Articulation: 20 total points - Ball joint neck, hinge jaw; 6 points each arm: double joint shoulder, upper arm swivel, double hinge elbow, forearm swivel; 3 points each leg: ball joint hip, thigh swivel, hinge knee.
Colors: Molded olive green, black, grey, smokey clear; Painted dark green, silver, yellow, red, black, blue.
Accessories: Powerizer wrecking ball, battering ram.
Release Data: Released in May 2012 in the US at a retail price of US$19.99
Transformers Prime's First Edition line was really unlucky. Thanks to Dark of The Moon overstock, most stores didn't want any of it when it was ready early last year. And thanks to an amazing sequence of distribution failures at what few retailers did handle the line, certain toys like Bulkhead were especially rare and demand soared. Many were skeptical of the new mold main line Bulkhead that the majority would have to settle for. But things have a funny way of working out sometimes.
In spite of his massive strength, and the skill with which he uses it, Bulkhead is not a born fighter. He prefers the simple things in life to the fury and confusion of battle. Be he also knows that until the Decepticons are defeated once and for all, simple peace will remain out of reach.
We might as well start in saying that if you're looking for a toy that's pretty well accurate and representative to the TV show CG model, this isn't going to be it. But I'm completely okay with that. I was skeptical of this version of Bulkhead seeing the original photos from Toy Fair, but the reality of it is a lot better than what could be seen then. Of course if you want something that has greater complexity and real screen accuracy, the First Edition is going to be what you need to set your sights on, but RID Bulkhead has managed to relieve me of whatever desire I had for a First Edition.
In visual style, Bulkhead shows improvement over the first two RID "Powerizer" Voyagers; the clear plastic arms are significantly downplayed, which stood out as a major issue being held with Prime and Megatron, and unlike Prime where the design simplification versus the First Edition seemed detrimental visually, Bulkhead manages a more simple look which really works well. FE Bulkhead of course takes more strongly after the CG model, and so both iterations have a general roundness making Bulkhead look massively huge, this Bulkhead doesn't even try to expand out the sides or any of the other "bloom" tricks FE has been praised for. The look a much more square in contrast with the round notions of the CG model, and - while this may be a bad metric to judge by - it has a more "Classics" kind of simplicity going on that I can't help but appreciate here. The hood of the truck folds down in a way that it does jut out like a bit of a gut so Bulkhead gives the visual cues of being a large dude, but more in a style of looking like how a human does when they develop really strong "core" muscles through work rather than intentional body sculpting. In a way it's also more like the interpretive difference between versions of Animated Bulkhead, which seems an appropriate point of comparison. The basic point is that while this Bulkhead is missing the huge roundness all over, I think it looks a lot better for it. Since getting RID Bulkhead, I've really realized and actively started to see all the things I don't like about the CG design.
From the side, Bulkhead has some thickness, but not as much as you'd probably expect. That setting aside there's a lot of visibly hollow space in the torso, but forget about that for now. The backpack is simple and is just the back end of the truck, plus kibble wings from the rear quarter panels and wheels. I don't really mind those, though I've heard some people tell the hinges attaching them can be weak. I personally have had no such trouble. Compared to First Edition and the show design, this Bulkhead from the side looks like Major Diet Plan Bulkhead for the way the "weight" or more accurately body mass is being carried. Take it from me, that gut is the hardest part to drop even when you lose weight everywhere else, so I can feel Bulkhead's pain there. But like I said, the toy still conveys that sense of big and powerful the way the robot body lays out, and I think it's cool the same idea can be put across in different ways in toys that share at least an underlying common design.
A big worry had over RID Bulkhead in the Toy Fair display was how it appeared the elbows could only bend in toward the body while keeping the fists usefully oriented, but a surprise forearm swivel saves the day. It serves the same role as a wrist swivel more commonly used on Transformers, but in this case is more useful since you can rotate to get the weapon hardpoints wherever you want them, instead of potentially being locked with them on the underside or even just sideways when you might not want that. It's also more realistic to a human articulation model where that swivel action occurs in the forearm rather than directly at the wrist. In case such trivial details matter to you. There's a little bit of clear plastic in the forearms, but only at the base is it used as the "skin". The length of the forearms is opaque with a shaft of clear plastic set down deep inside the forearm with just a small channel in the arm to let you see it. It's entirely unobtrusive instead of standing out loud and clear as a design compromise for a gimmick that doesn't work in general practice.
