"It's no good. Everything's gone. Just plain ruined." Chin up, lad. It might never happen. Or it might happen over and over and over again. The above quote is, as many of you will have already clocked, from Trailbreaker’s appearance in the TF:UK story ‘Man of Iron’, where he gets violently blown apart by (I think) Thundercracker. I doubt it will surprise anyone that knows me when I say I loved ‘Man of Iron’. It was a weird, creepy, and appropriately stiff for a story set in the rural south of England, and surprisingly visceral in its violence. Thrilling stuff for a wee kid. And it is of course one of the few TF comics where Trailbreaker gets any dialogue. He should be a nobody to me. A bland background character. However the pathos in that one brief scene meant that he always held a special place in my heart. I’m not quite sure how James Roberts knew about this affection for ol’ Trailbreaker, but he sure as hell exploited it when he added Trailbreaker to the cast of the MTMTE comics. His characterisation of Trailbreaker as an insecure, weary, Autobot with alcohol dependency issues really got me in ‘the feels’. In fact, the one-off Trailbreaker ‘spotlight’ issue is possibly one of my favourite TF comics of all time. It’s maybe not that dramatic, it doesn’t have much by way of world building, and there’s no shocking plot twists, but boy does it do character! All built around one guy that feels pigeonholed, and thus forgotten about. “I wish I was normal. I wish I was normal and I wish everyone would just shut up.” “Old and empty…that’s how I feel.” Really strikes a chord. I’m not sure I’ve related to, and been so drawn in by, an internal monologue like that since I read St Swithin’s Day. So naturally, he met a horrible end. An end so horrible that I was in denial about it, followed by anger. If you were to put me on the spot and ask me who my favourite member of the MTMTE cast was I wouldn’t hesitate in saying ‘Trailbreaker’. Yer old G1 Trailbreaker toy was one of the most enigmatic of the ‘Ark Crew’ figures. Like Wheeljack, he was a figure I never saw and his character model differed so much from the toy that there were big gaps for my imagination to fill, even though I’d seen Hoist. And, like Wheeljack, he was one of the last ’84 bots I got when I started collecting again. He’s a tricky lad to get in decent condition, with all his accessories. And he is one of Diaclone guys that really needs all his bits and bobs. He’s a quirky one in hand. Hench in many respects, dainty in others, with a moody deco and facesculpt that makes you wonder if he’s really suited to being on the good guys team. In robot mode, he looks like someone shoved Darth Vader, A Cylon, and a van into a Brundel teleporter. All that black and red really does make him look like a bad guy, and the face, featureless but for that glowering red visor, doesn’t help. And it’s beautiful. He really stands out from his ’84/’85 contemporaries. Everything about the deco is so well-judged. The red isn’t overused, and the chrome on the limbs and accessories, and clear blue plastic on the windows complements everything else to a tee. He’s a slightly ungainly figure. His legs can’t help but look a bit skinny coming off that big torso. The way the bonnet folds down is always going to make him look like he’s carrying a spare tire (wait, that’s confusing). If his windscreen forms his pecs, the way the hood folds down under it is always going to make him look…a little tubby. I really do love his accessories. The big black molded fists are a bit on the shapeless side, but they do work. The radar scanner that attaches to the back of his head is exactly the sort of odd touch that’s so wonderful about these Diaclone guys. I do like that I’ve got two, well three, choices for hand attachments, but it just always feels right to have the missiles attached to his ‘backpack’. It just gives him such an awesome silhouette. A campervan has always struck me as an odd choice for a vehicle mode when your mates are sports cars, but I guess it supports the idea that this is a guy that feels a bit sorry for himself. That said, it is an awesome looking campervan. The colour scheme does a lot of the heavy lifting, but the detail isn’t slouching. I’m sitting here, turning the toy over in my hand and admiring all the little touches, from the sculpting on the bonnet to the chromed grille, bumper and lights, to the red plastic lights on the rear. I rarely notice door handles on toy, but my eye is just drawn to them on this guy. He’s had a (to me) surprising amount of figures over the course of ‘Generations’ lifespan, from the IDW accurate (but frustratingly short) version in Thrilling:30 to the Offroad retool of Combiner Wars, to finally this Earthrise version. I feel kinda awful saying this, considering how minimal the differences but I really like Trailbreaker as a toy way, way, way more than Hoist. And I checked myself. It’s not bias due to my affection for the character. In significant ways, this is a better figure (unless you like all those things that unique to Hoist like the headsculpt, deco, trailer bit, wings, etc. In which case, you were always going to love Hoist more. I seem to have undermined my point before even making it. Toys are hard). One of my big niggles with Hoist is how the window drew attention to how gappy his chest was. Trailbreaker’s chest is just as gappy, but between the more solid ‘backpack’ and the dark windows, the eye isn’t drawn to the problem nearly as much as with Hoist. The hand attachment is a massive improvement, looking much more like something that a giant robot would have on it’s arm, rather than a jerry-rigged watering can. And, as with G1, black and red just works, man. Sure, the black could have been deeper and glossier and the red more vivid, but it’s still a winning combo. Also black, as I’m reliably informed, is slimming and makes Trailbreaker look that bit leaner than Hoist, who was no chonker. The tone on the blue eyes is absolutely perfect and really leaps out. It’s not all great, of course. The radar scanner is fucking tiny and cheap looking. the inverness cape is still naff (though not as bothersome as Hoist’s, I should add), and I’m really no fan of the headsculpt. I mean, of course they were going to go with something that bore closer resemblance to the cartoon than anything else, but I think that’s wound up giving us something quite bland in comparison to what we might have had with a more platonic approach. The T:30 headsculpt was bursting with character and still undeniably read as Trailbreaker. But there we go. I suspect I’m in a minority on this one. One final trivial niggle is that I’d have liked to see an option to have two of the back mounted rockets, for pure G1 toy tribute. I suspect I’m in an even smaller minority on that one. Again, while liking the aesthetics that bit more than on Hoist, I’m still so frustrated by the camper van and it’s fucking massive fist revealing gaps in the bottom. I just want to reach under and give TB a handshake. Maybe tell him the disguise needs a wee bit more work but is coming on nicely. He could pass for a real 4WD Toyota if really wanted to. I’ve liked this toy so much more than I expected to. I was really anticipating that I might try him, decide that the T:30 version is one staying on the display shelf, and maybe even sell this ER toy on at some point. Last night, cautiously…perhaps even a little reverently, I picked T:30 Trailbreaker up from my Lost Light shelf, popped him up on the Titans shelf where my doubles that are too good to sell on live, and slotted ER Trailbreaker in. I both winced and unclenched when I saw well he fit in there. I think he might stay.