The Reverend's Leader: TFC's JB-01 Justice Leader (Headmaster Optimus)
JB-01 Justice Leader
TFC Toys/Junkion Blacksmith
After reviewing Junkion Blacksmith's "Destruction Lord" (aka Headmaster-sized G1 Megatron) some months ago, I found it rather aesthetically pleasing to have that mini-Megs hanging out on city-mode Trypticon - you know, for once the scale actually was close to matching and all, as well as piloting Scorponok's scorpion mode from the open chest cavity. So I went ahead and plunked down for Junkion Blacksmith's "Justice Leader" (G1 Prime) and "Tatical Officer" (not my misspelling, that's what the box labels G1 Soundwave). I also got the Soundblaster color variant just-because.
In case the reader isn't familiar with these third-party offerings, they are Headmaster versions of several G1 characters - aside from the ones mentioned above, JB also has versions of Ultra Magnus and Blaster available. They are compatible with both the larger and smaller G1 Headmaster bodies. The heads of the JB robot forms will plug into the head sockets, and they also come with small plastic connectors that allow you to attach them without pushing the head into the socket, as well as attaching the JB Headmasters to each other for a humorous super-deformed look. Also, each JB Headmaster has a third mode that is intended to evoke the original character's alternate mode to some degree.
This review, however, is concerned with Justice Leader, and I'll refer to him as such throughout.
Shortly after I got this toy, I posted a cell-phone photo online of him resting in the palm of my hand just to show the size. A friend immediately responded "aww, lil bebe". So yes, he's about the same size as the original G1 Headmasters. Justice Leader is easily recognizable, with his red torso and arms, grey upper legs and blue boots and helmet. He's rather well-detailed for his size, with the truck windows rendered in light blue on his chest, molded detail on the grille in his abdomen, small running lights picked out above the windows in yellow and on the grey bumper, grey stripes just above the elbows and his eyes and faceplate also painted, along with the vertical crest on his helmet. His lower torso tapers inward instead of the whole body being a rectangle, and he has actual projecting antennae on the sides of his helmet instead of the head just being a solid square. The attention to detail continues on his legs as well, most notably in the louver-like shinguards. While being a Headmaster necessitates him carrying a large "backpack", its dark blue color (the helmet in head mode) makes it less obvious to the observer and it isn't quite as sore a standout as it could be. The backpack also features a flip-up panel to cover the large robot face on his back.
Articulation-wise, he can move his arms at the shoulder - and the tops of the shoulders are rounded, so the motion won't force the arms to break off. He also has ball joints at hips and knees. Leg posing is slightly hindered by parts of the backpack hanging down, but not to great extent. Justice Leader's arms extend just past his hips and end in thin "paddles", each with a wheel on the outside and a fist etched on the inside. They attempted to pick the fist out in black, but the paint apps are a bit sloppy on the hands on my sample.
In general, not a bad effort for creating a G1 Optimus at this size, and he looks good hanging out on Metroplex or Fortress Maximus (especially the latter, since he can stand or sit around on the various decks or in most of the compartments). He doesn't come with any hand weapons, but neither did the original Headmasters. His arms are somewhat thinner than a normal Headmaster and they don't seem to attach quite flush on the shoulder pegs (nothing major, but they do wobble a bit). Other than that, he's relatively solid and the color choices they used for the detailing do a lot for him. Since my Fortress Maximus tends to stay in robot mode due to space issues, I usually keep Justice Leader in one of his shoulder compartments where he can stand around being noble and moaning about the effects of the never-ending war on the Transformer race. I'm sure he won't fit in the smaller HM bodies' compartments while they're in vehicle/beast mode, but I was able to get him seated in G1 Hardhead's cockpit with minimal fuss.
