Wednesday, October 6

Read n' Reviewed: Aces High Monographic Series: Modelling the Scooter from AK Interactive

A big fan of both the aircraft and the modeller, we were keen to read AK Interactive's latest book from Daniel Zamarbide. The second part of the Aces High Monographic Series - "Modelling the Scooter". The famous A-4 Skyhawk in print is the subject of today's review. See what we thought...

Aces High Monographic Series: Modelling The Scooter
From AK Interactive
Text in English or Spanish.
112 pages, 
Softcover, A4, portrait format
Price: 15,95€
Get Your Digital Copy At Ak-interactive App for iOS and Android
The second volume to the Aces High Monographic series from AK Interactive is here. This book is focussed on the famous A-4 Skyhawk, and it is simply called "Modelling The Scooter". Promised to be a guide to modelling the famous bird in several of its guises through its long career in many air forces around the world. 

The creators, Daniel Zamarbide and Claudio Meunier have taken three models in 1/32nd scale from three different eras of Skyhawk use for three countries, Israel, the US & Argentina, combined them with a large slice of reference, profile, modelling reference materials and kits to make this monograph of all things Skyhawk.
The book in its physical form.
A softcover book of one hundred and twelve pages in A4 size, portrait format. The book has a glossy cover and is filled with many large format colour & B/W photos and either English or Spanish text depending on which one you choose.
Graphically, the book is very "schmick", with well put together articles in step by step (SBS) fashion which I think are the best ways of getting points across to modellers. The reference sections really do keep the reader's interest, with the history of modelling the Skyhawk in kits, books and paraphernalia a nice addition to set the scene. Obviously, Mr Zamarbide likes the Skyhawk a lot, his passion for the aircraft can be seen in the contents of this book.

The book is broken up into four main sections. An introduction, then three chapters that pertain to each of the three A-4 Skyhawks that are shown in construction in this book:
- Introduction
- Fuerza Aérea Argentina A-4C by Daniel Zamarbide
- U.S. Navy A-4E by Daniel Zamarbide
- Israeli Air Force A-4N by Daniel Zamarbide
Page by page:
We begin our journey through the book by a large introduction (for better words) into the world of the A-4 Skyhawk in the scale model world. In this section the authors walk us through the history of the A-4 Skyhawk, with five lovely double-page spreads, first showing the many model kits throughout the recent history of the Scooter, the decals and aftermarket selections you can use in your modelling, the reference books the modeller can use to research and be inspired by and video games and collectables of the Skyhawk. There are also four very nice profiles of the skyhawk in alternate schemes by British artist Chris Sandham-Bailey.
Page sixteen and we are into the first subject. The A-4C of the Fuerza Aérea Argentina (Argentine Air Force). This section of nine pages gives us large-format photos of the A-4's of the Fuerza Aérea Argentina, and their entry into, use in and pilots and notable figures that flew the Scooter in the Argentine Air Force. Photos of the kites on the ground, in the air and on missions are interspersed with the history of the aircraft in block text and captions to suit the photos. A roughly chronological order of the aircraft's service is discussed, culminating in a mission account from pilots of the famous attacks on British shipping in the battle of San Carlos during the Falklands War.
After the section on the background of the Argentine A-4C's of the Fuerza Aérea Argentina (Argentine Air Force), we move into the first modelling guide on page twenty-six. This is Daniel Zamarbide's A-4C in 1/32nd scale kit. This is the Trumpeter kit backdated with Condor Models decals and resin. The modeller shows us how he built the kit and the changes and alterations he made to the base kit with a step by step (SBS) show and tell method. Each photo is accompanied by text to explain what you are seeing and to point out significant details. I love to see the actual kit being built for a change, as so many magazines and books skip straight to the painting process, much to their detriment. We WANT to see the alterations and modifications to make these variants what they are, and Daniel does this here.
Painting enthusiasts need not be left wanting, with a full guide to the undercoating, camouflage layers, painting and masking sections of the kit's ID stripes, ordinance load detailing and painting, undercarriage work and finishing of the pilot and the cockpit are all examined by the modeller. An excellent result occurs by the end of this chapter, and I can say I have already learned a lot, not just about the Argentine Skyhawks, but the aircraft and modelling in general so far...
We look at the second Skyhawk in service now, with the U.S. Navy A-4E in focus. The reference and background to the US Navy's Skyhawks are discussed over eleven pages. Not only the gradual changes of the aircraft are reflected through colour and black and white photos of Skyhawks from the US Navy and Marines, but information on the "E" model in the text is also provided. The service of the aircraft in US Navy/ Marine service, most notably in Vietnam is included. Again, an account of the actions of the Scooter, right up to the end of the "E" model's service in 1971 is provided.

