Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Making Parallels Cool Again: Cryptozoic DC Comics Epic Battles Cards Rock!

The Good: Very cool concept, Some genuinely nice artwork, Some wonderful/creative bonus cards, Good chase cards, Inventive parallel cards
The Bad: Redemption cards, Parallels are still parallels . . .
The Basics: Cryptozoic’s Epic Battles card set is limited, well-executed and awesome; taking conceptual risks that pay off!

When it comes to trading cards, I have pretty much had my fill of parallel cards. For those not "in the know" with modern trading cards, many of the major trading card releases have the common set of trading cards replicated as bonus cards. Those replications range from foil lettering accents to different color foil backgrounds and/or borders to different renditions of the card (like making a regular or foil chase card into a sticker). I was pretty tired of parallel cards before I picked up a case of Cryptozoic's Epic Battles trading cards.

With the one set, which - ironically - is not too different from any number of comic book-themed trading cards that had parallel cards I was bored with, Cryptozoic managed to reinvigorate my love of trading cards and understand the appeal of the parallel cards from a collector's point of view! The Epic Battles set is an impressive set that takes a few creative risks . . . and they pay off for the most part!

Basics/ Set Composition

The DC Comics Epic Battles trading cards were originally released in boxes with twenty packs, packs containing five cards each. Properly assembled, Epic Battles consists of 428 (429 for true completionists) cards! Featuring cards that span the last thirty years of DC Comics, the Epic Battles set introduced Cryptozoic's new foil-style card, which they are calling Cryptomium. Properly assembled, the set features sixty-three common cards and 366 bonus cards (all but three are available in the boxes of Epic Battles cards). Outside the Redemption card (and three non-box cards), one supposes it would be possible to create a master set with eighty-one boxes (if everything broke absolutely perfectly).

Common Cards

Epic Battles is a 63 card set that features seven of the biggest crossover events in the DC Universe. From Crisis On Infinite Earths to Trinity War, the common set is made up of seven nine-card murals that Cryptozoic intended to encapsulate the biggest themes or battles of the crossover event it depicts. The common card set is created on thick, foil cards with a surprisingly smooth glossy coating. These cards are more silver foil than any of the parallel counterparts and they look gorgeous!

The common cards are all oriented in a landscape orientation, so each of the nine-card murals comes out looking fine and oriented the same way. The artwork is surprisingly variable. Each event has consistent artwork (each nine-card panel was done by a single artist), but the artwork for the different events is drastically different. For Blackest Night the artwork looks more distorted and horrific; Panic In The Sky is basically an oil painting broken into nine pieces. The inconsistency is somewhat irksome; Bloodlines looks like a comic strip, while Flashpoint is presented in a marginally more sophisticated way.

The writing for Epic Battles set is good-enough. Fans of the DC Universe will not learn anything new by reading the backs of the cards. The cards still attempt to remain focused on the important characters of the DC Universe, so the backs list the two or three characters that the front contains.

Chase Cards

Epic Battles set features more bonus cards than common cards, which is not at all uncommon for contemporary trading card sets. Epic Battles set features 366 chase cards which range from folding, foil, and collage cards to various foil parallel cards to significantly rare sketch cards (each of which are entirely unique). In the packs, collectors can find 363 of the 366 bonus cards. The chase card breakdown is thus: 8 Bombshell fold-out cards, 9 Bam! cards, 9 Make Believe cards, 162 foil parallel cards, 81 metal parallel cards, 3 Totally Fabricated, 81 sketch and 1 Redemption cards.

The most basic chase card set found in the packs are the Bombshell, BAM! and Make Believe cards. The three most common chase sets are found two cards per box. The Bombshell cards form an eight-card set, while the BAM! and Make Believe cards are nine-card sets each. The artwork for the BAM! and Make Believe sets are unique to the Epic Battles set, while the Bombshell cards look virtually identical to the images DC Comics has been using to promote their new Bombshells statues. The Bombshell set is neat, with each of the eight cards folding out to reveal the full pin-up girl image of various DC Comics women reimagined as pin-ups. This set is odd in that it contains only eight cards . . . and Catwoman is not one of them (of all the DC Universe women outside Black Canary, none seems like they would lend themselves to being reimagined as a classic pin-up as Catwoman, so her absence is noticeable!). The other two chase sets seem like they are designed to appeal to a youthful sensibility (which is odd for a conflict-themed set of cards). The BAM! cards feature artwork that is simplified and cartoonish, like a Chibi or Anime version of the some of the most popular DC Comics heroes (Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, The Flash . . . but not Green Lantern) and villains (all from Batman - The Joker, Bane, and Harley Quinn). The BAM! cards are reminiscent of the Katie Cook cards from Cryptozoic's Women Of Legend trading card set. The Make Believe set is an odd concept set that has the DC Comics characters reimagined as children playing on a playground. The artwork is fine and the character choices are generally good (albeit hilarious in that even the set's artist couldn't come up with a recognizable villain to play opposite Hawkman!), but it is very much a concept set that one has to really buy into to love the bonus set.

