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

For anyone new to this series, Unbound 2022 is once again an Upper-Deck ePack exclusive, illustrated entirely by French artist and illustrator Fred Roy and his studio assistant Ian. They’ve been working traditionally in oils in the comic industry for nearly a decade, and you can find their sketch cards in various Upper Deck sets as far back as 2017. After the smash success of the initial Unbound set, they’ve reprised their role in trading cards with that unmistakable hyper-realistic style for this new 2022-23 iteration

As a reminder, this year’s set 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.

It’s been two months this time, so today will be a brief double-feature including 8 artworks, 11 sketch cards, and one of those Quarterly Achievement battle scenes. And we still have an Ask fred.ian artist interview question! This is Weeks 25-32 of 2022 Unbound, and cards #77-84.

Unbound Year 2: Cards #77-84, Weekly Sketch Cards, and Quarter 2 Achievement

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

#77 Patriot

The Young Avenger, who has also made an appearance in this year’s Fleer Ultra Avengers, brings the stars, stripes and shield to this year’s set. The forced perspective makes the character feel larger than life, and it certainly seems like he may be poised for a big impact in Marvel Trading Cards.

Captain Marvel by fred.ian, oils on paper, 41cm x 51cm (16” x 20”)

#78 Captain Marvel

Carol Danvers is quietly one of the most powerful heroes in the Marvel Universe, and we find her mid-flight, fists clenched, and ready for action. While I have a soft spot for the long blonder hair version of Captain Marvel, I think her dancing ribbons add something special we also don’t see often, and makes this version a nice juxtaposition of her many versions.

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

#79 Professor X

A classic comic book character, Professor X is seen here how he often is: at home in his wheelchair, hand to head, a prominent X, and his eyeballs superimposed on the background to show the scope of his telepathic power. Sometimes you just need a character as they ought to be, and it’s exactly what we have here.

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

#80 Magneto

And if we’re talking about classics, this is the antithesis, the flipside of the coin. Magneto rises through the card frame, his metal-bending abilities crackling through his fingers, and his signature helm atop his head. It’s the polar opposite to his archenemy X seen above; the the dichotomy is nothing short of palpable. 

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

#81 Psylocke

A surprising omission from the first run, the fan-favorite Psylocke was one of the most popular releases thus far, selling out in mere minutes. I love a good purple palette, and paired with a contrapposto pose, Psylocke brings the heat! It’s true: hips don’t lie

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

#82 Tinkerer

This was Fred and Ian’s favorite (as you’ll read in just a bit). The Tinkerer, an early Spider-Man villain, is shown here contemporized like we’ve not seen him before. I love the stark white negative space for his glasses, and I think this will become a quintessential depiction of this deep-cut character. 

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

#83 Valkyrie

The shieldmaiden of Asgard, Valkyrie joins the seemingly Thor-heavy lineup of Unbound 2022, and she’s not coming alone. This is a big painting, and the full traditional artwork shows the entire Valkyrie Steed (likely Aragorn). While it’s a bummer it didn’t make it on the card, I do understand it’s crop was in order to keep the heroine the focus. The stern and serene superhero locks our gaze instantly. 

Emma Frost by fred.ian, oils on paper, oils on paper, 41cm x 51cm (16” x 20”)

#84 Emma Frost

Known by many names, The White Queen enters Unbound simply as Emma Frost. Her cloak encompasses the icy background, creating almost an optical illusion of the frozen fractals all around. Her far off gaze speaks to her telepathic abilities; we know not where her mind is, but her power is unmistakable. 

Weekly Sketch Cards Inserts

The Unbound of last year required 52 weeks of perseverance and collecting autographed parallels to land a fred.ian sketch. But this year a single (usually) sketch card is released at random amongst the 1999 packs each week. They are showcased each Monday morning with the Base Card for that week.. Here are the most recent sketch cards for these Weeks 25-32

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This latest run had quite a few weeks of double sketches, and characters all over the place, in more cases than not differing from the card artwork that week. I love seeing scarcer characters like Hellcat and Photon (a personal favorite) get featured in this way; ultimately these characters have less published artwork, so each new take is a chance to be written into their individual histories. 

Beta Ray Bill vs. Hela by fred.ian, oils on paper, 29.7cm x 40cm (11.7” x 15.7”)

Quarterly Achievement #2: Beta Ray Bill vs. Hela

At the end of each thirteen weeks, collectors can redeem their sets for a Battle Scenes Quarterly Achievement card.

The second Quarterly Achievement comes from the land of Thor, as Beta Ray Bill and the infamous Hela square off in this epic Asgardian engagement. I love this second version of Hela after her base card, and truly think she is one of the artist’s strongest characters he paints, and that’s across all of Fred and Ian’s work for Marvel. Her hubris is met with Bill’s ferocity in a lightning strike, and this showdown looks to be one for the ages. 

Ask Fred

As I mentioned in my first article, each piece covering this set will have an interview question for Fred and Ian, and we’ll keep with our sketch card subtheme for this query. Today I asked them:

“This set has seen a lot of popular characters alongside a lot of deep cuts. Were there any favorites you were able to paint (Tinkerer?) And what made them resonate with you and Ian?”

When we receive the list of characters to be painted for Marvel Unbound, along with the references, we’re like all fans: excited about the big names, and dubious about the more obscure characters.But for all of them, we have the same process with Ian: we discuss the best way to approach them and best summarize their personalities and powers.

And in the end, the best-known characters aren’t necessarily the most successful, and the most obscure ones sometimes become our favorites, as with the Tinkerer.

For this one in particular, we were able to decide on everything together, a real team effort: the set, the props, the costume, the lighting…  This is not necessarily the case for every character at this level.

Wrapping Up

This Unbound run is very much the “dog days of summer” during the very same dog days of summer. Collectors quietly work on their sets, trade, buy, swap and prepare for the next blockbuster week where the entire game might change. We’ve seen some of the very best sketch cards of the set during this go, and that makes me excited for what might still be to come. 

Looking ahead, I’m still trying to find a slot to talk about the new artwork debuted in Fleer Ultra Avengers, and with Marvel Masterpieces 2023 announced, I’m already preparing to turn this column back over to its namesake set. There is lots of good stuff coming folks, so stay tuned here to Masterpiece Theater for all your Marvel Trading Card art news, 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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