A big part of the appeal of Fortnite is that it gives life to all our childhood fantasies about heroes from different universes teaming up to battle evil. The game now includes skins based on Marvel, DC, Star Wars, Tron, Naruto, Street Fighter and countless other iconic franchises. But sometimes those crossovers are more than merely superficial, and that's where Fortnite x Marvel: Zero War comes in.
A followup of sorts to 2021's Batman/Fortnite: Zero Point, Zero War explores a major escalation in the endless conflict raging on Fortnite's Island. In this story, a fragment of the Zero Point lands in the Marvel Universe, forcing the heroes of Fortnite to join forces with the Avengers to prevent a disaster that could affect all worlds. It's a conflict that fans will see play out in both the game itself and the pages of the comic.
The comic series reunites the Zero Point writing team – Epic Games' Chief Creative Officer Donald Mustard and prolific Marvel writer Christos Gage – with Sergio Davila (Wonder Woman) handling the art. Check out an exclusive preview of the first issue in the slideshow gallery below, and then read on to learn more about this major crossover from Gage himself.
From the DC Universe to the Marvel Universe
Zero War is probably the closest thing comic book fans will see to a true Marvel/DC crossover for the foreseeable future (unless you count the recent reprint of JLA/Avengers). While there won't be any DC characters appearing in this story, Fortnite's Island has now officially played host to heroes from both universes. Zero War's conflict builds on the foundation of Batman/Fortnite: Zero Point and the previous, Thor-centric Fortnite x Marvel crossover, so it's just as well Mustard and Gage are collaborating again.
"It’s still a delight," Gage said regarding that collaboration. "If anything it’s more instinctive now, as Donald and I are really familiar with each other’s creative processes, but that was true midway through Batman/Fortnite…we clicked really quickly. So from the standpoint of collaborating with Donald, it felt like a direct continuation. We both love comics, we both love the Fortnite lore, and we both want to deliver something awesome for fans of both the comics and the game. Hopefully that showed last time, and will show again this time."
The biggest change between Zero Point and Zero War is that Gage and Mustard are working with Davila, whose recent Marvel work includes Black Knight: Curse of the Ebony Blade. While Davila's style is similar in some ways to what we saw on Zero Point, Gage said he also brings some particular skills to the table in this story.
"The idea is to find the best artist for the story we hope to tell, and when [editor Alanna Smith] recommended Sergio, we saw what he’d been doing with his inventive layouts and crazy action scenes and knew he was perfect," Gage said. "Given that we’re depicting what is basically the culmination of the war between the Seven and the Imagined Order, the poor guy was going to have to draw armies, but he was also going to have to make some smaller, more character-focused scenes work too. And he’s done it brilliantly, as the images released thus far show beyond a shadow of a doubt. He’s the hardest working one on the team, for sure!"
As mentioned above, this isn't the first Marvel/Fortnite crossover comic, but it's certainly much larger in scope than 2020's Fortnite x Marvel: Nexus War – Thor #1. Where that comic was basically a prologue story setting up an in-game story event, Zero War is a five-issue series telling a complete story unto itself. However, Gage teases there will be some major connective tissue between the comic and the game, particularly as the Zero War event reaches its climax later in 2022.
"There’ll be a few things you see in both the game and the comic – mostly in our final issue," Gage said. "But for the most part, what happens in the game and what happens in the comic are different fronts in the same war. Some questions that players might have about the game are answered in the comic, and vice versa, though neither are required to follow the story in the other."
The Heroes of Zero War
Another notable difference between the previous Thor tie-in and the Zero War miniseries is that the former springs out of a very specific moment in Donny Cates' ongoing Thor series, whereas Zero War takes a slightly more evergreen approach to the Marvel Universe. The costumes and team rosters are reflective of the current state of the Marvel U., but the plot isn't necessarily pinned down to a specific point in time.
