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It's tough being the biggest comic nerd in the office. For instance, when a new Green Lantern film is announced, everyone wants to know the very detailed reasons why Hal Jordan's one-time weakness to yellow is no more. Then I have to educate everyone about the original Green Lantern - Alan Scott - and his weakness to wooden objects. Still, I secretly enjoy these moments, as I push up my glasses with one finger, take a deep breath and say, "actually, it all started in Green Lantern Volume 3, issue 50..." and go from there.
Above: Yes a wooden bat defeats one of the most powerful heroes alive
So as a tremendous comic geek, I've played a parent's basement full of comic book videogames, and even the best of them still leave me with some minor annoyances every time they mess with established continuity. As I whine about these errors to whoever comes near me first, I add them to the list in my head, one day hoping to let the world know these errors or applaud the unsung heroes who got their mythologies right. Today is that day.
Let's make the criteria clear right now: this only covers games based on comics, and doesn't include games based on movies based on comics, or games based on TV shows based on comics. TV shows and movies already take heavy liberties with their source material; never mind how far the games stray. Plus, those games have a 90 percent suck rate, as opposed to comics games' 60 percent. And before you accuse us of repeating ourselves, we know we did something like this a few years ago, so we're just going to skip over the five games in that great feature.
Spider-Man: Web of Shadows
This game was a bit underrated at release, but play it now and you'll see where Prototype got some of its ideas. But Web got its own ideas from some comics at the time, mostly the Venom Bomb story from Mighty Avengers #7-11, in which a ton of symbiotes, not unlike those Spider-Man and Venom have worn, take over New York by attaching to and controlling the citizens, including some of the super-powered ones. Though that story didn't really have Spidey in it, it instead starred the team of Mighty Avengers that opposed Spider-Man’s own team, the New Avengers.
Above: Inspiration taken from Venom Bomb tie-in New Avengers #35 (though this didn't actually happen in the comic)
But Web of Shadows’ plot had one big inaccuracy: the relationship between Peter Parker and his wife, Mary Jane. While it admirably took elements from older Spidey stories, such as Mrs. Parker's revulsion to Pete wearing the black costume (as established in Amazing Spider-Man #300), or her friendliness with Spidey's teammates, like Luke Cage, there was still quite an elephant in the room. Or more accurately a demon, since by the time Shadows came out, the Parkers had been magically divorced by an archfiend from Hell ten months before.
Yes, our hero, the everyman of Marvel Comics, made a deal with Mephisto - a lord of Hell - to make his marriage never happen in order to save his dying Aunt May, who is about 102 and has nearly died 73 times before this incident. This all happened during the conclusion to "One More Day" in Amazing #545, and the result was a new timeline with a Spider-Man who had never been married. So, despite many of the choices in the game hinging upon Spidey being true and good to his wife, those results had already unhappened nearly a year earlier.
Above: Trading a hot wife for an ancient aunt was not one of Spidey's smartest decisions
But Web of Shadows has some cute continuity trappings that attempt to make up for that big gaffe. Spider-Man's connections with his fellow heroes, particularly with New Avengers Wolverine and Luke Cage, ring true, and in a fight with Wolverine you basically play a comic book quiz to prove your identity. Plus, the architecture of Marvel's New York is pretty well done, enabling you to swing past the Stark Tower’s current design, as well as buildings for the Rand and Kronas corporations – owned, respectively, by Iron Fist and the Red Skull. Now, if only the devs had realized Eddie Brock hasn't been Venom since Marvel Knights Spider-Man #7 three years earlier...
Marvel: Ultimate Alliance and Justice League Heroes
In fall 2006, gamers were given the choice between two Baldur's Gate: Dark Alliance clones starring superheroes, one in the DC Universe and one in the Marvel Universe. Ultimate Alliance won the day in the end, both critically and popularly, mostly because it was a better game and featured double the playable characters. But did Justice League Heroes win the battle for accuracy?
Above: To be fair to DC fans, the League would win a fight with these guys pretty handily
Marvel: Ultimate Alliance existed in this weird reality, in which most of the characters’ standard outfits matched those from the Ultimate Marvel comics line, while their personalities were basically the same as their “normal” counterparts. Meanwhile, the main enemies being the Masters of Evil, as led by Dr. Doom, doesn't work either, as any historian of the house of Von Doom knows he works alone. Add to that the inclusion of a Dr. Banner who has yet to become the Hulk, and you've got a plot that is way off base.
Meanwhile, Justice League Heroes was pretty close to the semi-current squad. The line-up was the same core as seen in Grant Morrison's stellar run of JLA #1-41, with Zatanna thrown in to have at least one other woman on the team. Plus, they faced many villains from the Morrison years, such as the Key (#8-9), Queen Bee (#35-40), and the White Martians (#1-4). Add to that the unlockable, recently resurrected Hal Jordan, and you've got yourself a pretty accurate game.
Above: JLH gets some minuses for having the gray-haired Hal (left), which everyone knows was symptom of being slowly turned by the Parallax entity, right?
However, Ultimate Alliance was the real winner in just how much it dove into the Marvel lore. Whether it was the multitude of unlockable costumes from all over its heroes’ careers, the single-player missions that delved deeper into each character’s mythos, or the fact that you could make specialized teams based on classic line-ups, it had a lot more respect for the characters underneath it all than Justice League Heroes could dream of. Better luck next time, Just Fools League! Bwa-ha-ha-ha.