Friday, May 31, 2013

Spider-Man 2099 #31: "Route 666"

*** (three of five stars)

Riding on top of a truck speeding through the desert, Spidey climbs down the side of the truck to the driver's window.  The driver, who Spidey calls "Dash," tells him to return to keep lookout, but Spidey reports that he hadn't seen anything.  Dash tells him to look again since the "old boys" are coming up fast.  Spidey does just that and sees them this time.  Miguel expresses disbelief at his situation, sparking a flashback.  He had been walking on the side of the road, wondering how he failed to save Angela, either as Miguel or Spider-Man, and lamenting that Xina probably thought that he was a coward for running.  However, he realizes that it's probably better that she thinks that he's a coward rather than her knowing the truth.  A woman approaches in a car, calling him handsome and asking why he's walking on such a hot day.  She offers him a ride and then, as he gets into the car, pepper sprays him, telling him that she attacked him before he could attack her (claiming to know what he was thinking of doing to her) and stealing his backpack.  She then leaves him shaking on the side of the road.

Miguel awakens to the aforementioned Dash, telling him that he got himself into another "fine fix."  Dash mentions that Miguel "growed up some" since last they saw one another and offers to give him a lift.  Miguel notes that Dash is no longer a cabbie and he responds that he's done a lot of stuff and that he's currently doing delivery runs, this one to Velo City.  Miguel says he's never heard of it and Dash looks at him pained when he asks where it is, responding, "Oh, neither here nor there."  Miguel hears voices in the back and Dash invites him to open the door, revealing a train car with waitresses serving the passengers.  Miguel notes that Dash's cargo is people, though Dash responds, "Not people, 'zactly."  Before Miguel can get him to answer what, exactly, they are, one of the waitresses turns and reveals herself to be Angela.  Dash responds to Miguel's shocked response at seeing her that "we" saw that she had potential and put her to work immediately.  Miguel demands that Dash stop so that he can go, but they run into a roadblock and Dash comments that he often changes his route but "they" always find him.  Dash rams the roadblock but curses, declaring that they've been detoured.  Miguel asks why the road is so choppy, to which Dash responds, "Because it's paved with good intentions."  Dash says that they've got to get to an off-ramp five miles up the road to return on the main road, telling Miguel to turn into Spider-Man and keep off the bikers.  Miguel expresses shock that Dash knows that he's Spider-Man, but Dash tells him to jump to it.

Miguel, who seems to have an inkling of where he is, spots the bikers and manages to take down one.  Another two leap onto the truck, but Miguel repels them.  The lead biker appears before him, noting that Miguel is more vicious with his claws than he used to be.  As the biker uses his spiked-ball hand to swing at Miguel, another biker breaks into the truck and grabs Angela.  Miguel gets knocked off the truck by the lead biker, but hears Angela's scream and manages to get a Web-Line onto the truck as he falls.  Being dragged behind the truck, Miguel wonders when he's going to wake up, noting that in dreams you're not supposed to feel anything, yet he feels the abuse that his body is taking.  Another biker approaches him from behind, but Miguel uses his foot talons to shred his wheel, sending him flying.  The main biker breaks into the cab and Spidey arrives in time to prevent him from clubbing Dash by attaching a Web-Line to his club.  Meanwhile, the biker who grabbed Angela pulls her from the train as Miguel and the lead biker struggle.  The lead biker tells Miguel that he doesn't know what's at stake and that he's already his, even though Miguel doesn't know it yet.  The lead biker tells Miguel that all his struggles so far have been basic training and that he won't understand any of it until "doom has you by the throat!"  He throws Miguel off the truck, but Miguel uses his Web-Line to swing around him and smash into his head feet first, knocking him off the truck.

