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Avengers: The Contest (Avengers (Marvel Unnumbered)) Paperback – 30 May 2012

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 8 reviews
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Charmingly bad, but bad nonetheless 8 Feb. 2011
By G. Steirer - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Avengers: The Contest collects the 1982 three-issue mini-series Contest of Champions as well as West Coast Avengers Annual #2 and Avengers Annual #16, both from 1987. As with other Marvel Premiere Edition hard covers, production quality is high: the paper is archival quality, colors are bright, and the boards are in black (faux-)leather with green foil-stamps. Extras include an amusing Introduction by Tom Defalco (originally published in the 1999 edition of The Contest), a "complete list" of every Marvel superhero "alive" in 1982 (originally published at the back of the original mini-series), and a couple pages of additional cover art.

Story-wise, this collection is a bit of a mess. Originally intended as a tie-in to the 1980 Olympics, the opening story pits superheros of different nationalities against each other in a somewhat nonsensical contest staged by Death and The Grandmaster. The plot makes little sense and suffers an extraordinary error: the authors accidentally assign the winning point to the wrong team. Defalco acknowledges the error in his introduction, but his commentary only furthers the impression that Contest of Champions was a cheap and contrived mini-series. The two Annuals offer up a sequel in which Death and the Grandmaster stage yet another contest. No mistakes crop up in this one, but the contest itself is much harder to follow.

The art is good, though not particularly noteworthy. A very young John Romita Jr. pencils the first story. An assortment of artists pencil the two annuals. There's some pleasure to be had from seeing your favorite superheros battle regardless of the hokey premise. Unfortunately, many of the competing superheros are rather obscure (Shamrock anyone?), so there's less of that kind of pleasure than you might expect.

Ultimately, Avengers: The Contest is a pretty lackluster collection and will likely leave new readers bored and/or frustrated. As a record of Marvel's poor quality control in the 1980s, however, it's an interesting document. There even is an odd kind of charm to the collection's badness, though it's a charm only long-time comic book fans will pick up on. Die-hard collectors should buy this book; others would be better off buying something else.
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
"We have assembled you heroes here at this site... to stage the greatest tournament your world will ever see!" 9 Sept. 2010
By H. Bala - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
MARVEL SUPER HERO CONTEST OF CHAMPIONS came out in 1982 and has got bragging rights as the first ever limited series published by Marvel. It'll dawn on you just about right away that Jim Shooter lifted this premise for his own SECRET WARS project. And, fine, CONTEST OF CHAMPIONS isn't as good as SECRET WARS.

What had happened was... Death and the universe's ultimate gamesman, who calls himself the Grandmaster, embark on a wager and gather the entirety of Earth's supply of superheroes to use as their play pawns. With the world's population held in thrall under animated suspension, the heroes are forced to comply. The rules go as such: Something called the Golden Globe of Life has been broken up into four segments and scattered to the winds. Death and Grandmaster each select four teams, each team comprising three heroes. These teams compete to gather as many of the Globe's pieces. So, twelve superheroes versus twelves superheroes.

Bit of trivia... This story, in another form, was originally slated to be the "MARVEL SUPERHEROES AT THE SUMMER OLYMPICS" Treasury Edition, Marvel's intended tie-in for the 1980 Summer Olympics, before the U.S. boycotted. It sat on the shelf for a two years until some bright boy (Mark Gruenwald?) got the idea of retro-shaping it into - ta-daaa! - THE CONTEST OF CHAMPIONS.

The overriding draw is, of course, the gazillion heroes cooling their heels in the same room (in this case, a stadium orbiting in space) and later taking on each other (some of them, anyway). There must've been a hell of a charge in first witnessing that double spread page inhabited by EVERY FRIGGIN" SUPERHERO in Marvel! I have no doubt that this canvas of crowded gave George Perez a nutter, wherever he was at the time. But, other than this shiny hook, CoC is a pretty limp fish.

There are pluses and minuses with not showcasing all of Marvel's big guns. More well-known teams like the Fantastic Four, the Avengers, the X-Men get hijacked and end up hobnobbing with lesser lights such as Alpha Flight and the Soviet Super-Soldiers. Wolverine, the Thing, Iron Man, and Daredevil are four of those chosen to participate, and they are high profile characters and so that's a plus. But it's also potentially rewarding when more obscure heroes are featured - Arabian Knight, Sunfire, Darkstar, Sabra, etc. - if only they were presented interestingly (except that they're not). That's not even counting characters who first appear in this limited series (El Peregrine, Talisman, Shamrock, and the Collective Man - whose awesome power is channeling the abilities of any and all citizens of the People's Republic of China).

The downside wins out for me. In a cast of so many heroes, these obscure capes get lost in the shuffle. I wasn't inclined to invest in them (with the possible exceptions of Shamrock and the Collective Man). I didn't at all care about the somewhat arbitrary team dynamics the writers come up with. I definitely could've done without a second stringer like Angel taking on a fifth stringer like El Peregrine.

Ultimately, I found most of the fighty fights pretty unspectacular. Even the more promising scraps - like Daredevil versus Iron Fist or Wolverine versus Black Panther - are so fleeting that they failed to deliver on the hype. There's also this exasperating plot device that the writers wear out, that of various team members allowing their temper or their cockiness to get the best of them and so we get lots of people wandering off on their own.

For those who obsess over this sort of stuff - even though these stories come from the 1980s - the following contains SPOILER bits.

And then came the Oops! moment. Someone, somewhere, performed some terrifying math, and this error wasn't found out until the three issues of CoC were already published. What had happened was... The final tally was the Grandmaster: 3, Death: 1. But a careful recount - or even a casual recount - demonstrates that the games actually end in a tie. The last round had Shamrock grabbing the final piece of the Globe, and the credit accordingly went to the Grandmaster... except that Shamrock was on Death's team! And so it should've been a tie.

