Saturday, 1 May 2010

The long delayed first review

OK, it's high time I posted my review of the Studio McVey range of minis. Initially I was going to compare and contrast with JoeK's model range, but as it's only one model that would be none too fair, and I think if you read any past posts you'll see that I'm all about fair play. So, here goes. Oh, all pictures are used without permission, and any opinion is mine blahdey blahdey blah.

When Mike and Ali McVey left Privateer Press in America and came home they set up their own commission business, the aforementioned Studio McVey. Little did the unsuspecting one-handed web surfer (I'm referring to you, not me) know that the long-term plan was to launch a range of limited edition high end display miniatures. Yes, despite what it says on the box, you can't really game with these models unless, I suppose, you use it as a static representation of your role play character. These are fine scale and of the highest quality so consequently they are very delicate.

In this review I will highlight a few miniatures and talk about the range as a whole rather than each individual model. I will be reviewing some of the models in front of me as I have the whole range so far (including one as-yet unreleased model). That's right, I have the lot and bought with my own money too. So, I think you can guess what the review will be like although I shall try not to be too slavishly sycophantic.

The range was launched with the miniature below, the Raven Priest:

Cast in high quality grey resin and fitting together perfectly (unlike a certain other, more well-known range of models) when this model (initially bought with Broga Hourigsen, the second model in the range) was delivered to me by my mate Grant (he's the one with the magic card that works over the internet so he buys my toys) we both nearly had a fucking heart attack. Well, I nearly had the heart attack. Grant just nearly shit his pants with incredulous laughter. You see, the above photo is about as big as the actual fucking model. Seriously, get your monitor to 1280x800 res and that's pretty much accurate. Fucking tiny. I have long been an advocate of only using a Windsor and Newton size 1/GW 'Standard Brush' for everything on a model because (to me) mini painting is all about brush control and the brushes' point, not the fact you have a £40 twig that has several gnat pubes stapled to it instead of a proper brush head, but this model is frigging ridiculous! Talk about taking the piss.

When you get your model you receive the following: one certificate of authenticity signed by Mike, one of the 30mm Warmachine bases and a four piece model (main body, hands and sword, ectoplasmic ejaculation and a raven for the top of the ghostly spooge). What? Look, it's my blog and this is the kind of humour the British are famous for. So it stays. Fucking knobber.

Careful examination of the main piece of the model reveals next to no imperfections. This is quite common throughout the range. I found one tiny piece of feed sprue on the hair of the model and so far, no mould lines. They must be really well hidden. One thing I am nervous about (aside from painting the damn thing) is cleaning. With resin it is always best to wash the model in warm, soapy water before undercoating, but this thing is delicate. I'm going to have to use a really soft toothbrush. On the back of the model is a fantastically detailed raven skull (there's even a little hole where the bird's optic nerves would connect from the eyes to the brain. Un-fucking-believable).

And now onto the cloak. For fuck's sake. That many feathers should be raising some alarms with animal rights groups somewhere. Each individual feather is fully detailed and about a third of the thickness of a metal casting. There must be over a couple of hundred of the damn things, all crying out to have their detail filled by a slightly too thick layer of primer spray. Bastards. The cloak itself is swirling, enhancing the 'caught mid spell' motion of the model. It also acts as a great frame for the body of the mini, with a fabric lining effectively preventing any overwhelming of the front (and focus) of the model with too much fine detail.

The front of the model is also wonderfully crisp with some of the most ridiculously fine buckles ever seen on a miniature ever in the history of everything on the thigh straps. I thought they were mould lines at first they're that thin. Oh, and his feet have proper fucking toes, not random prehensile sausages that would enable him to climb the side of a fucking skyscraper. Moving past the body (muscular in a wiry rather than brutish way, as is befitting for this model) we get to the head and face. One thing I would like to point out is a properly done sternocleidomastoid muscle that has it's upper insertion point correct - into the mastoid part of the skull behind the jawbone and frames his Adam's apple really nicely.