Dash congratulates Spidey for getting rid of the lead biker and tells him that the turn-off is just up the road.  Miguel then rescues Angela from the biker but, as the biker comes at Miguel, the lead biker appears on a bike, telling the other biker that Spider-Man is all his and that he shouldn't hurt him.  The lead biker then uses his other hand, which stretches into a barbed rope of sorts, to grab Angela's ankle.  Miguel blinds the other biker with a Web-Line and then uses his talons to cut the barbed rope.  The lead biker pledges to get him when the "game finally begins" and the other biker, who can now see again, fails to see the tunnel behind him, getting smashed when they go under it.  In the darkness, Miguel apologies to Angela, who tells him that he did the best that he could and that she doesn't blame him.  She tells him that he's superhuman, not suprahuman, and makes him promise not to add unresolved guilt over her to his list of problems.  However, at that point, Miguel awakens to Xina, who tells him that she returned for him because she felt bad about leaving him alone in the desert without her to hold his hand, given how frail he is.  Miguel notices a slice of the lead biker's barbed-rope hand on the ground and Xina asks if it's a piece of cactus.  He says that he hopes that it is and they head for Xina's car.  She tells him that he has a guardian angel watching over him, to which Miguel responds that he has a feeling angels aren't the only one watching over him.

The Review
This issue is intriguing.  David is perhaps giving us a "Revelations"-esque insight into Miguel's future, portending a dark time to come without giving us anything too specific to spoil the upcoming fun.  The most obvious clue is the reference to Doom, but we're going to have to see how that develops before we can understand it.  At the very least, it seems to imply that Miguel should stop worrying about the small stuff, like Tyler being his father or him not having to have become Spider-Man, because he's got a lot bigger stuff about which he should be worrying.

The Good
1) I totally initially rolled my eyes at the idea that someone that Miguel knew just happened to stumble across him.  But, when Dash mentioned that the bumpy road was paved with good intentions, I realized that I should've trusted Peter David from the start not to go with something so obvious.

2) I'm intrigued by the idea that Dash was seemingly bringing people to Heaven (Velo City) but that the demonic biker gang hijacked them, forcing them onto the road to Hell.  I'm not sure what all the theological implications are, but it seems that 2099's afterlife is just as "kill or be killed" as its real world.

The Unknown
Have we met Dash?  If he knows Angel from "life," then is he someone that we're going to meet in the "Young Miguel" back-up stories?

Avengers: The Enemy Within #1 (HERE BE SPOILERS!)

This issue reads as essentially "Captain Marvel" #12.1, continuing the cat-and-mouse game that Carol has been playing with her mysterious adversary in that title.  In this one-shot issue, DeConnick takes us one step further; Carol is no longer just battling the fear that comes with knowing that her brain lesion could be causing her to lose her grip on reality, but also now knows that she's facing an adversary who knows all about her past and is coming after the people who she loves.  DeConnick really nails that fear here, showing Carol as increasingly both unhinged and reckless.

The star of the show, however, is Spider-Woman.  Although "Captain Marvel" has been full of humor, it often comes from banter between Carol and her supporting cast.  Here, Jessica is funny all by herself, without any banter with Carol.  In fact, Carol finds her humor annoying for most of this issue, since she's panicked about finding her homeless friend and finds Jessica's comments distracting.  But, DeConnick successfully uses Jessica's humor for most of this issue to throw doubt on Carol's urgency, making us wonder just how much Carol is overreacting.  However, when it's shown that Carol was right all along, Jessica turns on her heel, immediately going from the comforting friend to the avenging ally.  She shakes Carol from her stupor and tells her to call in the reserves, since, after all, they're Avengers, damn it.  It's a great star turn and makes you wonder why DeConnick also isn't writing a "Spider-Woman" comic.

