Spider-Man: City at War #1
Written by Dennis “Hopeless” Hallum
Art by Michele Bandini and David Curiel
Lettered by Travis Lanham
Published by Marvel Comics
‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10
Unless you’ve been living under a rock since September, you likely know about and have likely played the PlayStation 4 Spider-Man game. It’s the fastest-selling first-party video game release in Sony's history, and for good reason. Adapted from a story by Spidey scribes Christos Gage and Dan Slott, Sony’s Spider-Man game was a pitch-perfect distillation of what makes Peter Parker and his world so compelling. So a comic book adaptation of that storyline is basically a slam dunk. Dennis “Hopeless” Hallum and Michele Bandini handle the task, effectively translating the tone and visual style of the game to a different medium.
Hallum is no stranger to adapting and expanding other stories, as one of his early Marvel assignments was X-Men: Season One, and he puts in some solid work here. If you’d played the game already, you aren’t going to be blown away by the plotting or really surprised by anything that’s going on here, but Hallum nails Peter’s voice with his internal monologues and keeps the pacing fairly brisk. There are promises in the back matter to see some expanded scenes beyond what was in the game, but we don’t get much of that in this first issue outside a couple of quips and quick character interactions. That’s not a ding on Hallum’s work here, though - he does a good job reintroducing readers to this world by diving right in and not being precious about the job in front of him.
By not trying to emulate the game’s graphics or even its character models perfectly, Michele Bandini does his own good work in translating this world and story from the screen to the page. The linework is crisp. The expression work is effective, and Bandini very effectively nails Spider-Man’s body language. His art comes across as a looser Sara Pichelli or Jamie McKelvie - lots of line economy but not as much rigidity. It’s a good look for a Spidey book, and one that’s very approachable for new fans who might try out a comic that’s based on a game they like.
All too often, stories change for the worse when they are translated across mediums, but Hallum and Bandini maintain the spirit of the original work in Spider-Man: City at War, which doesn’t try to reinvent the wheel and thereby makes a pretty effective adaptation. Fans of the game will find some fun behind-the-scenes content in the back matter, which is a fun bonus. But for folks who don’t care for video games, this still stands on its own as the beginning of a good Spider-Man story, and that’s what’s most important here.