Based on some of the other reviews I’ve been reading for the first two issues of the newly relaunched Spider-Man 2099 series, it appears that I’m in the minority in being completely captivated by writer Peter David’s slow burn set up and character work. I know that most people purchase superhero comics primarily because the want to read about individuals with fantastic powers doing unbelievable things with those powers, and I’m often of the same mindset. However, I think you have to cut David some slack here in terms of having to introduce or reintroduce an eclectic cast of characters in Miguel O’Hara, Liz Allan, Tiberius Stone, Tempest, Lyla the Hologram, etc. Action is nice, but across all media, I need to know the characters I’m reading about in order for me to form opinions about what will inevitably happen to them (we cheer for well-drawn characters that we like, and boo well-drawn characters we don’t like – the opposite of that would be apathy). So for me, the lack of action in this series has been a total non-issue.
Besides, critics of David’s pacing should have at least been a bit happier with what was put forward in Spider-Man 2099 #3. It was unquestionably more in line with what one would expect from a superhero comic – Miguel is forced into teaming up with Tiberius to sell Spider Slayers to someone who is clearly being presented as an evil dictator in the mold of (insert name of least favorite dictator here). While Miguel and Tiberius are in this fictitious country, they are attacked by rebels, and then, a more familiar face in the Scorpion. There are bullets flying, deaths teased (Miguel’s reaction to thinking he’s been shot in the head is pretty priceless) and a solid cliffhanger involving Spider-Man vs. the Spider Slayers that should at the very least satiate those who felt the series hasn’t had a hook to it.
Of course, David does find a way to have his cake and eat it too when it comes to writing strong character moments. And from my vantage, the standout parts of Spider-Man 2099 #3 remain these character interactions.
Following up on Miguel’s big revelation to Liz last month (that he’s from the future, but is definitely NOT Spider-Man), David scripts a very strong scene between the two characters that functions as a “where are things going from here?” teaser. Miguel is afraid that Liz will use his admission of half-truth as a means to blackmail him, but instead, Liz cuts to the chase and just asserts herself as Miguel’s boss and demands that her subordinate do what’s best for business and accompany Tiberius on their mission overseas.
It’s a nice twist. A blackmail angle would have been fair too predictable, plus it would have placed Liz in an unfavorable light. Since her return in Superior Spider-Man last year, we’re still not entirely sure where Liz’s allegiances lie. We know that she signed some kind of deal with the devil with Norman Osborn, but we don’t know if her hand was forced, or if the character has truly gone to the dark side (I predict it is the former). David keeps the waters muddy here, assumingly with the long game in mind for Liz’s character arc.
The Miguel/Tiberius sequences are far more powerful in what’s not said. David shines light on what an impossible situation Miguel finds himself in as an employee of Alchemax. While he’s theoretically doing it to keep an eye on his great-grandfather, being around Tiberius so much has not been a pleasant experience for Miguel for obvious reasons. When the two are on the plane discussing the politics/ethics of selling Spider Slayers to a dictator that will likely use the machines to violently wipe out all traces of a rebellion, Miguel/Tiberius reach an impasse in their conversation. From there, David notes that the two sat in silence for the rest of the flight – certainly not the most riveting bit of narration, but something that is all too real that I couldn’t help but relate to the characters here as someone who has found himself in some tense, no-win arguments many times in the past.
To twist the knife in Miguel’s back a bit more, when the rebels start firing on the Alchemax crew, O’Hara realizes that he has to protect this man that he despises at all costs at the risk of being “blinked out of existence.” This is honestly a plot-point that I had forgotten about through the first two issues, so it was nice to be reminded of the potential ramifications for Miguel if something were to physically happen to Tiberius.
Oddly enough, the only sequence of the book I had a bit of a hard time with was the introduction of the Scropion. I’ve mostly been a fan of Will Sliney’s artwork, but like Miguel, I was confused about the identity of this villain that just showed up during the weapons deal because I found there was something just slightly “off” about Sliney’s design for the Scorpion. Am I being dense in not being convinced that this is good old Mac Gargan under the mask?
Still, that’s hardly enough to ruin the experience of this book for me. Spider-Man 2099 continues to deliver, and while I know I already said this last month, it’s the Spider-book not named Superior Foes that I most look forward to right now.