Third-Party-Palooza - Heroes Edition: Planet X's Kadmos and Ismenios
It wouldn’t be until I was in college that I found out about the Japanese only continuations of the old Generation 1 cartoon. Granted, that was still back in the late 90s, so yeah, I’m old. And while most of the characters in Headmasters and Super God Masterforce were available both here and in Japan (except Overlord and Godbomber, both of whom grabbed my eye pretty quickly), Transformers Victory was in essence completely new territory. Sure, some of the featured Micromasters were available everywhere and Dinoking (and his component pieces) was available here as Monstructor (and I STILL regret not getting those at the old Twin Valu back in the day). But Galaxy Shuttle, Road Caesar and his component Brainmasters, Lio Kaiser and his component Breastforce, and Victory Leo? All new. But it was the two new leaders, Autobot Star Saber and Decepticon Dezarus, that naturally drew my attention and quickly rocketed up my ‘want’ list. I’d eventually get my mitts on a Victory Saber gift-set, containing Star Saber and Victory Leo…but that ran me quite a bit of cash. Like…stupid money that, now that I reflect on it, I’m rather amazed I had at the time.
Dezarus still eludes my grasp.
But that’s not what we’re here to talk about. We’re here to talk about some lower cost alternatives, relatively speaking. Today, we’re back in Cybertronian Heroes land again, with these two offerings coming from third-party company Planet X. Something notable here is that Planet X is more known for their figures inspired by the old Activision/Full Moon Studios War for/Fall of Cybertron designs. We’ll get to those in later reviews. They do occasionally stray from this formula, as in the case of these two IDW-based designs.
The process that led me to buying these two was a little backward. You see, Takara/Tomy has already released a Masterpiece Star Saber…so when I heard about Planet X’s Dezarus, I thought he might be a good counterpart. Alas, the sizes didn’t really match up, as Star Saber looked enormous next to this newly-christened Ismenios. So, on his initial release, I actually passed on this guy. This happened right around the time Hasbro’s Power of the Primes line was getting ready to ramp up and the opening promo for that was a fan poll to vote for the next Prime, and sure enough, both Star Saber and Dezarus were on the list of nominees (Dezarus as “Unnamed Evil”). And while neither of them won, there was the hope that new toys would still get made. After all, Star Saber would have fit perfectly into the ‘Evolutions’ theme the Leader Class toys carried for the line. Nope. ‘Twas not to be.
With Hasbro insistent on doing nothing but the same old rehashes, I revisited Ismenios. By this time, his counterpart, Kadmos (IDW Star Saber) was also out too. Now that there would be symmetry on my Heroes shelf, it was time to make my purchase(s). So let’s start with who arrived first.
It becomes very apparent, in whichever mode you see him first in, that this is not a strict interpretation of the G1 toy as Hasbro’s Generations line has become of late. Instead, as I already mentioned, this is taken from the pages of the IDW comic, or, if you prefer, perhaps leaning toward the early days of the Classics/Generations line where the characters were G1 inspired, but with more modern sensibilities. Regardless, this works for Kadmos…well, for about 99% of his design. The white fins on the side of his head though…ugh…I’m still not sure about those. Now, once you get him in hand, you’ll definitely notice the heft. This guy’s got a decent amount of die-cast tooling. It’s not enough to kill a man if you bonk him on the head, but given that a fair amount of it is in the legs, it helps to serve as a solid base for any posing you have in mind. And with all the articulation this guy has, posing is what you’ll be doing. Most notable are the butterfly joints in the shoulders which do indeed allow him to have a two handed grip on his fabled sword. Transformation into his jet mode follows the same basic pattern as the old G1 toy and the more recent Masterpiece release with a couple extra steps here and there. The epic starship mode improves on the G1 design as it looks coherent and in one piece…mainly because it is. But that’s not to say that Planet X abandoned the concept of a smaller bot within the larger Star Saber body. No, he’s there, much smaller than his G1 or Masterpiece counterparts (barely taller than the current Core Class figures) but he’s even able to turn into his own tiny little jet mode and has a degree of poseablity.
All that being said, it’s not all good here. Sure, the articulation is great, but the backpack can get in the way sometimes. On the bright side, the engine sections that inhibit arm movement can be removed. That’s not gonna please the anti-parts-forming crowd. For me, I just wish there was a place to store them elsewhere, even if I have to remove them and put them there myself. While the little guy is great, he’s vital to the starship’s integrity. If you remove him, you got yourself a bit of a broken plane! I do have the minor nit-pick that there’s nowhere to store the weapons in vehicle mode…that giant sword is off to go sit in the corner while you’re whooshing with the starship. And lastly, like many third-party products, there are some sharp edges on this guy, so you’re gonna want to be careful and definitely make sure none of the little ones can get a hold of him. Hell, he’s likely sturdier than they are!
