Contest of Champions is like the entire bronze age captured in a single three issue series. It’s the most bang for your buck and fun that could be had…and it was three issues! There’s zero fat on this series.
With a talent pool consisting of Steven Grant, Mark Gruenwald and Bill Mantlo on script and John Romita Jr. (back before his current style developed) on art, every hero is both pitch perfect in character and appearance.
The premise: every hero on Earth is whisked away by the Grandmaster and the Unknown, both Elders of the Universe to fight as avatars on their behalf. Broken into teams of heroes, they’re playing an intercontinental game of capture the flag, with 1/4th of a golden sphere taking place of a flag. Hero fights hero. Strange alliances. Odd bedfellows. Coolness abounds.
I don’t want to oversell the pure enjoyment that can be found in these pages. Well, I do, but I’m trying not to. Not trying very hard, but still. The scuffles are brief, as there’s a lot to pack into the three issues, but what’s there is perfect, logical, and makes absolute sense given the power sets. Nothing is insulting to the intelligence or that geeky little voice in the back of our heads that rattles off OHOTMU stats.
Except for she-Hulk seeming to hover that one time…but I’m sure she began to fall half a panel later…
But the match-ups are perfect. Wolverine vs. Black Panther. Daredevil vs. Iron Fist. Angel vs. Le Peregrine. Iron Man vs. She Hulk. On and on. Each get their spotlight.
As the heroes bring their prizes back to the two Elders, we learn the secret behind the Unknown, and what the stakes of this game truly were.
If you ignore the sequel to this that was made years later and was painfully Claremontian, this is a snapshot of an era of comics that just doesn’t exist anymore. It’s available in a trade paperback and highly highly recommended for anybody that wants a purely fun, fast paced read.