Thursday, December 3, 2015
Inexplicably Failing To Engage Its Audience: Marvel Dangerous Divas Series 2 Trading Cards Are Still Cool!
The Good: Interesting artwork, Archive Cuts are very cool, Some incredible sketches
The Bad: Preponderance of parallel sets, Printing errors, Machining marks on cards, Some mediocre sketches, Collectible value
The Basics: Rittenhouse Archives made a solid, decent set with its Marvel Dangerous Divas Series 2 trading cards, but the market just did not respond favorably to it.
Nothing reminds collectors just how fickle the marketplace is as when a usually reliable concept fails in the marketplace. In trading cards, sets focused on women are usually money in the bank for dealers, distributors and a solid investment for collectors. It is, therefore, somewhat inconceivable that the Marvel Dangerous Divas Series 2 trading cards did not capture the enthusiasm of the Marvel comics-based trading card fans to even come close to holding its value in the marketplace. For sure, Rittenhouse Archives (the trading card manufacturer) got its sell-out of the product, but I cannot recall a product that tanked and was clearanced so fast and so deeply in the secondary market at Dangerous Divas Series 2.
More than that, the lack of consumer enthusiasm is baffling as Rittenhouse Archives produced a generally solid - and, at the very least, interesting - set with Dangerous Divas Series 2.
By this point, Marvel trading card collectors are used to the virtual impossibility of assembling a true master set and Dangerous Divas Series 2 trading cards are the first set focused on the female characters of the Marvel Universe to have a diamond parallel set where only ten complete sets are possible.
The Dangerous Divas Series 2 trading card set is a conceptual follow-up to the 2011 Dangerous Divas Series 1 trading card set and, like that set, it focuses on the women of the Marvel Comic Book Universe. Unfortunately, between the Rittenhouse Archives Dangerous Divas Series 1 and its first Marvel trading card set, Women Of Marvel, and the Women Of Marvel Series 2 set all of the essential women of Marvel have been a part of a trading card set (except, oddly-enough, Hellcat, who is still absent from Dangerous Divas Series 2!). As a result, Dangerous Divas Series 2 is a character-centered trading card set that is fleshed out with secondary characters from the Marvel Universe, with only a few duplicates from prior women-based sets to appease those who have essential female favorites. The common cards come together to form nine-card murals with larger images of various groups of Marvel women (several of which have Hellcat in them!), but not any writing about the characters. I suppose if one recognizes Skirn: Breaker Of Men, one does not need any information about her. Properly assembled, the set is a collection of 622 (I think) trading cards and the official binder from Rittenhouse Archives. All but one hundred five of the cards are available in boxes of Dangerous Divas Series 2 cards and ninety-one of those cards are exclusive to the archive box from the set. The cards were originally released in boxes that contained twenty-four packs of five cards each. Boxes tended to run in the $75 - $90 range, before the Great Distributor Purge, and guaranteed one common set and one sketch card per box.
Collation in the Dangerous Divas Series 2 set was remarkably good, but the set is oppressive to attempt to collect. In order to get the multicase incentives, one has to buy eighteen cases to get an Archive Box, but to assemble a true master set, it would take 90 CASES of the trading cards with absolutely ideal collation to complete the Diamond Parallel set and thus make a true master set. The Diamond Parallel set weeds out the casual collectors of the Marvel Dangerous Divas Series 2 trading cards, much like the other two Marvel sets from 2014 did.
The common card set consists of 90 trading cards, which are printed on a thinner cardstock than most of Rittenhouse Archives's other cards and it does not have an obvious UV resistant coating. In fact, physically, the cards are more reminiscent of a product from Cryptozoic than Rittenhouse Archives; the common set lacks flair or solid cardstock. This became something of an issue as several of the cards (in each case) had machining marks on them, like scratches along the back, or bent corners coming out of the pack. The common cards did not have the physical presence of the usual Marvel product from Rittenhouse Archives.