Yes, there is one. Rotate Justice Leader's shins around backwards - there's some notches on the outside of each "boot" to keep his legs snugly together. Carefully press on the ball joints at the hips to move both legs into position, pointing behind his body. The reason I recommend care here is because you're slipping the upper legs into the space between the larger head mode's antennae, and the ball joints don't always want to rotate straight back like the fixed hinge-joints on Hasbro's G1 Prime toy did. Anyway, doing so will bring the wheels on his legs in line with the ones on his hands, so from there, all you have to do is push the small robot head into his body. This gives you an approximation of his G1 truck mode. I say "approximation", because it's a rather crude likeness. Because the front bumper is still high above the ground, the "truck" mode really looks to me like, well, Justice Leader doing an advanced yoga pose. The wheels don't roll, but at this size it really wouldn't benefit you much if they did. I'd be inclined to say you can safely consider this alternate mode an amusing bonus and little else.
By the way, don't be concerned about how you're going to get Justice Leader's head out of his body (I said his BODY, smartass) when trying to return him to robot mode. On the back of the figure, just behind his upper legs, there's a small stick that comes out when his head is recessed into his torso. Press upwards on this and the head will pop back out without issue. Yes, I guess this does mean he has a stick up his butt, but its a thoughtful feature in the design that saves us all some aggravation.
Alright, so I called the vehicle mode an "amusing bonus and little else". This is what you actually bought the figure for. Turn the shins around again in the same manner you would when changing to the vehicle mode, but this time, bring the hips forward instead of backwards. Make sure those upper legs are clearing the hands on each side (again, due to the ball joints not always moving in a straight line) and tuck his ankles up under his chin in typical Headmaster fashion. Turn the toy over and flip up the panel on his back. This gives you the larger head mode. The head mode looks very much like you-know-who, with the silver faceplate, blue eyes, vertical crest and antennae. Small protrusions on the sides rather evoke God Ginrai to me, but its obvious this is still the familiar (ahem) Justice Leader. As I stated before, he can connect to any Headmaster body. Personally, unless you will just die from grief if you don't get the Tech Spec meter working, I would suggest using the small included connecter to do so. This allows you to avoid shoving the small robot head into the socket. Its not as tight a connection, but since the small head has its own antennae instead of being a plastic block, it'll help avoid any damage from pushing it into the socket.
Head mode is largely dark blue at the front, except for the details I mentioned. The red color of the robot arms and torso is visible and noticeable from the sides, but its not particularly clashing. Its a little more square-looking than some of the other JBs, but not any more so than the original G1 Headmasters. The only thing detracting from the large head mode is that there's a notable gap behind his forehead, like he's had the front of his cranium scooped out. This is because the designer needed to have the space for the upper hips to move during play and transformation to vehicle mode - given the averageness of the vehicle mode, I'd probably have gladly given that up for a less lobotomized head, but its not as bad looking as it could be. And admittedly, having Justice Leader play Headmaster to God Ginrai/Powermaster Optimus Prime really is an interesting idea, even if the head mode is a little undersized for that. He won't really fit in Scorponok's helmet, but other than that, you can pair him with any HM body you like.
4. It's really a nicely-considered design, even given the limitations of Headmasters. I'd have scored it a little higher, but you do need to be conscious of the limited space between parts when transforming.
3. Here's the thing. The plastic quality isn't bad at all, but the toy does have its weak points. You really do have to be careful when manipulating its parts and make sure you're not forcing parts against each other, even though the designer clearly tried to minimize the likelihood of that happening. Outside of that, the toy's solid enough that it can withstand a bit of knocking around.
6. While the vehicle mode is nothing to get excited over, having a small Justice Leader to hang out and be bossy with city-bots or being his own Headmaster or even taking control of other Transformers has its potential. I don't think it's really as interesting to the imagination as Destruction Lord, but I'm sure not everyone would agree.
6. The detailing and paint apps are largely well chosen and do a lot for the figure. He stands fairly well on a shelf, also. Small size limits visibility, but out of all the JB Headmasters I've seen, he's probably the best looking by a sizable margin.
6. For a figure of this size and function, you really are getting some useful articulation. Theoretically, they could have done more with the arms, but that would probably force an increase in the overall size of the toy and mess up the size of the head mode versus a Headmaster body.
9. As of the time of this writing, these are still running under $20-$25 US.
6. I'm giving a mark or two above what I probably should for what is essentially an "accessory" product, but given the constraints that came with having to design this thing, I'm actually quite pleased with it. However, if you don't have a Headmaster body to pair with it, you're not going to be able to use it for its main function.