Things are about to get really big around your toy room. Joining the likes of He-Man, G.I. Joe and the Thundercats in 1980s revamp goodness comes the most bad ass robot made up of other bad ass robots in the galaxy – Voltron. While the new cartoon has been rolling for awhile now, Mattel is making 2012 the year of the Lion by giving us multi-colored robo-kitties and pilots in the latest Matty Collector-exclusive line – Club Lion Force. As announced last summer at Comic Con, throughout the year each of the five lions, along with their appropriate pilots, will be released culminating in a gigantic 23-inch buildable and fully posable Voltron figure. Now, there have been several versions of Voltron released in the past, but the stature of this version is something that has never been seen. Plus, finally – FINALLY we will have pilots that can actually fit inside of the Lions. That alone is a very long time coming. So while you will have to wait until the end of the year for the big payoff, February starts the anticipation with the release of the Red Lion and pilot Lance. Get ready, because by the time you will be able to “form Blazing Sword” you are going to have quite the assemblage of Lions that can stand quite nicely on their own.
Even though Club Lion Force is the newest member of the Matty Collector subscription block, I have to say that it, out of all of them, this one makes the most sense in terms need. Now, I realize that there might be some out there that would only want a specific lion or two, but I could not imagine having one or two or three or even four without completing the whole set. Plus, we were able to see the entire year’s worth of figures and lions back at SDCC so we have had a pretty good idea of what we would be getting; that is something that is completely unique to Voltron in terms of the subs and I really like it. Sure, it makes the most sense to show these puppies (er, kitties) off right away because the finished 23” Voltron is what really sells it, but I think a lot of people like seeing (or at least knowing) what they are getting when they sign up.
Something that has changed from the original plan though is that, while all of the pilots are packaged separately from their lions, they come in the same outer white mailing box. So, while this does not really affect the subscribers it makes it so that “day-of” buyer cannot purchase just the lions or just the pilots. It is kind of a shame because I know there are a ton of people who have been waiting just for the humans, but perhaps Matty will offer them up together (but separate from the lions) at the end of the year. Either way, I think the fact that everything was out for display up front really did a lot for this line and it was necessary to complete everything at once to make sure all of the lions would fit together properly to form the completed Defender of the Universe.
I count myself as being one of those that just as excited for the pilots as I am for the lions, so let’s start by having a look at Lance. I am normally not much of a 1:18 collector but I am glad this is the scale that we are getting for the pilots in this line. It really is cool to be able to place Lance in the pilot seat of the Red Lion for the first time. At the end of the year, my ideal Voltron display will be all 6 pilots (because we are getting a freakin’ Sven figure!) standing in front of the completed and built Voltron. I know, I know, you don’t really get excited about a concept where robot lions come together to form on big ass robot for the humans, but damn it, it is good to finally have them.
I think that Lance has been handled well for the balance between style and articulation for a small figure. I know that there was chatter online about how well these figures might be constructed and articulated, but I think they rank among the best that Mattel has offered in this scale in recent memory. Sure, this entire line is currently fashioned off of the look of the old cartoon so there are whites instead of metallic colors and the designs are more sleek than technical, but Lance has a lot of function articulation (much more than most of the Infinite Heroes figures) while remaining true to his animated self. His elbows and knees are partial ball joints so you get front and back and side to side movement, and his hips are kind of a modified DC Classics style hinge. I am very pleased with the latter since I do not care for the basic t-crotch but the joints are solid enough that they are remain strong, even with play and posing.
He does not have articulation at the wrist or the ankle (both are very small and would be quite fragile) and his neck is twist only. I am sure the latter was done to accommodate swapping between the two heads (helmet and hair). I have to say that I am satisfied with the points that were chosen for the figure. He is not the most articulated thing in the world, but you can get him into just about any pose you would require for a guy that sits in a robo-lion.
From an aesthetic point of view, Lance looks just like he should in uniform. Now, all of the pilots have a basic look to their suits that consists mostly of white and one other color and I am happy that Lance’s suit is actually WHITE (not silver or gray). He does have a holster at his side for his gun, but it is sadly not removable; that is one thing that I would certainly have liked to have seen, but again, we are talking very small here. The coolest part of the figure though is that he has two interchangeable heads, one with and one without his flight helmet. I love that this was done because I think most people are actually more used to picturing the pilots without their helmets than with. One thing to note though, Lance has brown hair in the figure, and unless I am mistaken, his hair should actually be black. Someone correct me if I am wrong. It is not a huge deal for me personally, but I did want to point it out. Also, while I don’t think it is intended, I can actually get the head out of the helmet on the alternate look. I think this might be a happy accident (we will see once people start getting their figures next month) because I have Lance hold his helmet with his anime hair flowing in wind. There is just something iconic about hat. But even if the head can’t come out of the helmet, you can still pose him in such a way that the face is hidden if he is holding his helmet.
