In the back of any good comics shop, past the towers of Funko Pop vinyl figures and BB-8 bobbleheads, you will find the good stuff: longboxes stuffed with back issues. Serious collectors know that the chances of finding anything valuable in a longbox are extraordinarily slim. But there can still be treasure here. Maybe you'll turn up an old Marvel Two-in-One, the clobbering-centric team-up book starring The Thing. Or a foil-covered Punisher 2099, part of Marvel's short-lived far-future offshoot where 'shock' has become the swearword du jour. Or part four of a convoluted six-part arc starring magic amulet-powered cyborg Darkhawk, Marvel's 1990s attempt to create a new teen hero to rival Spider-Man. Flipping through a longbox full of random issues is one of the best, and cheapest, ways to get a pure comics hit, with none of the hubris, intricacy or sheer daftness sanded down the way it can be when these characters are repurposed for movies and TV shows.
Lego Marvel Super Heroes 2 is a sandbox game that, brilliantly, loves the longbox. It probably helps that last year veteran developers TT Games constructed an impressive monument to the Marvel Cinematic Universe with the slightly awkwardly titled Lego Marvel's The Avengers
, a game that not only mimicked Robert Downey Jr's in-helmet Iron Man HUD from the movies but generally had such a sleek, regimented feel you could imagine it being used as SHIELD training aid. Lego Marvel Super Heroes 2 still nods to the MCU - Doctor Strange can spin up fizzing portals like Benedict Cumberbatch with his magic yo-yo, Hulk is first introduced in his gladiatorial Autumn/Winter 2017 Ragnarok ensemble and there are welcome bursts of Star-Lord's well-worn Guardians of the Galaxy mixtape - but it feels like a conscious attempt to return to the source. Menu screens are imprinted with pop-art dots that evoke the vintage four-colour printing process and the game lifts the familiar visual signposting of comic book caption boxes.
If the retro comic aesthetic helps put some clear blue water between this game and Lego Marvel's The Avengers, it also helps that the main antagonist has yet to be glimpsed in any post-credits Marvel scene. Kang the Conquerer, a 1960s villain who originated in the pages of the Avengers, is a time-travelling history buff with a flair for the theatrical, not least flying around in a gigantic spacecraft shaped like a sword. Deliciously voiced by Peter Serafinowicz, who bathes his baritone in a river of ham, Kang's masterplan boils down to building his own bespoke crazy-quilt realm from choice cuts of prime Marvel universe real estate from across time and space. Perhaps the blue-faced despot really dug Lego Dimensions.