I've been noticing more and more that there is an increasing trend in the production of overtly sexualised female miniatures within our hobby. It crept up on me maybe two or three years ago at first, and it was only a smattering initially, but now it seems to be an entire subset of the industry... and it's growing exponentially it seems. Well a few weeks ago I obviously reviewed the second miniature to be released from the Ax Faction range, the Victorian Darling Kraken Hunter. A beautifully sculpted little miniature she is too, and although there was a flash of pants and clearly sexual overtones to the piece, it wasn't over the top, or over done for me, and was actually quite tasteful. What? She was was! True the miniature existed purely, from an aesthetic standpoint, for the titillation of male viewers and I get that others might not be OK with her. Am I OK with that? Yes I am, as long as a miniature meets my own personal standards on taste and decency. Well the same can't really be said of the first miniature that Ax Faction have released, the Gilded Saint, who is clearly so proud of her magnificent boobs (and they are magnificent) that she feels the need to share them with the world!!! Subtle she is not, but that doesn't make her a bad sculpt or a bad miniature necessarily. Aesthetics are a personal thing, so what do I personally think?
This is a multi-part resin miniature came secure in a nice little plastic blister packet that can be seen at the top of this review. Inside the various delicate pieces are placed in sealed zip-lock bags, which I'm personally grateful for as they mean none of these delicate pieces are lost in transit, although I did ultimately lose a piece, but more on that later. the miniature is cast in an exceedingly good resin and that is instantly noticeable when you remove the miniature from her packaging, again it is the equal of miniature ranges like Studio McVey, BaneLegions and Kingdom Death. The miniature is comprised of 10 resin components and one round plastic slotta base. Unlike the Victorian Darling this miniature doesn't come with a scenic base. The largest component is the main body of the Gilded Saint, followed by the lance and lance tip. The Dragons head is made of three components, the main head and two horns. There are also a number of really fiddly components you'll need to be very, very careful with. Firstly there is a halo that attached to the back of the gilded Saints helmet, a visor that attaches to the front of the helmet and finally two very small wings that fix to the side of the knee guards on her two boots.
Character 6 out of 10
I sat looking at this miniature for quite some time. It made me feel slightly uncomfortable looking at it when I'd finally assembled her. I have a few tests in life to see whether I think something has crossed a line with me. In terms of scantily clad miniatures my first test is my response, do I initially think sexy, or do I think lame. My response wasn't either, it was a little disconcerting. So I asked what would my mother, my partner, or my imaginary daughter think of this miniature, and could I justify to them why I thought it was OK? The answer was no. I don't want people thinking I'm a prude, because I'm really, really not. Far from it. I like boobs as much as the next red blooded heterosexual male, but like all things in life boobs have there place... yes on a women's chest before you make the obvious joke! No, what I mean to say is this, I'm fine with naked sculpts, or sculpts of scantily clad women if the subject matter calls for it. I guess what I'm saying is there needs to be a reason in my miniatures for them to get naked. And I guess for me it seems, no for purely titillation purposes isn't really a good enough reason. Now am I saying that all female warrior sculpts need to be covered head to toe in plate armour? Nope, this is fantasy and an appreciation of the female form is fine within limits, defining these limits might be difficult, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't try. In the case of the Gilded Saint Dragon Hunter she's meant to be a fricking dragon hunter! Well she's going to have very singed nips going out looking like that! It's OK though because she's got a lance and a helmet *shakes head*.
|This is a view of the body from the front|
This miniature exists for one reason and only one reason, and that is the gratification and titillation of heterosexual male viewers. Is this a bad thing? No. But, we do have a name for that and it's called pornography, true this is 'softcore' pornography but lets frame it and call it what it is. Pornography. Do I have an issue with pornography then? No I don't and I never have, but I just don' personally want it to creep into my miniatures hobby. I'm not saying miniatures can't, or shouldn't be pornographic... if comics, cartoons and paintings can be pornographic I see no reason why miniatures can't be, but I just wished we were mature enough as an industry to admit it, and treat it accordingly. Because I feel the Gilded Saint is the last in a long line of miniatures that have existed, and can be traced back tot he beginning of our hobby that have given rise to the sense that it is OK for some of the themes in such pieces to creep across into the mainstream of our hobby. When I truly believe if we'd framed such pieces as pornographic I don't think that would have happened so much. It's our lack of accurate language that allows this line to blur.
