Somewhere in the Middle East
One of the things I find fascinating about Masterbox’s approach to figure modeling is the technique they use to arrive at a given product. For most companies, sculptors make the desired figures, then illustrators create the box art to match the sculpts. Masterbox reverses the process by permitting illustrators to paint scenarios (quite beautifully, I may add) then sculptors do their best to reproduce the illustrations within the limitations of injection molding. What this means is that Masterbox is indisputably the top of the industry in creating imaginative, innovative plastic figures. This set is no exception.
In essence, this is one of Masterbox’s “dioramas in a box” that they are so renowned for – five figures all on one sprue. In this case, a US military “advisor” and his local militia assistants are relaxing after capturing an enemy combatant in a hot zone. The advisor is calling in air support to pick them and their captive up. All of this is clearly depicted in the stances of the figures provided.
Initially, I was going to dispute the kit’s title, as the cover clearly depicts a scene specific to the Afghanistan mountains, hence “Somewhere in the Middle East” would be a bit of a misnomer. However, on opening the box I was surprised and delighted to see that Masterbox has provided some extras in the form of additional heads, which to my eye look very much like they’re wearing Kurdish tribal headgear. With that in mind, this scenario can take place in either Afghanistan or Iraq without compromising the accuracy whatsoever. Very impressive!
All figures are wearing the appropriate mishmosh of clothing typically seen in these special strike forces, and the Afghanistanis, particularly, seem to be bundled for the cold nights in the mountains. All of the figures come with appropriate equipment as well as an assortment of weapons. Because of the style of clothing, Masterbox has broken the figures up in a more complicated manner than typical in order to capture the folds and drapes properly. All of the faces are different and all have the typical regional characteristics one would hope to see on characters from this part of the world.
The only shortfall of the kit is the quality of the molding on the weapons, which is rather soft and suffering from flash in awkward locations. In fact, the entire casting has an odd “graininess” that most strongly affects the equipment, but also affects the cleanup of the figures themselves. I can’t help but wonder if this degradation of the casting isn’t from Masterbox’s challenging decision to move their facilities in the face of ongoing warfare in their country. I’ve recently obtained another new release from this company, and the graininess on the castings is no longer present, so this may be only a temporary situation.
For this build, I elected to build them with the alternate parts so you can see what the variations can be. I also chose to replace the weapons, but that was just a personal preference due to the cleanup issues. The painted figure is representative of the group as a whole, with the mishmosh of camouflage so common with special force troops and their allies.
Despite the small problem with the graininess, the figures are excellent. As can be seen, the guns are easily replaceable with weapons from other kits and a little cleanup shouldn’t deter one from obtaining this wonderful and extremely timely figure set. Not only that, but the choice of subject makes this set virtually unique in plastic modeling, as these figures can be easily modified to represent combatants in all sorts of conflicts which (sadly) continue around the globe today. So high marks to Masterbox for conversion potential as well.
I highly recommend this set to anyone interested in modeling current events.
I wish to thank Masterbox and IPMS/USA for providing the review sample, and once again wish Masterbox and their employees my very best during these difficult times for their country.