Transformers Classic Voyager Jetfire: Autobot Air Guardian
Classic Jetfire is the culmination of many fans’ dreams: a detailed and posable figure, an homage to Generation 1 Jetfire/Skyfire, and a worthy successor to the original Bandai Valkyrie (Gen 1 Jetfire). I won’t go into the detailed history here, but the short story is this: the Generation 1 Jetfire toy was a licensed and re-colored copy of the Bandai VF-1S Valkyrie from Macross (for American fans it is the VF-1S Veritech from Robotech). In the cartoon, the character became Skyfire, and had a very different look. There has never been anything close to a show-accurate Skyfire toy, while Jetfire has gone through many different incarnations. Most recently, the comic book portrayals of Jetfire have been including many design and color elements of the G1 toy AND Skyfire, much to the delight of the fans. This is culminated in Classics Jetfire.
Jetfire comes in the standard Classic Voyager box, an attractive trapezoid-shape, with a clear view of Jetfire in Fighter Jet mode. The flip-up panel gimmick shows Jetfire in Super Robot mode entering into combat while wearing his helmet. The Also Available side of the box features first wave Megatron, Optimus Prime, and Starscream, and fellow second wavers Mirage and Grimlock. (These are all correctly labeled, while on Grimlock’s cardback Jetfire is referred to as Astrotrain, complete with Decepticon logo!) The back of the box shows Jetfire in both modes, cannons retracted on the booster pack in Fighter Jet mode. Robot mode Jetfire is armed for bear, with backpack cannons deployed and helmet on. Notes describe the rotating laser cannons (helmet guns) in Jet mode, and projectile-firing arm blasters in robot mode. The standard technical data file paints an interesting picture of Jetfire’s attributes, with 10s in Intelligence, Speed and Rank (clearly a recent development, as cartoon Jetfires have been second in command to Primes in the last few incarnations), but numbers as low as 5 in Endurance. The description of Jetfire reinforces some of the historical Jetfire/Skyfire mythos going back to Generation 1, but also attempts to re-write that history. While this Jetfire is again a scientist, he heroically fought space pirates instead of being a member of the Decepticons and friends with Starscream before going missing and being discovered in an Arctic glacier. The final sentence describes Jetfire blazing into battle, a far cry from G1 Skyfire’s almost total inability to fight for more than a few moments…
Opening the box reveals Jetfire resting on a plastic tray and attached to a cardboard backing. Separate are the clear blue projectiles, hand weapon, and transformation instructions. The battle to free Jetfire consists of: 9 twisty ties with 5 fasteners, 2 plastic tray holders, and 2 plastic bands (holding nosecone and rear section together).
Fighter Jet Mode
Classic Jetfire is called a Fighter Jet, and his alt mode backs up that designation. In its basic form, the jet is a “swing-wing” fighter with variable-geometry wings reminiscent of the F-14 Tomcat (first deployed in the early ‘70s, and just recently retired), complete with dual vertical and horizontal stabilizers. There are built-in dual lasers on the fuselage behind and below the cockpit. These are the head lasers on the battle helmet. Jetfire’s alt mode colors are clearly reminiscent of his Generation 1 ancestor: red, white, and black. New and improved is the translucent blue cockpit. Landing gear (standard three pieces) is manually swung down or stowed. The jet looks great, and upon close inspection has lots of fine sculpted detail, including bits all along the wings. Very little of this is painted, however, and some will be disappointed by the relative plainness of this mode. The undersides of the wings feature Autobot logos (visible in robot mode), while the top of the left wing has a rub sign. While Jetfire is certainly formidable, he comes with plenty of additional weaponry and power, which complete his Super Vehicle mode. Attaching the large booster pack requires folding down the vertical stabilizers and snapping the pack forcefully to the top of the aircraft. The boosters are large engines, presumably for breaking free of an atmosphere (at least that’s what their purpose was in Robotech/Macross), and feature ball-jointed moveable exhausts. But that’s not all! The rear portion of the boosters pull back to allow large cannons to pop forward, almost as far as the nosecone. Projectile launchers attach to the arms, in this mode slung under the wings next to the legs. The clear blue missiles plug into these spring-loaded launchers, and are fired by tabs. Jetfire’s large hand cannon can be split in two, and he can “hold” them in his hands, which unfortunately do not retract. All of this makes for a very powerful and aggressive fighter jet, with a lot of playability and customization. The only problems evident in Jetfire’s alt mode are the aforementioned non-retractable hands and the gaping holes in the boosters when the guns are deployed. While the hands are only a problem when looking at the underside of the toy, the booster holes are a little ugly. I prefer to leave the cannons retracted, at least on this mode.
Jetfire’s transformation is fairly simple (when did Transformers stop including a stated transformation difficulty? I must’ve missed it.) and takes little time. The instructions suggest removing all of the accoutrements such as booster pack and projectile launchers, but this is unnecessary. The most interesting aspects of the transformation are the opening cockpit revealing the helmeted head, and the splitting nosecone which reattaches to the sides of the fuselage to form the chest. Watch out when removing the booster pack, as the connectors are very tight. The directions first show the removal of the Super Mode items, then transformation to Robot, then re-application of accessories, and finally another transformation from Super Robot mode to Super Vehicle mode. Again, this is mostly unnecessary, as none of it really gets in the way.
