Beautiful LEGO 2: Dark by Mike Doyle [Review]

It’s been barely a year since No Starch Press released Beautiful LEGO, a coffee table book packed with carefully curated images of LEGO creations, concieved and organized by New Jersey graphic designer and LEGO builder Mike Doyle.

Unlike many of their other LEGO themed titles, which are targeted squarely at the AFOL community, the book had the potential to appeal to almost anyone with a passing interest in LEGO (ie. almost anyone on the planet). It soon started showing up on the shelves of regular book stores, and has since become one of their best sellers. So the rumors of a sequel came as no surprise…

Beautiful LEGO 2: Dark replays that winning formula, with some interesting twists. The first thing you’ll notice is that it’s weightier: this version is about 50 pages longer and sports a proper hard cover. Some folks will be pleased to hear about that change, although as a coffee table book, I kinda find this one harder to handle.

Mike has also cut back heavily on builder interviews (just 4 this time round, compared to 9 in the first book). I’m sure some AFOLs will see that as a loss, but I think it makes sense for a work like this to focus on the images first and foremost. For those curious to learn more about specific builders, every image is labeled, and the Contributor index contains all the necessary URLs.

Then there’s the subtitle, “Dark”. With this book, Mike applied what he calls a “thematic filter” to the curation process, targeting specific classes of build. It’s a bold move, but gives this sequel a much stronger identity than merely “hello, here are some more great builds”. Admittedly “dark” is a rather broad theme with many possible interpretations, but I think it still pays off. The builds range from the serious, the creepy, the political, the darkly humorous, and even just darkly colored.

As for the individual builds and images, Mike delivers again with another 300 pages of gorgiously photographed creations, from over a hundred different builders, that will be appreciated by both AFOL and non-AFOL alike. Everything is organized into chapters such as “Creepy Crawlers”, “Skin and Bones” or “Future Shock”. And a wide variety of building styles and categories are covered.

To achieve a harmonious effect, some of the models were specially reworked or reshot by their creators, and Mike also re-tuned some of the images too (for example, applying neutral backgrounds). The overall effect is definitely moodier than the first book – and that means it’s literally darker. The builds in this tome also skew to the more complex/detailed end of the scale than in the first one. So you’re gonna want to read this one under a decent light!

For the sequel, Mike also chose to include a small selection of digital creations. This is definitely a controversial decision, which Mike acknowledges and explains in his Preface. But the digital creations are clearly annotated as such, wherever they appear.

Like its predecessor, Beautiful LEGO 2: Dark is a beautiful object, that shines a flattering (low wattage) spotlight on the LEGO building community, and in a way that makes that world accessible to the general public. I’d recommend it wholeheartedly to anyone who enjoyed the first book. And I really hope this becomes a series of books. If it does, I cannot wait to see what theme Mike decides to cover next!

Beautiful LEGO 2: Dark goes on sale everywhere November 20th, and will retail for USD $39.95.

In the verdant gardens

In recent years, “Castle” building has begun to encompass more and more non-military scenes, which is a pleasant change of pace. Well-tended gardens, so prevalent on the estates of the wealthy during the middle-ages, however, are still relatively rare. That’s why it was a nice surprise to see this lovely garden diorama by Joshua.

State Gardens of Lenfald, LC 16 Entry, overview

“Bricks of the Mouse Guard” project launched on Kickstarter

2015 may well be the year of Mouse Guard, as it celebrates it’s 10th anniversary and – as we previously mentioned here – Seattle’s own ArchLUG will be unveiling a big collaborative Mouse Guard display at Emerald City Comic Con in March. Of course you can expect some pretty amazing architecture in this display. But how are they going to recreate the Mouse Guard characters, you might ask? Simple, with Bricks of the Mouse Guard, that’s how! And you can get in on the action too.

Following on from his wildly successful Munchkin Bricks project, Guy Himber of Crazy Bricks has just launched a new project to bring you Mouse Guard themed LEGO accessories.

Backers have the opportunity to receive a set of mouse heads in various colors, and a set of matching accessories (including a flagon that looks like a must-have for almost any Castle enthusiast). And as you might imagine, there are all kinds of stretch goals that will unlock additional items in additional colors, and even a fully equipped custom Mouse Guard mini-fig with pad-printed torso. Other goodies include BrickArms crates, printed bricks and even original artwork by Mouse Guard’s creator for top-tier backers.

Rewards start at $19, and the project will be accepting pledges for the next 32 days, so back it today!

Bringing the Retro Future to you!

Vince Toulouse has a keen eye for style with spacecraft, and one of his common hallmarks is a stylistic nod to art-deco and the extravagant elegance of the forward-thinking 1920s and ’30s. His latest clean mean machine is this fantastic white and gold ship, which looks ready to pull up to the curb and have a dapper gentleman invite you to a night of refined space-partying and literary discussions. (Or maybe I’m just thinking of Midnight in Paris.)


LEGO Pinhole Camera

Some of you may have made similar cameras: they’re not fancy, but they do what they’re designed to do and capture images. Since the requirement is a dark box, they can be made from just about anything.

Ryan H. (eldeeem) proved that by making a pinhole camera from a 2×2 brick. No joke.

Lego Pinhole Camera

That small image the minifig is holding was taken by that very same pinhole camera.

It’s not a conventional creation we typically feature. It’s brilliant, creative, and definitely pushes LEGO as an art form.

Lukas the Blue Wizard

Tim Schwalf has run out a rather unusual rendition of one of the relatively unknown blue wizards from Lord of the Rings. The entire build seems to be controlled chaos, made of random bits, colors and juxtapositions that I would never have imagined would work together. However, when you stand back and look, it really flows into one cohesive whole. I’m rather impressed that this is Tim’s first brick-built figure and look forward to more! By the way, I love that beard.

Lukas the Blue

Upside down Galaxy Explorer 826 77

We’ve seen some pretty crazy Galaxy Explorers over the years, including Jumbo flashlight sized and Neo Classic style. But I think this one turns my world upside down – literally. Dave Lartigue (daveexmachina) has built the entire Galaxy Explorer inverted:

Upside-Down Classic Space Cruiser 826 77

Yes! Studs DOWN!
Here’s how it would look if we were to orient it the ‘right’ way:
Upside-Down Classic Space Cruiser 826 77

Is this a new building fad? I certainly hope so.