The original Contest Of Champions brought heroes from all around the Marvel Universe together to fight for the entertainment of The Grandmaster and his mysterious opponent (later revealed to be Death herself.)  Who’s behind the newest battles?  Your Major Spoilers review of Contest Of Champions #1 awaits!

ContestOfChampions1CoverCONTEST OF CHAMPIONS #1
Writer: Al Ewing
Penciler: Paco Medina/Thomas Labourot
Inker: Juan Vlasco/Thomas Labourout
Colorist: David Curiel/Guru-eFX
Letterer: VC’s Joe Sabino
Editor: Mark Paniccia
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Cover Price: $3.99

Previously in Contest Of Champions: For almost a year now, iOS and Android users have had the ability to download the free-to-play ‘Contest Of Champions’ mobile game, pitting Marvel heroes against one another in (you should excuse the expression) mortal combat situations.  Now, that storyline (if one can call it a storyline) is making its way to the world of comics, with some lethal results…

SOMETHING OLD

This issue takes a bold tack for a Marvel Comic, beginning not with the Hulk or Iron Man, but with a minor-league hero from Marvel’s past, The Outlaw (aka ‘The British Punisher.’)  Having moved away from London and hung up his guns, Nigel Higgins even has a new identity, having left his vigilante past behind him.  That doesn’t stop a mysterious someone from finding and stalking him, and when he puts on his skull and crossbones body armor again, teleporting him away.  After an unknown period of time trapped (literally) in amber, Nigel is thrown into a world of battle (not a Battleworld, that’s the other Marvel book) where he assists Iron Man and Gamora in, essentially, killing Venom, Joe Fixit and Devil Dinosaur.  Once they prevail, a mysterious voice announces “Red team has one the match” and all the combatants are teleported away to face…

…THE COLLECTOR!  Along with evil future Hulk, The Maestro and the new and mysterious Guillotine, they have taken control of the heroes’ lives, and the Collector welcomes them to the Contest Of Champions!

SOMETHING NEW

While our familiar (for some values of the word) heroes fight for their lives, somewhere in South Korea, and agent called White Fox is notified of the death of one of her fellow super-agents, and vows to find and punish his or her killers.  The backup story is Guillotine’s story (or A Guillotine’s story), which has a very different art-style and narrative feel.  Writer Al Ewing handles both portions of the story, which means that he’s successfully able to transition from one type of story to another, but the art is another matter.  The lead tale, drawn by Paco Medina, is an inoffensive but not particularly flashy art job (though it is interesting to note that Iron Man is wearing his most up-to-date armor, as seen in his recent #1 relaunch issue), but the backup features a cartoony style reminiscent of Todd McFarlane, which I find a lot less attractive.  Both parts of the issue have a strangely muted color palette, where even Iron Man’s red and gold armor comes across as dark and a little bit dull…

THE BOTTOM LINE: IT HAS POTENTIAL

There are no real surprises here in the plot, as I can think of half a dozen books that have the same premise (the original Secret Wars, portions of Legends, Questprobe, as well as the original Contest Of Champions) but Ewing gives the character of Outlaw a strong enough character to carry the first part of the book.  Iron Man is… well, Iron Man, and Gamora is used as the “mysterious force of nature” character, all of which works out okay, and I’m looking forward to finding out more (if there is more) about the Collector’s newest schemes.  Contest Of Champions #1 isn’t particularly outstanding in its presentation, but it makes a valid attempt to sell the vidja game premise, with art that gets its point across, even with its flaws, earning a right-down-the-middle 2.5 out of 5 stars overall.  It’s nice to see some lower-profile heroes in play, and I hope to see much more of that in these pages, but as these types of video game titles go, this one is okay…

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Once upon a time, there was a young nerd from the Midwest, who loved Matter-Eater Lad and the McKenzie Brothers... If pop culture were a maze, Matthew would be the Minotaur at its center. Were it a mall, he'd be the Food Court. Were it a parking lot, he’d be the distant Cart Corral where the weird kids gather to smoke, but that’s not important right now... Matthew enjoys body surfing (so long as the bodies are fresh), writing in the third person, and dark-eyed women. Amongst his weaponry are such diverse elements as: Fear! Surprise! Ruthless efficiency! An almost fanatical devotion to pop culture! And a nice red uniform.

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