|A view of the body from the rear... because I know some of you will like it.|
I don't want this review to descend into me drawing a personal line in the sand on the portrayal of women in wargaming, that will happen in this weeks Sunday Sermon, I just want to frame my personal objections to this miniature. Plus there is a level of skill and professionality that has gone into this miniature that deserves my full and fair attention, and for me to be as level headed and fair minded as I can be. I had to also ask myself a very serious question, have I had such a strong response to the Gilded Saint Dragon Hunter because unlike many previous puerile and badly sculpted naked females, she is actually exceedingly well sculpted and actually a highly accurate and attractive piece. I've pondered this for a week or two now, because I felt it deserved some serious thought... my answer? Yes. She is a damn fine piece of sculpting, and as a design I guess I have to hold my hands up and say it is good softcore porn, no question. It's not got buoyancy aids for breasts, they actually hang very naturally, and her figure isn't over the top in terms of curves. She is far more natural looking than most, admittedly still idealised, but nevertheless natural, and Paul Billinghurst and Benoit Cauchies deserve some credit for that, and I'll give it to them. Good job. It just isn't for me.
When I compare this miniature to Ax Factions second miniature, the Victorian Darling, I guess the design just doesn't grab me as much personally. For starters I like the fact the Victorian Darling is clothed, even though it's still revealling. I like sexy miniatures, I like looking at them and attempting to paint them. Yet with the Gilded Saint even though the artwork is exceedingly well drawn, and the sculpt captures the drawing brilliantly I can't bring my self to like it, I can appreciate the skill and work, just not what it as produced. I would have preferred a bit more armour on her, she hasn't got that much on so I may as well go back to discussing her... erm... feminine wiles. Firstly lets talk about her breasts, because there they are staring at me. As I said above I have to say first of all kudos to Benoit who has managed to sculpt realistic looking mammary glands, with pert nipples, something many sculptors in our industry fail to do. In fact in some cases I wander whether some have actually seen a naked women. While I'd prefer not to have the boobs on show if they absolutely have to be they might as well hang correctly, and have a more naturalistic shape and look to them as opposed to the round lumps many sculptors think are good representations of breasts. Her backside also could have been 'overly' pert, but is actually quite understated when compared to that of the Victorian Darling.
|And here she is complete.|
Is it still an idealised and sexualised version of the female form? Of course it is, because although they have gone for a more natural look, her boobs remain larger than many none 'augmented' women of her svelte figure would posses. Again that's OK as we all like to fantasise about things and I have nothing wrong with idealised human figures, as long as they're not ridiculous exaggerated, and I don't think the Gilded Saint is. I'd also like to point out her pose isn't as bad as some I've seen in this 'genre', she's not using that phallic lance as a poll to grind up and down on for starters, but it does look awkward the way she's holding it. Nor is she arching her back and contorting in an unnatural way to show off her cleavage and ass at the same time for my viewing pleasure, like so many females seem to do in comic books. So I acknowledge it's not as tasteless as it could've been, and again Ax Faction deserve a bit of credit for restraining themselves slightly... but there's no getting away from the fact that it is in my opinion a bit tasteless. With her boots going up above her knees they are definitely made for walkin' and her skimpy pants just complete the 'sexy' outfit you've no doubt see a thousand times in porno films. It's a cliché and that also harms the Gilded Saint for me from an aesthetic standpoint, it's not really all that original it what it's trying to achieve.
That is the biggest shame for me, because I've seen what Ax Faction are capable of when they don't go to excesses with their designs with their other miniature, because they have produced a top miniature for me. What is even worse though is that I can see some real talent and skill has gone into this piece too, her face is exquisitely well sculpted, and yet again I can safely say that Benoit has produced a face that is undeniably feminine, something many sculptors genuinely struggle with. In many cases the only way you can tell some miniatures are meant to be female is because they have long hair and boobs. Well you could happily frame the Gilded Saints face on it's own and instantly recognise her as a women, actually as an attractive women. This too leads to further frustration, there was no need for her to have her boobs out, or for her to be only wearing skimpy pants, and not have some form of armour around her crotch area, she could still have remained subtly sexy, without having to scream it at you.So for me personally it is a swing and a miss artistically.
Detail 8 out of 10
Well like the other miniature I've seen from Ax Faction the level of detail is actually really quite good yet again. So much so that it did feel strange criticising such a finely detailed miniature in the above section, especially when there is so much crap out there. To the left of this section is a picture of some of the exceedingly fine components to this miniature, and they also show just how small and intricate some of the detailing is. Honestly some of it is absolutely mind boggling. The armour plates on her boots are all clearly well defined and each piece has fine scrolling on its surface. It would however be slightly odd not to talk about the flesh on show considering I'd say a good 65% of the miniature is flesh. The face as I mentioned above is a damn fine piece of sculpting, and the delicate features are exceptionally well detailed and defined. It is a brilliantly well realised and detailed feature. Her body too is toned and natural looking, you can see the muscle structure beneath the surface of her skin and I'd like to make it clear that anatomically as a study of the human form it is exceedingly well done... yes even those breasts with those nipples. Just because I don't like the subject matter doesn't mean I can't appreciate good work when I see it.
