Marvel’s Spider-Man: Hostile Takeover is a companion novel to Insomniac Games highly anticipated (but simply named) video game “Spider-Man”, which is due out September 7th 2018.
The novel is all set up for the opening of the game where Spider-Man and the police are set for the final assault and arrest of Wilson Fisk, otherwise known as The Kingpin of Crime.
The novel is intended to introduce you to some of the themes and characters from the game such as the aforementioned Wilson Fisk, Spider-Man, and his on-again-off-again girlfriend Mary-Jane.
Both the game and this companion book take place in a separate canon to any of the comics, games or films that have featured the Web-Head in the past.
In this iteration, Peter Parker is no longer a high-school student. He’s been operating as Spider-Man for a veteran 8 years—the book helps to establish some of the features of this universe such as what villains Spider-Man has collided with already and our heroes current mindset at this stage of his career.
The plot revolves around Kingpin using his philanthropic image to shore up his strength via corporate espionage – a realistic plot, but not what I’m looking for in a Spider-Man story. The pace drops at points and I feel we don’t get to spend enough time with Spidey just doing his thing.
The book gives the spotlight to two lesser-known villains Echo and the Blood Spider. Spider-Man’s heavy hitter antagonists have clearly been saved for the game, but the author works with what he’s got and does a very good job developing these two. It’s one of the best parts of the book, to the point where it would be great to see some sort of reference to them in the game.
When author David Liss gets it right, there are someone wonderful interpretations of the beloved characters of the Spider-Man franchise; in particular Wilson Fisk and good old John Jonah Jameson—though it’s a pity the latter is criminally underused, every page he’s on is gold.
Naturally, we spend the majority of the book with Spider-Man, and as the titular character, he’s the most important one to get right. The author does a good job of getting across Spider-Man’s conflicted sense of identity and the pressures he faces operating a duel life.
Some of his dialogue, however, is very hit-and-miss. At its best Spider-Man never quite reaches the savage wit I’ve come to expect, at its worst, he sounds like he’s performing at an eight-year-olds birthday party. That and a general heavy-handedness in getting some points across makes me wonder if I’m just a little older than the demographic this was written for.
It’s also worth noting that the game’s pre-release marketing has built up the leader’s identity of a villain team up known as the Sinister Six as a big plot point, the book seemingly drops a huge hint as to who this mystery character might be—which may upset some of the more spoiler-conscious players.
Hostile Takeover is unlikely to be ever added to the likes of Spider-Man No More or Kraven’s Last Hunt as an unforgettable classic in the Wall Crawler’s lore. It’s fun, and its an easy read, but ultimately we’re dealing with the Serviceable Spider-Man, rather than the Amazing.
For the most part, the author does a good job, but there is the odd stumble and I suspect they’ve had their hands tied keeping both Marvel and Insomniac Games happy.
I’d recommend the book to someone who is planning to buy the game and wants something to tide them over until it arrives, or to readers who are in love with all things Spider-Man, who will surely get some enjoyment out of this.
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