The Dangerous Divas Series 2 set features ninety cards featuring many of the women from the Marvel Comic Book Universe, both heroes and villains. The set is broken down; half "Mighty Maidens," half "Mistresses Of Mayhem." With most of the first-tier women of Marvel appearing in Dangerous Divas Series 1 and Women Of Marvel, Rittenhouse Archives had to stretch to make a common set for Dangerous Divas Series 2 that balanced recognizable female characters with characters who had not yet appeared in similar sets. As a result, casual fans will easily recognize and appreciate cards featuring Rogue, Mystique, Typhoid Mary, Black Cat and Elektra, while only the die-hard fans will get psyched for trading cards that feature Proxima Midnight, Mantis, Motormouth, White Rabbit and Hela.
Despite some manufacturing issues (physical concerns), the common cards look good with a single, solid image on the front of each card, framed by either a purple or pink lightly embossed border (based on their heroine or villainess status!) and a component of the puzzle image on the back. The fronts feature the character's name and the classification as either a "Mighty Maiden" or "Mistress Of Mayhem."
The backs of the Dangerous Divas Series 2 cards are devoid of writing, save the collector's number. At least one of the cards in the set feature the collector's number printed twice on the back, which is a pretty minor error, though it is odd that it did not get fixed prior to the set's release. The nine card murals on the backs of the Dangerous Divas Series 2 cards are replicas of popular variant cover and posters featuring the women of Marvel Comics and they are incredibly well-executed in trading card form. Some of the works replicate paintings that are exceptional for their form and color.
Collation on this set was excellent, so the common sets averaged one and a quarter per box, which was good for collectors (I consistently managed to assemble five sets from every four boxes I opened).
Why, then, do I tend to praise the Dangerous Divas Series 2 trading cards? The bonus cards are some of the coolest that Rittenhouse Archives has produced for their Marvel trading cards and most of them look fantastic! There are (at least) 532 chase cards in the Dangerous Divas Series 2 set, with 427 found in the boxes of cards and the remaining one hundred five available outside the boxes and packs. The bonus cards that can be found within the boxes were the emerald and diamond parallel cards, Sultry Seductress, ArtiFex, Art Of Milo Manara, Rhiannon Owens Autographed ArtiFex, Archive Cuts, Marvel 75th Anniversary and sketch cards. Most of the chase cards are limited to only one of the style per box and two of the parallels were found only one each per case (the Diamond Parallels and the Autographed ArtiFex cards), which should have enhanced the value of the boxes and cases.
The most basic bonus card in the set are the 90 emerald parallel cards. Found one per box there is an emerald parallel card (individually numbered to 100) and one per case there is a diamond parallel card (individually numbered to 10). The emerald parallel cards feature the purple and pink framing replaced with a consistent, dull green foil. The emerald parallel cards usually match the artwork inside, though the contrast provided for the diamond ones make some of the artwork truly pop. There are a few pieces of lesser artwork (the Abigail Brand card, for example, looks much more comic book-y - or like a colored comic strip! - than, for example, the Proxima Midnight, artwork which looks more like a painting!) and the emerald parallel versions make some of them actually look better than with the purple or pink, non-foil border. The "diamond" parallel is has a satin white border that is vaguely pearlescent and otherwise replicates the common card. While the one-per-box emerald parallel cards are not oppressive to collect (especially given that more boxes are required to complete the sketch card set and boxes have taken a dive in price recently), the one-per-case Diamond parallel cards are virtually impossible to collect and are predictably pricey.
