Review: Transformers Combiner Wars Deluxe Wave 4 (Prowl, Ironhide, Mirage, and Sunstreaker)

After three waves of the initial G1 combiner lineup (minus Bruticus, but he’s on his way), Combiner Wars has taken a bit of a breather for Wave 4, giving us the components of an original combiner who debuted in IDW’s tie-in comic event: Optimus Maximus. For a lot of collectors, this wave will be an easy pass (as all four already have Classics-style figures, plus repaint fatigue seems to be hitting a large portion of the fandom by now), but in the past few months I’ve grown to love the Voyager Optimus Prime figure, and what’s a combiner torso without limbs? Wave 4 consists of the classic 1984 ‘bots Prowl, Ironhide, Mirage, and Sunstreaker retooled from the Stunticon lineup, and since I’ve essentially reviewed all of these toys at least once, I’ll lump them all together into one review. Is Wave 4 a snoozefest of dull redecos, or is there anything here to justify another round of the molds? Let’s find out!

Prowl

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Vehicle Mode

Prowl is a straight redeco of Streetwise, and by extension a heavy retool of Dead End/Brake-Neck. I did make it clear how much adore Streetwise back in his review for how much he stood out from and improved upon the original mold. Prowl… is essentially the same as Streetwise, which is both good and bad. Good because, well, I really like Streetwise! Bad because I pretty much bought a second Streetwise. It really doesn’t help that they’re both police cars, and distinguishing Prowl’s colors would have made him not look like Prowl. It’s really just unavoidable, other than just not making a Prowl, but given the theme of the wave and especially the character’s role in the event, his presence here is kind of necessary.

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Robot Mode

Well, he still looks a lot like Streetwise, but in robot mode Prowl does manage to capture a unique identity. For one, he’s rocking a brand new noggin, which continues the trend of being incredibly sharp and very on point for the character. His eyes are a little small, but it gives him a shady kind of demeanor that is pretty accurate for IDW Prowl. Other points of interest are the creative paint apps on his chest and shins, replicating the hood design and shin-windows (shindows? Dammit, Thew.) of his classic look. Like the faux-windshield chest on Streetwise, it’s a really clever touch that helps the figure feel like more than just an obvious repaint.

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Unfortunately, Prowl is stuck with the same weapons as his Protectobot counterpart. Fortunately, that shotgun is still pretty rad, even in the odd white plastic. I would’ve liked for it to be painted up in the same lovely silver as his HFG, but it’s fine. The HFG, by the way, is only painted on the main shell part; the fingers and thumb/heel are unpainted grey. Articulation is identical to the last three toys of this mold, and his joints and overall feel are about on par with Streetwise; no major degradation issues yet.

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Overall

For most fans, Universe Prowl is still the definitive Classics-style Prowl figure, and this toy probably isn’t going to be challenging anyone’s opinions on that. It lacks a lot of Prowl’s distinctive visual traits, primarily the hood-chest and door-wings. If you can get past that, though, CW Prowl is a good repaint of a good toy, one that I’d say is superior to the now 7 year-old Universe figure. If you’re burnt out on the Dead End mold or just don’t need another Prowl, I don’t think there’s much here to convince you otherwise.

Ironhide

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Vehicle Mode

Whereas Prowl’s mold came from the Wave 3 variation, Ironhide is not a redeco of First Aid, but rather Offroad. I understand the reasoning for this, a Ironhide isn’t an ambulance (just usually repainted into one), but I wonder if the bulkier aesthetic of First Aid would’ve been a better fit for Ironhide. On the other hand, Ironhide as a pickup truck also serves as a nifty homage to his Movieverse counterpart, which works pretty well. It’s still a nice-looking vehicle mode, and the silver trim and yellow stripes over lovely red plastic really make it pop. 

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Robot Mode

While Prowl’s look really came together when you get him to robot mode, I feel like Ironhide’s really just falls apart. It’s still a nice-looking toy and the colors are spot-on, but there’s just nothing about this robot mode that resembles Ironhide. I’m disappointed that they didn’t even try to recreate his classic window-chest by painting some metallic blue to fill in the center of his chest (though the combiner port piece could be unpaintable plastic), especially since such a good job was done with Prowl. Admittedly, I’m not sure what else they could have done with the mold; there’s just not a lot here to work with. Even the headsculpt is a bit disappointing, with most of its facial details lost in the silver paint, making it look like the visage of a much younger Ironhide than we’re used to. It’s not awful, just maybe not the best.

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Ironhide comes with the same axe as Offroad and First Aid before him, but this time it’s completely unpainted and cast in a very ugly grey plastic. I was hoping that since First Aid didn’t get a unique weapon despite his major retooling that they might be saving something special for Ironhide, but alas that is not the case. At least you can further the Movieverse homage by putting a couple HFGs on his arms, but it really just looks silly. To round off the train of disappointment, Ironhide feels just as flimsy and loose as Offroad, particularly in the legs (they very much refuse to stay pegged together, especially in arm mode).

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Overall

Ironhide is easily at the bottom of this wave. Colors aside, he just doesn’t look like Ironhide. Even Ironhide didn’t look like this in the comics when he combined (which is honestly more the fault of the comic artist and not the toy, but still). That being said, he’s still a perfectly fine toy, and if you can manage to repurpose him as some other character he’ll work great, but all-in-all he’s just a disappointing Ironhide… just like the Universe figure. Hell, even the upcoming Masterpiece doesn’t look quite right. What is it with Ironhide and his inability to receive a good toy?

