Monday, December 7, 2015

Rittenhouse Archives Finishes 2015 High With Its Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season 2 Trading Cards!

The Good: Excellent image quality, Good writing, Good chase cards, Awesome autograph selection
The Bad: Some collectibility issues
The Basics: Arguably the best trading card series produced by Rittenhouse Archives in years, the Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season 2 trading cards are worth getting excited about!

Every now and then, I find myself pleasantly surprised when it comes to trading card releases. As the year comes to its close and various companies that I do business with squeeze out the last of their product lines, I - and other fans of Marvel trading cards - got an exceptionally pleasant surprise in the form of the Rittenhouse Archives Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season 2 trading cards. Following on the success and format of the Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season 1 trading cards (reviewed here!) that Rittenhouse Archives released earlier in 2015, the trading card company is putting out the Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season 2 trading cards just in time to be an attainable gift for fans for the winter holidays!

The Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season 2 trading cards are a slam-dunk from Rittenhouse Archives that are bound to thrill fans of Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. and trading cards. While the Season 2 cards continue the trend from the first season's cards with lacking the usual Rittenhouse Archives UV protective coating, the Season 2 cards seem to be better manufactured - or, at least, held up in the packing process better than the first season cards. In fact, all that truly brings down the second season cards is the insane difficulty that comes in trying to assemble a master set. For sure, Marvel fans have previously been faced with the idea that they would have to buy 90 CASES to complete a set of Rittenhouse Archives Marvel trading cards, so 21 cases to make a master set might seem reasonable, but such volume truly is beyond most collector's ability to reasonably afford and a problem for most dealers to break to assemble a set.

That said, for those who do assemble a true master set of Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season 2 trading cards, they end up with an incredible trading card set!

Basics/Set Composition

The Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season Two was the second release of Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. trading cards from Rittenhouse Archives and one of their few Marvel Cinematic Universe releases (and of a quality that already has fans clamoring for a Rittenhouse Archives Daredevil and/or Jessica Jones set!). Properly assembled, the set is a collection of 277 trading cards and the official Season Two binder from Rittenhouse. All but seventeen of the cards are available in boxes or cases of Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season Two cards. That would be good collectibility, were it not for the sketch cards found only one in every three cases. 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 and guaranteed one common set, one costume card and one autograph per box.

Collation in the "Season Two" set was remarkably good, outside the sketch cards. In order to get the multicase incentives, one has to buy nine cases (and an Archive Box) and that would (likely) net a master set, less the seven sketch cards.

Common Cards

The common card set consists of 72 trading cards, which are printed on standard cardstock, but do not have a glossy UV resistant coating. Instead, the Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season 2 set is similar in quality to a comic book-themed set from Cryptozoic, though none of the common cards I've found have the physical defects of less-expensive companys' releases. The Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season 2 set features three cards per episode, detailing the plot of each episode, along with two three-card cast murals that detail the contents of the season and have a checklist of most of the cards in the set.

The common cards look great, with awesome color contrast and images, and continue perfectly the Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. cards that were begun earlier this year. The landscape format is held through the entire common set and has a nice border at the bottom that states the episode the card is detailing. This set is a wonderful mix of character and special effects shots. As far as the primary images go, the set looks good with the bulk of the cards focusing more on characters than special effects. This makes the set a good one for fans to get autographed, should Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. ever do conventions. There are two images per card, with the front being dominated by a single image and the back featuring a single window image next to the text.

The backs of the Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season 2 cards are well written, adequately detailing the plot of each episode over the course of the three trading cards. The writing ties in nicely with most of the images, so those reading the cards have a good idea of both who the characters are and what is going on in each episode/on each card.

Collation on this set was excellent, so the common sets averaged one and a third per box, which was good for collectors (I consistently managed to assemble four sets from every three boxes I opened).

