Marvel’s free Contest of Champions mobile download proved extremely popular, enabling players to pit teams of Marvel heroes and/or villains against each other, but how did that world come about and how did all the characters end up there? That’s what Al Ewing and Paco Medina’s two volume series aims to answer.

The premise is that two Elders of the Universe, the Collector and the Grandmaster, are deciding who will inherit the last remaining vestiges of an incredibly valuable substance. They don’t fight directly, but plan to determine a winner via a contest between teams of catspaws, who can be summoned from any dimension or era, made to fight and returned with no memory of their participation. A sloppier writer might have just selected random characters and pitched them against each other, but Ewing’s put a lot of thought into who takes part, and their connected histories, and that’s something that’ll be appreciated by readers with their own long histories with Marvel. Further to Ewing’s credit, he’s imaginative with his selections, introducing new characters with a backstory such as Guillotine, alongside variations on existing properties like a British Punisher called Outlaw, and some heroes who’re the more familiar article, Iron Man and Gamora among them. He even raises a few from the dead.

Ewing manages some quite sneaky diversions that have a later effect. Taking this into account and that very few A-list characters appear, there’s an unpredictability to the outcomes of pitching groups of them against each other, and the entire story trots along very nicely. Part of that is certainly down to Paco Medina’s ability to mix and match the most incongruous of characters in the same panel and not have them look out of place. The villains of the piece are suitably imposing, and those pulling the strings suitably foreboding, and this much better than a knock-off tying into a game has any right to be.

Much has changed over the course of the book, and Final Fight draws everything to a conclusion.