The Good: Decent subject matter, Some very cool sketch cards
The Bad: Exceptionally expensive to collect, Overproduced, Damaged cards, Some esoteric choices in the bonus set, Some ridiculously simplistic sketch cards.
The Basics: Cryptozoic’s The New 52s card set makes for a big start to Cryptozoic’s possession of the DC Comics license, but their execution of the material is not ideal.
I was not actively collecting or dealing trading cards when Cryptozoic rose to prominence. While I was, essentially, “out of the game,” the trading card company Inkworks completely collapsed and Cryptozoic rushed in to fill the niche they left. Cryptozoic’s meteoric rise in the trading card industry allowed the company to secure some potentially lucrative licenses. The most personally significant to me (given my card collecting habits, past and future) is that Cryptozoic won the license to DC Comics. While I have recently reviewed the Women Of Legend set (reviewed here!), I finally managed to get my hands on a reasonably priced case of their first DC Comics-based release, The New 52.
Unfortunately, Cryptozoic’s first DC Comics-based trading card set is fraught with problems. The common cards had a production error that left an average of one card per pack damaged and the sketch cards were so numerous that it is virtually impossible to assemble a true master set of these cards! That said, some of the cards are actually very neat and the set illustrates a decent potential for Cryptozoic.
Basics/ Set Composition
The DC Comics The New 52 trading cards were originally released in boxes with twenty-four packs, packs containing five cards each. Properly assembled, the New 52 consists of 296 cards! Featuring cards that balance classic, recognizable characters in their New 52 Universe form and new characters and superhero teams unique to The New 52, the New 52 card set is already a good historical cart collection (several of the cards feature titles that have already been cancelled!). Properly assembled, the set features sixty-two common cards and 234 bonus cards (all but ten are available in the boxes of New 52 cards).
The New 52 is a 62 card set that features both characters and teams of characters in the New 52. As a result, cards that feature Superman, Aquaman, Wonder Woman and Catwoman are mixed in with cards that detail the characters of Justice League Dark, Stormwatch, Grifter, and Mirror. The sixty-two card set is made up of a title card introducing the New 52, sixty character cards and a checklist card.
The common cards are generally good, though not all of it is unique to the set. The Flash, for example, is just a copy of the cover of Move Along (reviewed here!). The artwork ranges from cards that look like comic book art (like the cards for Wonder Woman and Batman) and almost photo-realistic fine art cards, like the cards for Harley Quinn and Swamp Thing. The contrast in the cards’ quality borders on the ridiculous (the card for White Rabbit, for example, might have been quasi-pornographic if the artwork was not so cartoonish!).
Unfortunately, the arts quality is not the only issue. Cards in this set seemed to have been packed into their packs damaged. Usually the top card in each pack had a scratch or pressure mark, as if it were pressed and a seam down the front center was created as they went into the packs. That makes the average pack unfortunately overpriced as they have only 4 cards that are in collectible condition.
The writing for the New 52 set is good-enough. Fans of the DC Universe will not learn anything new or extraordinary by reading the backs of the cards, though they are clearly intended for fans of the New 52 (Wonder Woman, for example, is mentioned to be the daughter of Hippolyta and Zeus). The card backs are interesting for telling more casual fans about the obscure heroes like Grifter, Massacre and Starling.
The New 52 set features an insanely greater number of bonus cards than common cards, though it is not uncommon these days for common sets to have vastly fewer cards than bonus cards. The New 52 set features 234 chase cards which range from simple foil parallel cards to exceedingly rare sketch cards (each of which are entirely unique). In the packs, collectors can find 224 of the 234 bonus cards. The chase card breakdown is thus: 62 foil parallel cards, 9 Lantern Die-Cut cards, 9 Work In Progress lenticular cards, 143 sketch and 1 Redemption cards. The most basic chase card set found in the packs are the foil parallel cards. The parallel cards replicate the common cards, but with mirrored accents. Some of the cards are extraordinary for how the foil enhances the image of the character the card portrays. The backs of the foil parallel cards are identical to the common cards, so when going through the packs, one has to look at the front of each card. It takes about a case to assemble a complete set of 62 foil parallel cards.
Found two cards per box are the Lantern Die-Cut and Work In Progress lenticular cards, each of which is part of a nine-card bonus card set. The artwork for both sets is unique to that chase set and the choices for both sets are somewhat esoteric. The Lantern cards focus on the Green Lantern corner of the DC Universe (an irony because the Green Lantern storyline actually continued unbroken from the original to New 52 universes!). The cards are die cut to be the general shape of a Lantern Battery (so they have curved sides) and they are very cool foil cards. However, the choices for the Lanterns are odd. John Stewart, Hal Jordan and Kilowog each get a card, so the set is weighted toward the Green Lanterns. There are no cards for Guy Gardner or Kyle Rayner. This set’s weirdness is accented by the fact that the other major Corps’ are represented – Sinestro, Larfleeze, Atrocitus, Saint Walker, and Star Sapphire each get a card. There is not a card for Indigo-1, but there is one for Black Hand and the Black Lantern Corps, which is a strange creative decision.
The Work In Progress Lenticular cards feature sketches of some of the most popular DC Comics characters in their uncolored form. Then, when one moves the card, they get shaded in until they are completely recognizable. This is an interesting set, though the cards are not exceptional and they do not appear to be in any meaningful order.
In the entire run of the New 52 cards, there were six Redemption cards for oversized artwork. While there were other redemption cards for sketch cards, the artists whose works were featured in redemption cards seemed to also have done standard-sized sketch cards within the packs.
The New 52 set is fleshed out with one hundred forty-three (!) sketch cards of characters and teams from the New 52 DC Universe. The sketch cards are produced by 143 different artists and each one is absolutely unique, so assembling a master set requires one to track down one from each of the one hundred forty-three artists Cryptozoic hired for the project. The quality of the sketch cards varies greatly between fine-art quality colored sketches and cartoonish, animated versions of the significant DC Comics heroes and villains.
No matter how many packs or boxes of New 52 cards one opens, there are ten cards collectors will never find there. There was a promotional card for the New 52 set released at the San Diego Comic Con in 2012. The other cards that cannot be found in any of the boxes or packs are the binder exclusive promo cards. Those cards are only found in the binders of the New 52s cards. Given that most of the cards that cannot be found in boxes can be found in a single binder makes The New 52 one of the few sets of cards I’ve found in recent years that are actually easy to assemble with only boxes.
Outside the damage and the daunting idea of having to open 143 boxes (that’s a dozen cases!) of cards just to complete a true master set makes it hard to genuinely endorse the New 52 set. Cryptozoic proves with the New 52 that they can be ambitious, but unfortunately that ambition makes for a set that is not at all collector-friendly to collect.
This is a set of trading cards I sell in my online store! Please check out my current inventory of these cards at The New 52 Inventory Page!
For other artwork-based trading card sets reviewed by me, please check out:
SkyBox Star Trek Master Series
SkyBox Star Trek 1994 Master Series
Rittenhouse Archives Star Trek The Original Series Portfolio Prints
For other trading card reviews, please visit my Trading Card Review Index Page for an organized listing!
© 2014 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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