I need to make a confession. I haven’t actually played Fortnite. I’ve watched my brother, a Certified Zoomer™, play a few hours of the game, but me, personally? I have not played the game. I’ve played other Battle Royale games, just not the grand poobah of the genre. However, as a Certified Gamer™, and through me and my wallet’s exposure to the game through my brother, I can guarantee you that I have the requisite expertise to talk about this.
Fortnite, for those of you that have mortgages to pay, is a free-to-play Battle Royale game made by Epic Games, the creators of the Unreal game engine, the Gears of War franchise, and current plaintiff in a legal battle with Apple Inc. The Battle Royale mode of the game, which came out in 2017, pits 100 players against each other in a last-man-standing fight for the prize of a Victory Royale. The players begin the match by jumping off the Battle Bus, the- Hey, eyes open, don’t doze off on me just yet- okay fine, we’ll talk about the Thor crossover.
Fortnite’s partnership with Marvel goes back a couple of years, beginning with an Infinity War-themed event to coincide with the movie’s release, and since then, we’ve seen Captain America, Deadpool, Black Widow, and the X-Force show up on Fortnite Island to fight to the death alongside Batman, John Wick, and Rey [Last Name Redacted]. But with Fortnite Chapter 2’s fourth season (it’s a whole thing, don’t worry about it), they decided to go all-out with their next Marvel crossover.
It began with a teaser, complete with art of Thor, but not just any Thor; Thor, Herald of Galactus, as seen in 2020’s Thor, written not by Thor, but Donny Cates, and illustrated by Nic Klein (who, based on my research, is also not Thor). Interests were piqued, by which I mean I glanced over at my brother’s screen, said, “Oh cool”, and went back to doomscrolling through Twitter. But then, Fortnite started putting out pages of a tie-in comic, written by Cates himself, with art by Greg Land, Jay Leisten, and Frank D’Armata. My brother grabbed my attention and showed me the pages of the comic, as I tried to decipher which softcore porno Land had traced those poor faces from.
But here’s the kicker.
In the grand tradition of making Fortnite “canon” in other mediums (As previously seen when Palpatine’s return in The Rise of Skywalker was announced during an in-game event), the Thor tie-in comic (now available for free on Comixology as Fortnite X Marvel – Nexus War: Thor) was written in apparent continuity with Cates and Klein’s hit run on the character, taking place between the fourth issue’s eleventh and twelfth page. Yes, I checked so you didn’t have to, dear reader.
Yes, right here.
Oh, you think that’s crazy? In the midst of Thor’s battle with Fortnite’s cast, Thor calls upon the help of Iron Man, Captain America, Mystique, Storm, She-Hulk, Groot, Wolverine, and Doctor Doom. These aren’t the Avengers. These aren’t the X-Men. These…Fort-vengers are tasked with protecting Fortnite Island from being devoured by Galactus.
The comics crossovers don’t end there, though. In the weeks since I started writing this article, both Wolverine (2020) #5 and X-Factor (2020) #3 have had post-credits stinger pages in which characters are whisked away by the Bifrost, seemingly to aid Thor on Fortnite Island. As Gwenpool said best:
There are many things that I didn’t foresee happening this year: my grandfather dying, the second (or third?) economic crisis in my lifetime, the collapse of Brooklyn Nine-Nine’s reputation; however, Fortnite going full-force into a crossover with a cast of Marvel characters likely chosen with a random number generator, complete with it purportedly being canon to one of the year’s biggest Marvel comics runs, was the last thing I’d expect from this horror show of a year.
With a crossover like this, especially one that delves into the realm of corporate art, the first instinct is always to put it under the lens of criticism. For instance, one could bring up Fortnite creator Epic Games’ allegations of create a toxic working environment, or how artist Greg Land has a penchant of tracing over not only stock photography and soft pornography, but also the work of other artists. The transparent corporate nature of this crossover makes it all the more susceptible to scrutiny because, let’s face it, no one likes feeling pandered to by corporations.
But the thing is, the possible canonicity of this most-likely-corporate-mandated tie-in doesn’t matter. I’m sure it’s a revolutionary concept, but Fortnite X Marvel – Nexus War: Thor has no impact on the first arc of Cates and Klein’s Thor run, nor do those two stinger pages affect their respective X-books. In other words, it’s not required reading. So why care? What does it matter if it’s in-continuity or not?
Amongst all the discourse on the matter, one must ask why it is that the comics fandom places such importance on whether or not Thor fighting alongside John Wick and Batman to stop Galactus from eating Fortnite Island’s planet is canon or not. But unfortunately, this isn’t an article where I delve into the sociology of documenting comics lore. This is Fortnite.
This isn’t the end of this crossover though, as it will continue until the end of November. What will this mean for the ephemerality of this article? How many more stinger pages will we see before then? Perhaps a nice shot of She-Hulk being whisked off by the Bifrost in next week’s Immortal She-Hulk? Or will Groot be yoinked out of his next adventure in Guardians of the Galaxy #7? Whatever may come, rest assured that I got you covered.
Is Fortnite X Marvel – Nexus War a great crossover? No, far from it. But is Fortnite X Marvel – Nexus War the greatest crossover?