Comic book stories make for some great game adaptations, with the likes of Batman: Under the Hood and Ultimate Spider-Man receiving the video game treatment. As mentioned in our previous article, XII and The Incredible Hulk: Ultimate Destruction were both based on stellar comic runs, while games like Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions and Injustice took only loose inspiration from their comic counterparts. Often, concepts and story elements are taken by games developers and spun into their own original tales, each with varying results. For every Arkham Knight, there’s also a Superman 64, but with such a plethora of great comic stories filled with untapped potential, it’s a wonder that there aren’t more truly brilliant comic book video games. Here are just a few of the best comic stories that could make for awesome games.
Powers: Who Killed Retro Girl? – Brian Michael Bendis & Michael Avon Oeming
The opening arc for the popular Powers comic book series sees homicide detectives Christian Walker and Deena Pilgrim investigating the death of Retro Girl, one of the beloved heroes of their city. The comic arc was later adapted into the Powers television series exclusive to the PlayStation network, but the death itself only came into play in the second series, and drifted so far from the comic series that it really didn’t do it justice. Who Killed Retrogirl? would make for a fantastic point and click detective adventure game in the vein of recent indie, Thimbleweed Park. To see Oeming’s iconic characters coming to life in his own unique style would make for an absolutely stunning game, and one that would see fans directly involved in solving Retro Girl’s murder. The various twists and turns in the comic story would translate perfectly to the genre, and provide a range of puzzles and mini-games to keep gamers engaged in the mystery.
This arc takes place in the middle of Brian Michael Bendis’ highly acclaimed Daredevil run, and follows Matt Murdock as a hit is put on his head. Equal parts detective noir and Suits-style lawyer drama, the arc contains so many great moments like the death of the Kingpin and Matt Murdock being unmasked as Daredevil to the press. The story is crafted skilfully, with parallel narratives taking place both months before the hit and several weeks after highlighting the intricacy of the plot against Matt Murdock’s life. The arc would be great for a stealth and detective game in the vein of Arkham Asylum, with Daredevil’s radar sense substituting for Batman’s detective vision. Daredevil is a character with so much potential, but he has yet to receive a particularly stellar video game adaptation. Underboss would be the perfect story to tell, with just the right balance between Matt Murdock and his Daredevil persona, and enough intrigue and mystery to keep players completely hooked.
American Vampire: Bad Blood – Stephen King & Rafael Albuquerque
The world needs more cowboy vampires, and Skinner Sweet is just the right vampire to get the job done. The Bad Blood arc of American Vampire regales the unfortunate and blood-filled trail of outlaw Skinner Sweet as he’s accidentally turned into a vampire, and proceeds to unleash a trail of devastation in his wake. The tale is set in the Old West, sometime around the 1880s, and is a gory, but beautifully told tale about pure carnage and the evolution of the vampire species. The deep lore and flawed characters of American Vampire could make for an entirely fascinating and deep look at the nature of humanity. The comic could benefit from a gorgeous, desert-filled open world like the one found in fellow Western Red Dead Redemption, with a whole slew of new combat options. As a vampire, Skinner Sweet is equipped with killer fangs and long claws, as well as a twin pair of pistols that could transform and expand on the combat of games like Red Dead. Surprisingly, and despite their popularity, vampires have never received a particularly stellar video game outing, but a rich franchise with powerful, character-driven stories like American Vampire could definitely revolutionise the genre.
Green Lantern: Sinestro Corps War – Geoff Johns, Dave Gibbons, Ivan Reis, Patrick Gleason & Ethan Van Scier
The Sinestro Corps War is one of the best recent Green Lantern arcs, and centers on the four main Earth-based Green Lanterns – Hal Jordan, Kyle Rayner, John Stewart and Guy Gardner as they lead the Green Lantern Corps against the evil Sinestro Corps. Cowed by his defeat at the hands of Hal Jordan in Green Lantern: Rebirth, Sinestro Corps War sees the villain retreat to the planet Qward, and amass an army to launch an assault on Oa, the home planet of the Green Lantern Corps. The possibilities of a video game adaptation are nearly endless, with the powerset of the Green Lanterns being absolutely perfect for the open-world space exploration genre. More Mass Effect than No Man’s Sky, the game would allow you to traverse a variety of wild, alien planets and engage in exciting, new combat with your power ring. The Lantern rings allow for the construction of any object or form, limited only to the imagination of the bearer, presenting an array of intriguing possibilities for a video game adaptation. The game would also allow you to take part in an intense galactic war with a variety of enemies to take on and defeat. The Sinestro Corps War would make for a brilliant space epic that could take much inspiration from the comics, as well as fellow space platform games like Mass Effect and Star Wars: Battlefront.
Gambit is one of the more mysterious X-Men, and one that’s never really been given a proper chance to shine. His only appearance in mainstream pop culture thus far, barring the excellence nineties X-Men animated series, has been a glorified cameo in the terrible X-Men Origins: Wolverine, and even then, the film didn’t do him justice. With an upcoming adaptation in the works starring Channing Tatum, interest in the character has never been greater, and now would be the perfect time to adapt Asmus & Mann’s fun Gambit run. The first arc follows career thief, part-time X-Man and relapsed criminal Gambit attempting to steal an ancient artefact from the Guatemalan jungle. The tale sees Gambit travelling across the world all the way to the UK and beyond, and would make for an awesome globe trotting action-adventure game like Uncharted or Tomb Raider, with the added benefit of Gambit’s acrobatic skills, and his mutant ability to charge anything to explode. Gambit is such an interested and multi-layered character, and one that’s adored by so many comic fans. To finally see him get the justice and attention he deserves would be legendary.