DeConnick has unfurled this story over several issues of "Captain Marvel" and it's a real delight to see her hard work culminate in this arc.  As became clear in this issue with the appearance of the Grapplers, DeConnick continues introduce Carol's past to those of us who have never read any previous incarnations of her series.  In this way, her series is starting to feel like "Amazing Spider-Man" from the 1970s and 1980s, where the villains might be campy but the problems that the hero faces are real.  I can't think of higher praise than that.  I can't wait to see where we go from here.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

2099 A.D. #1: "Everything is Fair"

*** (three of five stars)

On Valhalla, which he has rechristened "Libera Cielo" (Latverian for "clear sky"), Doom meets with his "Black Cabinet" to prepare for an attack on America.  They consider a number of options before Doom announces that they've reached the point of diminishing marginal returns on the discussion and that he's leaving to go shopping.  One of his minions, Fortune, accuses him of becoming increasingly paranoid and Doom notes that his paranoia is justified, since she herself betrayed him to save her brother's life.  When he asks why she didn't trust him to come to him first, she reminds him that she couldn't come to him because he's perpetually angry at everyone.  He wonders aloud how he is going to rule America if he cannot trust anyone to rule Latveria.

In the American Southwest, Septymbre and Polymbre from the Theater of Pain steal an artifact from someone named Lohengrin at his underground base.  In Los Angeles, the Hulk is also apparently in pursuit of the artifact, knowing of its existence since (as mentioned later by the Punisher) it came from a Knights of the Banner stash.  He wants the artifact because it is apparently capable of resurrecting Gawain, who (as discovered later by Septymbre while he's torturing the Hulk) apparently died trying to save the Hulk.  In cyberspace, Doom asks the Ghost in the Machine to send Ghost Rider from Transverse City to retrieve the artifact.  In New York, the Punisher tells Spider-Man that Avatarr had originally come into possession of the artifact (from the aforementioned Knights stash) and planned on resurrecting the Aesir with it.  However, he lost it to a "mystical hand" that grabbed it through "something called a virtual unreality gate."  The Punisher and Spider-Man decide to go after the artifact since Avatarr, who that suspects Doom was behind the theft since he's the only other person capable of using such a gate, has promised an Alchemax directorship to whoever retrieves it.  Separately, the X-Men arrive at Lohengrin's base with the intent of using the artifact to learn more about Loki (now calling himself Halloween Jack), possibly by resurrecting Heimdall, whose ashes Jack has with him.  However, they enter the base to discover Ghost Rider threatening Lohengrin.  The X-Men and Ghost Rider team together to find the Theater of Pain, who Lohengrin confirms is now in possession of the artifact.

Meanwhile, the Hulk runs into Polymbre as he makes his way through the desert.  He offers to help her, but she turns the tables on him and attacks him to feed off his pain.  He awakens at their base where Septymbre reveals that they plan on using the artifact, which can only be used once, to resurrect their member, Wintre, who was killed in a fight with the X-Men.  The X-Men and Ghost Rider find the Pain's base and Jack reveals that he wants to resurrect the Aesir in order to protect him and his "precious Las Vegas" from Doom, who he feels is going to attack imminently.  They engage in battle with the Theater and Polymbre discovers that Ghost Rider and Meanstreak have their own agendas for the artifact, with Ghost Rider wanting to resurrect his original body and Meanstreak wanting to bring back his girlfriend, Serpentina.  The Punisher and Spidey arrive and encounter an escaping Jack, accidentally causing him to spill Heimdall's ashes.  As Septymbre resurrects Wintre, the Punisher shoots her reviving form, breaking the spell and destroying the artifact.  He then frees Ghost Rider, the Hulk, and Meanstreak.  Jack convinces Meanstreak to flee, and the Hulk, the Punisher, and Spidey stay to defeat Septymbre and Polymbre.  The Hulk and Spidey refuse to kill them, but, not reluctant in that department, the Punisher opens fire.  Ghost Rider, meanwhile, appears in the Ghostworks and informs the Ghost in the Machine that the artifact was destroyed.

On Valhalla, Doom ponders the cleverness of Lohengrin, stealing the artifact from Avatarr and making it seem like Doom did it.  Doom reveals that he wanted the artifact to bring back the deceased Poet for Fortune, whose advice he really does value.  Despite his earlier comment, he makes it clear that he plans to leave her in charge of Latveria while he runs America.

