Dark of the Moon Human Alliance Whirl with Major Sparkplug Toy Review

in 2011, Action Figure Review, Autobot, Dark of the Moon, Generation One, Scout, Human Alliance

Dark of the Moon

General Information:
Release Date: August 2011
Price Point: $9.99 (varies depending on retailer)
Retailer: General (Toys R Us, Target, Wal-Mart etc.)
Accessories: Machine guns x 2, Major Sparkplug action figure
Images: Image gallery of Whirl with Major Sparkplug

Text from Transformers.com
AUTOBOT WHIRL prefers to observe what occurs around him and base his strategy on the information he gathers. His human partner Major Sparkplug agrees, having spent much of his life behind enemy lines and deep undercover.

Major Sparkplug and WHIRL have teamed up for the ultimate in robot-human cooperation! WHIRL can carry Sergeant Recon, where he can operate WHIRL's weapons. If the battle calls for a fast chase, switch WHIRL to helicopter mode, where the Sergeant or other human allies can ride safely inside! (Additional figures sold separately.) In weapon mode, Major Sparkplug can ride on top for still more action! Weapon mode works with any MECHTECH figure (sold separately)!

Set includes robot-to-vehicle figure and human ally figure. Ages 5 and up.

As the "Dark of the Moon" toy line began to be revealed during the time frame of Toy Fair 2011, some interpreted the "Cyberverse" Commander series of figures as the heir apparent to the position held by the Scout Class figures, a major staple of the Transformers toy line since the days of "Beast Wars". However, Toy Fair 2011 revealed this to not be the case. Instead, the Scout Class is being enhanced and folded into the "Human Alliance" sub-line of Transformers figures. Originally this line focused on large scale "Alternators" style vehicles with human partners, all based on the movie universe. The concept has been expanded now to include new characters that work together on the battlefield. In some respects, this sub-line is a near realization of the "G.I. Joe and Transformers" toys fans have wanted for years.

Major Sparkplug Review

Major Sparkplug
The name "Sparkplug" has some resonance in Transformers history. Long before fans were introduced to the Witwicky clan shown in the live action Transformers movies, two Witwicky characters were the focus of the animated Transformers series: Spike and his father Sparkplug. That said, given that Sparkplug is after "Major" in the name of the figure, I'm sure this isn't meant to be a relative of Sam from the movies, but it is a cool nod to the character of the same name from the original Transformers series.

Interestingly, though he comes with an Autobot that transforms into a helicopter, Major Sparkplug does not come with a helmet. Instead, he is wearing a flight suit with some extra pouches and what looks like a life preserver around his chest. Instead of a helmet, he has a regular head sculpt that looks like a very stern looking man with a pronounced chin and inset cheeks. Wrapped around his mid-body are several pouches and he has boots on that resemble Timberlands. The jumpsuit has some wrinkles in it, indicating some wear. I do like the sculpt and think it goes right along with the other figures in the line.

Sparkplug is mostly cast in a dark green plastic. His hands and head are painted a very light skin tone with his hair painted brown. The same brown color is used for his eyebrows. The pouches around his belt are painted brown along with some clothing patches on his back. His boots are colored light brown, also similar to the color of Timberland style boots. Overall it's a nice color scheme that fits the military theme of the character very well.

There are thirteen points of articulation in this figure including his shoulder joints. This includes six points of articulation between the two arms and three in each leg.

Autobot Whirl Review

Robot Mode
When I first saw Autobot Whirl's photo on the back of his packaging I have to admit to have been turned off a bit. He appeared to have a weird body design including huge skis as his feet and a rather bulky form for a helicopter. Well, these things are true, but they don't automatically make the figure bad. What you do have is a very interesting and unconventional Transformer that is quite different from some of his counterparts thanks to the details I mention above. What we have here is an Autobot helicopter that looks kind of rough and touch. His shoulders are wide, his torso is huge and his thighs are a bit thick. Instead of looking silly or anything, he actually winds up looking quite threatening, which is a good thing. Even his "skid feet" are interesting looking from the perspective of having dynamic angles coming out from the center of the figure. They're exaggerated details in a way that is reminscent of some Japanese mecha artwork that takes attributes of characters such as shoulders or feet to extremes in terms of visual representation. All that said, it still seems somewhat awkward for him to try to walk on feet like that, so I'll assume he uses the blades on his back to hover or something.

