Review: Transformers Combiner Wars Ultra Magnus

Ultra Magnus is an interesting character in Transformers lore. His G1 toy is famous for being a large power suit for a white redeco of the Optimus Prime toy, something that almost no fiction has ever followed up on. He was introduced in the 1986 film as Optimus Prime’s old friend and successor to the Matrix, but quickly settled into a role as Rodimus’s second-in-command for the remainder of the cartoon. The character cropped up in minor roles until Animated brought him to the forefront, this time as the Autobot Supreme Commander, and then again in Prime as a higher-up military commander. In the world of the IDW comics, Ultra Magnus was always present but rarely a main character until More Than Meets the Eye, specifically its “season finale” story arc Remain in Light. The biggest bombshell dropped in the story was that Ultra Magnus died at the beginning of the war, and had since become a legacy character of sorts: a title passed down with the Magnus Armor to soldiers worthy (and physically capable) enough to bear it, with the current bearer being a guy named Minimus Ambus. It was a controversial revelation, for sure, and when a new Leader class Ultra Magnus was announced, absolutely no one expected him to be almost entirely IDW-inspired, right down to inclusion of Minimus Ambus.

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Vehicle Mode

Just like G1, Ultra Magnus assumes the altmode of a car carrier, though this time it’s much more futuristic (or perhaps Cybertronian) looking in design. It doesn’t really match his IDW altmode design at all, but it looks pretty good. Unlike the Masterpiece figure, Magnus’s cab is non-removable, but it does have a smooth turning axis and for the most part looks well-scaled to its trailer.

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Speaking of scale, there’s a tiny bit of sculpted detail on the cab that has sparked a ludicrously enormous debate in certain parts of the fandom. Between his front and rear wheels is a small ladder that leads to a small door. Applying human scale to this detail suggests that Ultra Magnus is HUGE, even compared to other Transformers. With this scale, a fully-combined Menasor would only be as tall as his knees. This was directly addressed by Hasbro (thus bringing it to everyone’s attention to complain about) as an effort to scale Magnus with the upcoming Constructicons. Yyyeah. It’s a bit inexplicable, but it’s also entirely easy to overlook and ignore. People on TFW have outright passed on this figure solely because of that tiny door, which is hilariously stupid. It’s just a door, and let’s face it – if you’re looking for proper scale, you’ve come to the wrong place.

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Now that that’s behind us, Ultra Magnus is a car carrier, so logically he should be able to carry some cars. And he can! It’s not the most impressive thing in the world, but you can totally fit most Deluxe cars into the trailer. You can really only fit one on each level of the trailer, but hey, it works. You can even do the G1 thing where you lower the top level down like a ramp, though it doesn’t quite work as well as the Masterpiece version.

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Putting him next to other vehicles in truck mode can be a bit awkward, as despite his status as a Leader toy, Magnus isn’t too terribly large, especially since he is 70% trailer. It’s not too noticeable with Deluxe cars, but comparing the cab next to Voyager Optimus Prime or Motormaster does raise some questions. But, like I said earlier, Transformers is notoriously bad about scale, so is this really such a problem?

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Minimus Ambus

Before moving into the main figure’s robot mode, I’ll go ahead and cover the minuscule mustachioed mechanical man that is Minimus Ambus. First off, this altmode is not comic-accurate at all, but there is good reason for that. Ambus’s altmode was not seen until just a few issues ago, where it was revealed to be a minesweeper. By the time that issue was published, this Ultra Magnus toy would have already been designed and developed, so the designers went ahead and gave him the altmode of a hovercar. It’s a pretty darn cool hovercar, too. It’s tiny and doesn’t do anything (and unfortunately has no storage or interaction with Magnus in vehicle mode), but it definitely works.

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Robot mode Minimus is far more accurate to his comic appearance, specifically Ambus’s mid-tier body that he uses to interface with the Magnus Armor, and within that body is his true, smaller form. Ambus should be about the size of a typical Deluxe in this form, but given the nature of the toy, this is totally fine. The sculpted detail is impressive and spot-on, though his ‘stache and collar are dark green when they should be black. He has decent articulation for his size: ball-jointed shoulders and hips and hinged knees. For being essentially a Mini-Con, Minimus is a nice little figure in his own right.

