In 2007 Steve Rogers, better known as Captain America, was shot and killed at the end of the (in?)famous Civil War arc. In 1993 Clark Kent, Superman, met his end in the Death of Superman comic arc. In 1980 Marvel ran The Dark Pheonix Saga, a comic arc that cumulated in the death of Jean Gray. Of course, all of these famous deaths sold millions of copies, generated a ton of publicity, and were retconned before a couple of years were over. No one really stays dead in comics. So much so that there's a famous saying: "No one stays dead except Bucky, Jason Todd, and Uncle Ben." Of course, Bucky and Jason Todd are alive again as Winter Soldier and Red Hood respectively.
Uncle Ben is still dead.
Marvel Snap is probably my biggest surprise of the year. I don't like card games, I don't like free-to-play games, I don't like Early Access games, and I don't like competitive multiplayer. After watching my friends play a bit of it, I decided to try it. I feel like my feelings on Marvel Snap can best be summarized by Christian Buckley, our social lead. He posted on Twitter "I have downloaded Marvel Snap." Two hours later he tweeted "Uh oh." It's addictive, it's fun, and I can't get enough of it. I've been playing for hours. Between writing paragraphs of this very article, I reward myself with a game.
One of the best parts of Marvel Snap is the wide range of Marvel characters you can unlock. Sure you got big characters, like Iron Man, Spider-Man, Captain America, Gamora, and Doctor Strange. There are also some great lesser-known characters. Ka-Zar, Misty Knight, Medusa, Wolfsbane, White Tiger, and Spectrum make up just some of the characters I've never seen before.
Many of these characters have special abilities to help you. Wolfsbane becomes stronger if she's placed with other cards, Gamora gets more power if an enemy plays another card opposite of her on the same turn, while White Tiger summons a tiger spirit. Yet one card started to make the news cycle that I don't think anyone expected: Uncle Ben.
If you somehow don't know, Uncle Ben's story is pivotal to Spider-Man. When Peter Parker, Spider-Man, originally got his powers he had no plans to use them for anything other than self-benefit, and he let a criminal escape. This criminal would go on to shoot and kill his Uncle Ben, who has just enough time to pass on the advice, "With great power comes great responsibility," to Peter before his passing. Uncle Ben's death is a pivotal moment in Spider-Man's story, in much the same way Bucky and Jason Todd's deaths are to Captain America and Batman respectively. There's just one important difference: Uncle Ben is still dead.
In Marvel Snap, the Uncle Ben card is rather weak. It has an energy cost of 1 and a power level of 2, something more than half the cards in the game outclass. However, it has one rather unique feature. When the Uncle Ben card is destroyed, a Spider-Man card is immediately summoned into your hand. Uncle Ben's death in the comic creates the Spider-Man we know and love, so why wouldn't it be the same for Marvel Snap?
This is, simply, an incredible stroke of genius dark comedy, one I really needed to know more about. So I used this chance to shoot some questions to the Marvel Snap team and got some answers. Specifically, I got them from Associate Design Director Kent-Erik Hagman and Designer Brad Crusco.
"There've been so many iconic Marvel Heroes and Villains, it’s been so much fun bringing them into the game, and imagining how we can best reflect their powers," Hagman told me. "Marvel has such a rich history with their comics, we never have and never will run short of new characters who bring something new and fresh to the game."
There are plenty of ways to get to these cards, of course. Hagman went on to tell me that there were multiple ways characters were chosen. Some were chosen because, duh, you're not making a Marvel card game without standbys like Wolverine and Dr. Doom. They're iconic beloved characters that have more than earned their place in the hearts of fans. Sometimes you go the opposite route: you get a good idea for a card ability and you get the Marvel Games team to come over and help you figure out who this power fits for, and they'll pull up some obscure heroes and villains that will work.
Uncle Ben was not created using any of these methods. To get Uncle Ben in Marvel Snap, you break rules. But you can't just break rules. You break the rules in a way that's so funny, so clever, whoever set those rules needs to look at your creation and realize the game is in a better place with it. Crusco was the one who broke the rules.
"My first week on SNAP [studio co-founder Ben] Brode told me we weren't going to do any 'non-super' characters as cards, which basically guaranteed I would design a bunch of non-super cards cause I love being difficult," Crusco told me. "Uncle Ben was the first one I pitched. Glad players are getting a kick out of him!"
While the Uncle Ben card may be my favorite one to come out of Marvel Snap, it's not the only one that has been making me smile. Agatha Harkness is one of the most powerful cards in Marvel Snap and even has a special power that makes her always start in your opening hand. The catch? She immediately takes over and plays the game for you. The ability didn't originally belong to Agatha, but Hagman told me that the team watched WandaVision and realized that it would be the perfect fit for her. "...Because after all, when the game ends, and you realize your opponent was being controlled by Agatha, well of course it was Agatha All Along!"
These are just some of the cards I've come to love, but I'm sure in the coming updates I'll see plenty more. In fact, Hagman told me to expect as much. "Honestly, the fun is just beginning. We have a lot of wild designs coming in the future that I can’t wait for our players to discover!" I know I'll be lining up to discover them.
At the end of all this, I absolutely love that Second Dinner Studios went and made some wild cards. Uncle Ben is not someone who you'd ever expect to be in the game, but once he's there then it all fits. It's the perfect use of the character, and I don't think I would change a thing. While Uncle Ben may still be dead in the comics, for one single glorious instance in Marvel Snap he gets to be alive.