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Rio Blast

Masters of the Universe
by yo go re

To my mind, as a youngster, the forces of good and evil on Eternia were pretty evenly matched. For every Master of the Universe He-Man could come up with, Skeletor already had someone ready to counter it. Teela? Evil-Lyn. Man-E-Faces? Tri-Klops. Moss-Man? Stinkor. But there was at least one guy who stood alone, one guy who could literally be called the Masters' secret weapon.

Though many foes underestimate the simple appearance and cocky bravado of the young Master Rio Blast known as Rio Blast, many more have quickly learned that beneath his rough exterior and dangerous smile lurks an entire hidden arsenal. A cyborg equipped with retracting blasters, even the hardest targets cannot escape the blazing gunfire and trick shots of this Eternian desperado!

Rio Blast is evidence that we took a whole lot for granted when we were kids. I mean, ask yourself: on an alien planet populated entirely by monkeys and bees and mental patients, why would there be a cowboy? Sure, he's all tarted up, but the fact remains that he's a cowboy.

It was surprising that the Four Horsemen and NECA chose Rio Blast for Series 5 of their MotU statues: the guy has an odd design (which is probably why the Horsemen wanted a shot at him), but he wasn't really all that popular. But then again, they willingly put Clamp Champ, of all people, in the second series, so obviously previous popularity has little to do with it.

Just as you'd expect, the Horsemen have done a superb job of updating Rio Blast. They've taken all the elements of the old figure and tweaked them slighlty, creating a much more interesting modern take. When he was originally released in 1986, Rio pretty much looked like He-Man with a mustache - like an Eternian Chuck Norris or Prince Adam's gay uncle Lance (in that stereotypical '80s way). Twenty years later, though? No way.

Are y'all Sarah Connor? Rio Blast is much more obviously a cyborg now. A quarter of his head has been replaced by an exposed metal plate, kind of like Mortal Kombat's Kano or a Terminator - he even has the glowing red eye! And if that wasn't enough, he has a translucent green targeting sight over that eye, as well. His hair is close-cropped, so as not to interfere with the metal plate, but he's still rocking the big, bushy, Sam Elliot-style lipwarmer.

Back in the day, Rio Blast's clothes looked like just that: clothes. But that doesn't really suit the asthetic of the modern MotU figures, Space spurs so now he looks armored. There are rivets, latches and seams on his legs, and even his chaps look robotic. Yes, the figure wears chaps; like we said, "cowboy." One new addition that the Horsemen made, however, was to give him spurs. Not on his heels, where spurs would actually be worn, but just above his ankles, beneath what look like exhaust ports on his calves. His glove has a nicely detailed sculpt, looking like a combination of a flexible material and some harder component (leather and metal, maybe?) and the tube running up to his shoulder is a different piece rather than a sculpted element.

increased detail His plain brown belt has been turned into a bandolier with holsters, a stylistic upgrade that makes a lot of sense. The original figure had a silver tube and a brown shoulder cord sculpted on opposite sides of his chest - this one matches those, though now they're separate pieces glued in place. Instead of an unbuttoned flap folding over to hint at the technology behind his shirt, there's just a triangle inexplicably missing from the front of his uniform. The star-shaped badge he used to wear has morphed into an irregular metallic clasp. There are numerous scratches and bullet holes on his chest and legs, evidence of the hard life he leads.

Rio Blast's gimick was his bevy of concealed weapons. Guns flipped out of his forearms, thighs and chest, if Mattel weren't idiots, he could have done this and his huge guntacular backpack flipped up over his head. Things are mostly the same here, even though the mini statue obviously can't have action features (lest it waver too near the "action figure" side of things). The backpack and thigh panels really look like they want to move, so you can easily imagine how a real figure of this guy would have worked. The chest isn't quite as blatant: it could have passed as a surprise feature. The gun on his left arm is flipped out, and his right... well, his right arm is all-new.

Pushing the character's concept a bit further, the right to bear arms the Four Horsemen gave Rio Blast a gigantic gun instead of a right arm. The way it connects below the bicep reminds me a lot of the Ninja from McFarlane's fun Metal Gear Solid line - and who sculpted the Ninja, class? Cornboy and Eric Treadaway. Of course, instead of a weird technological rifle, this looks like a tremendously oversized six-shooter - just the thing for an Eternian cowboy to wield. The gun is mostly silver, while the cylinder is golden. This is an original design element, but it suits the figure well. Just imagine, if this was a real toy, the chamber might spin! While the backpack hews closely to the original design, there are a few new bits that mirror the appearance of the cylinder, helping tie the whole design together. That's excellent work!

Even better, though? Look in the barrel of the gun and you'll see it's rifled - no smooth bore for him! Holy crap, Horsemen! That's some incredible detailing! If Rio Blast had ever appeared on the cartoon or in the comics, his giant gun arm probably would have been a morphing cybernetic thing, he needs them for duck hunting like Man-At-Arms' was. How can we tell? Ask yourself why he would have a gun holstered on that side if he didn't have a hand to use it?

The paint is mostly good. The shadows airbrushed on add a lot of depth to the sculpt, and the careful paint on the holsters really makes them look like leather. Some of the fine details, like the silver rivets on his legs or the orange stripes on his shoulders, aren't quite as crisp as they could be, but it's still a far sight better than what Mattel would have done. And as an extra bonus, Rio Blast's skin is quite ruddy when compared to other Eternians': out wandering the range all day, he'd be exposed to more sun, so he'd be tanned or nearly burnt. Clever!

Since Rio Blast's weapons are built into his body, heroic base he doesn't have any accessories. Of course, each of the Masters of the Universe figure-scale statues comes with a hexagonal display base. Actually, they all come with the same display base: a generic technological thing that's color-coded to the character's allegiance. He-Man's pals pose on a dark blue base.

Each successive series of NECA's MotU Mini Statues has been produced in smaller numbers - which means they sell out faster and faster every time. You really have to wonder why stores didn't order these in bigger numbers: the things are expensive, yes, but they still moved briskly. Series 3 (including the Sorceress and Mantenna) was the last one to even make its presence felt in brick and mortar stores, and it sold out within weeks. The demand for these characters is out there, even weirdos like Rio Blast.


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