Spider-Man: City At War #2 Moves Quickly, But At What Cost?

by James Ferguson

The comic book adaptation of Marvel’s Spider-Man Playstation 4 game continues under the header of Gamerverse. This time around Miles Morales takes a bigger role and his father, Jefferson helps out the wall-crawler in a rather heroic manner.

I’m still pretty confused by Spider-Man: City at War. I’ve played the game (which is definitely worthy of every adjective ever used to describe the web-head) and this comic is doing a very quick retelling of that story. The one difference is that we’re getting a handful of additional tidbits that we didn’t see play out there, such as Jefferson’s perspective on his first encounter with Spider-Man or where Miles was before he first laid eyes on the hero.

The kicker is that the game had hours and hours to tell its story so players could fully immerse themselves in it. This comic plowed through the entire first act in the first two issues, so you’re boiling down tons of story into 40ish pages. So much is glossed over so you’re not getting a full plot. It’s less than Cliff’s Notes which is a bummer. I get that you have to level set and provide a foundation for potential future stories in this universe, but it’s not doing the actual story justice. This falls short for players and new fans alike.

A perfect example of this is an epic battle between Spider-Man and some of the Demon gang that takes them throughout the city. Spidey is trying to keep up with them as they flee in a helicopter, knocking into buildings along the way. This is an awesome sequence in the game and we see next to none of it in this comic. Instead, we see the very end where the wall-crawler webs up the helicopter between a few buildings. There’s no explanation for how it got there or why this fight was happening. It’s treated like a typical Tuesday.

I will admit that the final shot of Spidey crouching on top of the webbed-up helicopter is pretty cool. Colorist David Curiel adds to this widescreen image by mixing the grit of the beat up vehicle, the fiery smoke billowing out, and the brightness of the daytime sky overhead. Spider-Man isn’t Batman. He does everything in the spotlight during the day and this is a shining example of that.

One new addition to this world is the villain Swarm. He did not appear in the game and we see a brief battle with Spider-Man here. Artist Michele Bandini does a great job with the character’s look, mimicking the look and feel of the game while establishing something new. Swarm is a pretty nightmarish enemy and although we only see him briefly, I am now dying to see him pop up in a future game or DLC.

Miles steals some of the spotlight in Spider-Man: City at War #2, however it’s before he’s bitten by that spider, so he’s just a regular kid. This provides a street level view of the action and adventure of the game. I love how letterer Travis Lanham shows the text exchanges between Miles and his friend, Ganke. They pop up in these futuristic looking caption boxes like commentary on the epic fight scenes playing out.

I had high hopes for Spider-Man: City at War since the game set such a high bar for not only great game play but for excellent storytelling. This comic is a very abbreviated retelling. I don’t envy writer Dennis “Hopeless” Hallum in this task. He does get in some great dialogue choices. It’s just tough to cram tons of story into such a small package. I was hoping that we’d get a bit more from the Gamerverse, but since we’re a third of the way through this mini-series and a third of the way through the story from the game, I’m not that optimistic.

Spider-Man: City at War #2 from Marvel Comics is currently available at your local comic shop and digitally through ComiXology and Amazon Kindle.

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