When it comes to comics, Marvel’s Cinematic Universe tie-ins can be charitably described as “perfunctory”. They fall into two categories: adaptations of existing movies, and new material set on the periphery of the movie continuity. So it is that we find Spider-Man: Homecoming Prelude, a two-issue series which falls mostly into the former camp.

Of course, you wouldn’t know that from the title, which suggests a strong connection with the forthcoming movie. And rather than being a lead-in to Spider-Man: Homecoming, it’s actually a 2-issue retelling of Captain America: Civil War from the perspective of Peter Parker. Which is to say, a very strange one.

Bucky smashing out of his specialised cell.

Helmut Zemo runs down the potential subtitles for Spider-Man’s first MCU outing.

For those who are unfamiliar with movie tie-in comics, material of this sort largely exists so that it can be repackaged alongside “real” issues of the comics (to transition fans of the movies to the comics) and so that it can be re-used as promotional content. The stories and art are therefore not usually up to much. They’re aimed at an audience that has low expectations for the medium, and little familiarity with it.

You might argue that’s a good reason to put your best foot forward, but for whatever reason – perhaps because they’ll make the same money however good (or bad) they are – that’s not how things are done.

Spider-Man Homecoming Prelude actually has slightly more credibility than most, because it’s drawn by Todd Nauck. In addition to publishing creator-owned comics through Image, Nauck has drawn Spider-Man comics before. Most famously, he was the artist on the Barack Obama short story from Amazing Spider-Man #583, which is inarguably the most widely-purchased Spider-Man issue of the last decade at least. Though with respect to Nauck, he didn’t get that gig because he was the best – he got it because he was fast and available.

The writer, of course, is Will Corona Pilgrim, who has handled virtually all of the MCU tie-ins. According to Twitter he’s a “Captain of Research and Development” for Marvel Studios rather than a comic writer in the traditional sense. But fair enough: everyone who wants to write comics gets there differently. There’s nothing here to suggest either way that he’s a good or bad writer, because he’s sticking fairly close to the movie’s script.

Spider-Man in his home-made costume

If a hoodie’s good enough for a clone everyone hated and whose name became a synonym for bad 90s comics, it’s good enough for, er, hmm. Let’s think this through a little more first? Wait, what do you mean the movie came out over a year ago?!

Perhaps the most interesting deviation from the movie actually happens on Page 1, where we see Peter Parker in his prototype Spider-Man outfit, saving a bus. It’s the video Tony Stark shows Peter during Captain America: Civil War, only in this case, we’re seeing it happen in the moment first. In fairness to him, Pilgrim nails the voice of the Tom Holland Spider-Man, and it’s quite fun to get a good look at the home-made costume too, even if it is just an artist’s impression.

One of the problems with the two-issue adaptation is that it’s obliged to include scenes that have nothing to do with Spider-Man, just to make it read as any sort of self-contained narrative. A few key scenes crop up, though in a way that strips them of almost all context. Most of the second issue, in fact, is dedicated to the fight at the airport. Admittedly, it’s not like they had a huge amount of Spider-Man of material to work with, but that only makes the attempt to include any of the film’s actual plot all the more baffling. Personally I’d have maintained a closer eye on Peter’s perspective.

Spider-Man fights Captain America

Classic designs, rendered terrible by an attempt to make them look less dated.

There are a few nice moments such as this, which gives us a look inside Peter’s head as he’s fighting Cap – something we don’t really get in the movie. As an aside, it also highlights just how bad the MCU costume designs can often look once they’re stripped down to artwork. In terms of a smooth translation, it’s a bit like running English through a translator into French and then back into English. It might be intelligible, but it’s usually godawful, as it is here    .

One of the things that also made me laugh was seeing Pilgrim attempting to fill in the gaps in the narrative as efficiently as possible. Cap explaining why Iron Man’s suit is suddenly malfunctioning is a good example of just how quickly you can get information across with words and pictures if you’re willing to be a bit clunky.

Iron Man's armour malfunctions

Is THAT what it looks like? Okay then.

When the airport fight scene is over, the rest of the movie is wrapped up in literally a single panel where Peter says words to the effect of “Stark didn’t tell me what happened but it was bad”. Then it spends a page doing a version of the post-credits scene. It sort of makes me wonder what the point was of spending time on those other subplots if they planned to shoe-horn the entire third act into ONE PANEL. But such are the odd storytelling decisions of the adapted movie comic.

The MCU Avengers having a big fight in an airport

Sometimes comics do things much better than the movies. Other times, not so much.

All in all, it’s not terrible – certainly being produced a solid year after the movie’s release has done it the world of good in terms of how it looks and reads – but any suggestion that it’s a “prelude” to Spider-Man: Homecoming is wildly overstating the case. It tells us nothing about that movie, and nothing about the MCU Spider-Man that we didn’t already know. It’s competent but uninteresting, and that, for me, makes it the worst kind of movieverse comic.