Chase Cards

There are 205 chase cards in the "Season Two" set, with 188 found in the boxes of cards and the remaining seventeen available outside the boxes and packs. The bonus cards that can be found within the boxes were the parallel cards, Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. (character) cards, Art Of Evolution cards, Gifted Index cards, Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. Metal Parallel, Sketch Cards, Costume cards and autograph cards. Most of the chase cards are limited to only one of the style per box, which enhances the value of the boxes. The most basic bonus card in the set are the 72 gold parallel cards. The parallel cards are a strange standard in recent releases from Rittenhouse Archives and other card companies. The gold parallel cards are rather unimaginative. The parallel cards are a higher-quality version of the common cards and include a gold foil ribbon on the front of each card's title bar. Instead of doing a full foil card or doing any sort of imaginative parallel set, the gold parallel cards are somewhat boring, though each one is strictly limited to 100 and individually numbered on the back of each card. These may not be the best or most imaginative parallel cards, but they do look good and, if the first season's cards are any indication, should maintain a decent collectible value.

The most simple and impressive bonus card in the Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season 2 set are the nine Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. trading cards. The nine character-focused cards are black, with a satin finish, each in a portrait orientation. The set is neat in that it includes the essential characters from Season 1 and Season 2, like Coulson and Ward and Bobbi Morse and Lance Hunter! These would be incredible for fans to get signed at conventions in gold or silver ink and the backs describe each character as vital components of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. This style of card is the essential way to get a chase card that features Agent Morse.

Found one in each box is one of twelve Art Of Evolution chase cards. These are, arguably, the least inspired bonus cards in the Season 2 set. The cards are comic book covers with varying qualities of artwork that are based upon episodes from the second season of Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.. The Art Of Evolution Cards mimic comic book covers and I was surprised to learn - from the cards - that there is an Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. comic book that appears to tie-in to the television series. So, these cards replicate the comic book cover art, as opposed to simply appearing like comic book covers! Still, given the high quality of artwork cards in other trading card releases, it is hard not to see these cards as comparatively underwhelming.

Taking the place of the Allegiance cards in the Season 2 set are the Gifted Index cards. The eighteen card, portrait-oriented character cards feature big images of each of the characters from Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. that is not quite human. While most of them are Inhumans, the set also includes Sif (who is from Asgard). The set is cool in that each card is written like a file on each super-human character. The writing is informative and, for some of the obscure characters like Wendell Levi, they can jot one's memory for the subject without having to go back to the episode to find them!

The Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. Metal Parallel cards continue the popular trend in the recent Rittenhouse Archives card releases of reproducing one of the coolest sets as metal trading cards. Found one per case are one of ten cards that replicate the nine Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. character cards and foreshadow the tenth (it's Triplett, not The Bus!). The metal parallel cards look absolutely amazing and each one is individually numbered on the back with an individual collector's number out of 70, which further enhances the value of these obscure and awesome cards.

Found one per box are costume cards as well. The costume cards are thicker cards, all landscape oriented, feature an image of the character whose costume piece is embedded in the card and an opening that exposes a piece of fabric from a set worn costume from Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.. The glossy costume cards are predominantly dark and most of the fabric swatches are fairly dark. The most notable exception is the dress May wore in "Face My Enemy." The sequin-made dress is distinctive and looks wonderful in the dark card. The costume cards in the Season 2 set are numbered out of 425, save two which have a rarity of 350 each. The seventeen costume cards are a wonderful continuation of the first season's costume cards (though the numbering restarts, much like the common cards!).

The Season Two set has forty-three autograph cards available in the packs, split between the full-bleed and bordered styles that were established in the Season 1 set. Unlike the first season set, there are no truly disappointing signers in the Season 2 set. While Adam Kulbersh's Kenneth Turgeon isn't the most exciting character, he was in multiple episodes and had lines and a part (unlike at least two of the Season 1 signers!). Even Ric Sarabia managed to spice up his comparatively common bordered autograph cards by writing unique phrases on most of them! The Season 2 set is distinctive in that the entire main cast of Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. signed a bordered-style autograph card for the set and Chloe Bennet and Ian De Caestecker added their full-bleed cards to the collection! New characters played by Henry Simmons and Nick Blood are in the Season 2 set, as well as the addition of Season 1 & 2's B.J. Britt as Triplett. The Season 2 set features an autograph card from recurring guest stars Kyle MacLachlan, Ruth Negga (all porcupined out for her new full-bleed autograph!), Dichen Lachman, Hayley Atwell, and Luke Mitchell. Fans are likely to be most covetous of the Jaimie Alexander as Sif bordered autograph card, which is so rare that Rittenhouse Archives had to add an entirely new classification to its standard autograph rarity key! The "Scarce" autograph is one of Rittenhouse Archives rarest pack-inserted autographs ever and it is worth hunting down!

