Review: Spider-Man 2099 #9 and an Imperfect Future for Comics

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I wonder if Peter David is experiencing Déjà vu all over again. After months of speculation and build-up, David is finally back on a Spider-office ongoing with the relaunch of Spider-Man 2099. The entire premise of the story is built around Miguel O’Hara being trapped in the past, learning to adjust to his life working for Liz Allan, Tiberius Stone and the corporate behemoth Alchemx (still in its infancy). The first few issues focused on building up Miguel’s new world. There was a teased romance with his building super, Tempest (who turned out to be seriously ill). There was a subplot of Liz trying to figure out Miguel’s secret identity. And of course there was all this natural tension between Miguel and his corrupt grandfather, Tiberius.

Then “Spider-Verse” happened, derailing David’s narrative in favor of Miguel hanging out with a steampunk Lady Spider from the 19th century, rebuilding a Japanese robot and then something, something web of life, something, something, every Spider-Man ever. I had hoped upon the conclusion of the long slog that was “Spider-Verse” we would return to what David was developing in the first few issues of 2099, but instead, it’ now become apparent that David’s book is functioning as a bridge to Marvel’s companywide Secret Wars crossover (before 2099 inevitably gets cancelled).

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If any of this sounds familiar to what happened to David during his run scripting Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man in the mid-2000s (well, everything save the “web of life” stuff), it should. David was clearly building up his own “B” title before the Spider-office got Quesada-ed, Spidey’s marriage was annulled by a demon, and the “Brand New Day” era of three issues of Amazing Spider-Man every month (but no more “B” titles) kicked off. And that was that.

It’s possible that David might be a more willing participant in the disruption of his Spider-book this time around – as he told Superior Spider-Talk some time ago, he wasn’t terribly happy about what happened to Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man. David and 2099 artist Will Sliney have been named the creative team behind 2099’s Secret Wars successor, Secret Wars 2099. Plus, in the build-up to Secret Wars, David is getting an opportunity via Spider-Man 2099 to revisit one of his all-time great stories from his time with the Hulk, Future Imperfect. So maybe my speculation about David and Déjà vu is much ado about nothing.

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Regardless of that, and the fact that I actually quite liked Spider-Man 2099 #9 – you really can’t go wrong with a Miguel O’Hara/Maestro showdown – there’s a part of me that can’t move past the fact that I feel a bit cheated by the unresolved nature of this book’s first four issues. Maybe Miguel O’Hara, “man out of time” wasn’t setting everyone’s world on fire, but I find it completely incomprehensible to establish a book’s premise only to abandon it after four months in favor of a bunch of tie-ins. Unfortunately, I think it speaks more to the current state of comics than it does David’s abilities to construct a cohesive narrative, but regardless of who deserves the blame, it doesn’t change the fact that a story about Miguel in the modern day has been blinked out of existence as if it never actually mattered. Were Tempest and Miguel going to get together? Would Liz discover Miguel’s secret? Is Tiberius still an insufferable jerk? I don’t know if I’m ever going to get an answer to any of these questions – or at least in an answer in a reasonable amount of time where I still care/remember these subplots.

Again, 2099 #9 is actually really, really good. Sliney’s artwork has never been better, and Maestro is used perfectly by David – from his ominous first appearance to his inevitable battle with Miguel where he casually breaks a few of Spider-Man’s ribs and vital organs all in a show of his dominance. As an added bonus, this comic is so much fun, I’m already planning on revisiting Future Imperfect on the Marvel Unlimited app the next chance I get to reread this 90s classic. Just based on this one issue, Future Imperfect world seems like a place I’d like to linger during Secret Wars, and I’ll probably buy Secret Wars 2099 if the book ties-in to this spot in Battleworld.

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I feel the need to repeatedly emphasize my appreciation of this comic because I don’t want my negativity and cynicism to be misconstrued as a poor review of Spider-Man 2099 #9. It’s not about the contents of the comic, but about what the comic represents. When Marvel officially announced that it was destroying its own universe in Secret Wars this summer, a part of me was incredulous because there were far too many character revamps and introductions the past few months – female Thor, Falcon/Captain America, Superior Iron Man, Silk and Spider-Gwen – to justify a hard reset/reorganization of everything. Why wouldn’t Marvel provide every chance possible for readers to engage with and connect to these characters and concepts? Starting over AGAIN just months after you restarted AGAIN, is akin to cutting off your nose to spite your face.

And yet, with the convoluted narrative journey of Spider-Man 2099, we have a perfect exhibit of this illogical behavior. I understand that there are issues of big business at play here – given how the company conducted its business before it acquired Marvel, I was always a bit leery of how Disney would affect the editorial direction of the comics I love to read. But if the goal of Marvel’s comic book division is to attract new readers through bold stories and diverse characters, why does the company continue to act outside the best interests of its readers, old or new? What’s my rationale for remaining dedicated to a character, series or creative team if a new status quo or reboot is only months away, without the prior one being completely addressed and resolved?

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I will continue to read any 2099 comic with David’s name on it because David continues to tell a heck of a story. But similar to my thoughts about Amazing Spider-Man and “Spider-Verse,” I’m starting to wonder with each passing day if today’s comic book industry and me is just a square peg being hammered into a round whole. Perhaps my expectations are too high and I’m asking for too much, but I’m getting beyond frustrated with the fact that if I want a long-form story about a character that organically builds and resolves itself, I have look to the past via the Marvel Unlimited app.

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