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By Thomas Wheeler

Optimus Prime is one of those rare fictional characters that comes along very infrequently that rises above whatever seemingly meager beginnings he might have had to take his place in the modern lexicon of pop culture mythology.

This noble, heroic leader of the Autobots from the Transformers toy line has ascended to a level of legend that few fictional concepts manage. Even a real-life American soldier changed his name to Optimus Prime, since he was such a fan of the original Transformers. Shame he wasn't the one who captured Saddam. One can only imagine what the headline "OPTIMUS PRIME CAPTURES SADDAM HUSSEIN" would have done for Transformers sales.

Not even the animated series could keep him down. When Optimus Prime seemingly died in Transformers: The Movie, passing the torch (or to be more precise, the Matrix) to Ultra Magnus, although it eventually found its way to Rodimus Prime, it wasn't long into the third season of the series when it looked like the reports of Optimus' death had been greatly exaggerated. To be fair, Rodimus had given it his best shot. But even he knew he wasn't up to the level of Optimus. And so Optimus Prime ultimately returned.

Now, with the 20th anniversary of the Transformers being celebrated this year, the original, classic Optimus Prime returns once again, and in a big way.

I defy anybody, including Takara, to produce a more ultimate, supreme version of Optimus Prime, short of taking a full-sized truck and turning it into the Autobot's leader, than this fantastic 20th anniversary Optimus Prime, presently arriving at most major retailers.

Thank the good Lord that he was packaged in ROBOT form. I am no expert at Transforming. This toy is incredible. The sheer number of moving parts, just in robot form, is astounding. The level of articulation is amazing. Head, arms, elbows, wrists, swivels, waist, legs, knees, feet, fingers. Pistons move along many of the articulation joints. The level of detail is astounding. I could run out of adjectives very easily describing how cool this toy really is.

Optimus comes with four accessories. He comes with the Matrix (more on that in a few paragraphs), as well as his traditional ion blaster, the energy mace that emerges from his hand, and a small "Megatron gun", which is no doubt as close as we can ever hope to get to seeing a G1 re-release of the original Megatron. (My advice -- make Megs into a tank. It's been done before, and a truck vs. a tank makes reasonable sense anyway...)

But it's the robot, of course, that is the coolest aspect of this. He LOOKS like Optimus should look. He looks like he just stepped right out of the 80's animated series, but with the detail level of the more modern spin-offs, or the level of detail you'd expect if somehow you encountered ptimus in real life. If you were to take the detail level of the Energon series and craft it onto the animated version of the original Optimus, it'd look a whole lot like this toy.

Optimus stands about 12" in height. His chest and lower legs are die-cast metal. Meaning, folks, this is a heavy toy. I was stunned by the weight when I lifted him from the shelf.

It's also worth noting that although not officially listed on his package, Optimus in truck form is about 1:24 scale. Meaning he fits in very nicely with the new, highly-precise, officially-licensed from a bunch of different car companies ALTERNATORS line of Transformers.

I have only two very meager negative things to say. I could've done without the burn-scorch marks. But the toy is so cool that even I, who despise weathering and dirtying a toy, can live with it.

The other thing is the Matrix. Now, don't get me wrong. I'm delighted that he comes with one. And it can actually be "pulled apart" much as it was in the movie. And it fits rather nicely into the chest cavity. My complaint is not with the Matrix per se, nor is this necessarily a complaint so much as it is a warning.

There's a button on Optimus' shoulder that lets you activate a light within Optimus Prime, to backlight the Matrix. How bright is it? Do NOT stare at this thing directly. I didn't even know they made halogen-level LEDs.

You could take this thing outside, point it upwards at an angle, wave it around, and have people come for miles around, thinking you were having a car sale. Take it to the ocean, stand on a ledge overlooking the shore, point it out to sea, and you'll have ships running aground in no time. The next time my apartment suffers a night-time power failure, I'm not reaching for a flashlight, I'm reaching for Optimus. It's been argued that the Matrix is designed to "light our darkest hour", but SHEESH!

That aside, however, really, if you're any sort of Transformers fan, there is no question whatsoever that you will want this Optimus Prime. He is likely the finest Transformer I have ever seen. I give him my highest recommendation, and wish the Transformers a most happy 20th anniversary!