In 1987, WEST COAST AVENGERS ANNUAL #2 and AVENGERS ANNUAL #16 attempted to right this wrong and settle the score, to have a clear cut winner. This two-parter starts with a fun game of baseball between the East and West chapters of the Avengers, only to have the Silver Surfer bust in with an ominous warning. This time around, the two gamblers are the Grandmaster and the Collector, with Death a silent and unwilling observer. WEST COAST AVENGERS ANNUAL #2 pits the East Coast Avengers against the Left Coast Avengers. AVENGERS ANNUAL #16 has all of the Avengers going up against the Grandmaster's legion of past dead Marvel characters for the fate of the universe, and we'll just try real hard to overlook the retroactive continuity gaffe of Bucky being counted amongst the dead.

I must say that I find the fighty fights in these annuals to be more involving than the ones in CoC. We get the Pyms engage in an undomestic dispute. We see Dracula test the will of Dr. Druid, and while Dr. Druid is the good guy here, he's such an asshat that I was rooting for the good old Count all the way, fate of the universe be hanged. And, back then, what could've resonated more than Captain America taking on his old sidekick Bucky? Hawkeye being one of my favorite Marvel characters ever, I was pretty stoked that he has such a prominent role. He manages to put down She-Hulk and, later, when Captain America can't do it, it's Hawkeye who ends up saving the universe... by cheating.

Out of all this, I come away with two What the Frack? questions: What were Iron Man (in full armor) and the Vision doing in the Avengers gymnasium running laps on the track? And wouldn't it have made more sense to break up the Globe thingee into an odd number of pieces, to preclude the possibility of a tie? Again, terrifying math at work.

This trade AVENGERS: THE CONTEST collects MARVEL SUPER HERO CONTEST OF CHAMPIONS #1-3, WEST COAST AVENGERS ANNUAL #2, and AVENGERS ANNUAL #16. It also features an introduction by then editor Tom DeFalco and reprints "a complete list of every single super hero alive today" - with "today" referring to 1982. The stories in the annuals are solid, but the narrative in CONTEST OF CHAMPIONS won't make you sit up and take notice, and there's just too many bits of lazy writing there. The art is okay, featuring a just starting out John Romita, Jr. If I were more objective, this trade probably wouldn't garner more than 3 stars out of 5 from me. But there's an inherent cool fanboy factor here, and it's convincing me to rate the thing 4 stars. So be it. I'm just a retro guy, after all. Me and Roy Thomas.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Fun But Forgettable Marvel Comics from the 80s 5 Sept. 2013
By Kevin M. Derby - Published on
Format: Paperback
"The Contest" collects three "Contest of Champions" comics from 1982 and a pair of annuals from later in the 1980s. Despite being billed as an "Avengers" comic, the "Contest of Champions" comics feature several other heroes.

Heroes battling each other might seem typical now but, in the 1980s, it was an innovative concept. The "Contest of Champions" was an interesting idea with every superhero in the Marvel universe sharing the same stage but only a handful of them get the limelight. Some of the most prominent heroes (Spiderman for example) get little attention while obscure international heroes like Shamrock, Arabian Knight and Sabra get the limelight. It's annoying to say the least and the story is not memorable in the slightest.

The other comics feature the Avengers battling the West Coast Avengers before both teams join up to battle a team of dead heroes and villains. There are some interesting moments here with a little bit of the focus on Hawkeye and, to a lesser extent, Captain America. These comics are much better and more engaging despite some flaws. There are some interesting notes and a solid introduction.

While not the most epic of works, the comics collected here are fun if not exactly memorable. Marvel fans from the 1980s should like the book but its appeal will not extend much beyond them.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
This could have been so much better 26 April 2014
By William R. Robesky - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I feel like Marvel dropped the ball with this whole story. The concept comes off as convoluted and forced. There are dozens of throw away characters here that were never seen from again. In fact the editors can't even keep track of them and it actually ruins the plot. I also hate the old plot prop of making heroes fight without any context, literally every fight in this book is done in this manner. The characters do that spoken plot dialog to try and keep you involved, but really there is no substance here. This was really just Marvel's practice run at a crossover before the Secret Wars. On the other hand the book is beautiful and looks real nice on my shelf with the rest of my collection.... where it will stay.
Contest of Champions 21 Dec. 2012
By THowerton - Published on
Format: Paperback
The three issue mini-series (back when Marvel was just getting into exploring the mini-series format outside of regular books) known as "Marvel Super Hero: Contest of Champions" was a cosmic grand event that gave every fanboy with a pulse a virtual heart attack back then. Just about every hero you can imagine (along with a few new ones, notably from other countries) in the Marvel universe gets a blip in this series that sees the universe's ultimate gamesman The Grandmaster competing against Death in a game in order to get a buddy back. The men and women of earth who are superheros are the pawns and are forced to compete against each other in teams to obtain pieces of an orb. One doesn't really care how this all turns out because it is only a set-up to see heros versus heros and that was very cool at the time (still is) and was a blast. 5 stars for this piece on inconsequential fluff.

If that's where this collection would have stopped that would have been fine but they give us more of a similar nature that ends up feeling like a bit too much in a story split between two annuals (Avengers 16 and West Coast Avengers 2) that sees the Grandmaster again in a great galactic game against Death. In this sereis it's Avenger against Avenger against storied foes and enemies all in an effort to...what? Huh? It's a bit of "who cares" as, again, the fun is seeing hero pitted against hero. But this storyline, while tighter and not nearly as expansive as the "Contest" storyline, is marred by sub-par art and too much flippancy between the characters. It's still a fine bit of fun though.
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