In Review: Spider-Man – City At War

Written by Dennis ‘Hopeless’ Hallum (Avengers Arena, Spider-Woman) and illustrated by Michele Bandini (Captain Marvel, X-Men: Gold) and Luca Muresca

Review by Finn Miles

Spider-Man - City at War #1 Cover by Clayton Crain
Spider-Man – City at War #1 Cover by Clayton Crain

The Book: The amazing adventures of the wallcrawler from a whole new universe! Showered with worldwide acclaim, the blockbuster game Marvel’s Spider-Man has everyone’s spider-sense buzzing!

Now you can experience the emotional and shock-filled story that takes favourite characters including Mary Jane, Aunt May, Norman Osborn, Otto Octavius and Miles Morales, and spins them into an all-new and unexpected web of drama, spectacle, and classic Spidey action in the Mighty Marvel Manner!

After years of seeing Wilson Fisk escape criminal prosecution, the wisecracking webslinger finally has the opportunity to team with the NYPD to help them arrest his fearsome foe. But how will the mysterious Mister Negative’s ascent to power bring Peter Parker’s civilian life and Spider-Man’s superhuman world crashing together? Includes all-new story moments never seen in the game – and bonus behind-the-scenes content!

Contains MARVEL’S SPIDER-MAN: CITY AT WAR (2019) #1-6

Spider-Man - City at War #5 Variant Cover
Spider-Man – City at War #5 Variant Cover

The Review: Following up on the 2018 release of the critically acclaimed video game, Marvel’s Spider-Man, developed for PlayStation consoles by Insomniac of Ratchet and Clank fame (reissued as Marvel’s Spider-Man Remastered in 2020), Marvel’s Spider-Man – City At War constitutes a significant attempt by the US publisher to capitalise on former success. This comes through the lens of its new GamerVerse imprint, which attempts to delve into the unique settings of Marvel’s recent video game output by offering up some sort of extended universe on their own part.

Collecting the first six issues of Marvel’s Spider-Man into a single trade paperback back, City at War succeeds to some extent in the former, translating the world and aesthetics of the hit video game into the panels of its pages with considerable competence via the mostly solid art provided in large via the hand of Michelle Bandini, who, aided by the digital colouring of David Curiel, creates a look reminiscent of the work of Sarah Pichelli, a fellow Spider-Man alumni who also happens to be part of an up-and-coming new wave of itallian artists in the medium of American comics.

Spider-Man - City at War #1 - Sample Art

As a result, City of War is a well curated tome of sequential art that, as is endemic of the more well produced video game to comic adaptions, contains a general glossy sheen that gives the impression of a relatively premium product for its modest £9.99 price point.

The only real problem here emerges in Issue Five when Bandini is temporarily substituted for the work of Luca Muresca, a skilled illustrator, who in spite of his usual craft, puts in a mostly passable but occasionally inadequate job in filling in for the role of penciller. The greatest example of this comes in the form of a splash panel that acts as rough recreation of the poses from Amazing Fantasy No. 15 cover that features Spider-Man’s first appearance, with any expected aesthetic changes heavily marred by the character’s warped proportions, which act as the primary eye sore of the issue (and, indeed, for me, the entire six issue run). Overall, however, despite some setbacks, the presentation manages to not disappoint, with art that more than does its duty for what is essentially a tie-in product.

Spider-Man - City at War #5 - Sample Art

Evaluating the writing part of the package however is a trickier endeavour, in large part due to the fact that City at War retells the plot of the 2018 video game upon which it is based, making it feel more like a set up for what is to come from the series, a ceremonial prelude before the creators can truly stretch their wings, than an expansion on its forebearer. Such a reality is only further compounded by the fact that this is more a summary of the original narrative than a scene-for-scene adaption. Thus, judging the work done by Dennis Hallum here is complicated by the reality that this isn’t really his story, so much as a secondhand translation that is limited more to the field of summary than a fully-fledged retelling.

For what it’s worth the story of the original 2018 video game was in of itself relatively well done, for a story that inevitably had to tow the line between being the basis of a video game, and thus accounting for the multiple ways in which the story is consumed both familiar and unfamiliar to other mediums; and a fan service, riddled with homage to the Spider-Man mythos, given its status as one of the few truly AAA Spider-Man games in recent memory and the near insurmountable hype it accumulated. In the run up to release, fans rattled off their wishlists for a wide array of characters and mechanics they wanted to finally see executed with a cutting edge sheen by a AAA studio backed by Sony money. The consequence of this, combined with its run time, were that the game’s narrative lacked some of the “tightness” one might expect more from a an often more narratively driven medium.

Spider-Man - City at War #3 - Sample Art

Thus the version one will find within the comic story here inherits some of both the strengths and weaknesses of the original plot line but also, for both better and (mostly) for worse, cuts out many of the characters, moments and side stories found in its source material. What’s left however is still, most importantly, entertaining to read and Hallum, who goes by the unfortunate pen name Dennis Hopeless, has done an at least passable, if not pretty good job, within the naturally constricted confines he is given. He covers many of the stories most important bears with solid dialogue, however close to that found in the original script.

