When the first issue of the Marvel Chess Collection dropped through my letter box, I was not expecting much. A simple figure and a few incentives to keep buying the collection to complete the set. We have all seen such things in the past and they tend to sit in a weird middle market of being for both kids and adults. While this collection does sit in that weird middle market it does so with glee. Playing up the Marvel angle to its strengths and providing you with a fairly solid product. With a decent amount of detail in the provided figure and a hope to improved things as the collection goes on, this first issue shows promise.
Out of the gate this first issue has the tough task of getting people not only to give it a go by buying it for the cheaper than usual price. Then it has to sell the buyer on a long term investment in the collection to either partial or full completion. It does the job admirably with a few glaring inconsistencies.
Let’s get down to the nitty gritty!
Let us start with the main reason any grown man or woman would buy this magazine: the figure of the Amazing Spider-Man! Everyone loves Spidey and you can tell why Eaglemoss (the publisher of this collection) decided on him to open to collection. The figure itself is actually rather good, it is nice and weighty, simple but elegant. The pose they have Spider-Man in is great and fits the character well. There is also a surprising amount of detail packed into the figure with very few imperfections. The overall quality has me very interested in seeing how the characters in the collection with more complex designs turn out.
The overall design for the figures allows for them to be displayed in a cabinet or for use in a unique and larger than normal chess set without the chess side of things overpowering the characters being depicted. Other figures in the collection promise varying heights along with other embellishments on the bases to help differentiate them from each other. It is a nice looking statuette and I have a feeling seeing a full chess board full of Marvel’s colourful characters would be a sight to see.
The contents of the magazine included with the figure however are a bit of a mixed bag…
The magazine has a smattering of the expected, such as the above larger than normal artwork coupled with profiles on Spider-Man and his key villains and some of the more well known story lines. Then you have details on how the Knight piece works in chess with a few tidbits of strategy thrown in for good measure. Presumably other issues featuring characters in the Knight roles will give further strategy and chess theory but this is a good enough start.
The problems with the material in the magazine lie in how much detail it goes into about Spidey and his history. The opening character profile covers some key story arcs in the character’s history while giving you the basics of what makes Spidey, Spidey. Things like the Death of Gwen Stacy are briefly mentioned along with the whole Doc Ock marrying Aunt May thing. Then you get some Venom stuff before the details Peter and Mary-Jane’s marriage. Then we get a nice chunk covering the Civil War era of Spider-Man and how all that came to an end in One More Day with Spider-Man’s secret identity being retconned back into existence. Then nothing… It stops there.
That was five years ago in the comic books!
I can understand missing out on a few months of character history in the run up to publication but the magazine completely side steps five years worth of stories for no reason. I can understand going up to Spider-Man #700 then stopping to avoid detailing to much of the current Superior Spider-Man story but that’s just a year’s worth of material. No mention of Brand New Day or Big Time, nothing about Spider-Man being a member of the Future Foundation or his continuing association with the Avengers. It seems like an odd omission and one that I hope future issues will not repeat.
Other notable missed opportunities include the Classic Stories section detailing a couple of the more notable Spider-Man stories but then wasting space retreading the character’s origin which could have easily been included as part of the initial profile that opened the magazine. Then we come to the Strategic Moves section of the magazine which serves to show a classic example of the character’s smarts in relation to their assigned piece on the chess board. Which is great and makes Spider-Man seem very impressive but then you notice there are no details on which issue/s of the comic books this happened in. This section also shows out of context comic book panels showing Peter altering his web fluid formula then explaining them on the next page after most readers will have looked at them in confusion.
The magazine also contains a pull out beginners guide to playing chess. Showing you how to set up the board, basic terminology and some strategy. It is a great condensed guide to get you started and is one of the better explanations of the fairly complex game that is chess I have read.
There is some other signs of things improving too. What is included in the magazine is entertaining enough and serves the purpose of being an introduction to the character of Spider-Man and his history. It is just not as in-depth as I would have liked. Included with the magazine and available on the collection’s website is a survey asking you about the collection. What you liked and did not like. What you would like to see, extra figures, further collections and such. It shows a want to improve the collection as time goes on. To taylor it to the potential subscriber and people already signing up for long term collecting. That is a very good sign. It keeps you interested in making a long term investment.
The subscription offers are reasonable enough. There are free gifts on offer such as a binder for the magazines and matching chess board to use your figures on. On top of the £2.99 price for issue one you are looking at £247.69 for the rest of the pieces drawn out at £7.99 every two weeks or £278.69 if you want to take out the premium subscription at £8.99 every two weeks for some extra Fantastic Four orientated figures. That is assuming that each issue comes with one figure and the collection runs for 32 issues. Not too expensive for a Part Work set but then inconsistencies between what is offered in the print edition and what is offered on the website rear their heads.
The premium subscription offer that is detailed with the inserts with the magazine says you will get four Fantastic Four figures but then the website says you get eight. Similarly the standard subscription offer is detailed without the Digital Edition of the magazine in print then proudly shown off on the collection website.
Hopefully this is just a case of things changing in the run up to the collection’s launch and people subscribing through the print forms will receive a nice surprise rather than a weird oversight or further tiering of subscriptions. Also the survey details the potential of further special figures like the Fantastic Four ones which would be nice additions to that extra £1 per issue that premium subscribers will be handing over.
On the whole I was impressed by this introductory issue. For young Marvel Heroes fans this will be a great collection to get started on that special journey into the depths of comicdom. For older fans this is squarely for chess aficionados and figure collectors. The magazines will not tell you anything you do not already know but you are mainly buying them for the figures so it does not really matter that much in the grand scheme of things.
I leave you with the full list of planned pieces:
- Black Panther (Rook)
- Wolverine (Knight)
- Thor (Bishop)
- Captain America (King)
- Captain Marvel (Queen)
- Iron Man (Bishop)
- Spider-Man (Knight)
- The Vision (Rook)
- Scarlet Witch (Pawn)
- Quicksilver (Pawn)
- Hawkeye (Pawn)
- Black Widow (Pawn)
- Ant Man (Pawn)
- Wasp (Pawn)
- Luke Cage (Pawn)
- Daredevil (Pawn)
- Kang (Rook)
- Doctor Octopus (Knight)
- Mandarin (Bishop)
- Viper (Queen)
- Red Skull (King)
- Loki (Bishop)
- Green Goblin (Knight)
- Ultron (Rook)
- Electro (Pawn)
- The Lizard (Pawn)
- Taskmaster (Pawn)
- Molecule Man (Pawn)
- Klaw (Pawn)
- Bullseye (Pawn)
- Absorbing Man (Pawn)
- Venom (Pawn)
Premium Subscription Figures:
- Mr Fantastic (White King)
- Invisible Woman (White Queen)
- Human Torch (White Bishop)
- The Thing (White Bishop)
- Doctor Doom (Black King)
- Malice (Black Queen)
- Super Skrull (Black Bishop)
- Annihilus (Black Bishop)
A nice and varied selection of figures with some odd choices on the villains side. (I’m looking at you Molecule Man, Klaw and Absorbing Man!) It is also great to see Captain Marvel as the Queen piece of the heroes. It shows that the collection will dip into some of the current versions of the characters running around in the comics.
For further details on the Marvel Chess Collection or to subscribe head to marvel-chess.com
Disclaimer: Issue #1 of the Marvel Chess Collection was sent to The Comic Book Reader free of charge for review purposes. Images taken from the Marvel Chess Collection website are used under fair use.