The core concept of Marvel’s Contest of Champions ongoing series is based loosely on an app based loosely on a comic from 1982. In the game, by developers Kabam, The Collector tasks you as a summoner, forced to compete against Kang The Conqueror by pitting heroes against each other, and plays like a beat ‘em up, only much more simplified for mobile play.

In the comic, by Al Ewing, Paco Medina, Juan Vlasco and David Curiel, the Contest of Champions takes place between The Collector and The Grandmaster, who in turn have chosen Summoners to act as their champions, who in turn choose teams from across the Marvel multiverse to compete in the contest.

The comic shares many aspects with its video game counterpart, such as the crystals that new arrivals to Battlerealm arrive in, and Ewing has even used this and his Ultimates book to introduced Isosphere-8, an energy source that also appears in the Marvel Puzzle Quest and Marvel Avengers Alliance games.

The biggest difference between the game and the comic is that while the former features heavy hitters like Spider-Man and Wolverine, the core cast of the comic features obscure characters like Outlaw: The British Punisher, and alternate takes such as a version of Elektra who goes by “Bullseye”.

In his time at Marvel, Ewing has shown a great ability for telling compelling stories with the weirdest facets of the Marvel Universe, and in Contest of Champions, he ramps it up to eleven. Famiiliar names like Iron Man and Gamora do show up briefly, but are quickly eliminated in favour of obscure favourites like Joe Fixit, Stick, and in one of the best last page reveals of last year, Jake Gallows, the Punisher of the year 2099.

 

 

One of the most interesting characters in the book is the newcomer Guillotine, who was created in conjunction with Kabam to appear in both the game and the comic. Jeannine Sauvage is the descendent of an 18th century French revolutionary cursed by an evil sword, and when she discovers the sword in her attic, she is forced to take up the curse and try to wield the sword in the name of good.

The comic also introduces the comics version of the South Korean hero White Fox, who first appeared in the animated webtoon Electric Rain. It’s refreshing and exciting that, with the entire Marvel multiverse at their disposal, Ewing and Medina bring back characters like Ares and The Maestro, or, as in the most recent issue, use the reveal of a resurrected Night Thrasher as a last page shocker.

 

 

Considering that the book is a tie-in to a video game, there’s an alarming amount of depth, and each issue is packed with exciting moments, crazy reveals and compelling character work.

Contest of Champions is the all-out, free-for-all-fight comic you’ve been waiting to read, just with a cast of characters you wouldn’t have picked in your wildest dreams.