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Series: Earthspark
Year: 2023
Allegiance: Terran
Class: Deluxe

Prelude: I really didn’t expect to like Earthspark, but I did. Both in terms of stories and characters. One such character is Nightshade, the Terrans’ resident (slightly mad) scientist. And, as I would like to explicitly state to avoid confusion on the part of my buddy Dennis, they are an owl. Airazor was a falcon, but Nightshade is an actual owl. So, let’s say Hooo-Hooo!

Robot Mode: Nightshade is a Deluxe-Class figure, roughly the same height as Twitch(though scale-wise they should be roughly twice her size, but that is a different matter). Like their cartoon counterpart, they are a tall, slim robot, mostly green and grey, and the resemblance to the animated character is very close. I am not one hundred percent down with the face design, a few more bits of color and a slight smirk would have worked wonders, but overall this is clearly Nightshade from the cartoon, so mission accomplished.

Articulation is quite good. No twisting hip or wrists, but everything else moves and bends nicely, including ankle tilt. Nightshade has two wings on their back, which are on balljoints. The wings themselves, just like the back of Nightshade’s head and the owl’s face, are made of a rubbery material. Not sure why, to be honest, and I’m just hoping it won’t start to become brittle or decompose within a decade or so. Anyway, the wings look great, but cannot really fold down or away, so if you’re going for show accuracy, you can simply clip them off at the balljoint. It’s also possible to separate the rubbery parts from the grey plastic part that connects to the balljoint, but I would advise against it. Attaching and detaching them (which you will do at least once, as they come detached in package) puts stress on the connecting parts, so I wouldn’t do it too often.

Nightshade comes armed with two knives, which can be stored away in the slots on top of the wings (sorry, forgot to take a picture of that). I guess Nightshade could also use the owl claws on their forearms as weapons in melee combat, if you wish.

Bottom line for the robot mode: nicely done. Would have been better if there was an option for actually folding in the wings instead of just clipping them off, but otherwise? No complaints. A very nice depiction of the character.

Alternate Mode: Nightshade transforms into a hawk owl, making him only the second-ever Transformer with that particular animal as an altmode. The owl does not look terribly organic, naturally, as the template for it was actually a statue (see below for more on that). Personally, it strongly reminds me of Bubo, the robotic replica of Athena’s owl from the 1981 movie “Clash of the Titans” (a true classic you should definitely watch if you haven’t already, and I don’t mean the 2010 remake). The transformation isn’t really that complicated. Nightshade folds their legs up on their back, the arms connect in front of their chest, and the robot head is switched out for the owl head, done.

The owl looks pretty good, though, with maybe a touch of art deco styling, and is reasonably articulated, too. The wings can flap back and forth, the head can turn, and the feet have some movement, too. Nightshade can even fold their wings in for a sitting pose, too, though the wings have to be flipped 180 degrees to do it. Okay, looking at it from the back, you’d be hard-pressed not to recognize those robot legs hanging there, but it’s still miles better than Beast Wars Dinobot, so I’m happy with it.

Overall a nice owl mode, a worthy successor to Beast Wars Transmetal 2 Prowl and without any peeling chrome paint, too. Now we can but hope the rubbery stuff will endure over time.

Accessories: Like other Deluxe-class figures from the Earthspark line, Nightshade SHOULD come with a piece of the Mandroid Build-a-Figure, the chest, but at least some European releases (this one here included) do not have the part included and even omit any mention of it on the packaging. Not that I planned to collect all those pieces, mind you, but if you do want a complete Mandroid, be sure to check before buying whether your Nightshade includes the piece or not.

Remarks: Nightshade was among the second group of Terrans awakened by the Molto family in the cave of Quintus Prime. Highly intelligent, somewhat arrogant, and downright weird sometimes, Nightshade originally refused to select an alternate mode, figuring that they were good enough without one. It was only when a confrontation with Tarantulas forced their hand that Nightshade adopted a beast mode, scanning the statue of the Winged Sentinel, an owl from a book series Nightshade had come to love. Nightshade identifies as nonbinary, which, given that they are genderless robots from outer space, should actually be the default for any Transformer, shouldn’t it?

Predictably, there was some outcry about how terribly woke Earthspark was for including a nonbinary character (again, genderless robots from outer space!), but thankfully most Transformers fans cared more about the great storytelling and likeable characters. Also, Nightshade is a pretty great toy, too. Only the second-ever owl Transformer in the franchise’s 40 year history, he makes for a good robot with a cool alternate mode. Some things could have been done a bit better, but overall, I like him a lot.

So, unless you care more about condemning wokeness (whatever your definition of it may be) than owning a fun toy, Nightshade is definitely worth a look.

Rating: B+


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