You've got to be careful when pursuing Transformers toys you love, especially of a certain limited sub category or niche, because you can overdose on a good thing, run into something you don't like which can dampen the whole experience or alternatively, fail to stretch out the enjoyment savouring every moment of discovery with it all ending too soon thanks to expedited purchasing or over-indulgence in a short time. This year I returned to buying Human Alliance figures again, adding to Bumblebee, Sideswipe, Jazz and Barricade first with DOTM Skids, then DOTM Roadbuster and most recently ROTF Mudflap. So far, all have been a success, excellent complexity, engaging transformations, movie-matching aesthetic and plenty of charm each to warrant the hard-earned mantle of Human Alliance worthy. Leadfoot and Soundwave were always going to be last on my list because of the images I'd seen online, and my attitude that ROTF was the best of HA, everything after a weak imitation, just not up to the same standard. Was that true of Leadfoot?
The thing is, no matter what I heard about the quality of DOTM Human Alliance, I just couldn't deny they still looked the part in vehicle mode and in packaging. Every single HA toy nails the vehicle mode of the attractive movie characters, and being a racing car fanatic, Roadbuster and Leadfoot were always going to appeal. Leadfoot, being based on Juan Pablo Montoya's #42 Chip Ganassi Impala, appealed even more so. Not all versions have the Target sponsorship of the real car, but this specimen came from the US, so it's suitably adorned with their logo, as was the packaging! Unlike Roadbuster, Leadfoot is only available with the basic car mode, so no cannons, chain guns or weaponry oozing out of every gap in the bodywork. He also comes with "Sergeant Detour" and his dog "Steeljaw". They couldn't very well make this one a "Canine Alliance Leadfoot" or "Human Alliance Leadfoot with Juan Pablo", so he;s a faceless human in a red racesuit and helmet. Anyway, fact is, it looks brilliant in its packaging like all Human Alliance figures do.
Human Alliance can do vehicle modes. It surely can. A large accurate NASCAR missing considerable amounts of sponsorship, sure, but the panel fit and look of the car is bang on. Very nice and I could have kept it like this indefinitely. However, the real strength of HA figures is the complex transformation, time consuming but enjoyable, logical and ultimately hugely satisfying, resulting in a busy-but-accurate robot mode that can surprise you every time by revealing something new, and allow a degree of personalisation to the robot mode thanks to the Bayverse aesthetic of flick-up panels and intertwined surfaces.
I'll be honest, I like to transform toys myself without instructions first time out unless they are super-expensive and reputed to be prone to damage. Human Alliance I will always give a go myself, and on first transformation there were a few occasions I was completely lost, and the final product had me believing I had the sub-line's first real stinker in hand. What a shame, he looked amazing on screen and while I accept the level of engineering reduced for DOTM compared to ROTF, Roadbuster was still superb despite limitations. Interestingly, the transformation back to car mode was very intuitive and everything fit back together beautifully, so not all was lost. Steeljaw is also fantastic.
The second time through, I unfolded the gigantic instruction sheet and took it step by instructed step. I was quite impressed, there are some really nifty engineering solutions and little twists and clips to make the whole thing hold together, but none of it absolves Leadfoot of the fact that in robot mode, there is a huge gaping hole between his neck and his chest. As I said, the mark of a good HA figure is the ability to customise its appearance based on the many moving parts and panels, so even though Matt Booker has a wonderful fan transformation documented here, giving Leadfoot his rightful beer-bellied NASCAR fan look, I went for what you see above. That is, using the two halves of the hood not as a cover for his low hanging belly, but as a bridge between the belly and his neck, improving Leadfoot's overall silhouette enormously in my eyes. I also folded back up the section of his hood on his back giving him what appears to be wings. Something not in the official transformation, but shown in the official pictures.
You need to come to a compromise between the toy's blatant robot mode limitations and what you feel the best look for Leadfoot is, keeping in mind he's meant to be a balding, fat brawler. With a dog. The way I have him configured in robot mode gives me everything I want from him, blatantly a NASCAR in robot mode, still sporting his gut and exhibiting generally better robot proportions. I appreciate the transformation for the marvel that it is now, and in vehicle mode is untouchable. The head sculpt is fabulous, just perfect, especially with the visor folded down with the tab on the back of his head. Wrists are severely limited and his arms basically go behind his doors (which I also angled upwards as far as I could to reduce visual gaps), but he has a posable thumb. And a dog on a chain!! I didn't bother transforming Steeljaw into a missile launcher, it just seemed unnecessary, and kinda wrong. Plus I forgot. Next to Roadbuster with both as robots, his reason for being shines right through and they make a formidable pair. Fair enough, in vehicle mode the contrast couldn't be more pronounced, one armed to the teeth and one a simple racecar with no armaments, probably my biggest gripe with Leadfoot. Speaking of gripes, goodness me, the omissions from the Human Alliance line (Topspin, Dino, Lockdown, Crosshairs etc) are as painful as any unreleased Transformers Animated toy.
These later-run Human Alliance figures are not supermodels, aesthetic perfection personified as with Jazz, Bumblebee and Sideswipe, but they are rich with character, charm and diversity...something I do not believe the Bay-design bots get anywhere near enough credit for. It's amazing really, I've never witnessed a sub-line score so many home runs with every release, across such a period of time - albeit with so few releases. Do I remember exactly how to get Leadfoot back into the robot mode I want next time I go to transform him? No. Will I enjoy finding out because I know the end result is so awesome? You bet.
Tell you what, the whole gang is counting on Soundwave to finish this off in style, and just like a lot of the others his stock photography makes him look ridiculous and vastly unattractive. The truth is usually a different matter. My love of Human Alliance has survived the stumpy Skids and hideous Mudflap, the gangly Roadbuster and the gappy fat Leadfoot. Will Human Alliance give me the 100% hit rate I could not conceive of back in 2011? No pressure, Soundwave, no pressure...
All the bestMaz