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By Thomas Wheeler

It may be fairly stated that within the Transformers universe, to some degree, the Decepticons have tended to maintain a certain air superiority over the Autobots.

In the early animated adventures of what is now known as Generation One, the name "Autobots" was taken fairly literally -- virtually all of the Autobots transformed into automotive vehicles -- cars, vans, and trucks. And none of them could fly.

The Decepticons, on the other hand, were more versatile, and they certainly had air power. Air raids were generally led by the vicious, scheming Starscream, usually in concert with Thundercracker and Skywarp. All three of these robots could transform into sleek, modern fighter jets.

But even those Decepticons whose alt-forms were not especially airborne designed, such as Soundwave and Megatron, had the power of flight.

Granted, as time went on, the playing field leveled a bit on both sides. The Decepticons gained a number of members whose alt-forms were ground-based vehicles, starting with the Constructicons, who transformed into various types of construction vehicles. Similarly, the Autobots added Jetfire to the mix fairly early on, a massive aircraft, and soon developed the Aerialbots, as well.

Even so, the Decepticons remained powerful in the air. Three additional airplane-mode members -- Thrust, Dirge, and Ramjet -- were added to the team. These six robots, along with a few others merely glimpsed in Generation One, but since have come to be known as Sunstorm, Acid Storm, and at least one other unnamed one, tend to be collectively known as the Seekers.

So it would be fair to say that the Decepticons have a long history of dominance in the skies. Now, while the universe of the live-action movies differs in quite a few respects from Generation One or any other Transformers incarnation, the Decepticons have maintained their presence in the air. The first Transformer seen in the first movie was a Decepticon that had transformed into a military helicopter. Starscream was also part of the lineup.

All of these various aircraft, whatever Transformers concept they may hail from, have tended to be ultra-modern if not outright futuristic in design. Which does ultimately lead to the question -- where the heck did somebody like Ransack come from!?

I have no idea if Ransack is actually in the new Transformers movie, REVENGE OF THE FALLEN, and personally, I'd be a little surprised if he was. Hasbro has not been reluctant to craft movie-style robots for the Transformers movie-based toy line that were never in the movie. That's fine and well. The robotic cast in the first movie was somewhat limited, and one can hardly blame Hasbro for wanting to extend the popular line. And it's certainly preferable to umpteen repaints of Optimus Prime.

But the existence of Ransack has created something of a stir in the toy collecting community. Even message boards not specifically devoted to Transformers have been talking about him, generally amused, as I was, at the notion of a robot that transforms into -- A World War I bi-plane!???!

I think the high interest level in this character boils down to this -- it's one thing to have a robot that can transform into a sleek, modern-day fighter jet, or even something far more advanced than what Earth technology is presently capable of. It's something else entirely to have a robot that turns into something that's about three steps removed from the contraption that the Wright Brothers pushed down the hill at Kitty Hawk.

I don't usually present official character profiles this early in a review, but in Ransack's case I think it's appropriate since it does go a long way to explain where a Transformer like this came from.

RANSACK is a Decepticon from the distant past of Cybertron, when flight was a new technology, Ransack was first of the flying aces. He was a ruthless combatant, blasting his opponents out of the sky, and then strafing the helpless troops stuck on the ground without cover. He may be past his prime and equipped with outdated weapons now, but there was a time when Ransack was the most feared name on Cybertron.

This still doesn't entirely explain his alt-mode, although a few theories could be put forth. Is it possible that the design specifics and evolution of aviation were virtually identical between Cybertron and Earth, with the only significant difference being that on Earth, organic humans built non-sentient planes, and on Cybertron, the robots developed their personal flying modes from earlier forms to the modern day? Or it could be something in the "Spark" of a given Transformer that when he assumes an Earth-based alt-mode, that it takes on characteristics of the individual, and so in Ransack's case he ended up as an outmoded Earth-based aircraft? Or he might've just had the bad luck to be in the vicinity of an aviation museum when he needed to scan the nearest convenient vehicle to take on an alt-mode, possibly combined with something in his mindset that led him to choose an archaic plane.

Any of these scenarios, especially the first one, present some interesting possibilities, which doubtless will be discussed among many of the more die-hard Transformers fans. For myself, this is a toy review, not a philosophy lecture. Even so, there was no way I could resist an amusing oddball like Ransack.

Unusually, the figure is packaged on his card in his robot form. Ransack is a relatively small Transformer, and is packaged on a relatively small card. For the new movie, the movie-based Decepticon logo is prominent on the package, as opposed to the Autobot logo for the last one. There's an interesting series of glyphs behind Ransack, printed on the card, which include both the Autobot and Decepticon logos. I'm assuming these have something to do in the new movie.

