The Big Picture
- Marvel’s Spider-Man video game franchise offers a fresh take on the traditional Spider-Man story, using a seasoned Peter Parker and exploring new paths for familiar characters like Mary Jane and Aunt May.
- The games provide a compelling origin story for Miles Morales, with deep-rooted doubts and family problems, while highlighting his unique abilities and musical pursuits.
- The success of Insomniac’s Spider-Man games has extended beyond consoles, with appearances in comics and even a cameo in Across The Spider-Verse, showing the impact of this unique Spider-Man universe.
Editor’s Note: The following contains major spoilers for Marvel’s Spider-Man and Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales.In the pantheon of superheroes, Spider-Man may be one of the characters who’s had the biggest presence in film and television. And it makes sense: the web-slinger’s story resonates across generations and has inspired a wealth of other heroes including Invincible and Static Shock. The meteoric success of Spider-Man: Across The Spider-Verse proves that Spidey still has a place in people’s hearts, and on the big screen. However, one of the best Spider-Man stories is not being told on the big or small screen, but instead in video games through Marvel’s Spider-Man, Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales, and their latest release, Marvel’s Spider-Man 2.
‘Marvel’s Spider-Man’ Flips The Traditional Superhero Story
Marvel’s Spider-Man opens with Peter Parker (Yuri Lowenthal) taking down the Kingpin of Crime, Wilson Fisk (Travis Willingham). Parker’s victory is rather short-lived, as a new criminal mastermind, Mister Negative (Stephen Oyung), seeks vengeance against business magnate Norman Osborn (Mark Rolston). He must also contend with the Sinister Six, an alliance forged between some of his deadliest enemies.
From the get-go, Insomniac Games – the studio that developed the Marvel’s Spider-Man franchise – chose to deliver a Spider-Man story that veered away from the usual tropes. Rather than begin with Spider-Man’s origin, the game chooses to show a Spider-Man who’s eight years into his career. This is a Peter Parker who knows how to put his scientific knowledge to good use, creating all matter of devices such as antigravity mines and rapid-fire webbing to fight his enemies. Yet he still manages to run into the typical Parker problems like missing out on paying his rent.
Peter’s friends and foes also embark on new and surprising paths. Mary Jane Watson (Laura Bailey) has become a reporter for the Daily Bugle, though she and Peter separated in the process. Peter’s Aunt May (Nancy Linari) works to better New York’s community with the F.E.A.S.T. center. Even J. Jonah Jameson (Darin de Paul) has traded his desk at the Bugle for a podcast – though he still finds time to rail against the “menace” that is Spider-Man. Presenting these characters in a new light adds new layers to them. MJ is no longer just “the girlfriend of a superhero”, and May’s proactiveness shows that Peter’s desire to help others was inside of him long before he was bitten by a radioactive spider.
But perhaps the biggest change concerns Peter’s employer: Otto Octavius (William Salyers). Spider-Man fans may recognize that name, as it’s the alter ego of one of his deadliest foes Doctor Octopus. But Marvel’s Spider-Man takes the time to build up Octavius’ fall from grace, showcasing him as a man who wants to use his robotic arms to better society. Octavius is also revealed to be suffering from a rare disorder that will shut down the muscles in his body, adding even more layers of sympathy. Even though he does eventually become a villain, that build-up makes for a rather tragic moment as Peter confronts his former mentor. The acting from Lowenthal and Salyers helps elevate the material as well; the heartbreak in Peter’s voice when he lambasts Octavius for his misdeeds would melt even the hardest of hearts.
A Different, Yet Familiar Origin Story For Miles Morales
Miles Morales, played by Nadji Jeter, also has a major role in the Insomniac Spider-Man games. In the first game, he’s depicted as a regular high school student who happens to be a major fan of Spider-Man. Soon tragedy upends Miles’ life as his father is killed in one of Mister Negative’s raids. Peter takes Miles under his wing, having him volunteer at the F.E.A.S.T. center – and soon Miles finds himself swept up in Spidey’s web when the deadly plague known as Devil’s Breath is released in New York. Eventually, he gains powers of his own when he’s bitten by a genetically enhanced spider, and confides in Peter.
This leads to the events of Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales, which sees Miles coming into his own. When Peter leaves for the country of Symkaria to visit MJ, Miles runs afoul of the energy conglomerate Roxxon. Roxxon is being attacked by a group of revolutionaries known as the Underground and their leader Tinkerer; unbeknownst to Miles, the Tinkerer is his childhood friend Phin Mason (Jasmine Savoy Brown). Much like Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse, Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales digs deep into the roots of Miles’ doubts as well as his family problems to craft a compelling origin story. While Roxxon is undoubtedly evil, the war between the corporation and the Underground leads to a battle that threatens to tear Harlem apart. Miles also seeks to reconnect with his Uncle Aaron (Ike Amandi), eventually learning that Aaron is the Prowler and coming to blows with him on how best to deal with Phin. Even his electrically charged “venom strike” plays a role in the game; first unlocked during a battle against the Rhino, it grows more powerful as Miles grows more confident in his abilities.
The game even finds the perfect way to differentiate between Miles and Peter. While Peter has been more scientifically inclined in his pursuits, Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales takes a page from Into The Spider-Verse and has Miles pursue the arts. Specifically, music: he is working on a mixtape throughout the game as a way to honor his departed father. Soon, he learns that Aaron and Jefferson used to work on their own musical tracks – solidifying his connection to his family.
Soon, Insomniac’s take on Spider-Man would leap from consoles to comics. First, the Insomniac version of Spidey was swept into the Spider-Geddon storyline, where he helped his fellow web-slingers battle the malevolent Inheritors. Marvel has also published a number of comics under its “Gamer-Verse” label, expanding upon the world of the games and showcasing Peter’s relationship with the Black Cat as well as how he acquired a hi-tech “Velocity” suit. Finally, Insomniac Spidey makes a brief appearance in Across The Spider-Verse, even participating in the infamous “pointing” meme when Miguel O’Hara (Oscar Isaac) calls for Spider-Man to be detained. With a sequel heading to consoles this fall, the Insomniac universe will continue to build upon its unique Spider-Man legend – especially as Miles and Peter battle the vicious Venom.