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

For anyone new to this series, Unbound 2022 is once again an Upper-Deck ePack exclusive trading cards set, 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 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.

We’ve hit the homestretch, and this is everything that’s left: a dozen base cards, a baker’s dozen (plus one) of the sketch cards, and that final Quarterly achievement. This is Weeks 43-52 of 2022 Unbound, and cards #93-104.

Unbound Year 2: Cards #93-104, Weekly Sketch Cards, and Quarter 4 Achievement

#93 Wilson Fisk

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

Wilson Fisk, The Kingpin himself, sits high above the city in his easy chair. We get a tiny glimpse of a red New York in the background, but the sheer size and slightly forced perspective makes this character feel larger than life as he fills the entire frame.

#94 Star-Lord

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

Presented in his true-to-the-comics costume, Starlord stands at the ready, with his Guardian of the Galaxy symbol ever-present, even emblazoned into the background. It’s a classic portrait of a fan favorite, with a bit of cosmic space to go right along.

#95 Ghost Rider

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

Coming in HOT! I’ve written about the way the artists depict fire many times in the past, but this is the fever pitch: you can feel the heat coming off this card. From the way the flame engulfs the wheels in motion to the heat haze of the front headlight, this is indeed one of the strongest works in the entire set.

#96 Stature

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

Cassie Lang, aka Stature, makes her second appearance this year after a showcase in Fleer Ultra Avengers, and again is shown striding through the city in her gigantic form. Again a masterclass in forced perspective, we’re right under her foot as if we’ll be squished like an ant!

#97 Silver Samurai

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

This painting is extra intense; just look at those eyes! A man of metal on a steel-cold background, the bit of contrasting color from the flattened fire all lend to making this one good looking trading card.

#98 Daredevil

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

Seen in front of the archetypal cathedral, we lock eyes with Daredevil right at the moment of his landing, perched somewhere between the ceiling and the ground. The artist described this work simply, and perfectly: “The red sentry emerges from the blue night.”

#99 Snowbird

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

Layered amongst the animals of her Inuit origins, Snowbird, painted at the larger of the two sizes the artist works in, is a sight to behold! In all her blizzarding glory, the superimposition of these symbols alongside her contemporary costume make this a new high note in the character’s card history.

#100 Shang-Chi

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

Springing into the frame, Shang-Chi, the Master of Kung Fu, reenters the trading card scene by way of Unbound 2022, and we catch the character midair in a move! I’m not overly familiar with their backstory, but am looking forward to seeing them more regularly included after their MCU debut.

#101 Nightmare

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

Back to the background, Nightmare is one with what we see at his back, the grasping hands of those whose minds he’s infiltrated, and the horrors he’s bestowed upon them. Green from head to toe, this artwork is hauntingly beautiful, and ought to look especially sharp in the Rainbow foil treatment.

#102 Prowler

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

Made especially famous in Sony’s Spider-Man: Into the Spiderverse, Prowler approaches with intensity and purpose as he climbs over the railing after scaling a building. He’s ‘declawed’ for this image, regardless we still have a complete story at card size.

.#103 Red Guardian

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

If I’ve said it once I’ve said it a dozen times: do not sleep on fred.ian’s backgrounds, because sometimes, like these stripes for Red Guardian, they add an entirely new level of dynamism to the figure. For me this is the new ‘go-to’ trading card image for the character, and we’re seeing these sort of level-ups unfold right before our eyes.

#104 Sabretooth

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

The final card of this week is none other than Wolverine’s nemesis, Sabretooth. We end with a quintessential work by the artist: muscular figure, blurred background, and that extra special something (the snow capped landscape) that makes it unique.

