted by the shells of the treads sitting on his shoulders. He can only move his arms up and down - there will be no holding of arms out to the sides - and while the downward range of the arm movement is good (thanks to the lowermost portion of the treads hinging downward and out of the way), he can only raise his arms about to head level. I don't think that's really a deal-breaker when considering buying the toy, but it is notable.
Grimlock comes with two un-named weapons, a sword and a rifle. The rifle is a single-barreled, rather small contraption that bears no visual relation to the twin-barreled laser weapon he carried in G1, but it doesn't look bad. The sword is slightly longer and actually does resemble his G1 toy's sword in shape and detail, except... OK. Here's one of the major gripes I have about this figure. His gun and sword are the same grey-brown as his arms and much of his vehicle detail. The gun I could live with - I really think it needs to be largely black, at least on much of the barrel, but I don't mind much that it's the color it is. Why on earth the sword is the same color I have no idea. Grimlock's energo-sword was red in G1, in the Dreamwave comics its usually depicted as red. Why its been rendered in such a dull color here, I don't know. Maybe it was strictly to save costs, or maybe it was because it clips to the side of the vehicle mode (although honestly, if that was the reason I'd have gladly done without the attachable feature). It looks wrong and it means the sword isn't particularly attention-grabbing. Too bad the nice translucent red sword I got with the HeadRobots "Centurion" set doesn't fit his hands, it would look much better. As it is, the dull color makes the sword almost look more like he's waving a paddle at you.
Still, even with some issues in design and production, War Within Grimlock really is a nice-looking figure, if you don't mind that he's a dark, almost dirty-looking version of the character, more suited for mass disassembly of his foes than comically catching (un-Cybertronian) fish in a (un-Cybertronian) pool that somehow ends up on Cybertron. The hefty weight of the figure combined with its notable articulation makes it a fairly good display piece if he's not overshadowed by more brightly-colored companions. And the high amount of detailing combined with his dingy color scheme also makes him look far less cartoony than many other Transformers you could have sitting out - look, do you want people to judge your collecting habits by a huggable Bumblebee?
3. The transformation is functional, but also pretty simplified and needs no real description. Its almost oversimplistic, though there are far worse examples in the TF universe.
5. The only weak point I can note on Grimlock is the wings - the joints holding them to the body are relatively solid, but an unfortunate dropping could break them off. The small hinges at the back of the vehicle's front treads are quite thin, and while they're less vulnerable to an accidental blow or drop, they're probably more fragile than the rest of the figure. What concerns me most is the effect of the joints loosening at the rear of the feet - then Grimlock really won't want to stand up.
5 - I really like the look of the figure. Its "fun" potential seems limited due to the unimpressive weaponry and its somewhat unimaginative vehicle mode. However, the dynamic posing and general "tough" look of the figure is likely to appeal to at least some.
7. This one is iffy - the dingy, almost muted color scheme might be off-putting to some, but I think it does a lot for the figure. The high amount of detail is also a big plus in its favor. I would have easily rated it an 8 or 9, but the plain-looking weaponry and small arms work against the figure in that area.
6. The articulation goes a long way here once you get used to it - the arm articulation is a little hard to comprehend at first because so much of the arm is hidden inside those big treads on the shoulders. The multiple rotating joints allow a surprising amount of poses. The top-heaviness of the figure causes some problems, though, and the inadequate support offered by the feet only partly addresses the issue.
7. At retail, when it was available (and then only as a TRU exclusive), the figure was quite a value. I bought mine secondhand as I never realized it had been released. I've already forgotten exactly what I paid for it now, but I know it was under US $50. The bang for the buck is still pretty high.
8. I'll give it a high mark for being a nice conception of a familiar character - looks, articulation and value. Its not without its questionable points, but overall its an excellent offering and one that probably is overlooked too often.