Jetfire’s robot mode continues the homage to Generation 1 Skyfire/Jetfire, and therefore the Macross/Robotech Valkyrie/Veritech, while ostensibly representing the latter-day comic version in the title Stormbringer. [Being unfamiliar with the new comics, I cannot say much about Jetfire’s Stormbringer accuracy. I have, however, seen the promotional images, and can report that Classic Jetfire’s Super Robot mode IS Stormbringer Jetfire.] Despite being a scientist, Jetfire looks like a powerful robot. He has large forearms and lower legs, and a prominent chest. The directions show Jetfire with his wings (now on his back) swung upward behind him, with the small horizontal stabilizers pointing outward below. The upward wings are reminiscent of G1 Skyfire, but on this toy the configuration looks a little odd. The problem is that with the little horizontal stabilizers on the bottom, and the wings on the top, Jetfire looks like he has bug wings (or worse, as some have said, fairy wings). Thankfully, the wings can be swung down, eliminating this problem and bringing Jetfire more in line with his Valkyrie heritage. In basic robot mode the wings may look bulky pointed downward, but this is alleviated once he has his booster backpack. Jetfire’s robot mode features the same colors as the jet: red, white, and black, with blue on the cockpit (now chest) and head. He has light piping and blue eyes. While Jetfire’s basic robot mode is more dynamic than the jet mode, it does suffer from some ugliness. The outer edges of the forearms have gaping holes where the projectiles launchers attach, there is unsightly landing gear on the knees and wheels in the crotch, and under the arms the shiny ends of the metal posts on the wing joints are pretty glaring. On my Jetfire the chest piece does not latch, but it stays in place anyway. But, these (and a couple other) complaints are pretty trivial on a mostly great toy. Articulation comes in at 19 useful joints: ball joint head, up and down shoulder ratchets, horizontal shoulder swivels, vertical elbow ratchets, rotating forearms, rotating wrists, horizontal hip ratchets, vertical hip ratchets, vertical knee ratchets, rotating lower legs. I do not count the toe/heel as a useful joint, and the wing swivel is more for decoration. There is no waist joint due to the transformation scheme, wings, and overall design, though this does not detract from the toy. Most of the articulation works great, and Jetfire can assume a number of dynamic poses. However, he his very top heavy (extremely so in Super Robot mode), and can fall over fairly easily.
As in the alt mode, Jetfire’s Super Robot mode offers options galore! He looks great with or without the backpack unit, and with the guns exposed or not. The booster-mounted cannons can point upwards, or the entire front half of the boosters can fold down to aim the weapons over Jetfire’s shoulders (or leave one in each position like the Strike Mode Valkyrie). The problem with the unsightly booster gaps caused by the cannons’ deployment is alleviated in robot mode, as they can be seen only from the back. Attach the arm-mounted projectiles for more firepower, and to hide those unsightly holes. Equip the hand cannon, or split it into two smaller guns. The final, and most controversial, accessory is the helmet. A lot of work went into making Jetfire reflect his Generation 1 counterpart, but here we see another reference. The helmet and head combination comes from recent comic book appearances. As far back as the War Within series, Jetfire was shown with “two heads,” in that case a regular robot face with a flip-down visored faceplate reminiscent of the Valkyrie. The Stormbringer comic apparently took that idea a step farther, with a regular robot head and armed and armored battle helmet. Classic Jetfire’s regular head looks somewhat like the G1 Skyfire head, only smaller, while the battle helmet resembles the VF-1S Valkyrie with its visor and quad head lasers. This has led to an interesting dilemma in deciding which head to use; the robot head looks a little small, while the helmet is somewhat oversized. In person, the helmet actually looks pretty good with all of the other Super Robot mode accoutrements deployed. In trying to make Jetfire a Valkyrie/Veritech, some have tried to shoehorn him into a Gerwalk/Guardian mode (jet with arms and legs), with varying success. This toy is simply not made for that, and most results are pretty ugly. Fortunately, his standard two modes are excellent.
All in all, Jetfire is a great toy. He has wide appeal, with playability and durability for children, and a wide range of customization and articulation for collectors. Long time Transformers fans will love Jetfire for his nostalgia, and even Macross and Robotech people are collecting this “new age” Valkyrie. The few design flaws (most notably the hands in jet mode) are certainly forgivable. Jetfire is highly recommended.
I was incredibly lucky to find a Jetfire at my local Toys R Us a couple of weeks ago, but it was the only one I’ve seen in the wild. There it was the standard Voyager Class price of $19.99. With the further shipments of wave two Classics, more should be showing up in major toy retailers. There are a fair amount of Jetfires on ebay, and they go for around $25-40, not including shipping. Good luck!