Mastermind Creations bring you R-17 Carnifex from their Reformatted line, where they have most recently been providing excellent representations of IDW-based comic characters from the transforming robot universe in CHUG scale. Carnifex is based heavily on the original evil double Powermaster from the Japanese continuity, a character that was given a very specific design and personality in the Last Stand of the Wreckers comic series. This much loved representation has been crying out for a new toy, and BotCon exclusives or legends-scale figures aside, MMC have delivered him in glorious style.
You can’t help but be impressed with his size to begin with, the packaging is plenty big enough. He stands just a little shorter than the vintage inspiration, but completely free of the bulk and block nature of the revered original toy. Carnifex’s vibrant colours and exceptionally nice feel in hand give a tremendously positive first impression. Robot mode proportions are excellent, he looks dynamic even when he’s standing still, and most importantly he exudes the evil insane bastard vibe that this character absolutely must have now. What I am trying to say is: Wow.
The degree to which Mastermind Creations have nailed the look and feel of this character astounds me. Not because they haven’t done it before, they’re actually quite good at this, but the manifestation of it is in a headsculpt that looks to have been crafted by Nick Roche himself, instantly popping in at number one on my list of best 3rd party headsculpts. Like the original toy, Carnifex has two opening chest flaps, a fold down double-barreled abdominal gun and adjacent to that, the signature pop-out abdominal cannons. Instead of being Powermaster-activated, these are reliant on manually-operated tabs. Behind the chest flaps are missile pods, but they can be removed in anticipation of MMC’s promised future Powermaster Pack. Carnifex has the distinct gigantic gun that doubles up as the tank turret and has the shield which cosplays convincingly as a jet nosecone.
The shield can be attached via a thin double-ended peg (which can become detached reasonably easily) to the outer forearm, or attached higher up via the two tabs on the shoulder which is slightly more secure. Alternatively, you can use the flip down handle inside the shield and Carnifex can hold it properly in hand as seen in the last picture above. Gun grip is generally very good with Carnifex, and I have seen a decline in the quality of accessory grip across 3P toys recently, so I’m glad they’ve given this due attention. The shield will not be totally secure and knock-proof in any of the three ways in which it is attached, so I must accept that for the way it is, but it isn’t just going to fall off of its own accord. Sword grip is excellent, and you might also have seen already that the two black swords can connect to the shield via secure tabs.
As you might have guessed, posability is fantastic. For a figure of this size, he has great poise, articulation and balance. The outward ankle tilt ensures that Carnifex rocks The Run, and double jointed knees allow him a slightly strained kneel, but a convincing one nonetheless. The ankles allow forward and backward articulation in good measure too, thanks to the shin flaps MMC love to give their figures. There’s a lot of movement in the shoulders, but the big white shoulder parts are not fixed in position and move independently to the purple shoulder cones inside them, so just be aware of what you are moving there. There’s a waist swivel as well, obviously. The hands are just superb, individually articulated fingers give Carnifex a massive amount of expression on tap. The head too is very well articulated, and I am pleased that in addition to the amused face with those lips and the LSOTW eye-gouge grin face, the Powermaster Pack will provide a G1 style non-smiling face for more serious, circumspect moments of Evil Bastard.
The lower legs do also bend in the slightly unnatural inwards direction relative to the thighs if you so desire, but it looks odd and can happen when not intended due to the pegging of the top of the outer leg to the outer part of the knee not being as totally secure as other sections. The elbows are not double-jointed, but there are lots of bicep/elbow/wrist swivels there (as well as a thigh swivel) to not make it feel like a limitation at all. That sounds a bit apologetic in nature, but honestly it was not until I went to make 100% sure just now for the writing of this review that it even dawned on me that someone might care, it’s been that much of a non-issue, because Carnifex has been THAT much fun.
I put off transforming Carnifex for most of the first day, because I’d heard stories about the awful shoulders, and I know MMC can love a complex fiddly transformation. I didn’t want anything to spoil the aura of perfection I felt the toy was bathed in that first day. But, curiosity squashed the minibot and I decided I was above the petty transformation frustrations of the masses (I conquered Azalea and MP-9 Rodimus Convoy!), so I gave it a shot.
If you dislike partsformers, step away now. MMC have decided that due to partsforming being instrumental to the original toy’s transformation, they had carte blanche to incorporate it everywhere on Carnifex. It works too, it’s fun! Partsforming is fun! Forming the tank out of the legs is a piece of cake as they pop off the torso just like the vintage figure. The gigantic purple rifle has a cool rotating fin and has a mini-transformation of its own that allows it to peg into the two legs, keeping the whole tank together. The way the thighs fold into the lower legs does it for me something fierce. And how about those rolling treads? It’s just absolutely lush.