The face is really wonderful, the kind of thing a 'real' painter loves to paint. It is suggestive of an older man, with wrinkles and slightly haggard, the result of a life lived in a harsh clime. It suggests experience and wisdom and a life of conflict. It's wonderfully evocative and a tribute to the sculptor in that it captures the recognisable features of the Native American without succumbing to cliché or exaggeration. Oh, and the eyelids are present too. The eyes are slightly sunken into the sallow face which will be a nightmare to paint correctly.

Moving on to the other bits, the sword is a touch odd at first. Obviously Viking in inspiration, the thin blade (about 1mm across at it's thickest part) has runes inscribed into it (yeah, you read that last part correctly, they are most likely a quarter mm deep) and has two of the most anatomically correct hands ever on a model (etc etc). You get the fleshy pads at the base of the palm where the thumb joins the hand, and the thumb curls correctly onto the rest of the hand. A little thing to notice, perhaps, but when I was studying 3ds Max correctly modelling hands gave me fucking fits. Really fucking hard to do good, and it is the mark of a master sculptor to do them this well.

The magical emission is up to the quality of the rest of the model, with a separate raven just for you to glue to your eyebrows when you sneeze during the assembly. I found one minor mould line near the end of the cloud that connects to his mouth and that was all. Incidentally, Mike and Ali recommend pinning the cloud to provide extra strength to the join. Really? And where are the rest of us going to acquire such supernatural pinning skills? Damn it, man.

Overall, this model is a great little item, quite unique in itself and worth the money. In fact, you'd definitely pay at least a fiver on top of the price the McVey's are asking if they came from any of the major manufacturers.

Whew. That's a shitload of stuff to read. I'll be quicker with the next model, Broga Hourigsen. Not because it's not as good, but because I think you get the gist of what this range is all about. So then, onto Broga:

Six pieces this time, plus a scenic insert for the 40mm base. Again, a couple of minor mould lines, and the feed sprue is easily recognisable and looks to be easily removed. You get a body (obviously), two heads, probably the best shield in the history of shields (etc etc), a short sword with a dragon scale sheath (I'm assuming, as the model is a dragon slayer) and a lance. The lance may seem an odd choice of weapon, but this guy looks like he could spit an Abrams battle tank with it. That's right, he's the opposite of the Raven Priest in physique. That's not to say he's clumsily sculpted. He's just a heavy-set hard bastard. The pose has great movement, like he's just setting himself before delivering the coup de grâce to some unlucky lizard, before making off with the requisite virgin maiden (or catholic schoolgirl if he's lucky) to tidy his flat and get his trophy skulls in order.

As you would expect from Kev White, sculptor extraordinaire and all round top bloke, this is an amazingly tight sculpt. There really is a sense of restrained motion in this one, and it is one of his finest sculpts ever (etc etc) which really is saying something because his sculpts are incredibly highly regarded in the miniatures world by anyone whose taste isn't solely in their mouths. Of the two heads I personally prefer the one encased in the uncomfortable but evil looking helm. The bare face is wonderful, don't get me wrong (this is another guy who has seen life, and has a badly-set broken nose and a right hook that would knock out a small house to prove it) I just prefer the whole 'faceless warrior of bastardry' shtick myself.

Encased in some of the smoothest heavy armour ever it's quite a feat to make him look like he can move under all that metal and dragon scale, let alone heft such a monstrous weapon and shield. A shield that has a scale inlay on the front and relief patterns on the reverse. What the hell? I hear you say. But think about it. This guy's day job is fighting things that breathe fire/acid/lightning/watery Frenchman's ejaculate so all the fine inlay would be on the bit that doesn't get damaged. Ahh, you get it now, eh?

This attention to detail runs throughout the whole Studio McVey range. Form following function and not just bedecking them with rivets, skulls and chains for the hell of it.