Quality 7 out of 10
The casting quality on this piece wasn't quite as good as the casting on the Victorian darling. The miniature was covered in flashing, and although it wasn't terrible and was easy enough to clean up, doing so on some of the smaller pieces was an absolute pain and I very nearly flung small pieces off into the distance with my craft knife. The Mould lines though were nonexistent pretty much yet again and were easy to clean up and thankfully didn't cut through any of the details. I do however have a big complaint and it's about the lance, and it's not just the one complaint either. Firstly the fact that it comes in two pieces is a bit of a pain and I can't quite see why that is. Secondly if they were going to 'cut' it anywhere way the hell wasn't it cut further down the shat of the lance where a thicker join and maybe a pin was possible and any bad joins could've been hidden by green stuff? Thirdly the vent on top of the spear tip was a pain in the ass, removing it with an exceedingly sharp craft knife still resulted in the tip breaking off, never to be seen again. Grrrr. I ended up having to use a fine drill to hollow out the tip of the lance and then shave the shat down to a point to it would rest on top of it. It was impossible to pin and trying to just glue it on flat started to drive me mad. Sadly as I left it to dry the lance tip twisted while it was drying and now rests in an awkward way. Bugger. Also of note is that the terribly smaller fiddly bits were very difficult to position and attached, and actually I've managed to lose one of her boots winged knew guard thingies off of the miniature while it was drying. God only knows where it has gone. This is a plea to all manufactures of such small pieces, IF you are hell bent on having such small pieces please consider providing us with duplicates just in case things go wrong. Otherwise the quality of the miniature was perfectly acceptable.
|It's far from perfect, but it was genuinely the best I could achieve with what I was given.|
Service N/A out 10
Well it when it was delivered it came really well packed in a blister pack, with some bubble wrap and a padded envelope. Sure I could have been given the reviewer treatment, you know getting the best service because of what I do, but having met Paul in person it's clear he takes all of this seriously and really wants to give a good service. He takes pride in his work. So on the back of this would I have a problem ordering one of his miniatures from him? Nope, not at all. Had I actually paid for the service it'd would have received a 9 out of 10.
Price 7.5 out of 10
Yeah so I got given this for free, which is always a damn fine price to pay for anything. The question is whether this Gilded Saint Dragon Hunter is worth the asking price of £8.50. Well that depends on whether you like it or not doesn't it? I personally think it's a bit of a shame that it doesn't come with a scenic base like the Victorian Darling Kraken Hunter, but the price does reflect that. Would I have brought her though? You know what I don't think so. Part of me would have wanted to buy her because it's a chance to own every miniature a company has produced, and I have an insane collectors streak in me. However, on her 'artistic' merits alone... probably not. Sure her boobs and body are better sculpted than most nudes you'll see in our hobby, but I'm not attracted to it as a piece like I was with the Victorian Darling. Sometimes where sexy is concerned more is more... clothes that is. It isn't though a bad price to pay for a fine resin display piece. I think he needs to consider putting in extra pieces of things like the knee wings etc. though because they are easy to lose or break.
Overall 7 out of 10
Obviously this is actually a really high quality miniature in terms of casting, detail and all that jazz. For me the issue is the subject matter, maybe I'm being a prude here, I accept it is a possibility. But, I'd have preferred my Dragon Hunter to have been wearing a suit of armour, even if it was skimpy. In fact I'd personally like to throw that challenge down to Paul and Benoit, can you put your heads together and come up with a re-imagining of this piece with more armour? I'm certain there will be plenty of takers for this pretty much naked miniature holding a huge phallus in the shape of a lance any way, but I'd be interested to see what you could do with the idea while trying to be a bit more reserved or understated. I just prefer the subtle nature of the Victorian Darling more, there was more too the composition and it wasn't screaming 'SEX' at you all the time... so for me if you could only afford one miniature out of the range today I'd say plump for the Victorian Darling Kraken Hunter. That's not to say the Gilded Saint isn't worth buying if you actually like the look of her, lets be honest there are plenty of 'studies of the female form' in miniatures and many of them get it all so hideously wrong. So at least the fact that her breasts hang properly and don't look like two balls stuck on at weird points, might mean some males actually get to see what boobs really look like. Because the bad boob job look that is so common in naked miniatures that it's embarrassing, so even I can appreciate that there's been some skill and thought that has gone into sculpting this miniature. But by God I just wished she'd put some clothes on, or a suit of armour. Peace out!