(January 2016) Overview: As with most long-lived popular media properties, Transformers has a host of characters that get revived again, and again, from one homage/reissue/re-imagining to the next. In fact, some are almost notorious for it: Optimus Prime, Megatron, Bumblebee, Soundwave, Jazz, and Starscream are some of the most beloved Transformers of all time. The fans clamor for them, the kids beg for 'em, the parents recognize them, and as a result they have longevity. Because of this, they keep coming back in one form or other, from one toyline to the next.

Third party companies are also quick to capitalize on some of these trends as well. They pay attention to the toys the fans want, since that's the niche they live by. Because of their economic model they can be a bit more daring than Hasbro and Takara, and go obscure at times, and they tend know what characters equal sales.

And so, another of the most popular Transformers ever has gotten a lot of attention of late, both from Hasbro/Takara, and 3rd Party companies to boot. And that Transformer is none other than the King of the Dinobots, Grimlock himself! Much of the official attention could likely be attributed to the rather brief appearance of the Dinobots back in 2014 in Transformers - Age Of Extinction. However he also received a fair amount of attention two years earlier thanks to the release of High Moon's Transformers - Fall Of Cybertron video game. Yet another version of Grimlock regularly appears on the Transformers - Robots In Disguise animated series, so he's definitely been an active part of recent Transformers media.

Thanks to all of this material, we've gotten several official Grimlock toys of various shapes and sizes over the past 3 years, from the voyager class Fall of Cybertron Grimlock in 2012, to various versions of the live-action Grimlock, and a few re-releases have also surfaced alongside those to boot. Not to be outdone, several different 3P companies have offered up various versions of ol' Grimmy as well: ToyWorld has Grimshell, G-Creation has released Wrath, Fansproject has Severo coming in the near future, and Fans Toys MP-scale Grinder will see its release before the end of 2016.

However, among the official and 3P releases, one Grimlock stands alone, one who neither combines with other Dinobots, nor dwells in the MP-scale. And, for my money, he is the undisputed King of all Grimlock toys. That toy is the one we're reviewing today: VULCUN, by Planet X.

* you can click the photos for larger versions *

The Details: Everything about Planet X's presentation is impressive. As with its other releases, the box for Vulcun sports an artistic rendering of the toy's robot-mode chest, with the Planet X logo and the name of the toy laid over that. The back of the box has an image of the toy itself, with little photoshopped glow-effects here and there. The interior cardboard tray supports the plastic blister, and Vulcan is released from within that pretty easily. With the plastic blister removed, you can see that the interior of the cardboard tray sports a rendering of the robot-mode back. Nice.

Inside you get an instruction sheet, and a collectible card as well. The instructions aren't as helpful as they could be, but Hasbro and Takara sometimes drop that ball themselves, so its no big deal.

Once you have Vulcan in hand you get a real sense of solidity: this toy has heft. The plastic is high-quality, sturdy stuff, but Planet X has striven for quality with each and every release, and they show no signs of stopping anytime soon. When compared to the 2012 FOC Grimlock, you can see how much better he is in terms of size, accuracy, detail, articulation, and overall quality. While the toys certainly resemble one another to a large degree because they are both based off the same Grimlock game-design, there's no real contest here: Vulcun just crushes the competition.

Now, to be fair, Hasbro had to take a very complex design and translate that into a toy that would fit into the $25 Voyager-class price-point . And, what's more, they had to do so in the midst of a budget-crunch, where they had to do more with less. When you take that into account, its rather remarkable that we got something as good as we did, but those realities don't really do much to blunt the disappointment when you see how small, stiff, and hollow the dino-mode is. He does, however, look pretty decent in robot-mode. Still, he can't hang with Vulcun when Planet X has knocked it so far out of the park.

Vulcun's overall colors in robot-mode are dark-silver, dark-gray, dull-gold, and brick-red, with pinkish paint-trim here and there to evoke the glow-effect from the games. He also displays some translucent orange plastic for his light-piped eyes, and in his torso as well, and in a ring around the outside surface of his shoulders. In dino-mode, the brick-red almost vanishes, as does the dark-gray. He gets some bright-silver touches on his dino-arms, and his teeth as well.

The dark-silver plastic is a perfect match for Grimlock's dominant scheme, and the dull-gold bits look very good. In a few spots there are gold paint-apps, and they match the color of the gold plastic extremely well. His head, hands, and upper-legs are cast in a dark, charcoal gray, which looks very sharp, as does the brick-red of his abdomen. The pinkish paint-apps stand out well without being garish, and I have noticed no signs of any paint-slop. All of the paint-apps are smooth and precise.



He has an impressive amount of articulation in both modes. In dino-mode, his mouth opens very wide, and he even has a movable flame-thrower 'tongue' as well. His head tilts up-and- down and side-to-side, and his neck swivels too. His dino-arms have a combo swivel-hinge at the shoulder, a hinge elbow, and claws that open and close. His hips are a combo swivel-hinge as well, with an additional joint that allows to you dip the hips a little lower to give his dino-mode a touch more height. he has double-hinged knees and hinged ankles, and a thigh-swivel. His claws have a bit of movement as well, being able to hinge inwards. His tail can be moved from side-to-side, with hinge-joints that allow motion at three points. As an added bonus, his robot-mode knee-guards raise up and down on his back in this mode to reveal rocket-thrusters for true SPACE T-REX action!

