May 13, 2016

Trench Runner Review: Justin Skrakowski takes a look at the Mr. Black Scale Model Handbook WWII Special

MrBLACK Publications is the Criterion Collection of modeling guides. If you don’t know what the Criterion Collection is, well… I guess I just introduced you to a whole new obsession, so you’re welcome and/or I’m sorry.

The newest release from MrBLACK is the “WWII Special” (ref. 3301) which, with this being their like 19th book of their Scale Model Book series I guess I’m just in awe of a model company when it takes them something like 19 books before they do a WWII-only special. It means that they’re not pandering. That they’re not just out there to scoop up anybody and everybody who’s ever purchased a model kit. It shows that they’re in it for themselves and what they love and it makes it all that much more exciting when they do finally release an all WWII book! And as they’ve proven themselves already as being true to the hobby first and foremost—which I guess in 2016 being true to anything is just so damn hard to come by that when you find an artist or a company that feels like they have some mettle it just makes you want to champion them—and since they have proven themselves as such masters it’s not hard to go singing their praises.
I think figure building is where I tend to find the most fault (normally) with modelers. I think this is where a lot of amateur builders start to get cocky, and as we all know all to well, just because you finished a piece does not mean that it came it well. And I find this to be most true when I start to see people posting pics of their figure models with blocky highlights and shadows that don’t match.
The figure is what separates the men from the boys as they say, as humans are not the easily taped off and measured things that vehicles can be. And making a model into a human requires more than just three shades of one color, figures are where the emotion comes into the hobby, and when emotion is involved that’s when it also separates the craftsmen from the artists. Emotion is about subtlety, even when it’s the highest level of emotions people experience in war, or should I say especially when it’s the highest level of emotions people experience in war. And seeing these emotions depicted is much like watching a great actor, it’s better to see an understated performance than one that’s overdone.
And I have never seen a more jaw-droppingly awesome set of figures then encountered in this newest MrBLACK Publication. AND, if you’ve been following my articles at all, then you know that I am a stickler for 1) English that reads like English and not Google Translate gobbledegook, 2) Scratchbuild tutorials, and 3) Step-by-step instructions that actually follow some kind of discernable flow, and well, this book just sets the bar for anything else that’s on the market. I mean one of the figures has a 28-picture spread of just getting the undertones and shading right for a face, and another 8-pic spread just for the figure’s eyes! I mean, this book is worth it just for those two spreads, and that’s just on one build! Every person who’s ever built a figure model needs a picture montage and a well-written description just for eyes, because if you’re not going to get the eyes right, I mean, you can have the greatest skin-tone gradient the world's ever seen, but if the left eye is looking west and the right eye is gazing at the heavens, nobody looking at your work will be able to get past that.
This book goes from 1/35 up to 1/10, and has everything from dioramas to busts. This is one of those books that after just reading one of the chapters you already feel smarter and more confident about how to tackle your next project. I can’t say enough nice things about it, so maybe the nicest thing I could say is buy this book and keep these guys going!
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