Included in Lance’s packaging are also the accessories for this round: the key and the hilt of Voltron’s sword. The key doubles as a figure stand and is also what is needed in order to “unlock” the cockpit on the lion. Also, the sword will be built up as you collect all of the pilots throughout the year and the hilt included with Lance will show you that the finished product is going to be pretty big. There is a round peg on the hilt that fits into a circle inside of the Red Lion’s mouth so it can be held securely. I am glad that we are getting the standard version of the sword to build, but instant gratification will score us the blazing sword at the end of the year with the Black Lion.
Now, on to the Red Lion. Now, just in the interest of full disclosure – I must admit that I have never owned any Voltron toys. Well, save for the [really fun] Blazing Sword Voltron from SDCC 2011, but that one is kind of its own entity. I always really loved the cartoon when I could catch it and the story and characters always appealed to me much more than say, Transformers. So, maybe it has bit of new toy sheen it on it, but the Red Lion is a really fun toy. Starting with the deco, and like I said before, the coloring on this “figure” is taken from the cartoon, not an interpretation of more realism. Thus, there are a lot of whites and grays on the figure, just as in the cartoon. There is not a ton of meticulous paint detail on the figure, but this particular has a lot of “dangerous” colors like red, white and yellow that have a tendency to bleed and easily show inconsistencies. I am happy to report the, for the most part, the Red Lion is free from all of this (there is a tiny bit of bleed around the yellow on the back, but I did not notice it until I looked at the close-up pictures). All of the parts that are supposed to represent a “raw” metal color are cast in grayish-white plastic, while white is reserved more for the white accent pallet. Also, a touch of silver is reserved for the four front teeth and that really helps to set them apart from the rest of the figure.
All of the parts that need to fold into place (the legs and the tail) snap into place with a bit of coiled resistance. At first I was not sure how successful this would be, but the springiness actually helps make the joints stronger by helping them snap into place. There are also ratcheting joints at the hip/shoulder and mid torso (Voltron’s elbow) so those click to hold poses and the torso joint is particularly tight. In short, these joints feel to be built to last. The legs fold into place and then click to lock in so that they will stay while joined with the other lions. There is a button on the chest and one on the backside that, when pushed, snaps the legs back into the lion position. The tail also folds up and then into a compartment in the back that must be open and closed manually (no snap-back feature). This snap-in feature enhances the play value by making the lion go right into action if the Voltron form deconstructs. I was not expecting this feature but it is actually really effective. There is a round “port” in, ahem rear area, that will be used to connect the Red Lion with the Black, but I have to tell you, there is no way that it won’t look either like a lion’s anus or dangly parts depending how it is positioned until Voltron is completely connected. Get your cheap laughs in now before December when the figure is completely built.
The jaw also has a tight hinge so it can hold the weapons (this is Voltron’s “sword hand”) and there is a spot in the “mouth” where the hilt will fit. The head does turn in a complete 360 degree ratchet so the Voltron “wrist” will be functioning while strong enough to hold that big ass sword. The cockpit opens via the key included with Lance and the doors open up and then spread out. The cockpit itself holds the Lance figure securely so he won’t be sliding around as you fly your Red Lion through the air in your backyard (don’t lie, I know you will do it). The front and side control panels are fairly basic but they are decals so all of the details are crisp and there are no paint traps. I really like the way that Lance fits in the seat and until I have Voltron fully assembled, the pilots will be in their lions with hatches open.
Even though I saw the whole shebang at SDCC, I am still impressed with how big these Voltron figures are. I must admit that I have not been able to put the Red Lion down since I opened him, he fun to transform, even without his cohorts. It will feel like a long year until we can completely build Voltron, but I really think it is going to be worth it. The good part is that the parts are as fun as the sum and we finally have the pilots. Finally. I know it is a hard thing to commit to a line for a whole year, but if you have not subscribed to Club Lion Force you might take a chance with this figure when it is released in February. You know what you will be getting in with this line and I for one cannot wait until I can finally have giant Voltron figure complete with our favorite pilots. I just have to keep telling myself that new stuff will come out every other month and that patience is a virtue. Voltron is gonna be epic.
*Thanks so much to Natalie and team for sending Lance and the Red Lion for this First Look. They go on sale next month on the 15th and then a new lion and pilot will debut just about every other month. Thanks for reading!