The Review
The beginning of this issue is rough and I'll be honest by saying that I almost stopped reading it, I found it so difficult to follow.  After the first few pages, you expect this issue to be dedicated to Doom's impending attack on America.  However, you suddenly (and unexpectedly) find yourself in some sort of "Cannonball Run" story without any real transition.  The abruptness of the shift makes it difficult to follow the chase for its first few pages, particularly as the chronology of events is revealed slowly (and not necessarily in chronological order), leaving the reader confused not only by the shift from the first story (Doom) to the second one (the artifact) but by the new story itself.  But, once you start getting into the groove of the story that Kavanagh's telling, you suddenly appreciate how he manages to draw in nearly every 2099 character currently appearing in the main titles in a way that felt totally organic.

The Good
The best part of this issue is the way that Kavanagh uses the artifact to show everyone's innermost wishes and how human these wishes were.  It was this focus on the characters that eventually overcame my distraction over the non-linear progression of the plot and made me get into the story.

The Bad
1) Although I eventually made my peace with the story's format, it's hard to believe that Kavanagh couldn't have gone with a format that made a little more sense.  Moreover, the issue itself doesn't really do much to set up Doom's impending attack.  I thought that this issue would basically be a primer for fans not reading "Doom 2099" so that we aren't caught by surprise when Doom suddenly runs the 2099 world.  Instead, we just get some insight into his cronies, with no real understanding for why he's moving against America at this point.  It seems like a missed opportunity, though we'll see how they do in introducing it in "Spider-Man 2099."

2) Given that I read this issue as a Spider-Man 2099 fan, I have to say that his appearance here was somewhat disappointing.  It seems weird that he and the Punisher would agree to help Alchemax simply to obtain a directorship.  Would he go to board meetings in his mask?  "Director Spider-Man, how do you vote on the matter of the hostile takeover of Nightshade?"  I feel like a much more believable justification would've been to keep Avatarr from getting something that he actually wants.

On "Age of Ultron" at This Point (HERE BE SPOILERS!)

The idea for this story came from the first arc of the previously relaunched  "Avengers" series, where future Tony Stark and Kang recruit the present-day Avengers to convince Ultron to throw the final battle of the Ultron War, since it's Kang's repeated attempts to win said battle that break the time stream.  (Did you follow all that?  Trust me, just take my word for it.)  However, at this stage, it's unclear the extent to which this original story is actually the same as the present one.  In fact, all signs point to the fact that they're going to wind up having little connection to each other.

First, in the present story, Ultron engaged in a blitzkrieg attack that would essentially preclude this final battle that we saw in "Avengers" #4.  The heroes never actually got a chance to face Ultron, because he took over the world so quickly.  Moreover, even if they had faced him, the splash page their final battle with Ultron depicts a number of heroes in ways that they shouldn't be depicted based on the present story.  For example, Vision is seem as completely assembled and Captain Marvel is still alive.  As such, even if the final battle were to have happened in the present story and Bendis hasn't shown it to us yet, it wouldn't happen in the way that it was present in the original story.

So, the question at this point is whether Bendis is going to change the time stream again in the last two issues of the present story in a way that sets the stage for this final battle or if he's discarding this original story as a timeline that never happened thanks to future Tony and Kang's intervention.  If Bendis is going the first route, he has to change the present story entirely, since the resolution that seems the most likely at this point -- Logan getting Hank Pym to insert some sort of time-released bomb inside Ultron's brain that would activate when he tries to take over the world -- would still result in his blitzkrieg approach and not the final battle.  Whatever happens, for the original story to hold, it has to lead to this moment.

However, one thing bothering me throughout this storyline could actually be the deus ex machina that Bendis needs.  In "Avengers" #6, future Tony hands present Tony some sort of device that he believes will help stop Ultron.  We never really get details about this device, though I'm pretty sure it's mentioned again (possibly in issue #7).  Through the "Age of Ultron," I've wondered why Tony hasn't used it.  Other than Bendis forgetting about it (always a possibility), the only thing that I've been able to suppose is that the blitzkrieg attack made the device useless.  Perhaps it had to be used on Ultron directly and, since he's not in the present, Tony never had a chance to use it.  One way, then, to combine these two stories is for Logan to alter the past in a way that allows Tony to use the device, blocking the blitzkrieg attack and setting up the final battle depicted in issue #4.

