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By Thomas Wheeler

The Alternators line of Transformers continues with another updated, real-world-car version of a classic character from Generation One.

I know I say this every time I review an Alternator -- on the other hand, this might be the first Alternator review I've written that you've actually read, so it deserves to be restated. The sheer amount of engineering and design that has to go into one of these toys is nothing less than staggering. The designers have to create a 1:24 scale model of an existing vehicle that meets the vehicle-makers standards for being an officially licensed product -- that vehicle having its own series of moving parts, this generally being turning front wheels, opening doors, hood, and sometimes a trunk -- and then allow that same toy to be transformable into a highly-articulated humanoid robot that at least bears some reasonable resemblance to its Generation One counterpart from over twenty years ago. That robot will also be about the same height as all of the other Alternators.

Glad it's not my job to work it out...

I have to figure that there are hundreds of parts in any one of these toys, from more obvious ones like tires, wheels, the robot's head, to tiny metal pins and screws that might or might not be readily visible. Throw in tiny details like three-dimensional headlights, steering wheels -- the mind boggles.

One of the newest additions to the line, #22 in the series, is MIRAGE. In Generation One, Mirage was an interesting character. Somewhat of a pacifist, he really didn't want to fight. He believed the Autobots were in the right, but he despised war, and wondered if a peaceful solution with the Decepticons could be worked out. Some of the more gung-ho Autobots didn't entirely trust him. One notable episode of the original animated series had Cliffjumper outright accuse him of treason.

Granted, Mirage's own abilities and specialties lent themselves to a certain suspicion. However much he didn't like to fight, he was an excellent spy, mostly because he could turn invisible, hence his name.

In car form, the original Mirage was a fancy race car, of no particular design but looking somewhat Indy-ish. Obviously, that wasn't quite going to work for the Alternators.

The new Mirage is a Ford GT, a surprisingly, in my opinion, anyway, sporty-looking vehicle. Now, I'll be the first one to admit that I am no car expert. There are people around who, if you drove six cars past them in fairly rapid succession, could tell you the make, model, and year of the thing without even looking at any of the logos, just by the visible details. I am not one of those people. I could tell you the color, and if I got a good look at the logo, I could probably tell you who made the thing. That's about it.

But somehow, when I think about sporty-looking cars, one name that doesn't particularly leap to mind for some reason, is Ford. That's not to disrespect Ford. Heck, Ford's been making cars since there WERE cars. I just somehow didn't see them as making something quite this fancy- looking. I guess I don't watch enough sports on television. I'm missing all the car commercials.

But sleek and stylish the Ford GT clearly is, and as such so is Mirage, molded mostly in a metallic dark blue. And here is my one and only very slight complaint with Mirage -- any metallic plastic tends to show the, for lack of a better term, molding procedure more than a standard color of plastic. There's a few areas on Mirage of noticable "swirls" of plastic. They seem to be on the front fender pieces more than anywhere else, for some reason. This is not a complaint so much as a comment. Mirage is still a very cool looking Transformer in car form. This sort of thing is just basically unavoidable given the type and color of plastic used.

In Generation One, Mirage was white and blue for the most part, and this has been carried over to the toy. The Ford GT has some broad white stripes on it, and the Autobot logo is subtly placed on the hood.

I'd also like to comment on the license plate. In recent editions, the Alternators have been given license plates representative of actual states. Mirage has one from Michigan.

Mirage's transformation is about what one would expect from an Alternator. They are among the most complicated Transformers around. He took me a while, but I think I may have gotten a little spoiled given that the last two Alternators I dealt with were Optimus Prime and Nemesis Prime, identical trucks, and they were actually a little simpler than the average Alternator. So Mirage is something of a challenge. Of particular note is that his waist and legs need quite a bit of rotation over the course of the procedure. Be sure you get all of this in the right order or you'll end up with a Transformer that looks like it wants to walk backwards.

I was a little concerned about what Mirage would look like in robot form, since some of the photos I had seen of him made him look rather broad and boxy in appearance, which didn't suit Mirage's background at all. Alas, photographs remain two-dimensional, and can sometimes be deceptive. Heck, the photos I took for this review might look like that. But it's really just the car's hatchback, which tucks under to become the back of the robot (and is probably an effective shield against any nasty Decepticons that might try to backshoot him). The main body of Mirage is nicely proportioned and looks fine.

As one would expect, articulation in robot mode is excellent, including double-jointed elbows, and articulated finger-groups. There's even a swivel in the upper leg. No problem posing this robot in plenty of positions, although I do always recommend that, especially in robot form, these toys be handled with care.

The headsculpt is nicely reminiscent of the original Mirage, and very neatly painted, as are all of the details on this toy requiring paint. It's nice to see that these toys have avoided the problems that have plagued some other toy lines with regard to paint detailing in recent times. I pray that continues to be the case.

Although Alternators do not come with a full bio-card, the package does include a character quote. For Mirage, it reads: "You can't catch what you can't see". One might assume he's retained his ability to turn invisible.

Now that'd be an interesting thought. Imagine a special edition of this toy made all in transparent plastic...

Anyway, MIRAGE is definitely a winning addition to the incredible Transformers Alternators line. He's an established character in the concept, and he looks very cool in either car or robot form. MIRAGE definitely has my highest recommendation!