Spider-Man 2099 Volume 2 #1
Haven’t done one of these in awhile.
Synopsis: Miguel O’Hara/Spider-Man 2099, is stranded in the past/our present. He’s working for Alchemex, which in his future will become a big evil corporation headed by his father Tyler Stone. In the present day though it’s run by it’s founder Liz Allan (mother of Normie Osborn, former wife of Harry Osborn and former daughter-in-law of Norman Osborn, the Green Goblin). Miguel works with his grandfather Tuberius Stone who is kind of a tool.
Miguel gets himself an apartment and discovers the cleaning lady is Tempest, a woman he previously rescued from some muggers (not that she was grateful). As he heads into work at Alchemex he learns from Tiberius that the two of them are going to sell some Spider Slayer robots to the war torn nation of Trans Sabal, which Miguel is morally outraged by. Just then though a high tech agent from the organisation T.O.T.E.M. (Temporal Oversight Team Eliminating Mistakes) appears intent upon killing Spider-Man 2099 since he doesn’t belong in the present day and returning him to the future is out of the question.
The fight leads to Liz Allan’s office and upon spotting her the T.O.T.E.M. agent cuts a deal with Spider-Man. In exchange for letting him kill Liz he’ll convince his superior’s to let Miguel go free. Miguel initially seems to agree to this but at the last minute uses his webbing to redirect the agent’s blast so that the agent kills himself instead.
After Miguel departs (having told Liz his name is ‘S-Man’) Liz tells her assistant to see if any windows ave been broken into and then bring her a list of everyone who visited Alchemex recently and everyone who works for the company. She figures that since the windows are sealed and since Spider-Man or ‘S-Man’ would only enter via the windows, if the windows are unbroken it must mean ‘S-Man’ was already in the building which means either he was a visitor or he works for the company.
And if she’s going to have a superhero on her payroll Liz Allan wants him superheroing for her!
Spider-Man 2099 is a character and a comic which I am familiar with but not overly so. I have yet to read the entire original run but hope to do so eventually. What little I have read I have very much enjoyed though and if nothing else I really like how Miguel O’Hara is a more cynical and less moralistic Spider-Man than Peter Parker. Whilst he’s no Kaine as Scarlet Spider, Miguel will not hesitate to kill if necessary and whilst I don’t endorse such practices in most superheroes (including Spider-Man) as a character trait it’s something enjoyable to read about. As was his less than responsible personality traits, e.g. his decision to not care about Tempest (the cleaning lady in his apartment building) because he has his own problems. These less than savoury traits make Miguel and Peter very different characters and the contrast between them is fun.
Also the 2099 costume has always been visually great!
Critically speaking I found this book respectably solid. I wasn’t blown away or anything but I was satisfied. There were some problems however.
I did not read the backup story from ASM V3 #1 featuring Spider-Man 2099 but I did half read/half simply read about the goings on with Spider-Man 2099 during Superior Spider-Man. To Slott’s credit (which I rarely give him) the innovation that Liz Allan created the future mega-corporation Alchemex in the 2099 future was pretty in genius and a wonderful way to tie the 2099 mythology closer into the original Spider-Man’s mythology. And I will even give Slott credit for introducing Miguel’s no good grandfather Tiberius Stone through H.O.R.I.Z.O.N. labs.
I knew what I needed to going into this first issue basically and a lot of the necessary backstory was contained within the recap page for the issue anyway. In a nice little touch Miguel O’Hara’s holographic ally Lyla acted as the narrator for the recap page so it wasn’t just dry narration.
However, exposition is probably the biggest problem with the book. Often criticisms regarding exposition in media boil down to either there being too little (especially in modern comics) or more frequently too much. With this issue, weirdly it was a bit of both.
There are some pages in the issue where it reiterates what we’ve been told in the recap page and in a way which isn’t as clunky as say 1990s exposition, but is still not as natural or organic as it could be. I think those are nitpicks in the grand scheme of the issue but they’re still problems worth talking about. Like there was a scene with Tempest where Miguel sort of prods her to ask him what he does and the main point of the scene seemed to be to provide an excuse for Miguel to exposit some of his current status quo.
Scenes like that are unnecessary, but there are other aspects of the book which had I not been aware of the recent goings on in Superior I’d be very lost without. Chief among these was Liz Allan being the head of Alchemex and previously witnessing an encounter between Spider-Man 2099 and the present day Spider-Man. Sure I knew all that going in but there really was nothing to tell a new reader that in the recap page or the internal story exposition. Maybe I’m making too much about this than needs be, I dunno.