The first parallel set is a reimagining of the BAM! cards. The BAM! cards are replicated as sticker cards, one per box. The foil and perspective-based backgrounds are replaced with bright colors and the characters can be removed from the backing as stickers! This is a perfect example of form fitting style and the sticker cards are pretty cool!

The common cards, BAM!, and Make Believe sets are then replicated as parallel cards for three distinct sets. There are copper foil replications of each of the cards (found one every five packs), gold parallels that are limited to 75 and metal parallels that are found only one per box. The metal parallels are actually printed on metal plates and Cryptozoic smartly put them in soft plastic toploaders inside each of the packs! The copper parallel cards are neat because they have increased contrast over the common cards. The gold cards are individually stamped on the back with unique collector's numbers. The metal cards are just plain cool!

The Totally Fabricated cards are a “hit or miss” concept card for fans of the DC Universe hero. Costume cards are immensely popular trading cards these days and as the subjects of Epic Battles set are comic book characters, there would seem to be no costume cards that could be produced for the set. Cryptozoic did not let that stop them. Instead, they produced the “Totally Fabricated” bonus cards and Epic Battles set has three such cards in the boxes and packs. Found one in every six boxes, Epic Battles set features admittedly fake fabric swatches (not really) from the costumes of The Flash, Green Lantern, and Harley Quinn. I think the Totally Fabricated cards are a neat idea and they are executed incredibly well. Cryptozoic, to its credit, did not overproduce the Totally Fabricated cards and they continued the form and numbering from the same subset from the Women Of Legend set.

In addition to the Totally Fabricated cards, there is an exceptionally rare redemption card for a pieces of original artwork from the comic books that were subjects of the Epic Battles set. With only 12 redemption cards in the entire set, this is a virtually impossible card to find and redeeming them for the artwork is very much geared toward comic book fans as opposed to trading card collectors.

The Epic Battles set is fleshed out with eighty-one sketch cards of significant battles, heroes and villains from the DC Universe. The sketch cards are produced by eighty-one different artists and each one is absolutely unique, so assembling a master set requires one to track down one from each of the eighty-one artists Cryptozoic hired for the project. The quality of the sketch cards is more consistently high than with many of the other Cryptozoic sets. Some, like the two-card panel sketch card sets by Chris Meeks, really raise the bar for sketch cards. Out of a case of twelve, I pulled only one real dud (another that I was not fond of, but it is more the artist's style that I'm not a fan of - he executed that style quite well!), with the other ten being absolutely awesome.

Non-Box/Pack Cards

No matter how many packs or boxes of Epic Battles cards one opens, there are three cards collectors will never find there. Non-Sports Update Magazine released a promotional card for Epic Battles set. At the Philly Non-Sport card show, Cryptozoic presented a replica of the first promo card on their Cryptomium cardstock. The other card that cannot be found in any of the boxes or packs is the foil card from the binder. That card is only found in the binders of Epic Battles cards. Having only three cards that cannot be found in the cases is actually not bad at all.


It really takes something for me to highly praise a set with so many parallel cards, but Epic Battles makes them look cool and feel different from the common set. The flip side is that it takes quite a bit for one of the key points to turn into a detraction for me. Blackest Night got me into reading graphic novels and the nine-card Blackest Night collage is one of the lesser portions of this set! But for those who love the big crossover events, Epic Battles is a great set. The lack of crossovers like Infinite Crisis, Brightest Day or Injustice virtually promises an Epic Battles 2 set and given the success and collectibility of Epic Battles that would be a pretty amazing set, too!

This is a set of trading cards I sell in my online store! Please check out my current inventory of these cards at Epic Battles Inventory Page!

This set includes source material from:
Crisis On Infinite Earths
Blackest Night

For other artwork-based trading card sets reviewed by me, please check out:
DC Women Of Legends
The New 52
Rittenhouse Archives Star Trek The Original Series Portfolio Prints


For other card reviews, please visit my Card Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2015 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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