Pokémon Art Appreciation, Day 12: Moltres & Zapdos & Articuno SM210

This post is part of a series for WeblogPoMo 2024. Each day in May, I’m sharing my appreciation for my favorite Pokémon card art. View all of the posts in this series.

Today’s card is Moltres & Zapdos & Articuno GX from the Sun & Moon Promos set. It’s card SM210, released in 2019, and illustrated by HYOGONOSUKE. It looks like this:

The Moltres & Zapdos & Articuno SM210 Pokémon card from Sun & Moon Promos

HYOGONOSUKE has contributed art for 70 Pokémon cards since the Sun & Moon era, and this promo card might be their most famous. It’s a genuinely striking card, consisting entirely of a stained-glass window bearing the trio of legendary birds, rendered in the many brightly-colored shards that define the composition. This is regarded as one of the most beloved Pokémon cards printed in the past five years.

Rendering the three birds in a style typically reserved for religious iconography was a bold but deliberate choice, and it’s befitting of the stature and nature of these three particular Pokémon. The hues of the glass pieces accurately reflect the color of each Pokémon—yellow of the electric Zapdos, blue for the ice-type Articuno, and red for the fire-type Moltres. Zapdos and Articuno are both depicted with more consistent hues in their glass pieces, whereas Moltres shows more variation owing to the fact that he is typically depicted as being on fire. The various pieces in different shades of red and orange do a brilliant job of suggesting flames through the limited medium of glass mosaic.

While the birds themselves are the obvious focus of the piece, I can’t help but point out the beauty of the contrasting backgrounds. Each bird is set against a background of glass in a unique color, with longer and straighter shards arranged in a pattern originating from the center of the piece (just behind Moltres’s neck). Pink hues define Zapdos’s background, a gorgeous teal-green is the backdrop of Articuno, and Moltres is set against rich, deep purples and violets.

The card is simply beautiful, and is even further accentuated by the texture and holographic sheen on the printed card itself. It’s definitely one of my favorite promo cards ever.

Tomorrow we’ll take a look at another favorite promo card. See you then!

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