One can not escape the feeling, however, that you’d be better off experiencing this story in its original form initially than first experiencing it within these pages – unless you’re totally adverse to video games or, more bizzarrely, watching something along the lines of a let’s play (even if just the cutscenes). As a result, City of War stands best as a companion piece to the 2018 video game upon which it is based, rather than as an introduction, at least as far as narrative is concerned.

In conclusion, Spider-Man – City At War is, largely, a competent product for both its price point and nature as a retelling of an original game narrative meant to set up new stories in its universe, with mostly above average art and an at least competent, if downgraded and incomplete, summary of the original plot of the game. In spite of this, anyone who looks at it critically cannot help but imagine that it certainly would not have hurt for it to stand as something more as far as retelling the game’s narrative, even if it must come with the cost of a slightly elevated price of entry.


Finn Miles

Dear reader, a review is an opinion. Other opinions are available, including yours 

Spider-Man – City at War was released by Panini in January 2020 | ISBN 978-1302919016 | Buy the digital edition from (AmazonUK Affiliate Link)

Marvel Comics and Collections from Panini UK

Marvel – Spider-Man: City at War Original Series Guide


• Marvel’s Spider-Man: Velocity
by Dennis Hopeless Hallum (Writer) and Emilio Laiso (Artist)
Panini Edition | Marvel US Edition

Make yours the Marvel Gamerverse with this brand-new story continuing the saga of the webslinger from Marvel’s Spider-Man! How and why did Peter Parker build the armoured Velocity Suit seen in the video game? Find out here! After the shocking events that turned his life upside down, Spider-Man continues to balance his colliding worlds as he attempts to protect New York City against super villains like Swarm… while reporter Mary Jane Watson delves deep into an investigation with legendary Daily Bugle journalist Ben Urich! Unexplainable occurrences bedevil the city, and our heroes come face-to-face with… a ghost?! And the secrets of the fan-favourite suit are revealed! Collecting: Marvel’s Spider-Man: Velocity 1-5

Marvel's Spider-Man: The Black Cat Strikes (Marvel, 2020)

Marvel’s Spider-Man: The Black Cat Strikes
by Dennis Hopeless Hallum (Writer), Luca Maresca (Artist)
ISBN: 978-1302919252

As if the events of Velocity and City at War weren’t harrowing enough, Spider-Man finds himself in the middle of a gang war in New York City. But as he butts heads with the likes of Hammerhead and the Maggia, the unexpected reappearance of old fl ame Felicia Hardy, also known as the Black Cat, sets Spider-Man’s world on fire! Black Cat’s heroic days are behind her, but what is the secret behind the treasures she’s thieving? And why would Spider-Man let her go?!

Delve into previously untold tales of Spider-Man and Black Cat’s relationship and a shock ending that will make your webs spin! Collecting: Marvel’s Spider-Man: The Black Cat Strikes 1-5 (2020)

• Marvel’s Avengers: Road To A-Day
By Jim Zub (Writer) and Paco Diaz (Artist)
Panini Edition | Marvel Edition

Before you play the video game, get to know the heroes of Marvel’s Avengers. The stage is set with all-new stories leading directly into the events of the highly anticipated game – featuring all your favourite heroes.

Iron Man, Captain America, Black Widow, Thor and Hulk are the Avengers, but when the Lethal Legion strikes, it’s going to take more than their usual teamwork to save the day] When Tony Stark discovers his enemies have co-opted his technology for nefarious purposes, it’s up to him to stop the leak. But can his teammates be trusted – or is something more sinister at play? And can Captain Marvel help set things right? Avengers Assemble!

Collecting: Marvel’s Avengers: Iron Man (2019) #1, Marvel’s Avengers: Thor (2020) #1, Marvel’s Avengers: Captain America (2020) #1, Marvel’s Avengers: Hulk (2020) #1, Marvel’s Avengers: Black Widow (2020) #1

Marvel Gamerverse tie-ins – figures and more (AmazonUK Affiliate Link)

Marvel’s Spider-Man Remastered

In Marvel’s Spider-Man Remastered, the worlds of Peter Parker and Spider-Man collide in an original action-packed story. Play as an experienced Peter Parker, fighting big crime and iconic villains in Marvel’s New York. At the same time, Peter’s struggling to balance his chaotic personal life and career while the fate of Marvel’s New York rests upon his shoulders.

Following the events of the main story of Marvel’s Spider-Man Remastered, experience the continuation of Peter Parker’s journey in Marvel’s Spider-Man: The City That Never Sleeps, three story chapters with additional missions and challenges.

Developed by Insomniac Games and fully optimised for PC in collaboration with Nixxes Software.

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