It's been four years since Ballistic Media dropped the first volume of Massive Black. Massive Black is a team of concept artists who are tasked to create art, design and animation for video games and movie projects. These are tasks that warrant a level of recognition that's never fully received.
Thankfully Ballistic Media aims to put some of the most phenomenal pieces of art created by Massive Black on show covering the years 2008 - 2012, and if you're a gamer like me, you'll be intrigued to discover just how many well known characters pop up in Massive Black Volume 2.
Massive Black Volume 2 comes in Slip Case, leather or Folio editions; each offering a level of quality that Ballistic media has been known for. I have the slip case edition which comes with a cardboard sleeve for you to slot the book into when you are finished. If you have somewhere to put it on display the snowy white cover is surprisingly eye catching.
The book itself is split into four categories; Games, Movies, Advertising and Massive Black Entertainment. The first three are self explanatory, but the Massive Black Entertainment category focuses on original pieces of art that the team put together for themselves.
Massive Black Volume 3 is heavy on character concept art, as various character designs take up the majority of the book. You'll also see a few vehicles, weapons and scenes here and there but they are few and far between.
Games on show in Massive Black Volume 2 include: Infamous 1 and 2, Silent Hill, Starhawk, Risen 2, Dust 514 and more. We all know of the conflicts that came from the new Cole designs in Infamous 2, so it's interesting to get a look at the process behind the designs and how Sucker Punch interacted with the Massive Black design team to get the right look. Some of the Kuo sketches are pretty hot also, and it's intriguing to get a look at some of the initial concept designs for her ice form.
Movies featured in Massive Black Volume 2 include; Transformers 2 and 3, Thor and G.I Joe. Again they focus heavy on 2d character designs, but there are quite a few G.I Joe vehicle designs in there too.
Overall the movie section feels much more brief than the video games, and it makes it obvious what industry most of their clients come from.
I actually enjoyed the advertising and Massive Black Entertainment portions of the book more than the movies. These two sections in particular display how far the teams creativity expands. The art in these sections are more light-hearted and warming. The commentary provided on all the designs is very informative and offers much insight into the way Massive Black works to make their clients happy.
While there is a lot to see in Massive Black 2, you get the impression that there should have been a lot more to see from four years worth of work. I'm thinking perhaps they couldn't show us everything, as they have to get their clients to agree before showing off the work, and it's understandable if a company might not want their design concepts on show. However, when comparing Massive Black to previous Ballistic publications it does feel very bland and unimaginative.
Then again it's probably not even fair to compare Massive Black Volume 2 to other Ballistic publications, as it's something different. It's a body of work from one specific creative agency, and that's more than respectable. But in an ideal world Massive Black Volume 2 would be a slightly cheaper priced publication.
If you have an interest in looking at concept designs for intellectual properties such as of Infamous, Starhawk, Red Faction: Armageddon, Silent Hill, Transformers, Thor and more then I have no doubts that you'll enjoy flicking through the works by Massive Black. You can even get a digital preview of what the book has to offer over on the Ballistic landing page.