One per box, though, are chase cards that remind collectors of just how cool foil cards and artwork cards can be. The Dangerous Divas Series 2 trading cards continue the Sultry Seductresses set begun in Dangerous Divas Series 1 and ArtiFEX cards begun in Women Of Marvel Series 2 (another Women Of Marvel set that does not have Hellcat, whom I have just learned is one of the oldest characters in the Marvel Comics pantheon!) and has a nine-card foil set focusing on the Art Of Milo Manara. The Sultry Seductresses cards are foil cards featuring vaguely risque versions of Rogue, Mystique, and Black Widow, alongside lesser known characters like Sin and Caira in non-cannonical presentations. These foil cards were very nice, though several of them I found across the many cases I opened had machining marks across the fronts, which created a noticeable seam in the artwork. The ArtiFEX cards follow Rittenhouse Archives's usual format for ArtiFEX cards, which means that the cards are printed on a canvasboard stock and, in this case, the backs feature notes from artist Rhiannon Owens on why she chose each of the villainesses she depicted. The Art Of Milo Manara subset is a nine-card foil chase set that features reprints of paintings Manara produced of notable Marvel women like Captain Marvel, Scarlet Witch, Wasp, and lesser-known characters like Angela, Medusa, and Valkyrie.
One per case, collectors were able to find an autographed parallel of the ArtiFEX cards. Not printed on the canvas stock (it is not conducive to autographs), the parallel cards feature a smooth representation of the artwork on the front and Rhiannon Owens's signature on the back. I'm not sure why Owens signed the back, as opposed to the front or why these cards have not been exceptionally valued in the secondary market, but they are still a neat addition to the set and die-hard fans of Owens's work, trading cards, and some of the cool villainesses of Marvel will want to hunt these cards down!
The Dangerous Divas Series 2 set is the third and final of three Marvel Comics trading card sets from Rittenhouse Archives released in 2014 to celebrate the 75th Anniversary of Marvel Comics. In the Dangerous Divas Series 2 trading cards, there are twenty-five Marvel 75th Anniversary cards. These cards are reminiscent of the Marvel Comics trading cards from the 1990s with big, full-bleed artwork featuring character "paintings" of major female Marvel Comics characters. Each of these cards is limited to 75 (and individually numbered on the back) and they were found two per case in the Dangerous Divas Series 2 set. They look wonderful and this set features some of the coolest women of Marvel for this subset.
The Dangerous Divas Series 2 trading cards include 62 Archive Cuts trading cards from six different titles focused on heroines. The Archive Cuts trading cards are a cool new concept that are like costume cards for comic book enthusiasts! The Archive Cuts cards are trading cards with embedded panels from comic books in them. Rittenhouse Archives cut up several prime issues of Marvel Comics comic books that focused on Black Widow, Ms. Marvel, Spider-Woman, She-Hulk, Scarlet Witch and Wasp! Each Archive Cuts card is unique and Rittenhouse Archives did an amazing job of finding intriguing issues and images for all of the Archive Cuts cards I pulled. The most limited are MM17 (Ms. Marvel) and SW4 (Scarlet Witch), which had only 21 of each produced.
The grail of comic book based trading cards these days are the sketch cards and the Dangerous Divas Series 2 cards are some of the most consistently wonderful I've yet found (even when the subjects are more obscure than some of the others). At least 114 artists contributed unique, hand-drawn sketch cards for the Dangerous Divas Series 2 trading card set. I write "at least" because I've pulled at least one sketch card positively identified as an artist whose name does not appear on Rittenhouse Archives's website as having contributed to the set. The sketch cards are where one might find Hellcat in multiple forms; she might not have made it into any woman-centered Rittenhouse Archives card release, but the sketch card artists seem to love her! Artists like Rhiannon Owens, John "Jax" Jackman, Amber Shelton, Priscilla Petraites, and Monte Moore contributed and the quality level for these sketches is higher than any prior set I've reviewed. There are always duds, but the Dangerous Divas Series 2 set seems to have fewer artists who were not producing amazing works. I was particularly captivated by the quality of a sketch of Hela I pulled by artist Erwin Ropa. Oddly, though, some of the best - and rarest - sketches I've found from the Dangerous Divas Series 2 set have not been garnering interest from collectors. It seems like, perhaps, collectors have sketch card fatigue and are either collecting only their favorite characters or some from their favorite artists. Very few of the sketches from the Dangerous Divas Series 2 set have maintained value in the secondary market and as distributors dump their excess boxes or cases, it is shocking that the sketch cards from the set are not even garnering prices that make it worthwhile to buy up the clearanced boxes! Still, the quality of the sketches is impressive and bodes well for long-term investors looking for a decent long-term gain.