Whether or not his basic form appeals to you, one thing Whirl does have in abundance is detail. His head sculpt is an interesting one, made up of a round head shape with a "V" shaped crest in the center. He looks like he has visor eyes, but in fact there are two pupils sculpted into the sides of the "visor eyes" and then they come together to form a beak shaped mouthplate. The cumulative effect is that of some type of science fiction pilot helmet and it looks really nice. There's also a lot of detail indicating bolted on metal plates running along the legs and the arms, suggesting Whirl is quite heavily armored. I also like the various machinery details on his inner legs including tubes near his hip joints. Whirl's arms are designed with hands set in an open palm position so you get to see every section of his finger details set as if he were about to shake someone's hand. In a neat consequence of his transformation scheme, the rear rotor of his vehicle mode winds up on his left forearm, giving him an extra weapon in robot mode!

Whirl is cast in metallic brown, silver and black plastic. The metallic brown makes up most of this form. Along with the silver color it really gives him the appearance of being made out of metal. The black parts make up many of his joints as well as the helicopter blades on his back and the skids that form his feet. The color balance is good here and there is definitely a very utilitarian look to the colors. He's not flashy or fancy, he looks like parts were taken right from a factory and put together without much splash or fanfare. This doesn't mean he doesn't have any brightly colored spots however. Paint applications are done in gold, orange, red, black, white and silver - which if you count the number of color is a good number of colors for any figure at this scale. The gold is found on the "V" shaped crest on his head. The orange is used on the sides of his helmet as well as circular details on his torso and legs. The red is used to paint small details on the sides of his legs while the black paints his face and an Autobot symbol on his chest. White unexpectedly pops up on his knee joints, which surprised me a bit as it doesn't appear anywhere else (kind of random really) and finally the silver paint is used to color the panel that forms most of the front part of his torso. Overall, it's a really nice deco scheme and I enjoy how different it is from many of the other Transformers in the line.

Whirl has nineteen points of articulation in this mode. This includes five points of articulation on each arm and ball joints on his ankles. His big "skid feet" allow him a good deal of stability in this form as well. Whirl comes with two machine gun cannons which are "C Clip" weapons, making him one of the few Transformers to come with C-Clip weapons instead of the standard 5mm peg weapons. The weapons are very much designed like gatling guns, with each tube shape having five short barrels at the ends. The arms that connect to the C Clips are on ball joints, allowing you to position the weapons in a variety of ways. This is important since the pegs to attach the weapons vary from Transformer to Transformer. Each of his forearms has a peg on it that allows you to mount the weapons onto his arms. If you want to give Whirl additional weaponry, he has bars that are positioned on the top of his shoulders, allowing you to connect additional C Clip weapons. I really like the look of having these weapons on him. They look powerful and the bulk of the weapons really goes with the bulk of the figure itself.

Transformation to Vehicle Mode

  1. Rotate the head around.
  2. Swing the panel that covers the hip/waist piece up.
  3. Lift up the silver panel that forms the chest.
  4. From behind the silver panel, extend the parts underneath to form the front of the vehicle with the small guns pointed forward.
  5. Swing the silver panel down, on it there are two small curved hinge sections at the front, connect these to the rods on the front most piece of the vehicle mode.
  6. Slide the base of the vehicle's rotor blades forward, covering the robot face.
  7. Straighten out each of the robot arms and lift them out to the sides.
  8. Swing each robot arm back and connect them together.
  9. On each leg, swing the rocket launcher pieces out to the sides.
  10. Fold each half of the legs together.
  11. Swing the skids up.
    Adjust the legs so the skids are positioned properly so the vehicle can rest on them.
  12. Fold down the four rotor blades.
  13. Attach theweapons to either the missiles on the sides of the legs or the pegs on the tail section.

