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Blind Master

GI Joe: Retaliation
by Monkey Boy

Can we all just stop pretending that G.I. Joe: Retaliation was a good movie? Please? Was it better than the original? Marginally, yes. Did it get more things "right" about GI Joe? Sure, but that was only because Rise of Cobra got so many things wrong. But Retaliation, as a film, is really just a mess. Choppy editing, awkward dialogue, scenes that go nowhere and do nothing to drive the movie. Hey, remember how Agent Mouse was a character? Why? And did he die? Who knows? Sure, the "Silent Interlude" homage was great, but it felt like it was from an entirely different, better film, awkwardly shoehorned into a much crappier movie.

Anyway, while most Joe fans seemed to like Retaliation, by and large one of the biggest complaints was the Blind Master as portrayed by the RZA. Personally, as someone who was [to paraphrase Macklemore]) raised on Wu-Tang, I was just happy to see Bobby Digital in a GI Joe film. I understand the complaints, but to me they had less to do with the character or the actor portraying him and more to due with script and editing, which is a problematic thread that runs through the whole film. I can practically see the script directions:

[INT - ARASHIKAGE DOJO WHICH IS ALSO A WEIRD DUBAI-ISH HI-RISE SKYSCRAPER]

Blind Master: (SHOUTS expository dialogue as loud as he can)

[SNAKE-EYES AND JINX PLAYFIGHT]

Jinx: (opens her mouth just enough for us to realize she is DEFINITELY not Japanese)

End Scene. It's not really RZA's fault he was given basically nothing to work with. But I digress.

Blind Master is the wise and mysterious leader of the Arashikage ninja clan who sees what others can't. He is the toughest of masters and has trained Snake-Eyes, Storm Shadow and Kim Arashikage in the secret ninja arts. He is skilled with multiple weapons including the bladed shield, the flying saw and the legendary nine ring sword.

So yeah, Blind Master. Before you start complaining about casting a black guy to play a ninja master, you should know he was black in the comics, too. But he operated out of Denver, not Japan. Hasbro's Blind Master is mostly made up of parts from the Renegades Storm Shadow figure, which despite being impossible to find continues to live on in the form of re-use for other figures. It makes sense, considering the shared Arashikage connections, and is still a great sculpt.

Blind Master gets a new head, and beneath the beard and sculpted facial scar is a pretty decent approximation of the RZA. He has a separate skirt piece that fits around his waist, which looks odd because it features a hip holster for a gun that isn't included with the figure. Even stranger, the holster is absent from the figure photos on the back of the card. I thought maybe it was re-used from one of those Nazi-looking Iron Grenadier guys from the GI Joe Collector's Club set, but it's not - rather, it's off one of the Rise of Cobra Storm Shadows.

The paint is pretty nice for a figure this size. He outfit is largely a really nice shade of brownish gray, with dark red Arashikage I Ching symbols on his sleeves and back, and white trim around the edges. His hairline and scar are cleanly painted, and his eyes are a pale gray. On account of the blindness. There aren't a ton of paint apps, but I really like the colors used.

There's one nit to pick though: the top his hat/shield accessory has a pointed tip that's painted silver. The paint on this was extremely tacky. Like, "late series Palisades Muppets figure" tacky. As in, so tacky it's coming off of the figure. Luckily it's isolated to this one area of the figure, but still... lame.

Blind Rapper/Producer moves like your typical "new-ish" Joe figure. He gets the peg-and-hinge wrists and double-hinged knees of the newer Joes, but his ankles are the traditional peg and hinge, not the strange rocker hinges that the newest figures have. His articulation is pretty severely limited by the stiff skirt, but there's still some decent posing options to be had with the upper body.

Even though he has no gun for his holster, Blind Master gets a lot of accessories. And really, a gun would be pretty out of character. Anyway, he gets the aforementioned pointy hat, which can either strap onto his head or around his arm as a shield. It has six flip-out hinged blades that are pretty neat. The promo pics only showed three blades, on every other point of the hexagonal hat, but the final figure has a blade hinge at every point.

He also gets a really cool bamboo staff with a concealed blade, and a funky mask that fits over his head (although really, why would you want to disguise the fact that it's the RZA?). The mask has eye holes, which doesn't really fit with a character who can't see. Perhaps the mask (and maybe most of the accessories) were intended originally for a different figure.

Next is a plastic buzz-saw-ish ring that connects to a smaller black ring via a string. The black ring fits over the tip of another accessory, which looks kinda flute-like, to make a mace type accessory, although this combination isn't shown on the package and instead he's just holding the black ring in his hand.

He also gets a funky gold sword (the "Sword of Nine Rings") with a very wide blade that appropriately has nine rings sculpted into the back of the blade. It looks like it belongs with a different toyline and it's kind of strange that it gets called out right in the bio text. It can slip between his gold sash, which is the same mold used for Renegades Storm Shadow, although it's been flipped backwards. In the package it was put on totally upside down so it didn't lay flat against his body, but that's easily fixable (as evidenced by all the pictures in this review). He also gets a standard dog-tag black base.

In the end this is a pretty cool figure. I like his hat (other than the tacky paint), and the staff/blade, plus the novelty of having a figure of the RZA. This is probably as close as I'll get to my dream of a Wu-Tang Clan line of action figures, so there's that. Unfortunately, it's not likely Blind Master or his series-mates will be seeing store shelves in decent numbers. Like the film itself, the first Retaliation figures were mostly forgettable and mediocre, and they're still clogging shelves, and that's if the store in question hasn't already phased out its entire Joe section, as many have. Hasbro saved the best figures in this line 'til the very end, and it seems like most retailers have long since given up on supporting the property. I'm sure the movie being delayed for nine months (with no way to stop the shipments of figures that were already en route to stores) didn't help. So what I'm saying is, if you find this figure, you may want to grab him, since it's likely you won't get a second chance.

-- 10/25/13


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