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By Thomas Wheeler

The only one of three new Transformers ALTERNATORS to appear on the scene after what seemed like an interminable delay that is not a partial reworking of previous releases, HOUND (or "Autobot Hound" if you want to get technical about it, as Hasbro's Legal Department obviously did), is a brand new Alternator based on yet another well-known classic Generation One Transformers character.

The original Hound was a military jeep that transformed into an Autobot. The Alternator Hound is a Jeep Wrangler that does pretty much the same thing. And there are significant resemblances to the original.

Hasbro is trying to keep the head-sculpts of these new Alternators as close as possible to their original versions. This is understandable, as well as probably not terribly difficult, since the head sculpt would not play a major role in the vehicular form of the Transformer. What several collectors have noted about Hound is that his glossy pale blue eyes tend to stand out even more than they might on another Autobot, since they're the only spot of blue on the toy, the rest of which is mostly dark colors.

I also took note of the fact that Hound's lower arms have three yellow stripes on them, a characteristic which the original Hound possessed, and made him look that much more military, since in a way they looked like rank stripes from a military uniform. I was very pleased to discover that this distinctive pattern was carried over to the Alternators Hound.

The toy is another one of those that must have given Takara's engineers some sleepless night. The Jeep Wrangler is a vehicle that doesn't really have a top. Instead, it has sturdy framework bars across the top and down the back. Now, how do you work that sort of thing and still get a decent robot out of it?

I haven't the foggiest, and I'm very glad that it's not my job to figure these things out, and I pity the people whose job it is. But somehow, they managed. This 1:24 Jeep Wrangler turns into a very effective robot that bears a decidedly strong resemblance to the original Hound.

It's really amazing how good these toys look in both modes, really. There was a dark green Jeep Wrangler parked in the parking lot here in my apartment complex recently, and I had to stop myself from checking for Autobot insignias (frankly, if the owner were a Transformers fan, he could have some fun if he bought a large Autobot sticker and put it on the hood...)

There's a few quirks, though, that need to be noted on this one. Hound doesn't look all that great in profile. His -- chest, for lack of a better term, which is the front of the Jeep in vehicular form, tends to look rather hollowed out in robot form. Additionally, Hound not only has the rather narrow lower legs that seem to be almost a necessary evil of these Alternators, detracting from the more or less Japanese animé look of the figure. This wouldn't bother me quite is much if the rear bumper turns into what can only be described as protruding toes, and it's virtually impossible to get the figure to stand up exactly straight. The feet also have a gear-like "ratcheting" articulation that's a bit annoying, since it almost requires the figure to be posed in an almost super-heroic "action" stance.

Come on, already -- the guy turns into a Jeep and has tended to be portrayed pretty much as a soldier-type -- and you can't get the figure to stand at attention!?

Still, this is a relatively minor complaint of an otherwise very cool toy. The Transformers Alternators, as a concept and as a toy line, continue to impress, and I've always liked Hound as a character.

The overall transformation is no more difficult than any of the other Alternators. You'd almost expect it to be, given the framework of the vehicle. About the only aspect of the transformation where I would recommend using a fairly delicate touch (of course you should be careful with the entire transformation), is with the shoulders. They're mounted at a rather odd angle on the figure, and although this in no way hinders arm articulation, they don't look like they're the sturdiest part of the toy, either.

Of additional note is the fact that the spare-tire holder apparently conceals an additional weapon or some such, or holds the one Hound comes with. This Alternator is the first one whose weapon is packaged separately. I, for one, couldn't get the darn thing open, and didn't want to force it.

There's word that the Jeep Wrangler will be remolded in a different color, given some additional parts (and a new head, of course) and named after a Decepticon named Swindle, who in the original Transformers series was indeed a dark gold Jeep who was part of the Combiner team called the Combaticons. While all of these repaints may seem a little annoying, it's still a worthwhile collection, and many of the remakes are reasonably legitimate, as their original counterparts have enough similarities to get away with it.

At any rate, I most definitely recommend HOUND as a worthy addition to the Transformers Alternators!