"We talked about the fact that in the future, people will be reading the story as a collected edition," Gage noted. "So the emphasis wasn’t about 'This moment takes place on page X of comic book Y.' Now, we are reflecting the current status quo of the Marvel Universe. The Avengers lineup is what it currently is in the Avengers title. But someone who picks up the collected edition two or three years from now won’t need to know exactly what issue of Avengers was out that month and what was happening in it."
For Gage, one of the main challenges with Zero War was writing a comic that could be accessible to both Fortnite fans who don't actively read Marvel's comics and comic fans who haven't been playing the game. It's a tough balance to strike, given how steeped in Fortnite lore this new series is. In the end, Gage followed Smith's editorial advice, using Wolverine and Spider-Man as focal points to deliver critical information to Fortnite newcomers in issue #1.
"It was challenging, because you have to consider that this will be read both by Fortnite fans who aren’t immersed in Marvel lore and vice versa, but luckily everyone on the creative team was aware of that and eager to make it accessible. That’s why we were given 30 pages for issue #1. (Subsequent issues are the usual 20 pages…until our explosive 30-page finale!) Our editor, Alanna, had a brilliant suggestion after reading the first draft of the first issue’s script, which was to move Spidey finding Wolverine from the end of the issue to the beginning, and then have Spidey narrate the whole issue as a sort of flashback as he brings Wolvie up to speed. Which was utter genius. Because now, instead of exposition, you have Spider-Man’s distinctive voice telling this insane story about converging realities and giant robots and never-ending battles where people break for a dance every now and then."
Gage added, "I’ve written my share of Spider-Man in the past 17 years…loads of comics, and a PS4/5 video game you may have heard about… so his voice leaps into my head pretty naturally. Alanna’s approach made it all fall into place. And that, folks, is just one aspect of what a good editor does."
The comic will feature a sizable cast of Marvel heroes, but the story specifically centers around three – Wolverine, Spider-Man and Shuri. That cast of characters wasn't mandated by either Epic or Marvel, but rather by which best suited the story and which characters the creative team had the most affinity for.
"Donald loves Wolverine, and specifically his 'Patch' identity from the early days of his first solo series," said Gage. "Every time we’d talk over Zoom, I could see two pages of original art from that book framed on his wall behind him. So we decided to use that take on Wolverine. The idea is that when he wants a breather from all the stuff going on in Krakoa, Logan heads over to Madripoor for some cheap beer and a good brawl, and that’s where we find him. Donald also really wanted to use Spidey, who is in Fortnite now, and I love me some Spidey, so that was a big thumbs up. I think it was Alanna who suggested Shuri after the talk of Patch led to the idea of an almost Indiana Jones-style quest for an artifact – in this case, the Zero Shard, a crystallized piece of the Zero Point itself that broke off and was drawn back to the Marvel Universe when Galactus was driven out of Reality Zero in the previous Marvel/Fortnite crossover."
Gage continued, "We were talking about cool Marvel locations, and of course Wakanda came up, and we realized Shuri was a natural. There was also discussion of what Fortnite characters would have good chemistry with the Marvel characters we were using. So we have a very familiar Fortnite character in Jones, who we will be learning some previously unrevealed things about, and a pretty recently introduced character in The Imagined. Conversely, there are some Marvel characters appearing in Fortnite right now, like Moon Knight, who aren’t in the comic at all. It was all about the story and what serves it."
Fortnite x Marvel: Zero War #1 will hit comic shops and Marvel Unlimited on Wednesday, June 8.
Epic has added all sorts of interesting new characters to Fortnite in 2022. Nathan Drake from the Uncharted movie and games was recently added, alongside Marvel's Moon Knight, Dwayne Johnson, Bruno Mars, and outfits from Cobra Kai. It even added virtual attendees of Coachella alongside music from the festival itself.
It all appears to feed into Epic Games' metaverse, with the Coachella collaboration in particular feeding into the idea of bringing "the real world" into a shared online space, especially as the event was announced just days after Sony and LEGO's parent company KIRKBI invested $2 billion into the publisher.
Jesse is a mild-mannered staff writer for IGN. Allow him to lend a machete to your intellectual thicket by following @jschedeen on Twitter.