Telltale Has Been Given the Keys to the Marvel Universe

The big news of Telltale teaming up with Marvel has us wondering which strand of the comics' universe is the games studio going to adapt?

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Apr 27 2015, 3:45pm

Promotional imagery for the 2012 movie 'The Avengers,' via Wikipedia

Telltale Games has announced a new partnership with comics supergiant Marvel to create adventure games based on its huge stable of characters. The first of these is due in the year 2017, which may feel like a sci-fi setting now, but Marvel has a history of making grand plans stretching into the future, with its current slate of movies locked in all the way to 2019. Should the human race survive that long.

The world of Marvel will be a very different place in 2017, but that doesn't stop me from speculating on where these games will be set—or where they should.

The New Marvel Universe

This summer, the Marvel comics universe is changing. Starting in May, Marvel's parallel universes, inhabited by similar but different versions of all your favorite heroes and villains, will be merged into one big Battleworld. After the event concludes in December there will be just a single Marvel universe. We've already seen glimpses of what this universe will look like, with a new, diverse Avengers line-up, but there are still many secrets yet to be revealed.

Setting a Telltale adventure during the Secret Wars themselves would be unworkable, thanks to the sheer number of characters, each with their own backstories. Players would be crushed under the weight of decades of history.

When the dust settles, however, and the new status quo is established, this could be a perfect setting for one of Telltale's titles—and a great introduction to the comic universe for new readers. Whatever that may ultimately look like.

To Infinity and Beyond

The Cinematic Universe is directly responsible for propelling Marvel into the mainstream. It's the reason your average person knows what an Avenger is, never mind a Guardian of the Galaxy. Subsequent TV shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Daredevil, and Agent Carter are all set within the same framework, creating a huge multifaceted world that continues to grow. It just makes sense for Telltale to set themselves within this established timeline—if only because it's likely to draw a bigger crowd.

But which film? The Avengers feels like the obvious choice. Take advantage of the ensemble cast, all of whom players who have seen the movies will be familiar with. Flesh out that universe with a slower paced, episodic adventure that takes advantage of the more intimate conversations found in Telltale games. Supplement the narrative, rather than rehashing it.

In 2017 three Marvel films are being released: Guardians of the Galaxy 2, Thor 3: Ragnarok, and Black Panther (actually, the latter seems to have moved to 2018). Any one of these films could tie-in well with a Telltale release. Of all of them, however, Guardians of the Galaxy 2 would probably be the most fun fit. It's likely to draw the biggest audience, plus it features a walking, talking tree. Who, ironically, will probably have the least branching dialogue of any Telltale character to date. "I am Groot," indeed.

Better yet, get the film writers involved with the planning and lay some groundwork for part one of Infinity War, which is out in early 2018. Really open up that Cinematic Universe as wide as it will go.

Whether Marvel is willing to allow the canon of the Cinematic Universe to be wielded by a third party like that remains to be seen, but with Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Agent Carter, and Daredevil all tying together, there's a precedent set already. Just not in games.

Fitz Won't Remember That

Of all the items on this list, Marvel's various TV offerings may be the most appropriate for Telltale to co-opt. They're slower, more thoughtful, and have an emphasis on dialogue over action. Not only that, but they're also much more grounded stories.

By switching the perspective from "superhero" to "civilian among superheroes," TV plays with the Marvel universe in ways that the movies can't. ABC's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Agent Carter, for example, focus on S.H.I.E.L.D. agents across various time periods. None of the protagonists have special powers (recent S.H.I.E.L.D. events notwithstanding), which feels to me to be a perfect way to position Telltale's games.

It already works nicely for Tales From The Borderlands, in which the main characters are exploring the world of Pandora without the heavy weaponry or special abilities possessed by the main series's Vault Hunters. These big guns pop up from time to time, almost as special guest appearances. Celebrities in their own world, thanks to a level of dramatic irony the "civilian protagonists" allow. It's a fantastic way to build on the world of Borderlands beyond the FPS games.

Perhaps more importantly, these Marvel shows are directly affected by the events of the films. What happened in Captain America: The Winter Soldier had a profound impact on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and almost turned it into a completely new show. Wouldn't it be fun if the same could be said for Telltale's games—that they could exert the same influence on Marvel's stories in other media?

It's not clear whether Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. or Agent Carter are getting third and second seasons, respectively, though there are rumblings of a S.H.I.E.L.D. spin-off. By 2017 the Marvel TV landscape could be completely different. Nevertheless, a more "real-world" Telltale adventure based on a TV show, itself set on the periphery of the movie universe, could work perfectly. Between three films a year, multiple TV shows, and Telltale's games filling in further gaps, Marvel could have a constant, year-round storytelling cycle. Just as it does with its comics.

Tales from Hell's Kitchen

The recent Netflix adaptation of Daredevil blew everyone away with its incredible fight scenes, street-level superhero antics and dark, mature tone. While technically part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, it has a very different feel to the movies and ABC's TV offerings—one that would fit much better with Telltale's own stylized and often gritty approach.

Daredevil was so well received that Netflix has already announced a second season, despite initially intending to develop only one. The plan was to create one season each of Daredevil, A.K.A. Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, and Iron Fist before bringing them together in an ensemble show called The Defenders. The schedule isn't fixed, but The Defenders could well air in 2017, providing a perfect tie-in opportunity for Telltale.

Forgetting his friends for a moment, a game based on Daredevil alone could also be perfect for Telltale. Juxtapose some street-level fisticuffs with courtroom-based lawyering and you've got two of Telltale's favorite things: action QTEs and dialogue trees. It'll be like L.A. Noire meets Ace Attorney. Except you're blind.

Marvel's Forgotten Children (of the Atom)

The X-Men are having a bit of a rough time lately. Thanks to ongoing disagreements between Marvel and Fox, who currently own the film rights to the X-Men, it appears their invitation to the Marvel Cinematic Universe has been lost in the mail. Marvel seems to be positioning the Inhumans as the new mutants, if the recent events of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and upcoming post-Secret Wars comic The Uncanny Inhumans are anything to go by. (Uncanny X-Men being the longest-running X-Men comic series, soon to be hitting its 600th issue. Using the "Uncanny" title for an Inhumans comic feels like a statement.)

Despite the movie license woes, there's nothing stopping Telltale from creating an X-Men game. Activision's licensing of the IP expired early last year.

An X-Men-based Telltale title could happily sit separate from the MCU, giving the writers a huge amount of freedom. Perhaps it could be set during the classic era of the 1990s cartoon, or focus on the smaller, original crew from the 1960s. Or it might play with Joss Whedon's excellent Astonishing X-Men comics series. Or perhaps even the 1975 reboot which introduced the likes of Nightcrawler, Colossus, and Wolverine. Or...

As you can see, the scope is massive. But Telltale has a great track record of taking a franchise and creating something new with it, so even if they create something that isn't wholly original using the X-Men characters, you can be sure of a few surprising twists nonetheless. (And as long as it's not set during the films, everyone's happy.)

None of the Above

Having said all that, both Telltale's The Walking Dead and The Wolf Among Us adaptations take established comics and create something completely new. They have their own twisted versions of familiar characters. They feature new settings and scenarios never before seen in the films or the comics. Thanos in The Avengers? Sure, why not. A female Thor? Nah, it'll never happen.

Follow Jem on Twitter.

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