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Robot Mode

Back to the big guy proper, Magnus is heavily inspired by Alex Milne’s artwork, primarily in the chest, shoulders, and legs, while his arms, head (specifically the eyes), and overall colors are much more G1-inspired. I think it comes out as a nice blend of classic and modern Magnus styles, though admittedly the chest almost seems too IDW for the rest of the toy. Notably, the white thighs are a bit of an oddity in that they’re G1 cartoon accurate, but for the entire first season of MTMTE Magnus sported red thighs… only to switch to white in season 2. I’m not sure if the color swap was in anticipation for the toy, but hey, it worked out.

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Speaking of colors, I have to give special mention to the blue that was used for this toy. In most pictures, it looks like a regular, dark-ish shade of blue, but in person it’s much lighter and much more metallic than in photographs. I don’t think it looks any better or worse (it does match the coloring in the comics better), but if you’re a fan of a darker blue Magnus like the MP, you might be a bit disappointed.

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Magnus’s articulation is not overly impressive, but definitely serviceable. His shoulders and hips are on universal ratchets, his elbows and knees are ratcheted with 90-degree bends, and his head, biceps, and thighs all swivel. He has two hinge joints in his ankles due to transformation, but neither serve as an ankle tilt; thankfully, his feet are large enough to not need it, but it’s a bit of an odd omission. Another oddity is his lack of a waist joint, as there is no real engineering obstacle there to prevent a swivel. Though he has opening hands, he has no wrist swivel– we’ll get into that later. 

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For weaponry, the (ex-)Duly Appointed Enforcer of the Tyrest Accord is armed with two large rifles that he can’t really hold very well at all. His hands are designed in the style of the Masterpiece cars with hinged, fused fingers, but unlike the MPs his hands have no slots that allow his weapons to peg in solidly. Without any sort of locking ability, his guns just kind of rest in his hands with only the friction of his not-entirely-tight finger joint keeping them in. Basically, he can hold his guns, but if you move his arms at all they fall right out. It’s not the worst thing ever, but it’s a real bummer.

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One fun feature of the two rifles is that you can peg them together, and then take Magnus’s shoulder rockets and peg them onto the back of the wider rifle and form a big-ass hammer, Animated-style. This is really cool in theory, and in practice the hammer looks pretty cool with its head full of rockets… but Magnus really can’t hold it well at all.

IMG_1740The only place his hands can grip is the thin portion of the handle, but it’s so close to the head of the hammer that it doesn’t really work for action poses. It’s a cool idea, but the execution just doesn’t work. Still, pretty badass-looking hammer, and if you can fudge a decent pose with it, he looks pretty awesome.

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In the comics, the Magnus Armor is a literal suit of armor that Minimus wears and incorporates his body into. Since that’s pretty much impossible to physically do, the toy has opted for a different interpretation, making Minimus the pilot of Ultra Magnus as if he were a mech. I think this interpretation has given a lot of people the wrong idea of what IDW Magnus is like, and I’m not the biggest fan of it myself, but the execution is actually pretty rad. The cab section opens up (flipping out the Magnus head) and reveals a fully-detailed cockpit that Minimus fits into snugly, with his fistholes gripping two handles and his legs perfectly aligned.

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The cockpit then closes up into Magnus’s chest, and Magnus’s head fits over Minimus’s head (there’s even a little sculpted targeting screen on the inside of Magnus’s head). For what it is, it’s a really great little gimmick that works perfectly. It’s also very easy to ignore Minimus altogether, as the Magnus head almost completely obscures him. I think it’s fantastic that Hasbro included this for the comic fans, and it’s something that I certainly never expected to see happen in any capacity. Score for the MTMTE fans!

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While size in vehicle mode was a bit of an issue, in robot mode Ultra Magnus is appropriately large. He’s about as tall as previous Leader class Autobot Jetfire, though a bit shorter than Megatron. I think his size is pretty much perfect, especially for a MTMTE-themed shelf. A shelf that, as it has grown, is suffering more and more from a lack of Rodimus…

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Overall

Leader class Ultra Magnus is a moderate love letter to fans of the More Than Meets the Eye comic, while also catering very well to the crowd who just want a modernized G1 figure. Aesthetically, he works perfectly as a modernized G1 design (since that’s pretty much what IDW designs are), though the inclusion of Minimus Ambus is straight-up IDW and can admittedly be hard to ignore if you’re not a fan of the concept. Magnus has a few flaws as a toy, as well, primarily with his inability to hold his weapons and the slight ricketiness of his transformation. Overall, though, I really love this figure and I think he’s the best of the modern Generations Leader figures so far. If you can deal with his flaws and his comic inspirations, pick him up.

Where to Buy

 

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