This sort of extended to the character of Tempest. For the most part Tempest’s previous encounter with Miguel was exposited pretty well and her character’s weird apathy is intriguing. But having not read her appearance in ASM V3 #1 I was kind of confused by some of her interactions with Miguel. Miguel’s thought captions imply he met her and rescued her from some muggers but it doesn’t say whether he did that as himself or as Spider-Man 2099. And I kind of need to know that because it changes the context of the scene where they interact.
Is this Tempest’s first meeting with Miguel or not, because there seemed to be a bit of familiarity there which might’ve made some of the clunky exposition come off more natural. But if it wasn’t they’re first encounter then Miguel’s dialogue and actions seem kinda weird in that scene. Tempest’s personality changes depending upon this context too as if she knows Miguel and he’s rescued her then she comes off as standoffish, maybe even a bit of a jerk to the guy who helped her but started to warm up to him a little at the end of the scene, which adds to some of her intrigue. But if it was Spider-Man who saved her then it means Miguel is a stranger to her and she just acts as a nonplussed manual labourer who just wants to do her job and not chitchat, but who again warms up to Miguel a tiny bit at the end.
One makes Tempest intriguing and raises our eyebrow. The other makes her more normal and realistic, which isn’t a bad thing but it doesn’t start a guessing game in our heads about her if you see what I mean.
There is also the fact that SOME of the slightly clunky exposition we get in the issue wasn’t told to us in the recap page when it could’ve been put into that recap page and saved us some time and made room for additional things in the issue.
And of course, if you don’t know about Miguel’s powers or even what the future of 2099 is like the issue sadly really doesn’t help you out at all.
The other problems I had with the story lie with Liz, but I admit one of them is just a personal thing. Liz is being written as more hard edged and morally grey. I don’t like that because I like Liz being nicer and friendlier, someone Peter and MJ could still hang out with in their social circle. Now, I’m not saying this direction for Liz is out of character or inherently bad or anything, it’s just not something I want to see. Nor are the possible hints of her and Spider-Man 2099 hooking up, although I’ll reserve judgment on that.
The only other real problem with the issue was Liz’s reasoning that if Spider-Man or ‘S-Man’ entered the building he’d do it via a window and since all her windows are sealed he’d have to break one to get in, therefore if there are no broken windows he must either be a visitor or someone on her payroll.
I…can sort of see the logic but…I dunno, couldn’t Spider-Man bypass her security or something, or come in via the vents maybe or enter through other means. And this is besides the fact that the person she’s dealing with isn’t actually Spider-Man so for all she knows ‘S-Man’ honestly does have some other means of entering the building.
This being said Liz can only think and judge the situation on the basis of the information she has. ‘S-Man’ uses webbing and seems very similar to the Spider-Man she knows so without further info it’s a reasonable assumption that his abilities are those of the original Spider-Man and since she believes her security to be full proof to the point where the only way in is via the window basically her logic sort of does hold up.
Those are all the negatives but what about the positives?
Will Sliney’s art is actually really nice and crisp. Even in the Superior #31 backup strip he did there were moments where I felt the art really shone despite the shitty story and despite it having hiccups here and there. I especially like the gag page with the tux and this tiny touch when Miguel is in a ventilation duck and his cape is drapes over one of his sides.
Miguel’s personality is clearly conveyed to the reader as I mentioned above.
Lyla is funny. Actually a lot of characters have some funny little one liners in this story, even the T.O.T.E.M agent. And there are some nice gags even outside of the dialogue.
I like the holographic clothing conceit.
The T.O.T.E.M. agent’s gimmick of being able to tell people’s futures is kind of neat and eerie, like when he gives someone condolences for the death of their yet to be born child.
The action scenes (considering this is a modern day superhero comic and sadly the standards have grossly slipped) are decent enough. They include the best gag of the issue plus a pretty neat and clever way for Miguel to defeat the T.O.T.E.M. agent.
The story is simple, slick and easy to follow as well as being nicely self-contained. There are subplots being set up for sure but this isn’t like a Bendis paced story or anything.
Tempest is intriguing.
Lyla is in the series! Lyla was maybe the second most important character from the original 2099 series (at least from the issues I read) and she is fun and funny, sort of Miguel’s Alfred some ways.
There was nothing offensive about this story. I know that’s a weird pro of a story but with modern Spider-Man stuff I frankly find so much crap to hate that whenever I read an old or new Spider-Man story which is inoffensive I have little choice but to bump it up qualitywise.
So all in all this was a nice little issue which had some tiny quibbles but I’d recommend it.
I HATED Superior but this was honestly good enough that I might just more thoroughly look over all the 2099 stuff in that series and would recommend you do the same before reading this series.