Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Spider-Man 2099 #1

TITLE: Spider-Man 2099 #1


COVER DATE: November 1992


22 pages



Somehow I don't think comics will ever be as good as they were in 1992. I'm not talking about a quality level, as the technique and craft of telling comics gets better with each passing year. No, I'm talking about comics on an emotional or gut-level.

You had the X-titles in full swing (granted this was the post-Claremont era, but it was still decent), Image was just starting, the Superman titles were building towards something huge (and ultimately something hugely destructive), new titles and new concepts were being introduced...

I truly don't think there was a time when I wasn't enjoying comics more than in the early years of the 1990's. Alas, it was soon apparent that the foundation was not as strong as we all had though it was and the bottom fell out. That however, is a topic for another day, for I don't want to rain on the parade of the book we are here to talk about today.

Spider-Man 2099 #1 is one of those books from this era that I still have some fondness for today. I haven't re-read any of these since their original release, but I still remember how much I enjoyed this title when it first came out.

2099, for those unfamiliar, was Marvel creating a new corner of the Marvel Universe set more than 100 years in the future. I guess 2099 had more of a ring to it than 2092, but whatever. The idea was to take familiar Marvel characters and re-imagine them for the not-that-far-off future. It's kind of a hokey concept, and with the initial launch of titles there was only one that really grabbed my attention...and that was Spider-Man 2099. I read them all, at least for a year or so, but Spider-Man 2099 was the only one that showed a spark of being something above and beyond a cash grab on an existing Marvel archetype.

By this time, I was also a huge fan of Peter David from his groundbreaking run on The Incredible Hulk, which was in it's glory during this period. Rick Leonardi was an artist that I was aware of for the occasional guest stint he'd had on Marvel's mutant titles, and the two of them together on a Spider-Man title was too good to pass up.

I'm eager to see just how this book holds up, some 18 years later. I'm hoping it still reads just as good, as I don't need my memory of this time period tarnished with any further blemishes.

Spider-Man 2099
  • Writer: Peter David
  • Penciler: Rick Leonardi
  • Inker: Al Williamson
  • Letterer: Rick Parker
  • Colorist: Steve Buccellato
  • Editor: Joey Cavalieri
  • Editor in Chief: Tom DeFalco
This story starts out like every story set in the near future should...with flying cars! And who should be out for a joyride in their flying car, but a group of teenagers. Even in the future they're still a menace.

While a menace they may actually be, the officers of the Public Eye are actually chasing a bigger fish this day...Spider-Man 2099!

The story begins in medias res, which is a good thing as that means that we get a nice, two-page spread of the new Spider-Man in action. It's a cool technique that still allows David and Leonardi to take their time in fleshing out an origin story over multiple issues, but at the same time letting our eyes feast on the great design and visuals from Rick Leonardi.

I've always loved this costume, as it's got the simplicity of the Venom redesign, but with the classic Spider-Man colors. The finger claws give him a realistic method for sticking to surfaces that also adds to the sleek design. Lastly, the tattered web cape is for the most part nonsensical, but it works. I love the look of it, and it allows for some visual flair on the part of the artist to add another sense of movement during the fight scenes.

This particular fight scene with the local gendarmes gives us a good look at the new Spider-Man in action, dispatching the two officers on their flying motorcycles with relative ease. This looks like the Spider-Man that we're familiar with, as he jumps around and contorts his body in gravity defying positions. We soon know, however, that this is someone different as the wisecracks are decidedly absent during this mostly silent fight.

After losing the police, Spider-Man 2099 reverts to his secret identity and returns to his high-rise apartment. Miguel O'Hara, we find out, is a man with a lot on his mind.

The first of Miguel's supporting cast we are introduced to is his maid/hologram/personal organizer/answering machine (the future is truly awesome...and quite comely) Lyla. While she replays all of his holo-messages, we start to get glimpses of some of the conflict that happened leading up to our hero's transformation.

To ease Lyla's concerns over his general well-being, Miguel begins to recap the past few days that got him to this point. In the flashback, we see that Miguel was much more the carefree, one-liner spewing, smart-ass genius that we have associated with Spider-Man. He works for a massive company called Alchemax, doing some sort of research and development in their genetics department. He has little patience for his company-hack assistant, who is the constant target of his jibes.

He soon finds himself backed into a corner by Tyler Stone, the head of Alchemax, who wants to push the research faster than Miguel had intended. A volunteer of sorts is provided, who won't necessarily be missed if things go awry.

Needless to say, things go awry.
Luckily for Miguel, things were so awry that the suspect literally burned himself out before he could do much damage.

Horrified by what he was forced to participate in, Miguel heads to Stone's office to tender his resignation. Tyler Stone is a man not used to having things dictated to him, and he makes Miguel an offer he can't refuse. An offer in the form of a highly addictive drug called Rapture that he has slipped into Miguel's drink.

This isn't your usual ruffies, however, as the drug in question is manufactured exclusively by Alchemax. With Miguel now hooked, he has no choice but to stay employed to give him enough access to the drug so that he doesn't become a mindless junkie.

Later, in the grips of Rapture, Miguel heads to his home where we meet his fiancee Dana. Without thinking, he lashes out and accidentally clocks her in the face. Seeing his girl in pain is enough to break him from his animalistic stupor, as he explains to her what has brought him to this state.

In a last ditch effort to cure himself of the effect of Rapture, which is quickly bonding itself to his genetic structure, Miguel sneaks back into his lab after hours to use his gene-bonding therapy on himself to try to revert his genes back to how they were originally.

You just know that something is going to go wrong right about now, and that something takes the form of Miguel's much abused assistant. He sees what Miguel is up to and decides to amp up the experiment with some untested spider DNA sequence.

The machine soon overloads and out of the explosion stands a transformed Miguel O'Hara. Where once there was the easy-going, wise-cracking scientist...now emerges the beast-like man-spider of the year 2099!


You know what? This issue was damn good!

I'm glad to say that I think I enjoyed this book more than I originally remembered liking it. Peter David has always been a solid storyteller who knows his craft inside-out, and it shows here.

We get a quickly paced story that introduces all of the main players in an economical fashion that allows for a lot of action and back story. It's just about a perfect first issue, that not only sets the stage for the rest of the opening story arc, but also starts to build a whole new world from the ground floor.

Rick Leonardi, as his partner in crime, is equally adept at setting the mood of the book with a look that is traditional in it's execution, but very moody in it's style. Right away, we get a sense of the familiar infused with a feeling of unease as the future turns out to be a somewhat ruthless place.

It's a shame that this title was saddled with the 2099 moniker, and the sub-par titles that launched with it, as I think people who haven't read this tend to write it off as a failed imprint from the period where Marvel were handing out series left and right. David and Leonardi found an interesting way to rework the Spider-Man origin, and told it in a modern interpretation that really paid off.

I guess we'll just have to console ourselves with the two solid years of story these two did give us and enjoy them for what they were...fun and fantastic super-hero stories.

Lastly, if you find my output a little slow over the next week, blame it on Spider-Man 2099 as I know I'm going back to the longbox to read the next issue...and maybe the next one after that...

All characters and artwork reproduced are (c) Marvel Comics

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