True believers were surprised to hear yesterday that Telltale Games and Marvel Entertainment would soon join forces for one of gaming's unlikeliest Marvel Team-Ups. Telltale has become widely recognized for two seasons of The Walking Dead (the first of which garnered Game of the Year honors from Shacknews), but it's also no rookie when it comes to the comic book world, having provided a sterling first season for the Fables-based The Wolf Among Us. The studio is also no stranger to massive media properties, as it's currently undertaking a Game of Thrones story.
But on top of the question of whether Telltale can bring its storytelling touch to Marvel, there's a question that's aching to be answered. Exactly which corner of the Marvel Universe is about to get the Telltale treatment? Shacknews is going to make some educated guesses today, while keeping the following tenets in mind:
- No two Telltale series of the last five years have been thematically alike. The Walking Dead, The Wolf Among Us, Tales from the Borderlands, and Game of Thrones have all been atmospherically different.
- Telltale utilizes action sequences, but because it's a studio more versed in narrative, it's likely safe to rule out many of the more action-based Marvel heroes.
- The Marvel deal has not specified whether it will adapt movie, television, or comic book properties.
With all that in mind, here are five of our best guesses.
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
Marvel has stated at various points that Agent Phil Coulson is one of the hearts of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. He's the everyman. He's the average human that offers a window into a world of gods and larger-than-life heroes. Yet Coulson is every bit a hero himself, whether it's been through his years of service to S.H.I.E.L.D., his selfless sacrifice in the first "Avengers" movie, or his ongoing heroics on ABC's weekly hit series.
Telltale has more than one option for a game based on "Agents." The show in the present day has enough characters for players to interact with. It can focus on Coulson, the smart-as-a-whip Jemma Simmons, the neurotic Leo Fitz, or the Inhuman-in-training Skye. An episodic series can focus on the persistent Hydra threat, the insurrection of former agent Grant Ward, or an entirely different corner of the Marvel Universe.
There's also a more interesting corner to explore and that's Coulson's past. Outside of an amazing Marvel One-Shot called "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Thor's Hammer" that's packed onto the "Captain America: The First Avenger" Blu-Ray, fans haven't had a chance to witness much of Coulson's past work. They've been told plenty of times that he's been a historically great agent, but they've seen few examples. Last week's "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." episode, titled "Melinda," offered a flashback to Coulson and Agent Melinda May's earlier days when they were on the front lines. Telltale has a chance to tell another story about their early adventures, before the Avengers Initiative was ever a blip on Nick Fury's radar.
"Agent Carter" spun off from "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." as a limited series, but it didn't take quite as long for it to resonate with viewers. Despite declining ratings, "Agent Carter" seemed to have a more positive buzz surrounding it than "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." did, thanks in part to its better writing, more interesting 1950s setting, and charismatic lead lady. Unfortunately, those ratings may be a sticking point and could mean Peggy Carter won't be back for a second adventure.
If ABC does indeed cancel it, a Telltale series would be an interesting way to give her story some follow-up. While she was able to foil Leviathan forces, the story did not appear to be over, with Red Skull's top lieutenant, Arnim Zola, spotted in the series' closing minutes. There's more story to be told, including Carter's formation of the original S.H.I.E.L.D. It would also fit into the Telltale motif of no two worlds being thematically the same, allowing them to explore a post-World War II world and the Truman-era United States.
Marvel's Netflix experiment has been a big success thus far, with "Daredevil" receiving almost universal acclaim. It's also been picked up for a second season. So what's next for The Man Without Fear? Maybe a Telltale series taking place in Hell's Kitchen?
Daredevil's filled with high-octane action sequences, but first and foremost, he's Matt Murdock. He's a lawyer, an area that's largely underrepresented in games, outside of Capcom's Ace Attorney series. With Telltale's penchant for dialogue and choice, a Daredevil game could follow up action sequences with interrogations, one-on-ones with clients, and courtroom drama. There's a human side to Daredevil and exploring Matt Murdock's character would be a great use of Telltale's talents.
It could also provide a path for some of Telltale's most ambitious storytelling techniques to date. While much of the story would be offered in traditional third-person perspective, the developer could also utilize sequences that would go into the blind Daredevil's first-person view. Players would be able to see through his heightened senses react to certain actions accordingly. There's ample room for experimentation, which would make a Daredevil game an ideal companion to the ongoing Netflix series.
Now it's time to delve into the world of comic books, something I hear Marvel still excels at. For an example, one need look no further than G. Willow Wilson's Eisner-nominated "Ms. Marvel" series. The House of Ideas turned some heads when it announced that Carol Danvers would take over the Captain Marvel role and her former Ms. Marvel mantle would be carried on by a young Muslim high school girl named Kamala Khan.
"Ms. Marvel" is a reminder of everything that's wonderful and whimsical about comic books. The series has its serious moments, in which Kamala struggles to find her identity and tries to balance her growing social life, her strict religious upbringing, and her newfound superpowers. But by and large, it's a series that's light-hearted at its core. Kamala's a girl that's geeky at heart. She writes fan fiction, plays MMORPGs (creating ample opportunity for a number of video game inside references), and moderates web forums. She relates more to the game-playing audience at home than many realize, especially when it comes to the little things in life, like finding a lost puppy (**cough**) on the street.
So a series that centers around Kamala further establishing her superhero identity while bumping into a number of superhero tropes for the first time could be a lot of fun. She could geek out over a team-up with another character (read a recent "Amazing Spider-Man" two-parter and try not to smile when Spidey groans at seeing a younger version of himself in Kamala), train with S.H.I.E.L.D. (a recent "S.H.I.E.L.D." issue had Kamala and Jemma Simmons as mutual confidants by the end), learn more about her Inhuman heritage, or just have a run-in with a D-list supervillain like Stilt Man or The Shocker.
With Marvel's increased emphasis on heroes for a new generation, a Telltale series could mean some great exposure for some of their newer characters. Kamala Khan deserves to be at the forefront of that effort.
Howard the Duck
Here's a dark horse candidate if there ever was one. Marvel was paying close attention to the reception a certain mallard got after the "Guardians of the Galaxy" credits. It looks like the 1980s big screen abomination is largely a memory and the world is ready for the real Howard the Duck to step forward.
While the character himself is quite interesting, the real appeal in a Telltale-helmed Howard the Duck series would be to see just how zany it could get. Howard has dealt with some of the most bizarre corners of the Marvel Universe, with his history including encounters with a giant gingerbread man, a bell-helmet wearing scientist named Doctor Bong, numerous parody characters, and even the Marvel Zombies.
A Howard the Duck story would easily be one of the most off-the-wall efforts from Telltale, allowing them to explore vastly uncharted territory. The central focus of this particular Howard story would most likely be up to them, as he isn't completely tied down to any real continuity. Heck, S.H.I.E.L.D. even tried to legally erase his existence from the record books. The story would basically be a lot of fourth-wall breaking, a lot of parodies, and some deranged humor. The case against this is that Howard doesn't often interact with other corners of the Marvel Universe, though there are plenty of opportunities to introduce some of his closer friends in the superhero world, like She-Hulk. But with rumors of a new Howard the Duck movie floating around, a Telltale game wouldn't be a bad barometer to gauge interest.
Those are our guesses. What do you think will come of the Telltale/Marvel collaboration? We've already had some fine ideas thrown out there, like Chatty's vertdang envisioning a Poker Night 3 with Marvel characters, unfolding like many of The Thing's wild poker games with Marvel's heroes. What say you all? Who do you think the Telltale Marvel game will be based on, if anyone?