(One entry point seems to be "Avengers" #12.1, where the Avengers witness the return of Ultron.  If Logan could travel to that point and explain to Tony what Ultron is going to do, then it seems to set the stage for him to blunt the future attack with the device.)

I know I'm probably the only person who cares about this level of detail, but I can already feel that I'm going to feel betrayed by this mini-series if it doesn't somehow connect to the original story.  It's already starting to feel like "X-Men:  Prelude to Schism," which wound up showing a series of events that had nothing to do with the story that the authors actually told in "X-Men:  Schism."  Connecting the present story to the original story would be a pretty cool feat, rewarding long-time readers for their patience.  Not connecting it to the original story by dismissing the original story as a timeline that never happened would leave you wondering what the point of setting up this story so early was, particularly if it ends with no actual consequences (as it seems like it's going to do).  The latter possibility would just make my event fatigue all the more profound and make me wonder why I even bother forking over the money that I do for these storylines.  The former possibility would at least give me some sense of accomplishment, though I think the likelihood of it happening is remote.  We'll see, I guess.  In the end, after so much build-up, it's hard not to feel disappointed.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Age of Ultron #8 (HERE BE SPOILERS!)

OK, here's the thing.  This issue was actually better than the last few ones have been.  I felt like Bendis built some real intrigue by not only making it unclear what future Tony's motivations were but also by revealing the tension between Tony and the Defenders.  After all, if Tony really were the man keeping the world safe from Morgana Le Fey (as he believes he is), why do the Defenders seem to have reservations about him?  I also thought that the idea that this world was destroyed by a war between magic and technology (where magic largely won) was an interesting counterpoint to the previous reality, where it was destroyed by technology run amok.  It hinted at something Marvel hasn't really explored but perhaps should.

But, I don't understand why Tony was unable to see why Logan did what he had to do.  Stark is furious at Logan for creating a world where he lost half his body and Thor departed Earth with the rest of the Asgardians, but, as Xavier himself notes, at least they're all still alive. Sure, I get that Stark is scarred (physically and mentally) by the experience, but, given that he has access to Logan and Sue's memories, it's pretty clear that even his broken world is better than a completely devastated one.  I mean, I do get why he'd think that it was all a trick of Morgana Le Fey's, particularly when she (conveniently) appears with an armada to attack as Tony's interrogating present Logan.  But, why think that Logan should've just left the world a devastated wasteland (and, by the way, Tony without even the half of his body that he has in the new reality) rather than create this new reality?  It's these inconsistencies that just continue to weigh down this event.

At this point, it seems like Tony is going to send Logan back in time (again) to convince Hank to introduce that time bomb into Ultron, allowing us to see Ultron's actual invasion (which we haven't really seen) and give us the deus ex machina that we all know is coming when he explodes at the climatic moment. The obvious question is why didn't old Tony think of that, but I'll withhold judgment until Bendis actually tells the story.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Spider-Man 2099 #30: "Bugaboo"

**** (four of five stars)

Favorite Quote:  "You're lying!! And I'm gonna kill you...and keep killing you...until you beg me to stop!!" -- Flipside, being all logical

Flipside hugs Spidey so tightly that he chokes him, causing Miguel to shove Flipside from him and call him a cybernetic psycho.  Flipside cries at the rejection and one of Packrat's men tries to comfort him.  However, Flipside lashes at the comforter with his talons, slicing his throat and announcing that they were having a moment and he didn't need him interrupting.  The troop dies as the rest of Packrat's men watch in horror, intimidated.  Flipside, now sporting a Venomesque tongue, turns to Miguel in anger.  Meanwhile, Tyler and Dana are having dinner, where Tyler insists that Miguel exaggerates most of the bad things that he says about him.  For example, Tyler says that he didn't get Miguel addicted to rapture, but instead gave him a non-addictive sample contrived to give him a bad trip so that he wouldn't touch the stuff.  (He claims that he knew of Miguel's interest in designer drugs, sparked by his need always to be experimenting.)  Tyler then turns the discussion to him, noting the death of his wife and the murder of his son by a "rogue madman" have left him feeling lonely.  He asks if he's really that bad and Dana says that he isn't, leaving her confused.  Outside, a mysterious woman watches, commenting, "So, that's his game.")

