Review: Transformers Combiner Wars Defensor

Despite being one of the core Scramble City-style Combiners introduced in Season 2 of the G1 cartoon, Defensor usually ends up being the one everyone forgets. I think the biggest reason for this is that unlike the teams for Superion, Menasor, and Bruticus, the Protectobots never got an introductory episode or really any origin at all– they just kind of show up like they’ve been there the whole time. Defensor’s origin in the current IDW comics is not that much better; First Aid and the rest of the traditional Protectobots leave the Lost Light for no real reason to go to Cybertron and join up with the main cast for no real reason, just in time for Starscream to shoot mysterious combiner magic (it’s literally called the Enigma of Combination) and turn them (and some random dude standing next to them) into Defensor. Yeah. Fortunately, the lack of good fiction doesn’t affect the quality of the toy.

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G1 Defensor was a short, stocky brick of a combiner, and the modernized version is pretty faithful to that design, though he’s noticeably lost some weight in the Hot Spot area. Right off the bat, Defensor beats Menasor and challenges Superion for the title of best-looking combiner. His proportions are mostly excellent, with only his legs being a bit on the short and stumpy side (which is mostly due to the small size of the Hand-Foot-Guns as feet). His arms may be a bit long and gorilla-ish, but I don’t think it’s too much of a negative. I have him here in my preferred arrangement (which is accurate to the G1 cartoon except with Rook filling in for Groove), along with Groove as the chestplate. Like the other two, however, you can rearrange Defensor’s limbs to your heart’s desire.

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As far as torsos go, I think Defensor is the winner of the three combiners. He’s a bit bulkier than Superion and lacks the jet combiner’s twig-like thighs, and manages to not look incredibly awkward and derpy like Menasor always does. However, the neat proportions of his torso are achieved primarily by a bit of an optical illusion: when he’s standing up straight, what appears to be his midriff is actually his hips (as he uses the same hips as Hot Spot), and the area you think should be his hips is actually just painted detail on his thighs. As such, the illusion falls apart when you start to move his legs, as it turns out his torso is a lot squatter than at first glance. It doesn’t ruin the look of the guy by any means, but it maybe puts him a notch below Superion as far as looks go.

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On the other hand, Defensor is dead solid, with everything locking in place nice and tightly. The ladder arrangement and its rather ingenious integration into the torso mode does most of the work in keeping Defensor’s body nice and solid, locking Hot Spot’s arms to provide a solid base for the combiner limbs. His legs can be a bit of a different story, depending on the QC. Some copies of Hot Spot have some excess plastic in the legs, which results in the locking tabs for combined mode not quite working right. It’s not hard to identify the bothersome plastic and shave it down, though. Everything else, even his limbs (and especially Groove), manage to hold together nice and tightly.

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Now, to do a quick rundown of the limb-bots in their limb forms:

  • Blades: Since he’s the same toy, the description of Alpha Bravo’s limb modes describes Blades’ as well. Blades does stick out a bit by being notably skinny in both arm mode and leg mode. It’s especially noticeably as a leg, and it’s only when you compare him to, say, Rook’s arm mode that it becomes obvious that Defensor doesn’t exercise his Blades arm enough. The white and red of First Aid’s arm mode balance out Blades’ skinny appearance the best, I’ve found.
  • First Aid: I’d say First Aid is basically the same as Offroad, with all of Offroad’s strengths and flaws, but that’s not the case! First Aid not only inherits Offroad’s strengths, but also totally fixes his flaws. His robot mode arms actually tab into their intended slots, and his legs actually hold tightly together to maintain a solid forearm. Go, First Aid!
  • Streetwise: On the other hand, Streetwise is identical to Dead End/Brake-Neck, and makes for a rather weak arm mode and a totally passable leg mode. I do think he can pull off the arm mode better than his Stunticon cousins, but I still prefer him as a leg.
  • Rook: Rook actually forms a surprisingly nice and functional arm with his only flaw being that the allocation of bulk results in him having a rather huge shoulder. It’s easy to ignore from certain angles, but from dead-on it’s a bit awkward-looking. He works better as a leg, but even then, the tiny feet of the HFG make his leg mode look really odd. I think some bigger replacement feet would help out a lot for this guy.
  • Groove: Rounding out the cavalcade of properly-functioning combiner bots is Groove, stepping all over Blackjack by actually being able to attach to Defensor’s chest. Not only does he peg in, but he pegs in hella solid and looks pretty cool. Defensor’s bare chest looks nice on its own (and for a more G1 flavor), but I’m not sure which configuration I like more.

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Defensor falls a bit short when it comes to weaponry, which you could argue is fitting for the character. While Superion and Menasor get fittingly-huge weapons, Defensor just has to make do with Hot Spot’s twin cannons. You can totally plug them together, but it just looks like you glued a gun to the tip of another gun, which is dumb. That being said, I actually like Defensor defying traditional giant robot weapon tropes and just rocking the dual handguns. They don’t look terribly undersized, and could be seen as the kind of light, precision weaponry that a guy concerned about civilian casualties would use. Also, you can stick the individual Protectobots’ weapons on him to function as spare weaponry; I particularly like mounting First Aid’s axe on his arm, though it’s most definitely undersized.

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Overall

Superion had a solid torso, but was a bit unstable and had some minor proportion issues. Menasor had a very unstable torso and some serious proportion issues (unless you modified him, which made him even more unstable). Defensor proves that the third time really is the charm, as he suffers from no major issues in combined mode (except perhaps a relative lack of articulation), and is in my opinion easily the most aesthetically-pleasing of the trio. This is also taking into account that the individual Protectobots are an ensemble of the best limb molds of the line so far, rounding it out with a stellar Voyager figure and Legends class accessory. All in all, it’s fair to say the Defensor and the Protectobots form the best overall Combiner Wars experience of the line: you get six really good (and varied) figures and a really good combined mode. If you were put off by the shortcomings of Superion and Menasor, I implore you to take the plunge on Defensor. He’s worth every penny of his parts.

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