Vehicle Mode
As the name implies, Whirl's vehicle mode is a helicopter, but a rather compact one. This is no two seater, but instead there looks to be just enough room for Sparkplug to sit in - just barely. The figure fits snug, but his legs actually wind up hanging out to the sides a bit. Inside the cockpit section are handlebars for him to either fly Whirl or hang on for dear life (maybe both). Like the robot mode, this form feels very much like it was made to perform certain tasks and nothing more, those tasks being getting Sparkplug around and then blowing things sky high with his weaponry!

Not much new detail is revealed in this form, but everything is consolideated quite a bit, bringing details closer together and creating a more colorful appearance. The best example of this are the legs, which fold into a compact shape, bringing the red, white and orange paint details close together. Among the parts gaining new emphasis in this form is the section under the rotors, which looks like a combination of an engine and a searchlight. The searchlight comes from the back of the robot head, which is translucent blue and is curved with a grid pattern on it. To the sides there are non functioning rocket launchers that work in concert with the two small guns in the front to help give Whirl some serious firepower in this form.

Color-wise there are nos urprises here, but we do get to see red paint details on his rotor engine and a bit more orange from the sides of the small guns on the front of the vehicle. There's also some red found at the end of the rockets. It's not all particularly stunning on a visual level, but it does really keep to the theme of a robot designed with function over flashiness in mind.

Sparkplug (or any Human Alliance figure) can sit in the cockpit of the vehicle and be held in place by the small peg on the back of the seat. The C-Clip weapons can be attached to the rocket launchers on the sides or the pegs on the tail of the vehicle. Since the rods from his shoulder joints are also on the tail, you could attach additional weaponry there as well. The rotor blades are able to spin if you push them and do so quite well. On the front of the vehicle, the two small guns can be moved up and down. Other than a firing projectile, there isn't much more you really could cram into a Scout Class figure without raising the price significantly. I think this vehicle mode is actually kind of cute and cool all at the same time thanks to its compact size but potential to carry a huge weaponry payload.

Transformation to Weapon Mode (from vehicle mode)

  1. Fold all four rotor blades together, connecting them at the ends.
  2. Rotate the robot leg sections up so the bottom of the skids are facing up at an angle.
  3. Separate the cockpit cover from the piece in the front with the two guns.
  4. Take the piece with the two guns and fold the hinge in and swing the guns so they point down.
  5. Attach the gatling gun weapons to the angled bars on the sides of the "handle".

Weapon Mode
I have to say that I'm pretty impressed how the designers managed to take a robot/helicopter figure and manage to make a weapon mode that actually looks really cool. The helicopter blades madke up a barrel while the base has a handle (or a clip depending on how you look at it) and extra weaponry on the top and bottom. Even the color scheme with its black and brown shaded colors work really well in creating the appearance of a classic gun.

A peg on the rear section of the weapon allows a larger scale figure to wield the weapon. Ultra scale figures are ideal for this, but Voyager Class will do as well. Technically the peg will fit even Scout Class or Deluxe Class figures, but good luck having them keep their arms up! Being a "Human Alliance" figure, of course Sparkplug has to be able to interact with the figure. In this case he can sit on the top of the weapon with the silver plate protecting him. Sure it isn't ideal to be sitting on a gigantic weapon being wielded by a larger robot, but you have to kind of toss logic out the window a bit with these things to have fun sometimes.

Final Thoughts
Whirl and Sparkplug make a really fun two pack. It's not for everyone and Whirl is a pretty funky looking robot. But it definitely gets high marks for mme for a fun toy in all three modes. Highly recommended!