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Human Alliance Barricade

by yo go re

So far, the Transformers Human Alliance line has been based solely on Revenge of the Fallen, but at last, it's branched out to the original.

Barricade and Decepticon Frenzy have worked together for centuries. They are a perfect partnership, designed for one purpose - to hunt down and destroy whatever target Megatron assigns to them. Decepticon Frenzy has a hyperactive hunger for information, which he uses to guide the relentless pursuit at which Barricade specializes.

God that's an awkward sentence! That's what happens when you bend over backwards to stop your sentence ending with a preposition (which isn't actually an error in the first place, thank you very much). It really should have just read "the relentless pursuit Barricade specializes in," and whatever overzealous copyeditor changed it needs to loosen up. [Ending a sentence with a preposition is something up with which we will not put! --ed.]

It's a popular bit of fanon to suggest that the character known as Sideways in ROTF is somehow the same bot as Barricade, just upgraded somehow. And yet these are the same fans who insist that the guy who looks like Bonecrusher isn't Bonecrusher, or that Blackout and Grindor aren't the same exact character. Why the insistance? Because Barricade was never shown dying onscreen, and the Sideways prototype looked similar to him. Of course! It's all so seamless!

Barricade was the only car in the first film not manufactured by GM: he's a Saleen (ie, Ford Mustang) S281 "Extreme," chosen because Saleen built the Camaros used as Bumblebee. Saleen is mainly known for modding Mustangs, so for them to work on a Chevy was way out of character, and Barricade's altmode was a nod to their usual territory. The cars were pulled right off the assembly line in Saleen's Troy, Michigan, production facility, and Dreamworks turned them into police cars.

The interior of the car is detailed fairly well, though not quite as well as the Alternators' were: to its credit, though, the amount of kibble jammed in there is very low. The steering wheel turns and the seats have accurate (sculpted) upholstery. The dashboard isn't 100% like the real car, but they even went so far as to sculpt a glovebox! One reason the Mustang would make a bad police car? It's a two-door, so how would you put suspects in the back?

Converting Officer Evil is a nice process - in fact, it may be the best Human Alliance toy yet. Start by pulling the entire side panels of the car out and sliding them forward, then rotate them down as they tip up. Hinge down the remaining back section of the vehicle, then unfold it entirely to form legs. Spin the feet 180° to face front, and pull all the armor into place. Tip the roof backward to bring out the head, and you're pretty much finished. He's not a shellformer like Sideswipe, as off-model as Skids or as niggly as Bumblebee. This is good work.

As a robot, Barricade has good articulation. His shoulder spikes reach 8½" tall, and he has a swivel neck, swivels and hinges in the shoudlers, swivel/hinge elbows, three hinges in his right hand (wrist, thumb and fingers), swivel/hinge hips, swivel/hinge knees, another hinge for the dog-leg effect, and swivel/hinge ankles. The waist turns, though the range is very limited - apparently there's a tab in there to keep it from swinging freely, but it does still work. Another thing fans seem to be complaining about is the hips: when they swing out to the side, plastic lumps keep them from moving more than 45°, and the fanboys wonder why they don't go all the way out; well, how about "because that's his design?" The robot has narrow hips, so if they came out the whole way, it would be wrong. Stop trying to fix things that aren't broken!

The robot gets a few nice play features, as well. Press the button on his left arm (cleverly disguised as the car's gas cap) and the wheel pops out; you can then extend the eight movable spines to create his buzzsaw weapon from the film. And if you tilt his head back, his mouth opens - the lower jaw is separate and doesn't move as far, so you can have him yell robotic obscenities at Sam as he hunts him.

Barricade pushes the limits of what "Human Alliance" means, because he doesn't come with a human. Sad, isn't it? Not even Mustache Man! Instead, he comes with his tiny best friend/hetero lifemate binary bond partner, Frenzy. At 2¼" tall (give or take), he's the same size as the other characters, which might make you think he's too big, but in truth, the humans are slightly too small. [And also he's too big. --ed.]

There've been several Frenzy figures before, in several size classes, but this one has the distinct advantage of articulation: head, shoulders, torso, hips and knees. The neck and torso are mere hinges, due to the spindly design of his body. His eyes are red, rather than the blue they should be, because Hasbro just keeps doing that.

So that Frenzy doesn't have to scramble around on the ground by himself all the time, there are multiple ways for Barricade to cart him around: there are footpegs that allow Frenzy to peek over Barricade's head and the car's seats are on the back of the upper arms, and the passenger seat puts him behind a flip-out cannon. Way, way behind. So far behind that there is literally zero chance of him ever being able to reach it. Both those modes are fairly standard, though - the third mode is unique to Frenzy.

He's a Transformer, remember? So he transforms. And just like in the movie, he changes into a GPX portable stereo! Granted, it looks nothing like the real GPX... come to think of it, it doesn't even look like a stereo at all. In fact, it looks more like a non-descript rectangular solid. Why, I begin to doubt this was meant to be a stereo at all! Primarily since nothing on the package or anywhere else in the world other than us five sentences ago has ever suggested it's a stereo. Crazy, isn't it?

Anyway, changed into a block, he fits inside Barricade's chest/engine compartment, just like on the Voyager class figure. You can either tuck him away entirely, or leave his head and arms hanging out, like a metallic Kuato. There are also two guns which fold out from beneath the front of the car, and are even accessible in vehicle mode, thus doing a decent job of standing in for the pinchy little arms he used to threaten Sam.

The Human Alliance toys are the best Transformers Hasbro's made since the unfortunate end of the Alternators line: they're big, highly detailed, and have ornate engineering. It's no surprise that the HA releases fit in so well with the Alternators: the car is 7" long, so he'll blend in perfectly. Frenzy is as much fun to play with as Barricade is, so that's even cooler! The only real problem is that the figures keep getting harder to find: so okay, there's Bumblebee, Sideswipe, Skids and Barricade, right? Well, the first shipment was two Bumblebees. The second was Bumblebee and Sideswipe. The third was Bumblebee and Skids. This one is Bumblebee and Barricade. There's a listing in the newest Previews catalog for the next series, which is going to be Bumblebee and Jazz. For cripes' sake, I know Bumblebee is popular, but is he really that popular? It may be time to give 'bee a rest, if only for one series. Put Jazz and Mudflap together in a case, and see how they do without him.

-- 05/04/10

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