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MOTU Rio Blast Aims True

motuc-rio-blast-featDespite some major flaws, there’s still a lot to love about MOTU’s space cowboy.

Here’s a figure I’ve been waiting for!  I couldn’t tell you exactly why, but Rio Blast was always one of my favorite characters in the vintage Masters of the Universe line.  He had a cool concept– not only is he a space sheriff, but he can also morph into a living, breathing heavy artillery weapon– a solid design, and (in my mind) served as what could have been connective tissue between the MOTU universe and fellow FilMation series Bravestarr.

I’ve been eager to see Rio Blast get his day in the MOTU Classic spotlight, and that day is here… and while the figure seems to be a mixed bag for many collectors, based on some very vocalized design probems, I personally still consider him a win for the line.

Let’s start by addressing those problems which have caused so many to spurn this figure.  The main offense is all in the figure’s torso, which uses yet another too-bulky vest overlay.  And yes, much like Sea Hawk and Hydron before him, the extra bulk on Rio makes him look like maybe he should have held off on that second piece of cake at the last Grayskull office party.  That being said, I find the bulky chest looks much more proportional when all of Rio’s weaponry is sprung, but when he’s standing neutral the overall size just seems off.

The biggest issue is the chest flap, which mimics the vintage figure’s action feature, flipping down to reveal a hidden gun.  The hinged flap is now part of the previously mentioned, bulky vest, and once again the overly large size of that piece affects the flap, making it appear kind of small in proportion.  It also doesn’t close all the way; there’s a gap between the closed vest and the cybernetic chest underneath.  A small peg would have done wonders to help secure the vest flap in closed position, but unfortunately instead all we get is a firm yet quite large hinge at the base of the flap near Rio’s waist.

That all being said, the sculpting– even on the problematic vest piece– is wonderful.  I love the intricacy of the cybernetic chest piece, as well as Rio’s cowboy-style gloves and chap-like leg armor.  Small details like the lasso and satchel that hang from the back of our hero’s belt go a long way in making Rio Blast feel unique among the MOTU figures, and thematically well rounded.

Me, personally, I love the portrait, too.  As we saw with Flipshot, the Horsemen have taken some liberties with Rio’s look, but I love the result.  Gone is his Prince Adam-esque haircut, replaced by a longer mop top that’s slightly windswept.  This will certainly outrage vanilla posers but I really dig the sense of motion that comes from this subtle stylistic choice.  What doesn’t change on Rio’s face is the awesome handlebar mustache, which rests atop clenched teeth on his determined face.  It works perfectly for the character.

Let’s talk about the guns.  Mattel has done a great job, by and large, of rolling in the vintage MOTU action features without compromising the new figure’s sculpts, and Rio is another prime example of this concept done right.  While the original figure features his various weaponry spring-loaded inside the figure, the Classics version wisely turns the hidden guns into plug-on pieces.  This means there’s no gun-shaped indentation on Rio’s chest, because the flap folds down and the gun clips in place.  The same thing applies to the leg guns, which plug onto the back side of the fold-down chaps.  The arm guns plug onto the inside of Rio’s forearms, while two silver tubes connect from the outer forearms to his backpack.  The arms are the only spot where the figure isn’t seamless when the guns are not out, but I don’t really care since whether he’s guns-blazing or not, my Rio is keeping his arm guns out permanently.

The backpack features a great sculpt, mixing some classic sci-fi tropes into the western themed figure, and the sliding track lets the twin cannons and visor move onto or off of Rio’s shoulders with ease.  It’s another well-sculpted piece, although I wish it had received some paint apps.  It looks fine cast in silver colored plastic, sure, but a subtle wash would have highlighted the great detailing of the sculpt even more.

In the end, I think Rio Blast came out pretty great, one of the best MOTU releases of the year if not the entire line.  Maybe I’m being an apologist when it comes to this figure, since he was always one of my favorites, but I don’t think so.  He most certainly does have his problems, reminding me again how much I hope Mattel was being truthful when they said they finally corrected the “fat-torso” effect of their vest overlays.  But what Rio Blast does get right, he gets perfect– the action feature is brilliantly realized.  Much of the figure is all new tooling, and incredibly well sculpted.  His face and costume design are authentic to the classic look, with just the right amount of minor tweaks to make him feel like a fresh update.

And he’s a freaking space cowboy.

As MOTU Classics winds down, I think Rio Blast will be sought after as a fun and highly detailed figure on his own, as well as custom fodder.  Having this guy in hand has only made me more keen to pick up a few extras to start a custom Bravestarr sub-line using this guy as the base.  I’m sure Rio would appreciate the company… it’s not like he’s the Lone Ranger, after all.

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