Not-Powered Convoy is a wholly accurate description of KFC’s D.A.I. Commander Stack repaint of the earlier ”Citizen Stack”, KFC’s attempt at a Masterpiece Ultra Magnus. That’s not to say this isn’t a great figure that’s fit for a purpose, however the question is whether or not it actually fulfils any of the purposes it was designed for, that is, a Masterpiece Ultra Magnus or a Masterpiece Diaclone Powered Convoy. With my personal area of interest and specialism being Diaclone for over a decade, and having owned more than five Diaclone Powered Convoys, I can hopefully provide perspective on how this figure appeals to me and whether it’s successful on any level compared to something Takara Tomy would produce for MP-22’s potential Powered Convoy repaint.
The Takara Diaclone Powered Convoy was first released in Japan in 1984 and used pretty much the same cab mould as the Diaclone Battle Convoy (later to become G1 Optimus Prime). The cab was blue and the trailer a mix of grey, red, black and dark blue. Powered Convoy was accompanied by a yellow Diaclone pilot and a parts-forming red Powered Buggy. The trailer could be transformed into the body of the larger Powered Convoy robot in which the cab would snugly fit, as well as an aircraft launch pad, a repair base and a missile base for the truck cab. The chest piece could also be connected to the large robot head forming another small vehicle for the Diaclone driver as the Diaclone release’s chest wing had little black wheels. When this mould was incorporated into the Hasbro Transformers toy line, the cab was recoloured white and the trailer a much lighter blue and red, the toy we came to know as Ultra Magnus. Gone were the Diaclone driver, the wheels on the chest wing and the Powered Buggy. Gone was the lifeless mecha controlled by a human, and in its place a sentient Autobot was born.
D.A.I. Stack’s colours may be based on the reissue exclusive Movie Trailer Ultra Magnus from the early 2000s instead of the much darker sparkly blue of the Diaclone Powered Convoy, but there’s no doubt from the style of D.A.I. Stack’s packaging about what homage they were going for. When I first saw this Diaclone-style packaging for it at Auto Assembly during the 3rd Party panel, I applauded because it was a very nice touch. You can see from the comparison above just how much they incorporated from the original Takara Diaclone design for Powered Convoy’s packaging, yellow band together with positioning of stock photos and all. You might be able to see that the Diaclone’s box shows Powered Convoy in all the previously mentioned modes the trailer can hold, but D.A.I. Stack is shown just in the standard robot and truck modes from different angles, and that is at the crux of what stops this being a 3rd Party Diaclone Powered Convoy. It’s missing the one thing that Powered Convoy had in spades, making it the marvel that it was: Gimmicks.
So we have established it’s not a 3rd Party Diaclone, more a Movie Trailer Magnus repaint of what KFC marketed as a Masterpiece Ultra Magnus. Movie Trailer Magnus is, of course, how Ultra Magnus appeared in early trailers of the 1986 animated feature sporting Diaclone Powered Convoy colours, so while some may think the whole point of origin discussion is nothing but semantics, I’ll take this opportunity to remind you of my nature as a finicky Diaclone collector! In simple terms, D.A.I. Stack is coloured like the reissue, but attempts to be a Masterpiece Powered Convoy. So if it’s not that, what is it?
It’s a damn fine TOY is what it is, and that is not a derogatory statement. The colours are also rich, attractive and the photographs above should demonstrate how he pops visually. Because it is more of a toy and less of a Masterpiece or Diaclone style all-in-one truck/robot/base, I’m leaning towards applauding the choice of reissue Movie Trailer Magnus colours over the more understated blue of the Diaclone Powered Convoy. I will admit, when I first took it out and handled it, I didn’t ‘get’ it. I wasn’t particularly sold on the original Citizen Stack either, while I appreciated its scale, achievement as an Ultra Magnus that had an integrated cab and the step up in ambition together with production quality from KFC, I didn’t buy or want one. Then again, I haven’t pre-ordered MP-22 either.
D.A.I. Stack, designed by Cassy Sark of Feral Rex fame, certainly nails the vehicle mode scale and functionality of a Masterpiece car transporter. To some degree, certainly the cab, it nails the Masterpiece aesthetic too but there are definitely elements of artistic interpretation in the shape of trailer sections that don’t quite mirror the original Ultra Magnus or Powered Convoy design. This to me is most evident in the rearmost blue section of the trailer. It’s not a bad quality to re-invent, worked a treat for Feralcons. I’ll concede that the whole figure despite its considerable length feels light and hollow, because it is. From the rear you catch glimpses of the hollow cab interior and the thin strips of plastic that hold the front cab wheels, effectively shattering the suspension of disbelief that we expect Masterpiece figures to give us. True, MP Lambor did this with the robot legs, but it was done better there. Having said that, from the front, side and mostly the rear, you cannot deny this looks good as a large MP-carrying truck. However much I was certain that post-review I would sell this figure, especially after initial handling, I have since changed my mind and D.A.I. Stack is a keeper.
The undoing of a single screw allows the cab to be detached from the trailer, although the purpose of doing that is limited because of course it does not transform into a blue Optimus-a-like. Any doubt that Stack in both its incarnations thus far was meant to be a Masterpiece stand-in/replacement/pre-empt (delete as necessary) vanishes when he’s placed next to a Masterpiece Optimus Prime. The cab design is heavily reminiscent of MP-10 and they are obviously meant to co-exist on shelves, displays, in collections. Many collectors have complained about the fact that Stack’s rear cab wheels sit further in than the front of the cab, and to some degree I feel this is a legitimate complaint and a compromise that should not have been made. Remember where I’m coming from with this review, and the fact that I’ve already said that despite initial misgivings I am now keeping the figure and love it for what it is, I’ve stopped being bothered by the wheels. I am however still a little disappointed by the afterthought that is the horizontal chrome fuel tanks along the wheelbase.
