I picked up Leader Bulkhead the other day, using a bit of money magic to circumvent my monthly budget. Here's my review:
Bulkhead , in this form, is one of the first two Leader class ($40) toys in the Transformers: Animated line. While his character also appears in the Voyager class (which I don't have) and as a very small Activator (which I DO have), this size class is probably the most appropriate for him, as he's (other than Omega Supreme) the largest of the core cast Autobots. Even though he's packaged in robot mode, I'll start the review by looking at his vehicle mode.
In the show, Bulkhead obtains his Earth vehicle mode by scanning an blue armored SWAT truck and becoming the green version thereof. However, for his leader class toy, the designers have deviated a bit from that template. While the law enforcement connection is still there (due to the emergency lightbar), the overall vibe (already hinted at by the olive green and military-style stars on all his toys) is of a heavy-duty assault vehicle. In contrast to the show, leader Bulkhead now sports four huge missiles (called "air torpedoes" on the box) and a turret of sorts with two elevating cannons. Now, at its core, the vehicle is still a personnel carrier, as evidenced by the doors on the back of the vehicle. One fun bit is that while the doors themselves don't open, the entire back panel lifts up (similar to Movie Wreckage), so it's actually pretty easy to see how it could be a personnel carrier. Of course, there are two huge robot forearms in the carrier space, but still, it's a neat (unintended) feature. In the end, I imagine this version of Bulkhead's vehicle mode as a troop carrier with a secondary role of urban anti-attack chopper duty.
Bulkhead's vehicle mode isn't pretty like Starscream's, or sleek like Prowl's, but it is tough. It feels very solid (the only thing that doesn't really lock in place is the aforementioned rear panel) and dense, which matches the appearance perfectly. He looks like he could survive a nuclear blast. All the bolt details really help reinforce that idea. Another neat design is the stationary wheel hubs - only the "tires" move. This helps sell the "futuristic" aspect of the vehicle, as does the slim, angular windshield. It could use a few more paint apps - particularly on the fuel tanks, side doors and rear doors - but overall the vehicle looks great.
As far as features go, the vehicle mode doesn't have too many. The Primary one is the electronics. Press down on the Autobot logo, and a siren sound will go off twice, along with the lights below the lightbars lighting up. If you hold the button down, the siren will sound continuously. The cannons, as mentioned, elevate, and can be made to face the rear of the vehicle, some thing useful for a character who isn't very agile. The missiles don't launch, bu they can be removed. And, of course, the wheels allow Bulkhead to roll along the ground.
Bulkhead's transformation is a treat. Conceptually, there's not much new here - it's really about the same as Energon Optimus Prime's, with the truck front being the torso and the limbs flowering out from the back - but the relocation of the various kibble panels is pretty fun. I really like how all the wheels fold up. The front two, especially, demonstrate a lesson learned from Energon Optimus. Another nice thing is how well the turret halves connect with/blend in with the rear panel pieces. They're really not noticeable once they're in place. One last unexpected bit is how the chest piece raises to give the robot better posture (and to connect with the shoulders). I didn't notice that from any of the review galleries online.
Once everything is situated for bot mode, you've got one great, unique "little" Autobot. Bulkhead is short for a leader class toy (especially Cybertron Metroplex!), but he makes up for his height in mass. Every part of him is thick. Because of this trade-off, he relates in size to most of the other Autobot toys very well, mostly Voyager Optimus and Deluxes Ratchet and Prowl (unfortunately, I don't yet have an Animated Bumblebee to compare him to). The colors are nice, too. The military theme carries over from the truck mode, since the olive green still dominates, and there are two additional stars, this time on his shoulders. The matte plastic used so much in this toyline really does well on Bulkhead, too. Lastly, I want to say that Bulkhead's overall robot appearance is rather unique compared to most transformers. He very vaguely reminds me of a cross between the aforementioned Energon Optimus toy (the larger one) and Cybertron's Menasor. The basic body part layout is just like Prime's - truck front as torso, legs start below the bumper, arms come out of the side - even the turret halves are reminiscent of Prime's Antenna/helmet piece. However, a lot of the details recall Menasor's mech-like appearance. Both have feet with tank treads for soles. Both have vehicle kibble arching up over their shoulder like wings. They also share relatively huge arms that terminate in structures more like tools or weapons than hands. You can even make Bulkhead's head disappear under the turret if you want to complete the soulless mech look. Conceptually, he's also similar to Movie Leader Brawl, who was also large, green, had three claws per hand, and had weapons on his forearms.
Even though he looks rather monolithic, he actually has pretty good ranges of movement. In this way, he's again somewhat similar to Movie Leader class Brawl. His arms have full movement except for the wrists (even including bicep swivels), and his legs have all the necessary jointing as well. As one would expect from his design, there is no waist joint. The head is a tricky issue, though. Technically, it does move - in fact, his neck, jaw, and browline all move. However, they are restricted by one of his gimmicks and cannot hold a pose except looking forward. Ultimately, this doesn't bother me much, but it will/does irritate many articulation sticklers. For an Armada fan like me, though, I can live with it.
Now to the gimmicks. As befits a Leader class toy, Bulkhead has both lights and sounds. In bot mode, the siren does not work, and the red lights are replaced with orange lights. If you press his Autobutton, he'll speak one of three phrases: "Sorry, my bad" (or is that "Sari, my bad"?), "You can do it, buddy" (possibly directed at Bumblebee), and "Time to bring out the big guns" (appropriate due to this toy's weapon upgrades). However, the button also serves to turn the head left and pull down on the chin, which also raises his browline. The whole thing is really pretty expressive, as there's more going on with Bulkhead's mouth than you can normally see. He looks pretty alarmed! Unfortunately, you can't keep pushing the button to allow him to lip sync with the sound recording, as pressing it again will make the chip cycle to the next saying.
Bulkhead also comes with an accessory that interacts with the sounds and lights. This is the Headmaster helmet. In the show, Headmaster (aka Henry Masterson, mad weapons engineer) has built a transforming exosuit that allows him to physically take control of other robots, including Bulkhead. While the helmet itself doesn't transform into a little guy in an exosuit, it does connect to the Bulkhead toy, upon which it causes the sound chip to squeal "Ownage! Total Ownage!" quite enthusiastically. This also activates all the red lights in the torso and head. If you press the button on the chest, it does this again. This is a rather impressive feature from an engineering standpoint, but what's also nice is that it basically gives you another villain leader class toy (other than Megatron, that is) at pretty much no cost!
Lastly, Bulkhead has some mechanical features in his arms. His right hand is permanently holding a buzzsaw blade, and if you push a sliding tab on his forearm, it spins the blade. This isn't Bulkhead's characteristic wrecking ball weapon (featured on the Voyager class version), but it's nice, makes sense as both a tool and weapon and works well. His other hand is his normal tri-clawed grabber and can literally grab. Using a similar sliding tab as found on the right arm, the claw opens and closes. Pretty fun, and frankly I like it better than if the claws had been independently mobile. Bulkhead also has an undocumented "chair" mode, as seen on the show, which requires you to untransform his shoulder kibble. It doesn't look much like a chair and requires strategic positioning of the legs to work, but it's a nice thing to be able to do and adds to Bulkhead's uniqueness.