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HMM Command Wolf LC

Tied for first in Zoidspoison's second HMM review contest :D.

I apologize for the picture quality throughout this. Most of the build pics were taken at night, with me more documenting the build than worrying about looks. And then there were further lighting issues and this, so there's bits missing...ah well.

The pictured Wolf is not done, at least in my eyes! There's details I still need to paint, though the panel lining is finished. I'm also debating darkening the caps and replacing the green cockpit with a smoke one to further pull the color scheme together. The Zenebas label on its cheek is from a sheet by Reprolabels.

Intro

I make it no secret where my Zoid preferences lie: I like them to move. I don't care if Model X is more complex than a Master Grade Gundam glued to a jigsaw puzzle with self-glittered sparkles, the mechanical bits and the toy hybrid thing are a lot of what makes me happy. Thus, Kotobukiya's Shield Liger did nothing to impress me in concept or execution (the head, the lack of cool interlocking legbits that would make the flexy interesting, etc). Command Wolf appearing next got me to at least try the line—I'm experimental like that and the early pictures didn't look half bad.

Soon after the white Wolf (in fact, before its actual release, if I recall correctly), news came of a second limited version: Zenebastastic red with the Irvine/LC gun, restyled in Kotobukiya Zoid aesthetic. I like Zenebas stuff and the regular Wolf guns reminded me of a disembodied whitehead, so this was win-win...and cause for preorder, which turned out to be a good thing. I don't know if it was the Irvine gun, the cool boxart by Mercy Rabbit, or what, but Wolfy was gone from HLJ and other Zoids stores pretty quickly. But I had one to build, and I was gonna build it.

Box frontBox side #1Box side #2Box side #3Another part of the box art

The box contains the usual "oh my god, it's full of parts"-reaction inducing selection common to the Kotobukiya line, along with extra bits: stickers on thinner stickypaper than normal Zoids (this is a good thing), a clear red coreball of Jolly Rancher goodness, and one set of clear bright Guylos green canopies. Sadly, there's no choice like with the white Wolfy. Smoke or the OJR!Zenebas green would have been nice to see. The manual is in color on some pages, telling bits of story and showing off diorama photos, design sketches, and a color/painting guide. The directions themselves have clear but unfortunately small pictures. Maybe it's just my crappy eyes, but I had trouble making some parts out without leaning in close. (My spilling water on the pages showing the legs didn't help - keep beverages away from your Zoids manuals.)

Manual frontManual backSmall instructionsColor guideIn-story pic of the LCSome leg design sketches

The actual parts are molded in the following colors:

  • Low-saturation medium red, which is a near match for OJR Dimetrodon. It's very Zenebas, and I suspect would paint to a deep Sabre Tiger style red easily.
  • Bluish grey. Some promo pics showed a lavender shade, but there's no real purple here, alas. The squishy joint bits are also grey, as it forms all the limbs and understructure.
  • Dull greybrown. Some of these pieces have painted silver details, and the softer plastic hoses are greybrown too.
  • Royal blue, for the caps. (Kotobukiya Zoids still use caps, they're just hard plastic!)
  • Yellow-painted-to-gold, for the paws and detailing bits.

If you can hunt it down now, Kotobukiya also gave the Wolf its own separate set of custom parts. Not so much "custom" as "replacement", they include clear canopy bits (perfect for tinting to a shade you desire with clear paint) and gold chrome paws/detailing to replace the painted gold.

Box contents in baggiesBox with other Zoids for scalePieces with other ZoidsHMM CP 02 contents

With the green canopy, one may note this has the unfortunate effect of creating a low-saturation rainbow of colors on your LC. If this bothers you like it does me, I recommend stripping and/or painting over the paws/detail bits to make them silver before you begin building rather than after. (See how my build pics have the gold? Yeah, getting all the parts back out was fun.) This is especially effective if you got the gold chrome paws CP, which can be stripped down to silver. Here's a few pics showing the sprue I tested acetone on for demonstration:

Stripping results 1Stripping results 2Stripping results 3

If you've never built a HMM Zoid before and are used to the main line, I'll say it now: These are more Srs Business model kits, even if they're snap fit. Even the most complex Zoids fall under the model-toy hybrid umbrella, making them a lot more forgiving of mistakes. Be more gentle with a HMM, and be prepared to glue a few things (half the belly hoses, probably the shoulders and/or hip joints) if you want your Wolf to stay together well...and this is from someone that hates using glue on snap fit kits ;p.