Other things that remind you this is not Masterpiece Powered Convoy or Ultra Magnus include the extra section of diagonal silver stripe on side of the cab, distinguishing him from Optimus Prime and MP-22 Magnus, the “KFC” licence plate (Why? A reminder?) and the mirrors not folding back like MP-10, but why should they? The cab becomes a hidden integrated part of the larger robot already so why go the extra mile? If you were cruel, you would say that’s Stack in a nutshell, ticking the minimum number of boxes in order to be considered a Masterpiece figure of Ultra Magnus descent without ever going the extra mile. It would be cruel, and fundamentally incorrect.
I’ve mentioned the word toy a fair few times in my description of D.A.I. Stack both here and to other collectors, because that’s what he feels like. The plastic, while I wouldn’t call it cheap and thin, does feel like it’s bending during transformation and the tabbing of trailer sections to each other or to panels required for robot mode is not as secure as you would like, often the satisfying click is missing, and they can come undone requiring attention again. Transformation, once you have run through it a few times is quite enjoyable and reminiscent of Ultra Magnus’s G1 toy (and therefore Diaclone Powered Convoy). Yes, the robot mode is huge, but you have already seen he’s perfectly in scale with MP-10 in vehicle mode, exactly how short did one expect a standing car carrier to be?
It needs to be said that there was no looseness evident on my figure, legs, waist, arms, shoulders and so on were more than tight enough to hold poses and do what they need to, a joy to pose in fact. I personally can’t leave it alone and neither can my 2 year old daughter who cuddles him, reads to him and carries him about.
I think the proportions on Stack are better and more natural than those seen on MP-22 thus far, but Stack is not duty-bound to mimic the cartoon representation of Ultra Magnus at every turn. As a result, he’s much taller than other Masterpiece figures. This annoys some and pleases others. I can honestly say that I don’t see myself displaying Stack with my Masterpiece cars in robot mode. That comes down to my seeing the toy as something else entirely than a Masterpiece Powered Convoy, or Delta Magnus or Movie Magnus, whatever you need him to be. At the same time, that freedom to interpet a modern day updated Magnus means that he doesn’t quite fit with Masterpiece or Generations. He stands alone.
Standing alone is what this figure is all about, though. Writing credit for D.A.I Stack’s back story and comic go to CZ Hazard and Juan Pablo Osorio, pitching him as a lone warrior nicknamed “D.A.I Commander Stack” (Destroy, Alienate, Invade), the use of “DAI” another nod to his Diaclone history. Some trivia for you, initially this repaint was going to be the yellow Shining Magnus but KFC went with a Diaclone homage as they believed it would have higher collector reach and appeal. Furthermore, “Citizen Stack” came from Citizen G’kar (Babylon 5) and Robert Stack (who voiced Ultra Magnus in the 86 movie). In the mirror E.A.V.I. Metal universe he is depicted as a savage but skilled bot who loves death and destruction. Interestingly, this isn’t the first time in the history of the Powered Convoy coloured transporter where he’s a villain.
I too see D.A.I. stack as a sort of pantomime villain in the 3rd Party and Masterpiece world, because he will be a magnet for all of those wanting to demonstrate that Masterpiece-style figures ought to be left to Takara, while at the same time people may thank KFC as they appear to have forced Takara Tomy’s hand in announcing and producing Masterpiece MP-22 Ultra Magnus, if we allow ourselves to believe it’s possible for a 3rd Party product to have that sort of effect on official product. I don’t think that KFC have produced a Masterpiece Ultra Magnus here, it isn’t cartoon accurate enough and it doesn’t represent what a modern day Diaclone of the stature and history of Powered Convoy should represent. There’s nothing Powered about it, there’s nothing boosted, or upgraded or brimming with features to allow it to have that title. Yes, the head is too thin and the two faces provided almost force you to purchase the SXS upgrade heads and faces, just as I have now done. Yes, the knee articulation is so limited that he cannot be posed bending down.
To leave it there is to miss the point, though, of why this is a great figure and something I have become so fond of. It’s not a Masterpiece, it’s not a Diaclone, it’s an absolutely brilliant leader or supreme class Transformers toy that looks great and is fun to interact with, pose and transform. If this was the top end figure in a Hasbro range of mainstream Transformers, we’d praise it for hearking back so effectively to Ultra Magnus while using a niche and classy colour scheme, the best ever seen on this mould/character. We’d appreciate the individually articulated fingers (but not thumb) and chunky arm segments, as well as the weaponry that is entirely characteristic of this toy and its previously loved incarnations. We’d applaud rubber tyres and generous usage of chrome in all the right places and how undeniably heroic D.A.I. Stack looks in robot mode. But most of all, we’d keep coming back to the fact that D.A.I. Stack is a toy that cannot be ignored, in a room, in a display, in hand. We’d keep coming back, and that’s its purpose to me, a beautiful and enjoyable toy that has character where the original was not designed to have any character at all. A toy that reminds me of the days where matters of scale, purpose and relevance withered to insignificance in front of the enjoyable transforming toy I grew to love because he made me smile and looked every bit the hero.
Many thanks to HighPrime for the Reissue Movie Trailer Magnus picture.
All the best