In robot-mode, his dino-legs become his arms, and all of their articulation is carried over, minus the ankle which is lost when the foot is opened and hinged back to reveal his fists. The fists rotate at the wrist, and hinge open at the knuckles. His head is ball-jointed, but the up-down motions are rather restricted. He has a waist-swivel, and swivel-hinged hips, thigh-swivels, and double-jointed hinge-knees. He also has ankle-tilts that give his feet extra-stability as well. You can get him into all sorts of great poses in both modes, and that's awesome in my book.

His transformation is complex, but somewhat intuitive if you've transformed other Grimlock toys. From dino-mode, you lift up and tilt his back, to reveal his robot-mode legs. The feet are folded out from their tucked-in position, and some small heel-spurs are then folded out from under the toes. The tail is split in two halves, upper and lower, and the three sections then fold into one another. You split the legs, and turn the waist to give yourself some clearance to shift the compacted tail-sections over his thighs. While the right leg is fairly easy, there are going to be clearance-issues when moving the tail section over the left thigh, and it can seem a bit harrowing to do it. Once they have been shifted over the thighs, the tail sections can then be folded into the backs of the legs to become Vulcun's calves.

Then in a very G1-move, you flip back his dino-head and chest, and lift up a hinged tab on his chest so you can split the two halves. Compress his dino-arms, and you can then rotate the entire section 180 degrees via a swivel on his back. You will also need to flip open some hinged panels on his throat, and another between his dino-mode shoulders. The head can then be aligned straight along the plane of his neck, the two chest-halves can be closed and tabbed securely, and the shoulder-panel folded down over the dino-neck to close it up.

With that done, you can now separate the robot-chest from the back, and shift it upwards along a hinged joint, and lock it into place. Then, straighten the dino-mode legs, and spin them around at the thigh/bicep swivel-joint. The dino-mode feet are split and hinged upwards towards his elbows to reveal his fists and form his lower-arms, and there they tab into place firmly. Lastly, the shoulder-covers lift and hinge downwards, and snap into place.

Congrats! You've transformed Vulcun, and he can go from stomping, flame-broiling, and chomping his foes in Dino-mode, to bending, crushing, and slicing them in robot-mode! Now that he has hands, you can give him his huge, energo-sword, and his enormous shield, and just let him go to town. Decepticons beware!

And, as with the FOC Grimlock toy, you can peg the sword and shield into his hips in dino-mode if you wish. However it looks rather silly, so you may not wish to do that. In a nice touch, you can also peg the sword into the back of the shield.

The Good: Oh man, where do I start? The Dino-mode is an absolute triumph. Its big, its fierce, its poseable, its sturdy, and it just oozes power. Robot-mode is equally impressive, being big, without being too huge in relation to CHUG figures. He looks like a real bruiser, being very stocky in build. His sword and shield are very impressive, and he looks like he can fend off almost any attack with the latter, while carving up any opposition with the former.

What's more, he looks like he just walked right off the monitor too, being a near-exact match for the FOC game version of the character, and because of that he feels like a natural progression of his original G1 design. It doesn't slavishly adhere to what came before, like MP Grimlock, nor is it a lateral move like the other 3P Not-Grimlocks out there. No, this guy feels like a true update of the original. An evolved version if you will. As such, he's absolutely perfect for my CHUG displays, and I can't be happier about that.

The Bad: This guy has so much going for him, and he does so much exactly right. As such, my issues with him are rather minor. I could cite the price ($125.00), but come on, this is 3P territory here. Most of us know exactly what we are in for, and why, and as such I have no complaints about his price. So lets just nix that one entirely.

First off, he doesn't come with screw-hole covers like the ones included with most of the prior Planet X releases. A lot of people don't even use the things anyway, but I would definitely have used them to cover the screw holes on the left side of his dino-mode head if nothing else.

Secondly, I wish his tail-section could be tabbed in more securely into the backs of his legs in robot mode. The legs would be a lot less fiddly if that were the case.

My third and final issue involves his tail again, and the way the two halves move into place when being transformed between modes. I have concerns about the plastic bar-sections, and their durability over time. The one on the right leg isn't so bad, because you can move that one over the thigh without having to flex it very much. The one on the left leg, however, has to bend to a degree that makes me uncomfortable. The plastic used is a much more flexible type, so it should be okay for a while. I just worry how it will hold up months and years down the line.

The Verdict: I've said it before elsewhere, and I'll say it again right here: Vulcun is, in every way that matters, the Grimlock toy I have always wanted. From the moment I saw the gray-resin prototype photos, I knew I wanted this figure, and when he popped up on Big Bad Toy Store for pre-order, I went for it. Once I had him in-hand I knew I'd made the right choice, and he so awesome that now I'm going to have to start grabbing the other Planet X not-Dinobots to go with him. He's THAT good folks.

Overall Grade: Vulcun is definitely a solid A. The only thing that keeps me from giving him an A+ is my concern over the long-term durability of the tail supports, and the amount of flex they have to maintain in order to slide over the upper-legs during transformation. Aside from that, the other concerns above are little more than minor, nitpicky issues.

If you love Grimlock, there's a good chance that you really want this toy, whether you know it yet or not.

PHOTOS:

Taken with my Panasonic Lumix DMC-FH25 Digital Camera. As always, click for the bigguns!

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