The past few weeks have involved a whole lot of Spider-Man. My wife and I took two of my nephews to go see Into the Spider-Verse, I finished off all of the DLC for Marvel’s Spider-Man on the PlayStation 4, and I’ve been reading through some comics. They’ve all been fantastic experiences, and have resolidified my love for the character and the world of Spider-Man.
Into the Spider-Verse is a wonderfully animated and heartfelt story about a boy learning both how to accept his own power and how to work within a group for a common goal. Seeing the young, new Spidey, Miles Morales, team up with Peter Parker and other Spider-beings from across the multiverse was a tone of fun, the art style is completely off the wall, and kept both of the kids totally engaged throughout (and for several days after). I would absolutely recommend everybody go see this, with two caveats:
- If you are prone to negative responses to flashing lights this is absolutely not a movie for you. Just like the other animated superhero film from earlier this year, the Incredibles 2, this movie has a ton of instances where colors and lights flash across the screen in a way that was so fast it was actually bothersome to me, and I’m not really susceptible to that sort of things.
You need to make sure you (and any kids you take along) are ready to deal with character death before going to see this movie. I had completely forgotten until we were sitting in the theater and it was about to happen that a major part of Miles Moralis’ origin story as Spider-Man is the death of his universe’s Peter Parker. The way this happened on screen was super vivid and impactful, from a story-telling perspective, but might be tough for kids. Fortunately, it’s not a long and drawn out scene, but there is also a funeral and a memorial for Peter Parker, so the movie isn’t vague about it at all. The younger of the two nephews didn’t seem bothered at all, but the moment he realized what had happened, the four-year-old (who was sitting next to me holding my hand) held up the Spider-Man action figure we got him before going into the theater and told me, “this is the real Spider-Man, and he will never die.”
Other than those two concerns, the movie was laugh-out-loud funny, had incredible action, great characters, a wonderfully uplifting message about the idea that everyone has greatness in them, and it just looked incredible. I have never seen a movie that looks like it. If you like superheroes at all, go see it.
The downloadable content for Marvel’s Spider-Man on the PlayStation 4, on the other hand, is not really exceptional. It’s good, there’s nothing wrong with it, but I mostly found it unremarkable. However, this is not a bad thing! The story in the main game was interesting enough that at some point in the future I probably will go through and play it again, while the DLC felt more generic, like standard issues of a comic book versus a big crossover event.
The storyline in the three DLC missions is centered around a crime-boss named Hammerhead. He’s a background character in the first episode, only showing his face in the very last moments. In the second, he starts to come to the forefront, and Spider-Man actually has a confrontation with him. In the final story, you fight him a couple of times, as he becomes more and more powerful and less and less human. In the end, Spider-Man beats the bad guy, reconciles with some on-again-off-again allies, and ends the story with a joke. I’ve been reading a lot of Brian Michael Bendis Avengers comics lately, along with the Bendis Assembled podcast, and these DLC stories for Spider-Man reminded me of some of the less consequential issues of those comics. There’s nothing wrong with them, they just won’t be the big monumental stories people remember later on.
Having said that, I loved having more of this game to play. The moment-to-moment gameplay is still absolutely fantastic, and both combat and mobility feel incredible. I even got to play with my four-year-old nephew a little bit, who was able to grasp the idea of pressing the shoulder button to shoot out web, releasing it to let go of the line, and then pressing it again to shoot another! It’s crazy to see someone so young and inexperienced with video games be able to pick and enjoy a game so rapidly.
Finally, in comics, I read through the Kraven’s Last Hunt storyline from 1987. I’ve heard this brought up before as one of the all-time great Spider-Man stories, and really enjoyed it, but I don’t think that accolade is deserved. This is a great story that takes place across three different Spider-Man series, but it isn’t a Spider-Man story. It is so much a Kraven story that Spidey is completely absent for one issue of the six-issue arc. I went into this expecting to see some awesome black-suit-Spider-Man action and came out nearly in tears for the experiences of two of his villains. I think that strange disconnect from the hero is what makes this such a great read.
Spider-Man has always been one of my favorite superheroes. The dive I’ve done into his world’s the past few weeks hasn’t made me fall in love with a character I didn’t already adore, but it was incredible to experience such different types of Spidey stories back-to-back-to-back like this and to see different strengths in each. The most special thing, though, was for my wife and me to be able to share that movie with my nephews, who are already on their way to becoming Spider-Man fans themselves.