So, two wonders of miniature design, and onto the first female model, with concept art by the lovely Ali McVey. Surely, you cry, they have gone the Games Workshop route and made her more masculine than an evening of fried meat products and a war movie marathon with Blackhawk Down prominently featured? There must be a whiff of the sausage about 'her'? More pre than post operative Brazillian? Well, let us have a look at Seraphine Le Roux:

That's right, a wonderfully sensual and feminine model with echoes of Nichelle Nichols, no aura of transgender and, unusually for the range, a single piece cast. The first thing Grant noticed about this model was the fact that the snake is a proper snake. It's not just a tube of resin, it has a spine and the triangular, muscular feel of a constricting snake. The first thing I noticed was how fucking tiny it is. I swear, from the bottom of the diaphanous robe to the top of the Afro is the same length as the top knuckle of my fucking thumb. I nearly fucking cried when I realised, not content with making me paint Afro-Caribbean skin tones Studio McVey is making me paint one of the greatest, most proportionate female sculpts of all time ever (etc etc).

You might want to take a look at those tarot cards. Ali has actually painted a design on them, minuscule as they are. When I got to quiz her about how it was done, she said it was more about the gesture of the mark than painting the actual detail. Still, looks like a fully painted tarot card on something that has to be about 3mm wide at best to me.

I could go on and on about how great the range is but, being the jaded, bitter porn-hoarders you are you would most likely say 'Ah, but that Viking dude and the anime chick are pretty shit'. After you woke up and picked up your teeth I'd tell you that they are two of the most underrated models in the entire range, especially Vitharr Bearclaw. Despite being named after a type of pastry, Vitharr is a proper name-taker. This looks like the type of guy who would fit in with those ultimate of hard bastard name-takers, the SAS themselves.

The model comes in 4 pieces with a scenic base insert, main body, two heads and two weapons:

Height-wise, he stands a head taller than Nichelle, but much wider and bulkier. He has the requisite mighty thews but he also has a bit of girth around the waist which, in addition to being encouraging to fat fucks like me is also probably more accurate than the 5% bodyfat extreme sixpack super gymfit version of ancient warriors that modern film is so in love with. You know, those good-looking, hairless wankers that sweat baby oil. Of special note is the chainmail. You can clearly see each individual link. That's fucking right. Every link. Not the usual swirls but proper looking chainmail. There are a couple of prominent mould lines on the undersides of the arm, but that's that. The fur on the cloak looks like fur and not doormats stapled to ... oh wait, that's those other things. He's posed crying his defiance to the skies and ready to sell himself dearly. One huge axe - check. Three swords? Check. You just know he's going to be hacking fools down like a nuclear blast through a wall made of twigs and jam.

It's the same with Sharro, the anime chick. The photos do not do that model (or the paintjob I can reliably inform you) justice. I was going to get one anyway, because I'm a completionist, but when I saw Ali and Mike's model in real life I was much happier. Seeing her in real life even changed Grant's opinion of her.

Each model also has it's own narrative, a little story it conjures into your head. There aren't many models that can do that, and this range does it for me each and every model.

Look, I can type stuff about this range till I run out of superlatives and have to pepper my sentences with 'fuck' and revert to anal sex jokes but the bottom line is this: this range is wonderful and worth your money. That's the important one. Each figurine is worth more than the price paid for it in quality alone. Go to Studio McVey's commercial website, have a squiz at their blog and buy their fucking models.

I haven't even mentioned Pan, Isabella or the latest model, an Elven Bowmistress that is 'waffer theen' (you know, like the mint ... Monty Python ... oh, fuck off then). I also haven't spoiled the next release that was available at Salute (a bright spot in a shitty day) - I will say it's by the same sculptor as the Bowmistress and will be a touch more pricey (but still totally worth it) because there is ... no, I'll keep that to myself.

I'm not affiliated with Studio McVey in any way except as a customer. I am up here at work at ten to two in the morning despite what the fucking blog post time says because I don't have an internet connection at home and I fucking love this range. I have paid cold, hard cash from my own pocket for these models and I haven't regretted any purchase. I will continue to buy every model they produce even if the picture doesn't do it for me because I know the final product will be like the rest of the range - exquisite, quirky, amazing quality and diametrically opposite to GW's 'Minotaurs'.

For those of you that need a properly quantified score and can't be arsed to read the review and generate your own opinion - fuck off you pedantic twat, get your money out and buy.

For the rest of you, see the above statement.

Angry that time keeps slipping away

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