So sleek, so hefty and substantial. Plenty faithful enough and with plenty of freshness to it. It isn’t an SR71 Blackbird but it’s still stunning. Transforming the torso and arms into jet mode is a wholly different proposition to the tank. Creating the jet’s nosecone is simple enough. The security, finality and simplicity of how the hand/arm transformation is handled results in pleasure. One must remember, though, that the arms should not be connected for nosecone mode until after you have slipped the shield halves all the way down between where the arms are spread (above Carnifex’s head), then close up the arms and clip the top and bottom of the shield to the arms for maximum security; you’ll know when you’ve done it right as it’s all flush and aligned. The thin piece of plastic that connects the two shield halves (think Feral Rex’s waist connector) is in fact the only fragile piece I have come across on Carnifex that I felt would get damaged through careless or rushed handling.
Then, the shoulders. I struggled with how to compact them down against the main jet body because of two rotating parts inside the shoulders, and the obstructions created by my diving in blind, for over an hour. I had to watch a video twice in order to understand what I was doing wrong and what was required. The printed instructions were useless for this section. It all revolved around getting the black plastic housing that sits around the purple shoulder cone to click past a certain point, exposing it from underneath the white shoulder plastic. Once that was done, and the base of the purple cone also pressed past the rotating inner black panels, one could clip the purple cone to the outer white section, align the black rotating inner panels with the grooves on the body and actually clip the whole shoulder – properly aligned – to the jet body. Job done. WATCH A VIDEO.
Once you are past that, the back pack is all kinds of fun. Lots of panels with jet engine, vent and afterburner details to fold out, as well as cleverly stored wings. In fact you may notice in some of the above pics I forgot to fold out the jet engine detail for the front of the back pack. Now, one of the first transformation steps to get Carnifex into jet mode involves sliding the back pack up his back. There is a huge amount of resistance to this unless you open up the flaps and pull out the wings first. It slides much more easily that way. I have found that the tabbing of parts is generally very good across Carnifex, and this really helps give the figure a polished feel. Closure after a lengthy conversion is an essential psychological factor in making us appreciate a design or process.
Now, fold all those fancy jet details back into the back pack, split the tank and make the absolutely gobsmacking combined jet mode for Carnifex. From the brilliant landing gear and undercarriage sculpts to the opening orange cockpit and stonking cannon placement, this is a wicked mode. Connections are secure, he looks the business and most importantly of all, once you have gone through the nightmare of the first shoulder transformation and know all the quirks/features of the parts you must manipulate, getting here and back becomes second nature and ticks yet another important ‘Figure-Of-The-Year’ box.
Notice how the swords clip onto the sides of the fuselage to complete the front end. For inquiring minds, unfortunately Titan Masters do not fit in the cockpit, I’m not sure anything of much significance will. There is some nice detailing on the inside of the canopy, though!
On the way to base mode, I discovered a sort of X-Wing configuration for the jet mode that I liked. There’s enough solid and moving parts for Carnifex to actually pull this off as a display mode stably, and still look reasonably badass in the process.
And yes, you heard correctly, there is a base mode.
I love how the base mode has an asymmetry in the leg section that the original had too, and although it has far less substance as a functional base unit, Titan Masters and even Powermasters can interact with it semi-convincingly. This mode is by no means the strength of the package, and has the feeling of a fan mode, but it gave me one more thing to explore, enjoy and try out which adds value to the experience. It makes you feel that you have bought more than just a transforming robot, and for the better part of $200/£200, it really bloody needs to.
In terms of size, while you may not be familiar with the vintage toy’s grand physical stature, there’s a better chance most will recognise Generations Springer and his voyager class physique. Putting Springer and Carnifex together really rams home the sheer mass of MMC’s gladiator. Heck, they even gave this package a styrofoam insert!
There are sparkles of genius throughout Carnifex’s construction, and while they do not manifest themselves in ‘wow’ moments during a transformation step, you can appreciate the thought behind this figure with how everything tabs in somewhere, how there are purposes to seemingly innocuous little pegs, protrusions and holes, very similar to the whole Feral Rex package actually. There are lush glossy sections, solid plastic sections and the kind of overall finish that makes you think for the price you pay, you really are getting an item with all the stops pulled out. It’s strange, because we can regularly get shafted with 3rd party figures in the $100 to $150 range, but stepping up in price from that to single figures like Carnifex, Pandinus, Stomp, Utopia et al, I have experienced less disappointment with what I got for the price.
I’d like to say the character and attachment to it are totally separated from why I love this figure so much, but I’d be lying if I said some of my appreciation did not come from how expertly MMC have injected Carnifex with the essence of this murderous gladiator. They’ve well and truly nailed him to the point where I can be transforming him back to robot mode, and with every recognisable robot feature that falls into place during that transformation, I feel a sense of rising menace inside me at the monster I am about to complete. Plenty of credit goes to Roche and Roberts for that, too, of course. For me, Carnifex has everything; looks, quality, presence, ceremony, accuracy, character, wow factor, high functionality, play value and posability. He has them all in spades. The transformation is not MP Magnus or Ironhide good, but it’s definitely one I am growing to enjoy more with every conversion after the initial faff and I would never call it complex, it veers more towards the simple. 2016 has arguably produced more quality Transformers and 3rd party figures than the previous two years combined, but Carnifex is laying waste to a fair number of what I considered top 10 figure-of-the-year shoo-ins. An absolute must have.
All the best