Transformation joints give the shoulders a better than average range of motion, and what's really cool is the shoulder covers are able to move with the shoulders to some extent despite being connected directly to the torso. The shoulder armor can be handled in various ways depending on what you want from it, even as far as getting off the shoulder joints entirely so there's not even the chance of limiting the movement. Though it won't anyway; the shoulder will just slip itself out from under it if it goes too far forward. The fists are set at an angle which you can't really do anything about without starting to carve thick chunks of plastic out of the forearm "armor". It's no big thing to me since he doesn't include any parts he's really meant to hand-carry, although the fists are standard 5mm compatible. They fold in a little bit to accommodate transformation, but sadly unlike the First Edition, there's no hardpoint there to attach a weapon to. Pity.
The legs are by design less advanced. They're short and thick, which reads as realistic with Bulkhead's other build indications. The shortness compared to the arms looks a little weird, but Bulkhead's bumper obscures the actual position of the hips which can give an illusion of greater leg height. But even so, it may be hard to not see a bit of monkey-arms going on if you really pay attention to the legs. The articulation is simple, which I feel like is intentional, down to the knee having a pretty limited arc. The lower legs are pretty huge so there's not much room to move them. It would seem out of place for Bulkhead to be able to take on acrobatic poses though, so it really feels like purposeful design ideas. What stands out is the bumper skirt armor is hinged especially to get out of the way so you can swing the legs all the way forward. The hinge here serves no other purpose, since even in vehicle mode it would move the bumper entirely the wrong way. And it was driving me totally nuts what that hinge was there for until I put it together with the leg movement. It's really thoughtful to provide for this so the toy doesn't get its poseability crippled by pre-existing design features.
Bulkhead has wheels at the inner ankles. ...and then fake kibble wheels on the outer side of the ankles, which sadly go unpainted. I'm sure there was a great engineering reason the real wheels couldn't be on the outside. But even if so, was it really that necessary to sculpt the fake ones there so near the real deal? And that's a thing I dig with Bulkhead, there's very little fakeout kibble going on. The toy to this point hasn't needed to generate false vehicle details in order to achieve the desired appearance for the robot, it's all the same parts that make those aspects of the vehicle. In that sense I can look less harshly on the fake wheels since they are the only instance. But at the same time, why did they have to screw it up with those fake wheels when they were so close to going perfect with it?
One other sticking point is the platform the head is on. It rotates out of the truck body, but the front edge overhangs the windshield (and chest) by several millimeters, more than enough to look weird, especially since it's clear plastic. The head is definitely a Bulkhead. The neck is a ball joint and gets a respectable range of motion. The head may look a little small for the body, but it's actually similarly sized to Prime line Deluxes, so it just supports Bulkhead is in proportion to other dudes and is just huger than them. Works for me. The chin/jaw can move, but has a limited degree where it doesn't look really weird. Like, remember the alien Muppets on Sesame Street that would occasionally use their mouths to cover their faces? Yeah, Bulkhead can pretty much do that too if you want, and it looks every bit as freaky as it probably sounds.
Crunching Bulkhead down to form the truck is not an experience I enjoy. With enough repetition you'll be able to arrange the limbs correctly without a lot of trial-and-error steps along the way, but that really is not the killer. Bulkhead's vehicle mode has a lot of tabs, slots, flanges and grooves to try to stabilize the many panels in vehicle mode, but basically all of them require panels to be flexed and bent to actually let them snap and lock in. Just on the door panels you have to try to lock together a shaped flange to the base of the door from one direction while a tab has to catch by going in a different direction which can only be done after the door is already being held in place. It's possible to leave that alone, but the doors won't be flush with the vehicle side panels and it may weaken the stability of the truck. It's just not fun to do, and while you learn where everything needs to go you're going to spend a lot of time just trying to figure out how everything is supposed to fit inside the vehicle shell.
Once you actually do finish that, the vehicle mode really is fine. Everything does finally lock together solidly even if the process to reach that point is maddening, so you can at least take comfort that it's not fragile after all your likely frustration.
Bulkhead compacts down a fair bit in transforming, but remains as a large vehicle relative to most of the other Prime toys. In broader terms the truck is a little small, being very close in width and length to Reveal The Shield Jazz, although certainly taller and packing more mass inside. But it won't entirely save Bulkhead from maybe looking on the smaller side when with your older toys, just as now happens with Prime's Deluxes and the Fall of Cybertron Generations figures.