Mirage

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Vehicle Mode

Surprising absolutely no one, Mirage is a repaint of Drag Strip, a mold that we haven’t seen since Wave 1, making this toy seem a bit fresher than his wavemates. If you recall, Drag Strip was my favorite of the first wave, largely due to his sleek and sexy altmode. While I don’t think the F1 car looks quite as good in blue and white, it’s still a damn fine mold. I think what’s missing is some sort of connected pattern in his white stripes; it looks like it should be a solid stripe down the middle, but it’s broken up too much around the cockpit and ends up looking a bit messy. Am I nitpicking? Probably. But hey, at least Mirage is the proper altmode! 

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Robot Mode

Well, it sure is a blue and white Drag Strip. I honestly expected to be more into this figure; I thought he looked great in the stock photos and even the in-hand pictures, but now that I have him I’m mostly just feeling lukewarm. The headsculpt suffers from the same mushed details as Ironhide, particularly with his nose (I’m starting to think this silver paint, while very pretty, just doesn’t work for faces). He’s also got one heck of a chin, which I think would’ve looked better if left blue. Speaking of paint issues, the white paint is applied extremely thick. So thick that I couldn’t even move his thigh swivels without using some serious force to get them un-paint-stuck. As a result, both his thighs and knees are way too tight. Also, his chest is just… bland. Clearly all of the paint budget went into the globs of white on his thighs and torso, but a little bit of detail would’ve been nice.

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Mirage continues on the disappointing weapons train, with Drag Strip’s shank-sword in the same dull grey as Ironhide’s axe. At least you can use the other handle to make it look more like a gun, but it really just looks like he’s holding his knife like it’s a gun. You do you, Mirage. You do you.

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Overall

Mirage isn’t as disappointing as Ironhide and bears fairly decent resemblance to the character, but the issues with his paint and the overall blandness of him makes the figure rather unexciting. I certainly wouldn’t call him a bad toy, but he’s definitely on the lower end of Combiner Wars figures. It’s also worth noting that unlike Prowl and Ironhide, Mirage’s original Classics toy has aged quite well for being nearly a decade old, and (though I don’t own it) I’d say it’s still the superior toy.

Sunstreaker

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Vehicle Mode

There’s really no way around this– Sunstreaker just looks ugly. The blame lies entirely on the gross-looking semi-transparent yellow plastic that seems to change shade depending on the paint app that’s applied near it. I don’t understand the bits of red around his rear wheels as it really throws off his color scheme and makes it look jumbled, especially with the uncharacteristically dull grey spoiler. If the shiny silver paint needed to go anywhere, it’s there. At the very least, you can throw in the shiny supercharger to hide it, but it’s still disappointing. The mold itself is great, just like Breakdown, but sadly the colors just ruin it. For someone as appearance-obsessed as Sunstreaker, he’s really let himself go.

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Robot Mode

I’m happy to report that Sunstreaker isn’t all doom-and-gloom, as his robot mode turned out surprisingly well. While he does suffer from all the awkwardness of Breakdown’s hips and arms, Sunstreaker manages to make the mold look pretty good. The ugliness of the yellow plastic is less noticeable when it’s broken up with black, and he makes good use of his paint apps to both distinguish him from Breakdown and call back to his G1 look, though it’s more subtle than on Prowl. One major area of improvement is in the legs, where the black paint helps make them look less like huge blocks of chunk and more like normal-size legs with pods of kibble on the side. His headsculpt also falls much more on the Prowl side of things, complete with a characterful smirk.

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Sunstreaker also lucked out a bit with his weapon; despite still being same weird sword-gun-thing, it’s at least painted up in silver. It certainly looks better than Mirage and Ironhide’s armament, but it’s just a shame it’s such a doofy-looking weapon. On the other hand, you can peg the HFG supercharger onto Sunstreaker’s back, giving him a more unique profile as well as some more shiny silver, which I’m sure he would appreciate. Mold-wise, Sunstreaker seems to be identical to Breakdown in terms of joint tolerances; nothing is too loose or too tight.

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Overall

Sunstreaker is definitely above Ironhide and Mirage… but not too far. If it weren’t for the yellow plastic, he’d easily be as good as Prowl, but sadly that is not the case, and it really brings the toy down in my opinion. Still, he has a strong robot mode despite the oddities of the toy itself, and is the only one of the four whom I feel actually improves upon the original use of the mold. Like Mirage, though, his previous Classics-style toy is leagues above this release, so I really can’t recommend this version over the Universe toy. Still, though, Sunstreaker surprised me in how much I ended up liking him, so I don’t mind having both.

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Overall – Wave 4

At the end of the day, I’m really not sure if I can recommend this wave as a whole. Out of the four, really only Prowl stands out as a good, solid representation of the character, but even then he’s nearly identical to Streetwise from the previous wave. Not only are Mirage and Ironhide fairly lackluster representations of their characters, but they all have more faithful, if not superior, toys in previous lines. That being said, all four of their previous figures go for a pretty hefty price on the aftermarket and aren’t exactly easy to find for a reasonable price. If you’re on a budget and really want these characters, you could probably do a lot worse, but they’ll definitely feel like cheaper, budget versions of the characters.

Individually, the figures of Wave 4 are a bit of a blemish in the run of Combiner Wars, but these are the Combiner Wars, and I didn’t buy these just for their two modes…

Where to Buy

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