I recommend freeing pieces with a sidecutter if you have one, though I worked with sharp scissors, toenail clippers, and a knifeblade myself (for shame). Regardless of (reasonably suitable) tools, the operative words here are patience and care: don't twist bits off the frames, and keep track of the little buggers. Some are tiny and like to hide, and a few are breaky. On the Wolf, the ones I'd watch out for are the sides of the face and the little hydraulic thingies in the legs. The LC's gun also has these side bits the original-styled guns thread through that are extremely snap-prone.

Detailing is easier done as you go along, in my opinion, and you'll want at least silver paint handy for the teeth. I recommend a paint marker, the best for the job probably being the plated silver Gundam Marker...which is now out of production, unfortunately. Check pieces beforehand, mind, as some end up covered by armor. I also made the mistake of using my regular!Zoid panel lining trick of Gundam Marker lines directed and faded with rubbing alcohol. The grey didn't like this much and sometimes took multiple passes. If I were to do it again, I'd bring something more efficient, like an inkwash.

Building

Once you've got all your Wolf bits out of the box and are ready to go, you start with the head. This has the unfortunate side effect of beginning your adventure with the kit's biggest flaw if built straight out of the box. Put bluntly, the jaw doesn't open worth crap! It can't even get far enough open to bite down, which is pretty pathetic considering the other offerings in the HMM line are very munchy. This can be fixed, but it will require a bit of cutting (you do have a knife handy for building something like this, right?).

To free up space for the lower jaw, hack away at the offending side-of-face bits and the grey piece below the chin as shown on 10 Years Later here (scroll down to near the bottom of the page). It took me a few tries to get enough plastic cleared, so I suggest not pressing those fragile face sides fully together until you're ready to keep them that way. One that's fixed, the head's a nice piece of work, looking less permanent-angryface than promo pics suggest and nicely blending Kotobukiya and old-school aesthetics. I painted one of my pilots shiny silver and stuck him inside for added bling. (As a side note, the pilots in these kits aren't one-piece blobmen: they're composed of a torso, legs, and two slightly posable arms.)

Headbits assembly in stages.  Largeish image.

But that head needs a place to go, so the neck follows right after. The head-on-a-stick of the first step gets various bits attached to bulk it out and add a second stick, and all that holds the decorative ruff and side bits on. Together it makes for some degree of side to side movement in the whole assembly without the flat face-sides getting stuck. It's hard to describe, but it's pretty cool...think of a stiffer and more complex variation on the Shadow Fox's slightly posable head applied to two points of the neck. The only bad parts? The stick-bits sometimes get loose from the soft plastic posey bits, and there's actually less up and down movement possibility than the original Wolf.

Next comes the torso...or "bust" and waist, as the instructions call it. Snerk. This involves a good amount of very detailed grey bits, and is where I first realized this was going to take a lot of panel lining. You start with the front half, building a boxlike thing with side pipes, an opening hatch (for the core), separate decorative bits based off the old windup leg-moving parts, and a pair of shoulder joint holders. Easy Core-Bake Oven complete, you put together the rear half of the Wolf (which sports similar decoration and joints), and finally some shifty middle connecty-bits. One of these is another stick with various joints that will form the spine, another a sliding box-piece with hoses that connect to holes in the front half of the Wolf. This makes cool flexy piping bits on the belly that adapt to the Wolf's posture. Problem: the hoses won't stay in. I recommend gluing the rear ends that go into the slidey box, which will hold them in place without hurting posability like gluing both ends would.

Torsobits in stages.  Largeish image.

Attaching to that are three more decorative but important bits: the smoke dischargers, the tail, and the guns. The dischargers and the tail aren't particularly complex, though fiddly to detail. Just stick 'em together and be ready for leg fun next. If you're building the LC, you can skip the gun parts other than the connector from the second half of step 9. Unlike the original Irvine Wolf, the big gun doesn't lay over the original, but attaches to unique shorter versions of the cannons.