A great hidden feature on Bulkhead is the roof rack has 3mm clip system segments so you can arm up Bulkhead if you have any spare last-year's-gear sitting around. It's nice to see the designers have not entirely forgotten about this even if we're not getting new clip on stuff right now or foreseeably in to the future. The clip points are sadly painted in silver, so repeated arming may wear that paint off. Otherwise you get a 5mm port at the back edge of the roof to put more conventional weapons, such as the gear Bulkhead is packaged with.
Bulkhead is based loosely on a Chevrolet Avalanche, though with what seems like some ideas from the abandoned Hummer HX concept added to the body shape. The ground clearance would in theory be high so it could credibly look off-road worthy, but in Bulkhead's case there is visible robot elements underneath and especially in front you only really have a millimeter or so of difference between the bottom of the wheel and the lowest hanging robot parts. It works, but not without spoiling the illusion a little bit. Nothing is clearly identifiable as any specific part, so at least it's not as though there is an obvious leg sticking out. Speaking of spoiled illusions and standing out, the paint apps for the side windows got cut, so they're just part of a big block of dark green paint along the side panels. And it's not a matter of saying to lose this or that paint in exchange, because Bulkhead really has a bare minimum of paint to begin with. Besides the dark green deco applications, basically everything is devoted to things like lights or bumpers. Little stuff which themselves are pretty essential. Almost the entire truck body is cast from the same green plastic, only the tires and front bumper manage to be a separate plastic color. So when it's down to paint or nothing here, it's a lot more nothing than paint I'm afraid. The windshield at least is clear plastic, and the clear panel the head is attached to ends up being like a sun roof, I guess. ...with maybe another one in back where the weapons can attach? I dunno, that's sure a lot more sun exposure than I really want when I'm in a car...
As these spring loaded deals go, I kind of enjoy this one, but for wrong reasons. When you pull the lever, the wrecking ball flips forward and thanks to a gear track is left spinning once the weapon is opened, and I have way too much fun holding the weapon and just flipping it open over and over. Of course that is really not the intended use... The whole mess can be pegged on the back of the truck, or hand held in robot mode, but the real way to use it is plugged in the forearm. In fact, it even has a raised surface that fits in grooves in the arms to stabilize it when attached. That's pretty important when you decide to deploy the weapon since it might otherwise spin about its peg. Naturally as with all these weapons it has to be physically held open, which gets annoying quick. Oh, and it has a red LED that activates when you push the lever. And amazingly this actually works as intended and lights up the clear plastic element in the forearm as it flips forward. Too bad it's only for a second before the LED gets pointed out forward. In this case keeping the LED stationary so the inner arm glows would have probably been a better use of the gimmick. Oops.
Bulkhead's secondary weapon is a small black piece with a textured plate in front. Think of a meat tenderizer and you have the basic idea. This can plug on to whichever arm the wrecking ball isn't using, or even attach to the wrecking ball deal itself. That is in fact necessary in one way or another if you want to carry/store both weapons in vehicle mode since there's only the one 5mm port on the vehicle. Meanwhile an attachment point on the hood might have been a good idea, since the ram could be positioned so it would actually look useful for the truck instead of just being stowed on the roof like bizarre luggage.
I really don't mind at all that the toy is not representative of Bulkhead's TV appearance. I think this is a better take on the character while retaining the elements of size that keep this unmistakable as the character. I can't tell you whether this is a better toy than the First Edition. I can tell you that this is a toy you can probably go and buy right now for around $20, where the First Edition is significantly more difficult to secure at an even greater price, at least until the US reissue of FE Bulkhead hits later this year. This Bulkhead started out as a consolation prize for me, but almost immediately eliminated any desire I had to get First Edition. I'm satisfied, and I think you will be too.
Bulkhead's transformation is not fun to go through. That's a bad thing to have to say about a Transformer, but around that reality is two well executed forms that seem to necessitate a more complex transformation. If I don't want to transform it, at least I can enjoy whichever mode I choose to leave it in for a while. On the Figurereviews.com Non-Numeric Rating Scale, Bulkhead is Very Good. And with a little bit of added paint and maybe an Arms Micron to replace the Mechtech style weapon I could see this being really excellent.
|Date||July 30th 2012|
|Score||(8 out of 10)|
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