As with most "modern" trading card releases - certainly the ones from Rittenhouse Archives - not all of the cards needed to make a true master set are available in the boxes of these trading cards. In this set, there are ninety-one cards exclusive to the archive box and an additional fourteen cards that cannot be found in the boxes. The archive boxes possess a ninety-card Ruby parallel set that again recreates the common set, this time with a red foil borders. Each card in this set is numbered to 50, though archive boxes do not contain matching number sets. Also in the archive box is an exclusive Archive Cuts card of Black Widow unique to the archive boxes. Rather oddly, the BW2 is numbered to 74, though the Ruby Parallels would seem to indicate there are only 50 Archive Boxes.
There is the usual promo card which foreshadowed the series release which is common enough to find (P1). There is also a card exclusive to the Dangerous Divas Series 2 trading card binder. Both promotional cards remain fairly well-available in the secondary market. However, there were two exclusive promotional cards which were a bit harder to track down. The P2 was found only in issues of Non-Sport Card Magazine and there was a promotional card distributed by Rittenhouse Archives at the Fall 2014 Philly Non-Sport Show. That P4 is the hardest to find of the promotional cards, though it is attainable now in the secondary market (for those who cannot go back in time to the event at which it was distributed).
The remaining ten cards are the casetoppers, the multicase incentive cards and the Rittenhouse Rewards card. The casetoppers are five different foil-enhanced Embrace cards that continue the popular series of cards that have been seeded throughout several Rittenhouse Archives Marvel trading cards products. Character pairings like Cyclops and X-23 and Mystique and Wolverine finally get their card tributes and these casetoppers are nice, even if they haven't been lighting up the marketplace with their inherent value.
The multicase incentive sketch cards are highly coveted and exceptionally rare and seem to be where the secondary market is assigning any value to this set. Artist Anthony Tan contributed a sketch card that was given to dealers with every 6-case purchase. These sketch cards are even more detailed than the usual ones. The nine-case incentive card was a sketch card from Tim Shay, Tony Perna or Warren Martinek. Completists will want one of each of the cards from the three different artists producing 9-case incentive cards and these art cards were among the most detailed, precise and beautiful works in the set.
The final card for the Dangerous Divas Series 2 set is a Rittenhouse Rewards card. Available only by redeeming wrappers with Rittenhouse Archives, there is a Psylocke Sultry Seductress card. It adds a tenth card to the nine-card set (which is irksome from a collector's perspective as trading card pages are nine-card pages) and continues the format to the Sultry Seductresses set. It is not a terribly exciting card, but the wrapper "cost" is not very high, so it tends to leave collectors generally pleased with it. This is at least the second Rittenhouse Rewards card to feature Psylocke, begging the question of what exactly it takes to get her into a standard chase card set! At least she is not overlooked entirely, like Hellcat.
The Dangerous Divas Series 2 trading card set is wonderful, from the basic chase through the higher-end incentive cards. The long-term prospects for the set remain astonishingly good, even if some of the subjects of the cards are more obscure and the market has not caught up with its inherent coolness.
This is a set of trading cards I proudly sell in my online store! For current stock, please check out my Dangerous Divas Series 2 Inventory and shop there!
For reviews of other Marvel trading cards, please check out my reviews of:
Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season 1 trading cards
2014 Marvel 75th Anniversary trading cards
2014 Marvel Universe trading cards
Spider-Man Archives SD09 Promotional Card
For other trading card reviews, be sure to check out my Trading Card Review Index Page for an organized listing!
© 2015 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
| | |