So, is he worth the $150 price tag? That’s a really good question. If you’re a fan of the character, there’s only one other option I’m aware of and it’s more slavish to the G1 design…which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. However, Star Blade by Iron Trans is even taller than the Masterpiece though! Ordinarily, he’d go for similar money, but he’s become a bit scarce as of late…so he’s kinda fetching prices up in the $200-250 range. Yikes. With another wave of Kadmos-es ready for preorder (at least at BBTS, where I got mine), this guy’s not disappearing any time soon. The construction of the toy is solid, it looks great and features some great articulation…for the most part. Personally, I dig this guy, even with the nit-picks. That being said, I know what might only be a nit-pick to me can be a deal-breaker for others. Ultimately, I’d say if you have the disposable income and are a fan of the character or design, yes, I’d recommend him. If the price seems a bit steep though, I can’t say this guy is worth selling off belongings or such to get him in hand.
Plus, there’s still a part of me that hopes that one day, Has/Tak’s design and marketing teams will grow some balls and make a mass-market Star Saber. They had the stones to do that back in the Energon days with Wing Saber…but I can’t say I’m terribly optimistic for the prospect. Not when there’s 3000 more Bumblebees to make.
The first thing that will occur to you upon seeing him, especially if the wings are splayed out to their full extent and all the inserts are in place, is that this is a toy worthy of the title Emperor of Destruction that he carried in the cartoon. While Kadmos cut a tall and lean figure, Ismenios has beef. Like, serious chunk. And like Kadmos, that’s amplified by the fact that he too has die-cast parts, once again focused mainly in the legs. He really does cut a powerful silhouette. The points of articulation count is similar to Kadmos’ as well…however, no butterfly joints this time. Not helping matter is that the chestpiece will limit some of the arm articulation. Also, yeah, he’s got sharp edges…so there’s gonna be at least one ‘ouch’ while you’re handling him. Planet X did make sure to include the Breastformer aspect of the character as well, as his chestpiece does pop off and transform into a winged lion…tiger…uh…large cat. Now, it is true that G1 Dezarus had two Breastformers and Planet X didn’t forget about the bird one…it’s just that he’s available in the G1 Upgrade kit that comes with the gun/mace that you can see in some of the pictures, more G1 inspired wings and a G1 inspired beast mode head (chrome chicken). One neat little thing also worth mentioning is that the wing-filler pieces can be put together to form a shield for Ismenios, should he find himself in a sword duel with his Autobot counterpart.
Transformation into his beast mode is simple, yet involved…and a little bit finicky at times. You’ll have to be careful as I managed to break a tab off while transforming him for this review…but he still managed to hold together well enough without it, so there’s that. Regardless, his beast mode is just as impressive as the robot mode. Sadly, just like Kadmos, if you’re looking for alt-mode storage for weapons, you’re S.O.L. Still, there’s a lot of good here: a fully articulated head, neck and jaw, fully articulated wings that allow you to raise them, flap them, fold them, etc, articulated claws and legs sturdy enough to hold him upright. Come to think of it, there’s even a little wag to the tail, articulated in about three places. These joints don’t add a whole lot of movement, but it’s pretty cool nonetheless.
So, is he worth it? Well, he’s mostly got all the same selling points and minuses that Kadmos has. He really is an impressive looking piece in both modes and like Kadmos/Star Saber, the character is criminally underrepresented with minimal Has/Tak updates or homages [There was an RiD (2000) Megatron repaint for the Collectors’ Club in 2005 and a Combiner Wars Sky Lynx recolor/slight retool in the Liokaiser gift pack in 2016 that had more in common with Leozack than Dezarus. Also, if you knock yourself on the head a few times and squint really close, Tranformers Prime: Beast Hunters Darksteel might also be considered an homage. – Ed.] and only one other third-party interpretation from Mastermind Creations that has yet to be released at the time of this writing. With both of these entries hitting about the same price point, and my own fondness for MMC’s stuff, I could certainly understand waiting. Sadly, my answer here is really going to echo what I said for Kadmos. I get $150 is a lot of coin to drop, but he is really cool…so yeah, if you’ve got the cheddar and are a fan of Dezarus, I’d definitely recommend Ismenios. He looks great on the shelf and, like I said with Star Saber, it just doesn’t seem like Has/Tak has any incentive or motivation to revisit the character anytime soon.