Insomniac Games’ Spider-Man swings onto PS4 with justified hype and an ambition to forge its own universe. Not only will this Spidey get involved in Marvel’s upcoming Spider-Geddon comic event, but a tie-in prequel novel, Spider-Man: Hostile Takeover, written by David Liss (A Conspiracy of Paper), establishes the hero’s villain-populated version of New York before players jump into the game. Here’s what we gleaned from the novel that may shade your experience playing the game, and even inform this version of Spider-Man’s future.
[Ed. note: this story contains major spoilers for Hostile Takeover]
Said the Blood Spider to the fly
Set a few months before the game’s story begins, Hostile Takeover introduces us to a Spider-Man who has been operating for nearly a decade, and encountered most of his iconic Rogues Gallery. In typical Spider-Man fashion, things go from bad to worse when he gets into a fight with someone who can move just like he can. No sooner after his confrontation with this mysterious figure does the webhead get framed for murder, the first of many accusations against the hero made throughout the book.
The murderer and imposter Spidey is, in actuality, Michael Bingham, best known in the comics as Blood Spider. In a far cry from his comic book origin — a disciple of Taskmaster assigned with learning how to move and fight like Spider-Man — the book’s Bingham spent most of his adult life thinking that he really was Spider-Man, and Peter had somehow stolen his life.
In addition to his increased aggression from the numerous times he was experimented on, this made Bingham the perfect Spider-impostor to terrorize New York and turn the city against our Friendly Neighborhood hero. Being as unstable as he is, he’s content with bombing a sandwich shop and beating city officials to death if it means smearing Spidey’s good name so he can eventually swoop in and become the “real” Spider-Man. Bingham may seem like a standard “evil” Spider-Man, but there’s a little more going on with him for most of the book, and he proves to be playing just about everyone for his goals.
It doesn’t take long for Spider-Man to piece together that Bingham is under the employ of Wilson Fisk aka The Kingpin. Back when he was just starting out, Spider-Man tried to put Fisk away, but lawyers and connections made Spidey look like a costumed thug attacking a simple businessman. Having recently returned to New York after years abroad, Fisk is trying to be squeaky clean while also operating in the shadows with the help of his ward, Maya Lopez.
Echoes of the comics
If Maya sounds familiar, it’s because she’s a deaf hero who goes by the codename Echo, after her ability to perfectly recall other people’s movements. Created by David Mack and Joe Quesada in 1999, Maya lived with her father in Montana, who was eventually killed by the Kingpin. While raising her like his own child, he convinced her that Daredevil was the one who killed her father.
Her backstory in the book is pretty much the same as it is in the comics, only she’s gunning for Spider-Man since Fisk pinned him for her father’s murder. And like Bingham, she knows his moves and fighting style incredibly well. For her part, she helps in the smear campaign against Spider-Man by hiring J. Jonah Jameson and giving him enough money to start his own radio show and talk about whatever he so desires.
Spider-Man and Echo don’t have much of a relationship in the comics, outside of working together when they were both New Avengers. Still, her appearance in the book is important all the same, as she’s currently the only other Marvel hero in this universe to be referred to by their actual name. While Insomniac’s hasn’t been shy about the fact that the Avengers exist in their world, they’re only teased through Easter eggs, and landmark locations such as Avengers Tower and the Wakandan Embassy.
After the obligatory fight wherein Maya tries to get her misplaced vengeance against Spider-Man, the two team up to discredit Fisk and ensure he doesn’t become in charge of the city’s finances. Mayor Norman Osborn would rather not make Fisk the commissioner of finance, but the Kingpin is naturally blackmailing him into this promotion. Blood Spider and Spider-Man fight, during which Spider-Man finally beats his imposter and proves his innocence for the weeks of terror. Maya, meanwhile, destroys the flash drive holding Fisk’s blackmail over Osborn, during which her adoptive father attacks her for the whole city to see. Fisk doesn’t just lose his potential job, he loses his leverage over Osborn and the image he spent a year maintaining crumbles in one night. Politics!
It isn’t a Spider-Man story without some personal troubles, and Hostile Takeover is no different. Unlike in most universes, Peter isn’t working at the Daily Bugle — that duty goes to his girlfriend, Mary Jane Watson. Instead he’s following his scientific passions. Like most things in his life, his job at the unnamed lab could be better if he had time management skills, but his boss, a man who also goes unnamed in the book, likes him enough to let it slide.
By this point, Peter and MJ’s relationship has been going well for the years — so, of course, things begins to fall apart. In Hostile Takeover, he’s too protective of her now that she’s working at the Bugle and writing a feature on Fisk, and she’s not having it. They break things off when Peter’s tricked into attacking cops planted by Fisk. Despite their split, they do eventually reconcile and becoming working partners, most notably when he goes to MJ for information on Maya to set things straight between the two of them.
And then there’s the Osborns, Harry and Norman. Harry does show up in the book, primarily for Peter to have someone to talk to about his woes with MJ. Beyond that, he secures a way to not show up in the game by traveling to Europe for a few months. In the comics, “Europe” was code for “rehab” due to Harry’s drug addiction that eventually lead to him becoming the Green Goblin. Norman even points out that Harry “hasn’t been himself” lately, but it’s purposely unclear if either of the Osborn men have become the Goblin during the eight years that Peter has been Spider-Man.
Like Harry, Norman doesn’t have much to do in the book beyond establishing that he and Peter have a speaking relationship with one another and that he absolutely hates Fisk for blackmailing him. Fortunately, he finds a way out of this, as he’s the one who experimented on Bingham and put him in Fisk’s path to secure the blackmail. Norman may be mayor in this universe, but he’s still calculating and not taking anyone’s shit.
Beyond the novel, beyond the game
At the end of the book, Hostile Takeover jumps ahead to the opening moments of the game, wherein Peter suits up to bring in Fisk. He also gives Yuri Watanabe (aka the Wraith from the comics), who he works with throughout the book, the information on Fisk that Echo stole for him. Jameson, having become aware that he was given his platform thanks to Fisk money, has now migrated over to podcasting so he can fairly go after Spider-Man, Fisk, or whoever he so chooses, which players will no doubt hear during their time in New York.
As for Echo, she leaves New York to return to the rest of her family in Montana. She says it’s to find out more about who her father is, and Spider-Man tells her that she’ll get his help if she ever returns to the city. Considering there are three DLC chapters in the works that’ll be set after the events of the game, it’s feasible that she could show up in one of those at some point. At the very least, he’s got an ally in his corner if he ever needs the help of another hero.
Defeated by Spider-Man, Bingham is currently behind bars, but not giving up any information about Osborn or Fisk. Like with Echo, it’s doubtful that he’ll show up in the base game itself, but the DLC seems likely, or in another novel set sometime after the first game. He’s shown himself able to adapt and overcome, and now that he’s been publicly humiliated, that’s sure to make him even more of a threat.
And then there’s the matter of Osborn’s “dark secrets” that Fisk found worth lording over. Exactly what said blackmail is was left purposely unclear in the book, but it may be something that ties into the Green Goblin in some capacity. There is still one mysterious member to round out the Sinister Six of this universe, after all. Even if he’s not the Goblin yet, he’s still not making things easier for Spider-Man, as he’s hired Silver Sable and her mercenaries to bring him down.
That’s everything you need to know before you boot up Spider-Man. The first game in this new universe has a lot going on behind the scenes, and it shouldn’t be surprising if and when these factors come into play down the line.
Justin is a Kansas City, Missouri, freelance writer and is on Twitter often, @GigawattConduit. He also is an avid lover of M&M McFlurries from McDonald’s, and accepts that he has an addiction to them.