So we’re back, for the time being. It’s been a struggle to get back into writing for this space. I’ve been refreshing the page, willing stuff to be there and then I’m like, “You haven’t written anything in forever, dork.”
But JG,FEiC said I could write about this, so we’re gonna do that thing. Thanks, Jason! <3
On September 7th, 20181, Insomniac Games dropped Spider-Man. I went on an adventure to clear the 3000-and-change emails I had in one of my inboxes and I had been excited about this game for longer than a year. I know this because I had an email saved from June or July of last year with some tidbits about this game. Anyways. The game came out with a lot of fun stuff: a red PS4 Pro with the white spider that’s featured on this Peter’s default costume, an entire merch bundle, collector’s edition with goodies, etc.
I feel like I need to preface this by saying I’m not a huge Spider-Man Peter Parker fan – I’m just not, Gwen is best Spider (#fiteme). But. I’ve been running this writing group where we’re all writing characters we’ve created by combining various heroes and villains from the comics canon to create their children, and one of these children is the son of Felicia Hardy and Peter Parker. He’s even got a Green Goblin he’s tied to (it’s one of my numerous characters, of course—I’ve always been more of a fan of the heroes, but I’ve discovered I have a soft spot for villains, too?). Writing in this universe my group of friends has created has been the highlight of my writing adventures for the last two years and has encouraged me to research and read up on spots of comics that I’m not necessarily familiar with.
This brings us back to Spider-Man. I initially picked up this game because I wanted to get to know the universe and this was, from what I could tell, the beginning of a story for Peter Parker. Also, Laura Bailey (you might know her as Jaina Proudmoore from World of Warcraft, Vex’ahlia from Critical Role, Bianca Davri from Dragon Age: Inquistion, and the list goes on) was billed as the voice actress for Mary Jane, a character that I’ve generally disliked but was willing to give another chance because Laura Bailey.
What I wasn’t prepared for was that this was a bit of a departure from Pete’s universe as I know it and it was a departure that I for one loved.
I’ve written about giving creators the space to take characters in new directions when Captain Hydra was a thing—and it was a fun thing, but it was not well received.
The same could not be said about this game.
There are some strokes that Insomniac kept: Pete’s inability to really be anywhere on time, his struggle to balance his mask and his civilian identity as seen by his broken relationship with Mary Jane, the scope of the massive city that Spider-Man seems to be protecting all on his own (there are literally no other heroes that make an appearance through the entire game, even though you’re swinging all over Hell’s Kitchen and I can’t imagine that any of the Defenders would be happy about someone else trying to clean up their streets alone), and other choices that help the audience figure out just what kind of Parker they’re dealing with.
Whatever interested me the most, aside from the stupid amounts of fun swinging from building corner to building corner2, were the changes to the story of Peter Parker.
First and foremost, there is a vague feeling of period that Pete is in. The game opens during a break in the Mary Jane Watson-Peter Parker romance, but there’s no indication that the Venom Symbiote is or has been a thing. We’re not really sure which universe we’re in, in general—Miles Morales features heavily in the second half of the game, so it feels like this weird 616-Ultimates sandwich and I’m not sure how I feel about those implications? On the one hand, that means Insomniac can draw supporting cast interpretations from, well, anywhere, but on the other hand, a lack of concrete timeline might have turned off the most hardcore of Spider-fans.3 It was an interesting choice and the storytelling potential makes me dizzy.
I know that it’s November and the game came out in September, but I only got caught up last week—and I know I’m not the only one, so I’m trying really hard to avoid spoilers, here. (Not the Stephanie Brown kind—some people really love her, I guess—but the other kind of spoiler, that kind that no one likes.)
So in this world where Peter Parker and Miles Morales can exist together, where Peter Parker and Mary Jane Watson are trying (and eventually fail at4) to navigate that weird spot we’ve all been in with our exes. You know the one, that one where you both tell yourselves that you can be besties even though there’s obviously still a lot of feels left over from that relationship you both just ejected from—and then that eventually breaks (your mileage may vary as to what that break turns into). That was a bit I particularly enjoyed, but I’m always a fan of seeing the human side of these hero-types—it’s something that a lot of creative teams struggle with and they either pay too much attention to it or not enough attention to it. I think the fact that a lot of our heroes struggle with the balance between the mask and the civilian is an important part of who they all are.
I’ll be damned, but I really enjoyed this version of Mary Jane (and not just because of Laura Bailey, but Laura Bailey helped). The game’s point of view shifts between her, Peter, and Miles, and this time out, MJ isn’t the damsel that she’s often portrayed as in a lot of Spider-Man-related stuff, especially when their relationship is either hot or in repair—the need to rescue her from one calamity or another as a vehicle to get their relationship going is a really tired superhero trope in general, but it’s one that is employed in Spider-Man stories…like…a lot. But this version of MJ isn’t afraid to get her hands dirty while chasing a story and you get to navigate through dangerous scenarios as the average human. I really loved the game and no small part of that is due to the playtime as Mary Jane.
MJ starts as a reporter for the Bugle and then ends the game as an Editor for the same newspaper—you gotta respect that girl’s hustle.
Speaking of girls who hustle, Felicia Hardy makes a sidequest appearance and has been gifted the very first DLC pack, The Heist. There was a lot about this DLC that I adored—I think the relationship between our heroes and their sometimes-heroic ladies is something we all enjoy reading (especially with that sometimes-heroic lady leaves their hero at the altar—thanks for that, Tom King, you wonderful sadist, you). A side-plot to this DLC is Felicia’s mysterious son—is it also the son of Peter Parker? If you know Felicia as a character at all, then you know there isn’t going to be an easy answer question. But this tickled me because of that character in the group writing project I’m doing, so automatically I was on board with this idea and knew all about this son.
His name is Walter, after Felicia’s father, who is also a subject of the DLC, and he’s got white hair because that’s how this family works. And by the time he grows up, he’s got that biologically-required Parker-chip on his shoulder. I <3 Walter. I am 110% biased, though. You guys would <3 Walter, too, though—trust me. Anyways, back on track: I’m really excited to see how the rest of the currently planned DLC continues to build off The Heist.
There is so much to talk about with this game, but I don’t wanna be spoilery and a lot of the really chunky stuff is so spoilery that you may as well leave that milk in the store cooler—maybe I’ll be spoilery after all of the DLC is done, if JGFiC lets me write about this again.5 | Catherine Bathe
1 (or September 6th if your local GameStop did an early release like mine did)
2 Seriously, it feels like they took a lot of time with the physics of the web-swinging because you can’t just thiwp-thwip all over the city if there’s nothing to attach to – I’m looking at you, Hell’s Kitchen docks. Kindly, kick rocks.
3 But, really, is that a problem? They got Marvel Legacy, they shouldn’t be whining anymore—but I’m sure they are.
4 I don’t think that’s a spoiler, really. People are super upset if Peter Parker isn’t with Mary Jane—I’m lookin’ at you, One More Day.
5 [He’ll think about it.—JG,FEiC]