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 43-52

Week 41 Elektra (5” x 7”), Week 42 Adam Warlock, Week 43 Scarlet Witch (5” x 7”), Week 44 Nico Minoru & Hulkling, Week 45 X-23, Week 46 Daredevil (5” x 7”). Week 47 Snowbird, Week 48 Elektra, Week 49 Nightmare & Dr. Strange (5” x 7”), Week 50 Silk, Black Widow (5” x 7”) Week 52 Sabretooth

An abundance of large size sketches dotted this last quarter, with some real stunners amongst those included. Overall I really enjoyed the chance at being able to pull one of these versus last year’s very challenging (and expensive) achievement slog; here’s hoping if Unbound is to return, they keep this the way it is.

Quarterly Achievement #4: Miles Morales vs. Prowler

Miles Morales vs. Prowler by fred.ian, oils on paper, 29.7cm x 40cm (11.7” x 15.7”)

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

We end our achievement battles with a scene that could be out the aforementioned Into The Spiderverse, as Miles Morales goes toe-to-toe with the Prowler high above the city streets. This is a symphony of color: black and red opposite green and purple set against a field of blue and white. It’s the entire spectrum condensed into a single image

Ask Fred

As I mentioned in my first article, each piece covering this set will have an interview question for Fred and Ian, and today we bring it all home; I asked them the following:

After 104 weeks of characters, all the battles and achievements and sketch cards, how does it feel to look back on this body of work? How has it changed you both as artists? And what might it mean for the future?

Marvel Unbound was a long journey, with a lot of personal investment, time and energy devoted to this marathon, from which we emerged exhausted.

Looking back, we’re above all grateful to Upper Deck for inviting us on this big project, when we still had everything to prove at the time. We did everything we could to earn their trust and not disappoint anyone, Upper Deck or the fans. 

First of all, we had to speed up the pace of work to meet the deadlines; we used to paint about one painting every 3 or 4 weeks before Marvel Unbound, and we had to paint 5 or 6 during the same period. Trying to do things much faster and just as well was not easy. 

Of course, with hindsight, there are many things we would have done differently, decisions we made that we regret; but the rhythm wanted it that way. What remains at the end of the day is that we tried to give our best (and from time to time, we managed to do some very fine things that we’re pretty proud of).

It’s also true that this intensive work has pushed us to surpass ourselves, and we can see the progress we’ve made since the start of this adventure.

As portraitists at heart, we were immediately aware of the two-dimensional and somewhat frozen nature of our work.

Some of the criticisms we received were perfectly justified.

Others were more questionable, notably the recurrent and somewhat irritated ones from a « fellow » artist.

So, without denying what we are and what we like, we tried to breathe more energy and movement into our paintings, while keeping our faces worked and personalized.

All in all, while there’s still room for improvement, we’re pretty proud of ourselves, and so pleased with the reception we’ve had from most of our fans, who’ve been exceptionally supportive. Plus we met some wonderful people, even if it was only virtual.

It was a great adventure together, and time will tell whether we manage to make it all happen, or fall back into the limbo of oblivion.

Whatever happens, we’ll have known this, and it was so wonderful!

Thank you, Donny, and thanks to our fans.

Fred & Ian

Wrapping Up

That’s all folks, another year’s worth of Unbound in the books. To those that hit big, or finished your sets, a hearty congratulations. It’s been a marathon, but even through all the challenges, this is a set I thoroughly enjoy collecting. I’m thankful I was in a position to purchase my two packs a week, and I myself was able to complete a full run of Base, Rainbow Foil, and Canvas Variants from a year’s worth of trading. I only hit a single Gold Signature out of 104 packs, but I’d do it all the same again. And you can bet if there is an Unbound 3, 4 or 5, I’ll be right there in the thick of it supporting great artwork.

For reasons beyond my control, this will be the last Masterpiece Theater article on Hipsters of the Coast for the foreseeable future. I appreciate all of you that have enjoyed my Marvel card collecting journey, and the amazing artwork that has been a part of it along the way. Hopefully somewhere down the road we’ll have a chance to talk about more original art, from Fleer Ultra Avengers, Marvel Masterpieces 2022, and the upcoming Marvel Platinum set. But until that time, stay well, be kind to each other, and thanks, as always, for reading.

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