Marvel Comics and by association Disney know what they’re doing and they do it so well, especially when it comes to branding. Over the last few years the Marvel Studios engine continues to pump out quality movies, toys, TV shows, and video games. All of these things combined, if done well, means a stronger product overall. It also means a wider net of new fans coming in all the time. That’s where Marvel Contest of Champions comes in. This game is a simple mobile fighting game, but its growth since 2014 is unmistakable. In four years the game has garnered over 40 million fans while connecting casual gamers into the comic book universe. That’s just one element that makes Titan Books’ art of Battlerealms interesting as a comic book reader who has never played the game.
So what’s it about?
The official summary reads:
Marvel Contest of Champions: The Art of the Battlerealm is the ultimate visual companion for a true collector. Capturing the intensity of Kabam’s extraordinary game, this book features incredible concept art, sketches, and storyboards. Discover more about Marvel’s vast Battlerealm–the cosmic arena for the Contest of Champions–and your favorite Super Heroes and Villains, with exclusive commentary from the creators and fascinating insights into the creative process. This incredible collection of art will take you on an exciting journey through the dangerous and mysterious world of Marvel Contest of Champions.
Why does this matter?
This book charts the work of art director Gabriel Frizzera, writer Sam Humphries, and creative director Bill Rosemann’s work (among others) as they continue to build a gaming world. The fascinating thing while reading this book is learning how it was first created and then how it seamlessly integrates comic book stories into the narrative. Reading this book is like reading an Elseworlds tale about Marvel Comics in all its dimension-breaking glory.
Fine, you have my attention. What’s good about it?
This book is organized quite well by writer Paul Davies. It breaks down the motivations behind the game and what it was all based on. Grandmaster and the Collector open the story as younger youthful adventurers who end up making a battle arena to appease cosmic entities. Well, that’s just one reason. In these opening chapters Humphries chimes in with his ideas and approach to making the game world make sense and to allow it room to grow. It turns out this game world is capable of growing forever! Much like the phases of the Marvel movies this book outlines five acts that blended many different heroes and villains into the narrative. Each chapter chronologically gives you a bit of story as well as full character bios of all the combatants. By the end it’s clear this universe was built in an ingenious way due to Frizzera’s creative design, but also what was going on in the comics.
As you read this book you’ll see a lot of familiar story threads pop up. That includes movie tie-in storylines like Spider-Man: Homecoming or comic storylines like Inhumans vs. X-Men. It appears the game makers incorporate movies as much as possible, but it’s fun to see obscure comic book elements thrown in too. It’s a true melding of all universes made new in a fighting game format.
This book also reveals how the creative team created new takes on characters and their design as well as new characters too. Two of the more interesting characters that stick out are Morningstar and Guillotine. As Bill Rosemann puts it in this book their approach to creating characters is beholden to a set of beliefs that, “is uniquely and authentically Marvel.” The designs are interesting and if you’re a comic fan like me you’ll be itching to see if they pop up in the comic stories anytime soon. Other fun twists on characters include King Groot and a new metal Captain America costume that looks quite similar to the Hydra suit he wore in “Secret Empire.”
The art in this collection ranges from hand-drawn storyboards, to full CGI renderings, to more traditional sketches. It’s a nice mix that goes well with the format of defining each character and where they’re at in the story.
It can’t be perfect, can it?
Even though this is an art book I was a bit surprised it doesn’t talk about fight moves and abilities in this book. In fact, I completely forgot this was a fighting game at one point, thinking it was more of an RPG. That’s thanks to the in-depth look at characters and story which drives home the strong root of what makes this game tick. That said, as a fighting game it seems limited in showing that element of the game.
Is it good?
I fully admit I’ve never played this game, but I’m glad I read this book since it gave him insight into another realm of Marvel Comics. Frizzera, Humphries, and Rosemann all give interesting commentary and insight into making a game world that’s a combination of many things, yet comes out being its own thing.
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