Contest of Champions #2
Writer: Al Ewing
Pencils: Paco Medina
Inks: Juan Vlasco
Colors: David Curiel
I don’t know what this is. The branding on the cover (the Marvel logo with red background sitting above the title as part of the banner) is similar to what Marvel usually uses to depict books that are out of continuity and based around another media property, like a cartoon, movie, or video game. But the cast here is too off-the-beaten path to be that. And so, again, I encounter the principal problem I have had with the big two for all of 2015. There are new books that drop, and I do not know if they relate to other books, are stand-alones, whether I should care or not, and why I should or should not read them. There is actually an editor’s asterisk in this issue that says “See Invincible Iron Man #1”, which is the post-Secret Wars/Battleworld reboot and I do not see any way these two titles could be in the same continuity. This feels like a Secret Wars/Battleworld tie-in. And, yes, maybe I would know if I had read #1; but I should not have to. But, hey, I get review assignments and I do the job.
For some reason, The Collector and The Grandmaster are engaged in a game of super-hero/villain poker. Or dodgeball. The whole setup feels a lot like Murderworld, if Arcade had been playing that against an opponent. Each of the two contestants have a team lead and they are collecting members of their team, apparently in the lead-up to some kind of battle royale. Collector has Maestro, and Grandmaster has Punisher. Punisher 2099. Da frakk?
So, regardless of me not getting it, this issue was ok. The story almost does not matter as the plot setup is helter skelter. There are a lot of plots within plots within plots going on. No one can be trusted and no one is being honest. There is no way to judge character tone as, other than Iron Man, no one really has a tone that has been established. Only The Collector’s team really appears in this issue. You get Maestro, Stick, Gamora, and Iron Man. There are two other characters I won’t even mention as they are unimportant. So if you strip away any care for the cast and why they are together and the fact that the plot really doesn’t matter, I guess that just leaves the fighting and the art.
And the art is ok. There is a lot of crackling and power brimming and some very exciting shots in in-laid panels that work well. Maestro has Hulk Armor that apparently a Tony Stark from some timeline built. There is a panel of the suit in the dark with the only illumination being the lights being given off by the suit. Curiel’s colors work well in that shot. The detraction to the fight choreography is that Maestro is the main combatant in this issue, and he pops pretty much everyone in the book, including Ares, the god of War. Now, I assume that when he hits Ares, it’s a full-on Class 100 blow. But he also hits Gamora, Outlaw, and Guillotine, who are not killed. So I guess he is pulling his punch there, but those are all represented the same way, with accompanying electrical crackling and windspeed whooshes. I also reckon he could have decapitated Tony when he throws Cap’s shield at him (yeah; that happens). You cannot really tell the difference in these panels as they are all drawn the same. It’s a bit jarring.
The whole book from a setup standpoint is kind of nonsense. There is a place for just mixing up a hodge-podge of characters that would not normally be seen together to answer those questions of “who would win in a fight between…”. But those stories generally appeal to a much younger reader. If that is what you are looking for, this is worth a read. For readers looking for meatier plots and more intricate story (and art), you might want to skip this one. It does not do anything wrong, per se, it just does not stand out in a sea of books when the market for eyeball time is so competitive.