by: Keith Middleton [ ]
Master Box has attracted a lot of attention recently for the interesting variety of figures they have been releasing. Master Box has proven they are willing to take a chance on producing figures other than another set of pointing World War II Germans. This set continues in that vein as it is a four-figure set of U.S. Army soldiers manning a checkpoint in Iraq.
The set comes packed in a side-opening box a little larger than your standard Dragon figure set box. The kit has attractive box art portraying four U.S. Army soldiers of the 1st Cavalry Division manning a checkpoint in Iraq. The soldiers are all wearing the Army Combat Uniform in the universal three-color camouflage pattern. This uniform first went into service in 2005. The back of the box provides the assembly guide by way of a numbered sprue. The back of the box also provides a color painting guide that is keyed only to Vallejo paints.
When you open the box you find a single plastic-wrapped sprue with 68 parts. The sprue itself does not have identifying numbers which, as already mentioned, are shown exclusively on the back of the box. There is a moderate amount of flash on many of the parts. In addition, there are sizable attachment points that could prove troublesome when removing parts from the sprue, especially the weapons, the SAW in particular. There are some minor mold seams that have to be dealt with. In addition, when I removed the bagged sprue from the box, I immediately noticed the barrel of the M14 rifle was bent in an unnatural position. Another member of the Houston Armor Club purchased two boxes of these figures at the recent Austin, Texas AMPS contest and he reports the M14ís in those sets have the same problem. He was confident the barrel could be fixed, I am not so sure as it is quite delicate.
In terms of the quality of the molding, this set reminds me of older Dragon sets and the molding does not come close to matching the crispness of detail found in more recent Dragon offerings. In fact, I have included a comparison photo of one of the Master Box figures alongside a Dragon figure I built for a review of a recent Dragon release and in my opinion, the Master Box figure just cannot compete with the Dragon. I must admit I was somewhat disappointed in the quality of the faces in this set as it does not match the quality of the faces in another Master Box set I previously reviewed (Supplies at Last).
I went ahead and assembled one of the figures leaving off only the M16. Assembly was straightforward, the fit is good with only a few gaps that will have to be dealt with.
Returning to the box art, Master Box portrays four soldiers, two obviously Caucasian, one obviously African-American, and one possibly Hispanic, Asian, or even African-American. I was impressed that Master Box would put out a figure set that matched the diversity found in the U.S. military. I was disappointed when I examined the actual figures (as well as the painting instructions) because there is no doubt the figures are all Caucasian.
With the problems highlighted above, I think these figures provide an economical option for a modeler looking for up-to-date U.S. Army figures.