It took a little while, but IDW and Hasbro have started to push harder and introduce new characters and even toys in the current Transformers Generation One canon. Characters like Drift and the voted-on Windblade have expanded the franchise with new characters - non-aligned Cybertronians, for example - and this cracks open the door to bring back ideas that were basically buried in the never-ending Autobot/Decepticon gang war. Windblade, for example, may have a wonderfully detailed sword with a clear to transparent purple fade and a wonderfully engineered scabbard she can hold in her hand or mount on her hip - but it's not terribly important to her character. In the comics, she's basically there to keep the city running - she talks to Metroplex and helps solve problems in the giant city. In the comic she's really come off as a bit less severe in the face than this figure, but it's a nice figure. She's less of a combatant, which is a refreshing change of pace. She's an alien with a job, and not another killer with a gargantuan sword.
The robot mode is good, but not flawless. We were told this figure had an accelerated development cycle due to her being voted on from April to May 2013, shown in art form in July 2013, and more or less finalized by Toy Fair in February 2014. These things usually take a lot longer - a typical Transformers toy could be cooking for a year or even more before fans get a glimpse of it. Considering that this is a complicated robot, I have to give Hasbro's designer Lenny Panzica a huge pat on the back.
Windblade's robot form is skinny and poseable. Depending on how you count joints, she has just under 20 points of articulation plus articulated wings and pivoting, spinning fans inside those wings. Were this a non-transforming toy, it would be a very good one. The tabs on her sword sheath plug in to her leg, or she can grip it in her hand - but if that doesn't do it for you, a gold fan is removable from her hair. It's sort of a hassle to get it out and squeeze it back in. If it's not in perfectly, transformation may be blocked - so be careful.
Her heels are a little odd, with fold-out spikes that more or less help her balance. It's not perfect - stilettos seem to be the norm for lady Transformers these days, rather than the sensible footwear worn by, let's say, Strika. The typical tropes of lady robots are mostly here, but her face paint make-up is more to emulate Japanese motifs than Maxx Factor's. The blue eyes shine nicely, and some gold in her hair-like helmet really looks swell. This is the head design seemingly used for Dark Cybertron comics, while the Windblade miniseries art tends to veer off on more human, and I daresay more charming, places. Other small details like a collar around her neck, an Autobot "necklace," and blue bands around her wrists help set her apart from many of her transforming toy peers. Also, she's a lot more expensive on the secondary market than her casemates, so clearly Hasbro did something right.
Transformation is not what I would call overly pleasant. The legs spit around the heel, and everything below the knee shifts around. Things move together in a smart way with lots of fidgeting and twisting, which should please fans of more complicated transformations. Me, I want a quick change - so this figure takes some getting used to. Everything needs a little massaging, in particular two black tabs near the top of her wings in robot mode. These don't always align quite right as a jet, which can be troubling as you may not get it right the first time. Or the second. Or the third.
The VTOL jet is decent - it holds together well enough, and unlike most vehicle modes actually does things. Retractable landing gear under the nose cone comes out without too much of a fuss, and the aforementioned blades spin and rotate to your liking. You can also store the sword under her in jet mode, plus there's a small hexagonal port designed for use with certain figure display stands that, sadly, Hasbro has opted not to distribute outside a few Asian markets at this time. The vehicle's deco is good, but Hasbro lost some paint on the back side which really causes the legs to stand out in jet mode. Some red stripes on the wings in the concept design helped to integrate them nicely. As released, she has two red legs jutting out of a black jet. It doesn't quite work... but it's not like most fans display these as alt modes anyway.
What's really fascinating is that the back half of the year's deluxe toys seem to be spending their tooling budget mostly on female robots - of which we've had precious few. Windblade is out now, with Arcee and Chromia due in before December. I'm pretty happy to see more girl robots for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is one of my penpals (hi Daniel) has girls who love Transformers and I like the idea they have options if they want them. It also opens up more color schemes (pink) and perhaps even new directions for alt modes in the future. While not perfect, she has lots of joints, a great paint job, and more or less holds together without parts falling off - you'll have to massage some bits in place, but the end result is still a striking (and most important of all) new design to hang out with the re-re-retreads of the classes of 1984 and 1985 they'll keep revisiting until the end of time. Get a Windblade.
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