Adapting last year's bestselling, award-winning Spider-Man video game on the PlayStation 4, Spider-Man: City at War by Dennis "Hopeless" Hallum and Michele Bandini is a six-issue miniseries recapping the events of the game while promising to expand on them with additional nuance and a newly reimagined character. However, based on the debut issue, the miniseries only truly soars when it finds its own voice and the creative team build off of the video game source material rather than slavishly recreate it.
Somewhat appropriately, the miniseries begins just as the video game did, with Peter Parker, a recent college graduate and several year veteran superhero, waking up to learn that the NYPD are in the middle of the chaotic arrest of Wilson Fisk in Manhattan and desperately need his assistance. Shortly after the Kingpin's incarceration, the city falls into chaos and sees the rise of a mysterious new crime boss named Mister Negative. This is all while Peter balances his professional life working on new robotics technology for Doctor Otto Octavius and being New York's friendly neighborhood Spider-Man.
There are several positive things to point out about this debut issue. First, Hallum really does have a handle on Spidey's voice, evidenced by internal monologues and the usual quips and barbs as Spider-Man tangles with various enemies across this first issue. Similarly, Bandini is great at rendering what unfolds as an absolutely action-packed issue. The art is instantly recognizable as a Spider-Man story, but with the visual design of the video game upon which it is based, with its kinetic, high-flying action. The other positive is that this first issue really is faithful to its original source material as it adapts it for the printed page.
The problem is that the issue adapts the events of the video game a bit too faithfully. Hallum and Bandini are tasked with condensing the game's lengthy storyline into six issues, largely and understandably opting to adapt the game's many cutscenes rather than the gameplay and side missions. While they accomplish this successfully, it also means there's not much room for the creative team to let their own voices shine through. As such, there aren't any real surprises to the issue for fans who have fervently played the PlayStation 4 game, and that may not necessarily be what they're looking for.
The liner notes hint that a new villain, one previously unseen in the world of the video game, will eventually make their debut, but with so much ground left to cover across the next five issues, it will be interesting to see how much space Hallum and Bandini get to give the character a proper introduction. Additionally, the back-up material contains concept art and character designs for fans of the game looking more a behind-the-scenes look at the making of the acclaimed title, but it all feels a bit tacked-on, like a last minute DVD extra.
There's a lot to like in City at War's first issue, and it's clear that Hallum and Bandini are more than up to the task of delivering an entertaining Spider-Man story. It just feels like the creative team deserves their own story to tell rather than re-stage cutscenes for the printed page. An overly faithful adaptation to the popular PlayStation 4 video game, Spider-Man: City at War #1 really shines when those glimpses of Hallum and Bandini's expansion of the source material are allowed to breathe, but they're not given that opportunity nearly often enough so far. For those that missed the PS4 title the first time around, or fans looking to recapture the memories of the game without having to boot up their PlayStation 4, this new miniseries is a direct adaptation. For others, it may be more worthwhile to simply revisit the video game itself.
Spider-Man: City at War #1 is written by Dennis "Hopeless" Hallum and illustrated by Michele Bandini from a story by Jon Paquette, Bryan Intihar and the Insomniac Games writing team with Christos Gage and Dan Slott. It is scheduled to go on sale on March 20 from Marvel Comics.