The fine folks behind the upcoming Marvel Chess Collection magazine generously popped a copy through my mailbox recently, giving me the opportunity to give it a review.
The product is a combo pack, made up of a character specific magazine and a chess piece of said character. It’s set to release on a fortnightly basis sometime in 2014. When the set is complete you’ll have the full collection of 32 pieces, with heroes representing the white pieces and and villains the black. Since the chess piece itself is obviously the main draw, let’s dig into that first.
So the first issue is, of course, the amazing Spider-Man himself, perhaps the best known Marvel character worldwide. The chess piece is actually of a very good quality. It reminds me of the Classic Marvel Figurine Collection series that came out a few years ago, except these are quite a bit bigger and come complete with their own weighty stand. If you were concerned the pieces would be flimsy throwaway items, then discard your worries. This first one at least is surprisingly high detail, it actually exceeds the aforementioned figures from the older series. The material is quite sturdy too, it feels like it could take quite a bit of use without any problems.
The accompanying magazine contains a nice short summary of who Spider-Man is, and dances across his career. The description stops to touch on such highlights as joining the New Avengers and even Brand New Day, the controversial retcon that undid Peter and MJ’s marriage. Interestingly though it stops short of venturing into the likes of Marvel NOW, the current modern day Marvel imprint. There’s not a word about Superior Spider-Man or Peter’s current predicament, everything is just a little out of date. Not a huge problem by any means, but this makes the included short story at the back, which is composed of classic comic book panels, of Spider-Man versus Doctor Octopus, a little bit unintentionally amusing. Although Peter is shown to have won their match and be a smarter opponent, it’s a tad ironic that their most recent matchup went very differently. Although this is only the first issue, you could hypothesise this means the series will focus on a pre-Marvel NOW version of the Marvel Universe. This seems more likely considering next issue is Iron Man sporting his ‘bleeding edge’ armour from the back end of Matt Fraction’s run. So for any Marvel nerds wondering specifically what continuity this line encompasses, it looks to be based on post-Siege Heroic Age, where the classic Marvel status quo was mostly re-established, after a period of rocky unrest.
For those who found the above paragraph nothing but ludicrous, nerdy babble, don’t worry! Although the lack of details may bother some hardcore Marvel fans, the light overview means any casual or new fans can dip in and not feel overwhelmed or excluded. It’s especially kid-friendly too, so for any families looking to get this together, keeping out the grim elements means there’s no problems with any young children wanting a read too. So although it’d have been a nice touch to see Superior Spider-Man mentioned, it probably would have been rather unnecessary and confusing, all things considered.
Another feature of the magazine is an explanation of how Spider-Man moves on the chess board. He represents the Bishop which means any chess fans should instantly know what that means. For everyone else this means it’s a nice way to learn how to play chess piece by piece with each issue. For kids it’s probably a more fun way to learn chess when it’s Spider-Man swinging across the board too, therefore this could be a fun way to introduce children to the game.
So if you’re a chess fan with a passing interest in Marvel, or a Marvel nerd who just wants some pretty display pieces, this new magazine just might do the trick. At only £2.99 for the first issue I recommend giving it a go if you’re interested. Longtime comic fans may find the magazine a little bit simple, but the included piece is well crafted enough to be worth a look. Meanwhile for those who love Spider-Man and co. but don’t quite know their Cosmic Cube’s from their Quinjets, then you’ll find an easy to understand guide in the form of the magazine, likely peppered with some interesting facts you never knew.