Gotham by Midnight: Rest In Peace – Ray Fawkes & Juan Ferreyra
The Gotham by Midnight series is a tight, absolutely brilliant detective tale that’s been so underrated that it was cancelled quickly, quietly and with little fanfare. But don’t let its lack of popularity fool you, Gotham by Midnight was a beautifully written and haunting ghost tale, buoyed by the absolutely stellar art of Juan Ferreyra. The series stars detective Jim Corrigan, also known as the paranormal being The Spectre, leading a team of supernatural investigators as they come under investigation from the FBI. The arc is a master class in building tension through dialogue, with Corrigan’s relationship to the rest of his team playing a key part in the drama and action of the tale. The Spectre, which is both a part of Corrigan and also an entirely separate being, as a force to be reckoned with, and one who leaves a sickening trail of devastating in his wake, one that Corrigan is almost always forced to clean up. This intense character drama could take the form of a Telltale games-like adventure game, as Corrigan relies on interactions with his peers and fights the influence of the deadly Spectre in order to clear his name and protect the city of Gotham. Opportunities for Batman cameo appearances are also many, and likely to draw in even casual fans of DC’s comics.
Wolverine and the X-Men is a wonderfully sharp-witted and fun adventure series following the young students of Xavier’s School as they battle aliens, travel to outer space and defeat the Hellfire Club. The series is absurd in places, but always full of heart, with each character receiving a genuine character arc and growing stronger in the process. For such a blockbuster franchise, the X-Men video games have largely been mediocre, and it’s about time that that changed. Wolverine and the X-Men would make for a brilliant high school-themed adventure game in the vein of Bully, where characters would be able to choose a student from the series such as Quentin Quire, Evan Sabahnur or Idie Okonkwo as they went about finessing their powers and becoming stronger mutants. A range of mini-games and and classes could see players developing their chosen characters abilities, while allowing for all the dramas of high school and the trials of being a mutant to be put on show. The game could feature several cameos from well-known X-Men to keep casual fans happy, particularly as Wolverine is the headmaster of the school in the comic series.
Fraction & Aja’s Hawkeye series enjoyed a very highly acclaimed run across 22 issues despite numerous delays, and was praised for both its character work and its distinctive artwork. Aja’s work is so bright, neat and quirky, that it would be absolutely perfect for a Telltale-style adventure game. Despite featuring epic battles and a slew of memorable villains, Hawkeye is most loved for its very human depiction of Clint Barton, with many of his best interactions coming opposite his protégé Kate Bishop. Hawkeye is a poignant, character-driven portrait of a superhero just trying to do his best, and Telltale thrives on complex, flawed characters. With a balance between the fast and frenetic action of the thrilling supervillain fights and the interactions between Barton and his friends and neighbours, Telltale could craft a charming and beautiful depiction of realistic superheroism, and the emotional toll it takes on ordinary people. The Wolf Among Us, also by Telltale, utilises an absolutely gorgeous cel-shaded style to imitate the look and feel of a moving comic book, and this technique could work equally as well to portray the unique colour palette and tone of Hawkeye’s incredible artwork.
Green Arrow: Year One – Andy Diggle & Jock
Green Arrow: Year One is often cited as the definitive Green Lantern origin story, as it retells the story of Oliver Queen’s shipwreck on a jungle island, and his eventual transformation into the Green Arrow. This tale has been retold in depth throughout the first seasons of the Arrow TV show, focusing on Oliver’s struggles, and the surprising amount of people he encounters on the seemingly deserted island. Year One follows Queen as he uses all of his wits and abilities to survive the harsh island landscape, and the tale is quite similar to that of Jason Brody’s in survival game Far Cry 3. A Year One video game would make for a similarly harrowing tale, following the struggles of Oliver Queen as he hunts to survive and battles the rabid inhabitants of the island. Throughout the course of the comic, Queen also encounters slaves forced to grow opium on the island and sets about freeing them, an act which leads to his eventual ascent to full-blown heroism. Comic book video games have often steered away from the mundaneness of origin stories, but Oliver Queen’s story is more harrowing than most, and it would make for a stellar survival video game.
The success of the Winter Soldier film, and the titular Soldier’s appearance in Civil War has shot the character into the mainstream consciousness, but his first and best appearance will always be in the pages of Brubaker and Epting’s epic run on Captain America. The series is surprisingly similar to the film, and features Captain America as he is pursued by the Red Skull and haunted by a mysterious soldier whose identity is unknown. Most audiences will now know the true story of Bucky Barnes, and how he came to be a brainwashed Hydra assassin, and it is this character arc that is arguably the best and most interesting thing about the series. Barnes’ journey from being a pawn of Hydra to taking on the mantle of Captain America himself is one of the most well developed and written character arcs that Marvel has to offer, and it could make for a fascinating game. The character is most suited to a first-person shooter style psychological thriller, with the players taking on the role of the brainwashed Bucky Barnes. Taking Barnes through various kill missions, players would find themselves facing off against Captain America and the forces of good as Barnes fights to recover his lost memories and remove the mental blocks put in place by Hydra. The game would not only be an intense, wholly different shooter, but it would also be a strong character piece. Plus, you’d get to have that sick metal arm.