The modeller's passion for the aircraft is also evident in several of the sketches of the aircraft throughout the book.
The second modelling subject is next, with the U.S. Navy A-4E by Daniel Zamarbide, this time the Trumpeter kit with modifications to the cockpit and wheel wells plus a pilot from PJ productions along with some Eduard add ons. Again, we see these additions for the most part being added to the model from Mr Zamarbide, but unfortunately there are only over four pages. What IS very good is the explanation of the painting of the kit, and the use of shading to bring about interest in an otherwise all-grey monocoloured exterior. 
The SBS approach, the show and tell of jus tow he creates his models and the steps he uses to bring them to life, works extremely well here. Each numbered photo has a companion in the numbered text captions which describe the actions being undertaken and why these are done in this way. The end result is a beautiful aircraft, brought to life with a lot more colour than I thought and several artistic flourishes that are a trademark of the modeller's style.
The last of the Skooters we are shown are the Israeli Air Force A-4N's. The background section again gives us the history of the aircraft in a brief fashion whilst in service in the IAF. The "N" model's interesting features, powerplant and features are shown and described here over seven pages of text and full-colour contemporary photos of the aircraft (unfortunately none shown in conflict scenarios). These photos are accompanied with captions to flush out the story, while the photos show these hump-backed aircraft and the colours, faded and aged over time to good effect. The text explains to the reader just why these cooters were such a highly praised machine by the IAF.
The 1/32nd scale Israeli Air Force A-4N's is net shown off in model form by the author Mr Zamarbide. Again he uses the best choice amongst not many in the market, the  Trumpeter A-4M kit (the "N" model was basically the export version of the "M" with some alterations). This time the saviour was Wolfpack Designs with their additional aftermarket kit. 
There isn't much at all of building the kit this time, but we do get six pages of extensive photos and text of painting and preparing the cockpit, instrument panel and wheel wells before Daniel starts to paint the outside of the kite. the beautiful three colour camouflage of the Skyhawk in IAF service is a highpoint, and here in SBS fashion - picture to text, we learn how the modeller pre-shaded, painted camouflage, with AK's True colours, then detailed the panel lines and added weathering in not only pencil but in washes, oils and finishing processes. This build really is very eye-catching and although I do not have a favourite, this is the most dynamic coloured Skyhawk of the book so far. 
Just before the end of the book, we get a bonus of sorts, two more Skyhawks in a completed gallery of four pages featuring a 48th scale A-4Q of the Argentine Air Force and another 32nd scale A-4E of the US Navy. Just photos of the completed aircraft kits, but I suppose it is extra inspiration, and it shows again the love of this aircraft the modeller has.
And that was all they wrote!

So...I guess I can say I already was a big fan of Mr Zamarbide's work, but this book further cements his style into my favourites list. He has taken three different types of A-4's from three different air forces in three very different schemes in the perfect scale for super detailing this aircraft and made each of them interesting for three different reasons.

I would like to see more of the aircraft being built, however, the detail in which we are presented in SBS format of these steps to create such masterpieces counterbalances this minor point. the knowledge I gained from this book is considerable, and I will be no-doubt be using this as my prime reference when attempting to build my own Skyhawk some time int he future.

A great book, much more than I would have expected, in a very tidy package, well done!

Adam Norenberg

You can see more about these products on the links supplied and more of them on the AK Interactive Website