Forelegs are first limb-wise, and they're mirror images of each other, so you'll be building them twice. They're reasonably interesting anyway, going together in chunks and then having armor and detailing bits laid over them. The feet are on tiltable, jointed answers to the original Wolf's pegs, so they'll stay level through most standing poses without having scrawny ball joint ankle issues. The shoulders are the coolest, though, with their separate top chunk that lets the armor fold around it and attach with the small circley details. This grants it limited mobility, enough to move with the Wolf rather than jamming the whole shoulder together.

Legbits.  Last big image.

Hindlegs come second, and introduce my main gripe with the kit: they reuse the forelegs' lower bits unaltered, and keep the shoulder bits the same length with added hindleg-attachment. Now, I know molds are expensive and reusing parts is handy, but this makes for some awkward proportions. Dinosaur fans may complain about things like one too many fingers, but this is seriously Not Right for a canine:

Dodgy diagram of the leg issue

Nitpickery aside, it also interferes with posability by making the Wolf stuck in either "my legs are broke" poses or standing with a forward tilt. And it sure doesn't help how the hindlegs collide with the smoke dischargers, again cutting posability. Surely they could have designed a couple more modded bits when they were already reworking an entire kit, especially with all the use the Command Wolf mold is seeing...

Limbs complete, all that remains in the LC's construction is the Big Gun. If you wanna paint your Wolf, for the love of all that's shiny, do it before you assemble this thing, because there's bits you will not get back apart.

Some of the pieces are tiny and/or fragile: be especially careful with the little red side thingies the guns go through, because they'll break if you sneeze. Otherwise, it's mostly a case of layering red bits over grey barrelbits and side guns, then assembling the long barrel, which shoves onto the end of the main gunpart. The aforementioned little red side thingies are left slipping over the side guns while you're trying to get the two main pieces together, and it's a tight fit - I feared for snapping things, though I'd already cracked one slidey piece while assembling the gun barrel and had to glue it back together.

The instructions finish with a step where you stick the various bits of Wolf together, but I'd been doing that all along. It's much more fun to have a three-legged Zoid watching you work, urging you to finish its limbs already. Points to note: The legs are very hard to get onto the ball joint balls. I ended up with minor cracks in the balls' attachment points from the sheer force it took. The balls also like to escape from their holder, leg and all, so you might want to glue them (at the shoulder, not gluing the ball into the leg!). I'd also glue the pieces that hold the joints onto the body, as one of mine escapes. None of this will hurt posability if you glue carefully, and will help the more common "my Wolf falls apart" issues. Just finish your detailing work first!

End thoughts

The HMM line's main selling points are posability and detail. The Wolf succeeds in the detail part, having lots of molded stuff going on without being overbusy. However, without any panel lines or painting, it's also a bit flat—especially the inner ears, smoke dischargers, and gun. Extra pieces for the inner ears would have helped, though they might have ended up very thin, and the Wolf doesn't need any more fragile bits.

Closeup head viewFront viewSide viewRear view

Posability is a bit more hit and miss. The feet, while unable to fold or swing up/down as far as I'd like and lacking the individual toes so awesome on the cats, have enough side to side mobility to make most poses Wolfy can twist into look a lot nicer. The legs bend decently and can shift into lots of angles, but the hind ones regularly run into the smoke dischargers. Speaking of which, those dischargers are just...there. Very large, very immobile, very in the way. Being able to angle them clear of the Wolf's gun and legs would have been keen. The gun is pretty stable, sporting reasonable range of motion otherwise. The head, as mentioned, can't move up and down a ton, but makes up for it with limited side to side flexibility, something not present on most motorized kits.

SniffingHandstand, front angleHandstand, belly angleFootstandRoll over

My overall "should I buy this?" conclusion? The Wolf is a flawed kit, and probably not the best the Kotobukiya Zoids line has to offer—I'd look to the Saber Tiger for that based on reviews and photography. On the other hand, it has its good points, and if you're willing to put in work it can make for a nice end product. LC-wise, I'd pass unless you have a serious thing for the colors or the Irvine gun, 'cause the prices it hits now are a bit painful. The regular Wolf and the AC are far more easily obtained, and they'll give you plenty of canine building funtimes.

Monitor backlighting in red and blueWindow backlighting

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