Good morning everyone, and welcome back to the now monthly feature covering the 2022 Unbound set here in Masterpiece Theater, only on Hipsters of the Coast!

This set is once again an Upper-Deck ePack exclusive, illustrated entirely by French artist and illustrator Fred Roy and his studio assistant Ian. Working traditionally in oils in the comic industry for nearly a decade, you can find their sketch cards in various Upper Deck sets as far back as 2017. They’ve reprised their role in trading cards with the unmistakable hyper-realistic style for this new 2022 Unbound.

As a reminder, Unbound 2022 is a bit different than its predecessor in both blueprint and breadth. The time is the same: at 9am PST every week on Upper Deck’s ePack trading platform the cards are released, but this time it’s 1999 packs. Collectors may purchase a maximum of two packs per transaction, and could open any of the following: A Base Card, numbered to 999, a Canvas Parallel numbers to 299, an unnumbered Rainbow Foil (estimated at approximately 646 each week), a Gold Autograph Parallel hand signed by fred.ian and numbered to only 50, one of four different 1/1 CMYK printing plates, or a 1/1 hand drawn sketch card, often corresponding to that week’s character!

Complete sets of each parallel can be redeemed each quarter for Quarterly Achievement Cards, and then those four Quarterly Achievements within a parallel series can be redeemed at the end of the year for even more scarce and exclusive cards.

As we’re now monthly we’ve got four artworks and five sketch cards to go with the new Ask fred.ian artist interview question! This is Weeks 17-20 of 2022 Unbound, and cards #69-72.

Unbound Year 2: Cards #69-72 & Weekly Sketch Cards

Killmonger by fred.ian, oils on paper, 29.7cm x 40cm (11.7” x 15.7”)

#69 Killmonger

I love when there are mysteries to be discovered when an artwork is enlarged beyond the card, and Killmonger is our first go for this new set! Look past the skull belt buckle and washboard abs to the reflection in Kilmonger’s sword- it’s the Black Panther himself! I love that the artist has included this bit of storytelling in this image, and as he mentioned on Facebook: “For us, the two characters are inseparable. Yin and yang.”

Mary Jane Watson by fred.ian, oils on paper, 41cm x 51cm (16” x 20”)

#70 Mary Jane Watson

Spider-Man’s main squeeze Mary Jane Watson makes her Unbound appearance, and the card is an homage to her future hubby. From the plush she’s cuddled with to the webbed background, even the “he loves me, he loves me not” daisy in her hand, this card tells the story of their relationship. It was also a chance for the artist to go all-in on a bright blue background. This card is going to absolutely pop in person.

Heimdall by fred.ian, oils on paper, 29.7cm x 40cm (11.7” x 15.7”)

#71 Heimdall

We go from big, saturated color to every color in the rainbow, as Fred and Ian tackle the mythological Heimdall! Stoic and strong, the keeper of the Bifrost stands at attention, almost as if he’s carved from stone. There is no doubting the seriousness of his stance and the dedication to his duty.

#72 Lady Deathstrike

The supervillain Lady Deathstrike brings us home this week, and we see only the second female villain of this run so far. A bit of contrapposto with nod to her cybergenetic history in the background make her a dynamic juxtaposition of styles. Honestly, it’s these combinations which make fred.ian’s style so exciting to study. Love the composition, love the colors, love the card. 

Weekly Sketch Cards Inserts

The Unbound of last year required 52 weeks of perseverance and collecting autographed parallels. But this year a single (usually) sketch card is released at random amongst the 1999 packs each week. They are showcased each Saturday with the Base Card for that week.. Here are the four most recent sketch cards for these Weeks 17-20, including that gorgeous double during Week 18:

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This run of sketches was more all over the place, with two characters not matching the weekly and Medusa coming in unannounced in the usual Saturday heads-up email; she appeared on the checklist and this image was pulled directly from ePack, so she’s definitely real!

Ask Fred

As I mentioned in my first article, each piece covering this set will have an interview question for Fred and Ian. Today I asked them:

“These four cards show the dichotomy of characters in this set: from big and strong male characters to effeminate women, both heroes and villains. How do you balance such differences in who you’re painting?

First and foremost, it depends on the characters; obviously, we are not going to do a skinny and languid Heimdall (especially in view of the documentation provided by Upper Deck) and a muscular and aggressive Mary-Jane.

Once again everything revolves around the characters.

We have asked ourselves many questions about how we, among other artists, paint heroines compared to heroes; we are the fruit of our education and our readings, and I grew up with strong and robust Thor or Cyclops and female characters, certainly powerful, but hypersexualized; it is the time that wanted this and the world (in our opinion fortunately) has changed since. We had to become aware of how we were, in spite of ourselves, trained to convey certain stereotypes (cf our pinup paintings of a few years ago).

Since then, we have been fighting against certain interiorised automatisms and trying to evolve as much as possible.We make it a point to restore all their strength to the heroines, but without denying their femininity.  And some of our heroes can be as seductive as they are powerful.

Wrapping Up

Another month down and this set keeps getting better and better. Unbound is very much a snowball. Even though this year may have started a bit slow, more folks get interested the more stellar artwork comes out, and the set and trade culture continue to grow with each passing week. I’m still 100% with my set as of the writing of this article, but I have a feeling it might get a bit tougher by the time we talk again. I’ll see back in another month with more artwork as well as the 2022 Unbound APs, and as always, thanks for reading!

Donny Caltrider (he/him) is a Senior Writer at Hipsters of Coast writing about all things related to the art of Magic: The Gathering and the larger imaginative realism genre. He has an M.A. in Museum Studies from Johns Hopkins University and enjoys telling stories about art, objects, and the intersection of fantasy with real-life. When he’s not writing for Hipsters or working with artists, you can find him traveling with his wife, petting his two cats, and watching the Baltimore Orioles.

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