One in every three cases is one of seven hand-drawn sketch cards. The sketch cards in the Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season 2 set are produced by an interesting mix of Rittenhouse Archives's most reliable sketch card artists, like Warren Martinek and Steven Miller and some of their new favorites, like Veronica Smith. The sketch cards seem to be focused on tech and vehicles from the second season, as opposed to characters, but most of them look good. They sketch cards are color sketch cards and fit the high quality standards consumers expect for sketch cards of such rarity, even if some of the subjects are a bit obscure.

Non-Box/Pack Cards

As with most contemporary trading card releases 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 seventeen cards that cannot be found in the 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 "Season Two" trading card binder, the binder promotional card (P3), which is the most common of three portrait-oriented cards that feature character pairs of Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. The two harder-to-find promotional cards are P2, which was an exclusive to the magazine Non-Sport Update and the P4 card, which was distributed at the Philly non sport card show.

The Archive Box for the Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. season two cards contain a whopping nine autograph cards unique to the archive box! The entire six original castmembers of Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D., along with Ruth Negga and Hayley Atwell contributed silver series style autograph cards for the Archive Box and there is also an incredible full-bleed autograph card from the genre favorite Kyle MacLachlan in the Archive Box. The nine exclusive autographs are impressive and have wonderful inherent value that virtually guarantees they will maintain their value and enhance any Season 2 collection.

The remaining four cards are the casetopper, the multicase incentive cards and the Rittenhouse Rewards card. The casetopper is an entirely unimaginative embossed card that replicates the S.H.I.E.L.D. logo found on Gonzales's carrier. The alternate S.H.I.E.L.D. logo is hardly compelling or interesting and it makes for a casetopper that feels much less cool than the rest of the set.

The multicase incentive autographs are predictably awesome. There is a silver series autograph card from Kyle MacLachlan (6-case incentive autograph) and a 9-case incentive silver series Jaimie Alexander autograph card. These are very cool and collectible. While the set might seem to be flooded with autographs from Kyle MacLachlan, it is hard to believe one could have too many, especially given the variety of cards, and given the scarcity of the Jaimie Alexander bordered autograph card, it is somewhat astonishing to think that the silver series incentive autograph might be less rare than the autograph found in packs!

The final card for the Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season 2 set is a Rittenhouse Rewards card. Available only by redeeming wrappers with Rittenhouse Archives, there is an AS10 card which extends the Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. character card set from nine to ten cards. Given that most sets of cards try to be nine-card sets because that is how card pages are manufactured, extending the set to a tenth card is weird. However, given the fate Agent Triplett suffered in Season 2, it makes sense that his card would not be part of the standard 9-card set. The Rewards card is a nice tribute to the fallen character, even if it does make the set a little unbalanced.


Some fans are going to kvetch that Rittenhouse Archives did not manage to get autograph cards from Lucy Lawless, Edward James Olmos, Reed Diamond or Adrianne Palicki (though, honestly, Palicki is absolutely essential to helping to sell a Season Three set!), but such collectors are seldom happy. I try to focus on how impressive it is that Rittenhouse Archives got so many autograph cards from Kyle MacLachlan and landed autographs from the entire rest of the main cast and every other major villain's actor from the second season of Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.. Were it not for the insane rarity of trying to collect the sketch cards from the seven different artists who contributed to the set, the Season Two set would probably be a perfect set, thus proving that the subject of the trading cards need not be flawless to create an amazing trading card set!

This set culls images from Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season Two, reviewed here!

For reviews of other Marvel trading cards, please check out my reviews of:
Dangerous Divas Series 2 trading cards
2014 Marvel 75th Anniversary trading cards
2014 Marvel Universe trading cards
Spider-Man Archives SD09 Promotional Card

This is a set of trading cards I sell in my online store! Check out my current inventory at: Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season 2 Inventory Page!


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.
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