Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Batman: The Legend - Good Tribute, Mediocre Collectibility!

The Good: Interesting concept, Some genuinely nice artwork, Some of the sketches
The Bad: Overproduced, Many dull chase cards, Some ridiculously simplistic sketch cards, Virtual impossible collectibility
The Basics: Cryptozoic’s Batman: The Legend card set is a good idea for fans of the vigilante super hero, but only four of them will actually be able to complete the otherwise overproduced set.

When it comes to trading cards, there is an interesting balance between content and collectibility that makes one consider the product from the perspective of a fan of the source material and a collector of the trading cards. Unfortunately, sometimes a set does decent work to represent the source material, but it is utterly uncollectible. Sadly, the Batman: The Legend trading cards from Cryptozoic are a great example of a wonderful common set with chase cards that are generally unremarkable and virtually impossible collectibility issues.

Basics/ Set Composition

The Batman: The Legend trading cards were originally released in boxes with twenty-four packs, packs containing five cards each. Properly assembled, Batman: The Legend consists of 377 cards (or 563, if one were to collect the truest master set)! Featuring cards that span the full history of the Batman comic book, though it is more biased toward the last twenty years of the book, Batman: The Legend card set takes a long view of the Batman legacy. Properly assembled, the set features sixty-three common cards and 314 (or 500) bonus cards (all but four are available in the boxes of Batman: The Legend cards).

Common Cards

Batman: The Legend is a 63 card set that features both the heroes and villains of Batman comics. The common set cleverly includes both the mundane versions of the most significant characters (i.e. Bruce Wayne, Selina Kyle) and the heroic versions of them (Batman, Catwoman). The sixty-two cards are focused on the essential characters of Batman and complete the set with one checklist card.

The common cards are one of the strongest aspects of the Batman: The Legacy set. The artwork is pretty wonderful, with images varying from some of the highest quality comic book art to cards that feature artwork like oil paintings. The images of iconic characters like The Joker, Riddler, Penguin and newer characters like Spoiler and The Court Of Owls are universally well-rendered. The Batman: The Legend set is all oriented in the portrait form for all 63 cards.

The writing for Batman: The Legend set is quite good. 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, with newer stories being included by things like the Court Of Owls. Fortunately, the set is not so myopic and it includes elements of classics like Knightfall with Azrael as Batman and Hush. The card backs are interesting for telling more casual fans about the obscure heroes and the villains they might not be familiar with, but they do not feature any incredible spoilers for recent stories or information that is not particularly revealing.

Chase Cards

Batman: The Legend set features more bonus cards than common cards, which is not at all uncommon for contemporary trading card sets. Batman: The Legend set features 314 chase cards (or 500 if one is a real stickler for such things!) which range from simple foil parallel cards to significantly rare sketch cards (each of which are entirely unique) and printing plate cards that are truly unique. In the packs, collectors can find 310 of the 314 bonus cards. The chase card breakdown is thus: 63 foil parallel cards, 9 Carnival Of Criminals, 9 Batmobile, 9 Batcave cards, 145 sketch, 3 Redemption cards and 62 (or, if one chooses to look at it that way, 248) printing plates. 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. However, given how dark some of the cards are, the foil accents are mundane on some of the cards. 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 two cases to assemble a complete set of 63 foil parallel cards.

Found two cards per box are the Carnival Of Criminals, Batmobile and Batcave Mural 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 Carnival Of Criminals posters are the best of the three chase sets. The Carnival Of Criminal poster cards replicate some of the most popular Batman villains, like The Joker, Poison Ivy, and Man-Bat as if they were advertising those characters as carnival attractions. These are creative cards that perfectly fit the feel of Batman. The Batmobile cards are nine cards that each feature an image of the Batmobile (some with Batman) and they have a very animated look to them. They are also the only landscape-oriented card set in the Batman The Legend set. The Batcave cards form a nine-card mural featuring the Batcave, complete with bats and the Batcomputer. While fairly essential to Batman, the Batcave makes for a pretty unimpressive trading card mural set.

To assemble a true master set, collectors usually want one of each card. While sketch cards are absolutely unique, the concept that most collectors go with is needing one from each artist to complete a set. Unfortunately, with Batman: The Legend set, there are 248 Printing Plate cards. Unlike sets like Rittenhouse Archives's progressive printers proof sets from things like their Women Of Star Trek: Voyager set (reviewed here!) where the card manufacturer used the proof cards that insured the printing process worked and made them available to collectors, Cryptozoic broke up the actual printing plates - Black, Blue, Magenta and Yellow - and inserted them in packs (one per case). No one collector can ever assemble a complete, true master set of Batman: The Legend cards with the printing plate cards, so it might be germane to consider that one printing plate from each card (regardless of its color variant) might be used to make as complete a set as possible. It is hard to love the collectibility of a set where only four people can ever assemble a true master set by those standards!

In addition to the printing plates cards, there are three exceptionally rare redemption cards for three different oversized sketch cards. After three years, only twelves of the existing forty-nine redemption cards remain to be redeemed. Many DC Comics trading card fans, like Star Trek card collectors, consider the redemption card a legitimate part of the set.

Batman: The Legend set is fleshed out with one hundred forty-five sketch cards of characters from Batman comic books. The sketch cards are produced by one hundred forty-five different artists and each one is absolutely unique, so assembling a master set requires one to track down one from each of the 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. While some of the art is incredible, like one might expect from Melike Acar, other sketch cards look cheap and simplistic.

Non-Box/Pack Cards

No matter how many packs or boxes of Batman: The Legend cards one opens, there are four cards collectors will never find there. Non-Sports Update Magazine released a promotional card for Batman: The Legend set. Similarly, the actual oversized sketch cards from the three different artists are only available by redeeming one of the redemption cards. Having only four cards that cannot be found in the cases is actually not bad at all.


I have long decried the use of redemption cards and the fact that the Batman: The Legend set features three ultra rare ones is absolutely terrible. The set did not hold much value outside the oversized sketch cards, which were predictably magnificent. Sadly, given the common sets can be found inexpensively and many of the pack-inserted sketch cards are pretty lousy, there is very little to get excited about when considering buying boxes of Batman: The Legend set.

For other DC Comics-based trading card sets reviewed by me, please check out:
Justice League
Epic Battles
The Women Of Legend
The New 52


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

© 2016 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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