In robot mode, Ransack stands about 4-1/4" in height. He's a skinny little guy, too, with a narrow body, arms, and legs. His headsculpt is interesting. I'm not sure what it took to make a robot face look -- well, old -- but they managed. There are ridges on his face that look like wrinkles, and the engine block of his plane mode is a sort of hat, almost.

Ransack has the look of someone who would probably be teased mercilessly by the likes of Starscream and company, and he'd probably chew them out for being disrespectful young whippersnappers and storm off in a huff.

Ransack's articulation is excellent. In robot mode, he's poseable at the head, arms, elbows, waist, legs, knees, and ankles. His main body is rather slight of stature, but the overall look of Ransack is filled out somewhat by the upper wings, which are folded behind him in robot mode.

Let's consider Ransack's transformation. The first thing you need to do is unfold the instructions, which are a fairly large piece of paper that has been creased together pretty much like the average road map.

Ransack can first of all be transformed into a "Battle Mode" by raising his back wings up and over his head, raising his chest, and moving the sides out a bit. Whether he could actually fly in this form is not specified on his Tech Spec card.

To fully transform Ransack into an airplane, you push his head down into his chest, which is the front of the plane and comes complete with a propeller. You then raise his arms, pivot his legs around, and fold up his feet. The legs then come together to form the rear half of the plane.

The wings are the tricky part. Part of the lower wings are attached to the arms, which actually fold underneath the wings. The outer braces of the wings are attached to wing segments that are attached to the upper wings. It looks more complicated than it is, but it's not that bad, either, once you figure out where everything is supposed to fit. The end result is a surprisingly effective little biplane.

Ransack's overall color scheme tends to make him look -- old -- as well. There are no bright colors on him. His wings are a dark color, with his struts and braces, and as such his arms and legs, are a dark greyish brown. Detailing on him in his plane mode, which carries over to his robot mode, is a brownish burgundy and a dark brick red. The closest to a bright color he has is a bit of silver on his engine block. There's even some airbrushed weathering, tan in color, on the top of his wings. Sometimes this sort of thing works and sometimes it doesn't. Here, it works.

He doesn't have a lot of moving parts in his plane mode, but one of them is the propeller, which turns very freely and very effectively.

Here's an interesting thing about Ransack. Most of the movie-based Transformers don't mesh all that well with other Transformers concepts. Much like the Transformers Animated line sort of stands alone, not really designed to work all that well with other Transformers toys from previous concepts, so the design of the movie Transformers, with their more distinctly alien and complex appearance, don't blend all that well with other Transformers. But for the most part, I think Ransack would.

His design is such that -- and all due credit to both Hasbro and Tomy for coming up with him in the first place -- what else would you expect a robot that turns into a bi-plane to look like? He's not going to be sleek, fancy, or futuristic. He's probably going to look a bit like an old clunker, regardless of what concept he's in, and honestly, in robot mode, Ransack does.

About the only thing that specifically denotes him as being from the Cybertron of the live-action movies is the Decepticon logo on the wings. I'll admit, I'm not that fond of this logo. I don't like the positioning of the "eyes". I much prefer the traditional Decepticon logo.

However, in fairness to Ransack, the logo has been very effectively imprinted on both wings, with jagged "stripes" extending outward from it, much in the fashion of several Earth-based air forces.

Ransack's various power levels are as follows. He gets a full 10 in Courage. He'd need it to try to keep up with his more modern counterparts. He has a 9 in Skill, which doubtless comes in handy now and certainly would have in the early days of Cybertronian flight. He gets an 8 in Rank, which I'm sure he richly deserved, but rank doesn't always equal respect, which I'll bet he has some trouble with. He managed a 6 in Intelligence, Speed, and Fireblast. He must be a good bit faster than he looks. He has a 5 in Endurance, and a 4 in Strength. But come on, he's been around for a long time. Cut him some slack.

So what's my final word here? I actually found Ransack before the massive influx of Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen movie toys hit the stores. Given the online fan reaction to this cool if bizarre new Transformer, I'm pretty sure I would've made it a point to track him down, even in the midst of a massive display of toys, and regardless of which other toys from the Transformers sequel movie may attract my attention.

There's just something cool about a Transformer based on a vehicle that is so outmoded as a World War I-era bi-plane, especially when Tomy and Hasbro did such an effective job pulling off the overall design! Ransack looks cool in both plane and robot modes, and entirely appropriate in both, as well.

Makes me wonder what's next -- an Autobot that transforms into a Model "T"?

Anyway, the TRANSFORMERS: REVENGE OF THE FALLEN RANSACK figure most definitely has my enthusiastic recommendation!