SPIDER-MAN: VELOCITY #1/ Story by DENNIS HALLUM/ Art by EMILIO LAISO/ Colors by RACHELLE ROSENBERG/ Letters by VC’S TRAVIS LANHAM/ Published by MARVEL COMICS
Sony’s Spider-Man game (or, as it is sometimes known, Spider-Man PS4) was a smash hit when it was released in 2018. It was quickly hailed as the greatest game based on Spider-Man since the 2004 Spider-Man 2 game and was praised for how it allowed players to “do whatever a spider can” around a digital model of Manhattan. Of course you could play through the storyline, which centered around Ol’ Web-Head trying to keep the peace in NYC following the arrest of Wilson Fisk (aka The Kingpin) but you could also have fun just swinging around the city, dealing with random crimes and reveling in the joys of superhero patrol duty. The game went on to get nominated for virtually every award in the video game industry and it won a number of them, topping a number of Best Game Of The Year lists.
One of the few complaints I recall from when the game was first released centered around a dramatic change to the classic mythos and how, in this particular part of the Spider-Verse, Mary Jane Watson was an intrepid reporter rather than an actress/model. Why was this a problem? Well, some felt that it turned Mary Jane into a Lois Lane clone. Others didn’t like the stealth missions where you played as Mary Jane, as she got into tight fixes that necessitated Spider-Man coming to the rescue to get her out of trouble.
I mention this because if this was a problem for you, you might want to avoid Spider-Man: Velocity – a new mini-series set in the universe of Spider-Man PS4. The title comes from the Velocity Suit – a unique variant costume in the game, which dramatically increases Spider-Man’s speed and allows him to use the momentum of his body as a weapon. The comic barely touches upon this, however, with most of its pages being devoted to Mary Jane investigating reports of people being attacked by a ghost.
Now, I love a good mystery as much as the next guy, but when I get a comic called Spider-Man: Velocity, I expect a modicum of action and a focus on Spider-Man. Unfortunately, Peter’s subplot is largely devoted to him designing and testing his new costume after an encounter with Nazi bee-man Swarm. (I’m not kidding. He fights a bad guy named Swarm who is a literal herd of bees run by a Nazi hive-mind. No pun intended.) More time is devoted to Mary Jane’s investigating things than Spidey being in costume and while the two plots seemingly tie together at the end when the two meet for date night, Dennis Hallum’s story takes its sweet time getting moving. In this, the comic does a good job of replicating the sensation of playing the game, but I’m not sure capturing the essence of a stealth mission in comic book form is a wise idea.
The artwork by Emilio Laiso is similarly problematic. Laiso has severe problems with drawing normal expressions (noses in particular seem to challenge him) and Mary Jane seems to alternate between looking stoned and having a bad acid trip. There’s also a number of obviously recycled panels, with the details of the face and the background being swapped out. At least the colors by Rachelle Rosenberg do a good job of catching the eye, but you’ll wish they hadn’t once your brain processes the rest of the artwork.
Folks, it takes a lot for me as a librarian to say you’re better off playing a video game than reading a book. But if the book in question is Spider-Man: Velocity? Go play more Spider-Man PS4 instead.