At Packrat's base, Packrat is outraged over his man's murder while Miguel (and an observing Flipside) uses the base's computer system to try to figure out what Flipside is.  He confirms that he's some sort of artificial construct and hypothesizes that either his logic circuitry has deteriorated over time or that it never worked in the first place.  Just as he begins to find a failsafe override, Flipside interrupts, saying that he thinks Miguel is trying to hurt him.  He attacks and the fight explodes into the main room, where Packrat and his men open fire on Flipside.  However, despite being shot full of holes, Flipside is fine and tears into Packrat and his men.  Packrat yells at Spidey to help them, but Spidey says that they're on their own, since they're the ones who wanted to revive Flipside in the first place.  In Mexico, Gabe tries to tell Kasey the truth, but she, um, distracts him.  At the base, Packrat's gun blasts a huge hole in Flipside but fails to stop him.  Flipside pounces on Packrat, but he's saved when Miguel stops him.  Flipside asks why he cares about them and Miguel responds that he doesn't:  he just doesn't care much about himself.  Flipside announces that he can help Miguel with his suicidal tendencies and puts Miguel's head into the gaping wound in his body (from Packrat's gun), suggesting that he'll either suffocate or the closing wound will decapitate him.  Miguel ponders letting Flipside kill him, but decides that it can't end like that.  He grabs an energy cable in Flipside's back and tears it from him while he yanks free his head.  Flipside says that he needs the cable and attacks, but Miguel uses it to choke him, decapitate him, and then smash his body into the wall.  Packrat and his men celebrate the win, but Packrat turns the gun on Miguel.  Miguel growls, "Move," and Packrat lets him leave.  After Miguel departs, Packrat watches him on a surveillance device and suggests that they chase him after giving him a sporting chance.  However, when he turns, he discovers that Flipside has recovered, killing his men.  Telling Packrat that he does like a chase, Flipside tells Packrat to run.  (A scream is then later shown.)

Miguel returns to Nightshade where he's reunited with Xina.  He tells her that he had been hiding and, when he asks about Angela, he can see on her face that she had died.  Xina rails against Spider-Man being overrated, since he wasn't able to save Angela.  They visit her grave and Xina laments that all Angela's work in life proved to be a waste.  Miguel declines to return home with Xina, saying that he meant it when he said that he needed to get away from the city, his mother, and his brother.  A tearful Xina departs, leaving Miguel alone at Angela's grave.

In the back-up story, Angela and Xina try to convince Miguel to testify at Kron's upcoming hearing.  Xina asks to speak to Miguel in private and Miguel lays into her, telling him that she's crazy to think that Kron is actually going to be expelled with Tyler as his father.  Xina asks how he could be so cavalier since Kron attacked and humiliated her, but Miguel responds that she just laughed when Kron did the same to him on the football field.  He tells her that it's about him being a punching bag, since the wrong people have the power.  Xina tells him that he has the truth on his side, but Miguel counters that Socrates did, too, but it didn't help him much.  Xina says that she'll go to the hearing and, if Miguel were a man, he'd do the same.  Miguel offers that he can't win:  if Kron stays, he's dead, but if he gets tossed, Tyler'll come after him.  Miguel then has a dream where his family is evicted from their home, his father beats him, and Kron wins Xina.  At the hearing, Tyler plays off Kron's attack as "rambunctiousness" and not sexual assault and Angela calls for the witness, Miguel, who's seen trying to hitch a ride outside the school.

The Review
Although I'm not hugely thrilled with the return of a potentially suicidal Miguel, I thought this issue was a real return to form.  Leaving Miguel on the verge of a hero's journey into the wilderness to clear his head sets up not only an exciting story but also the next step for this title once this journey ends.  But, David also gives us a good time in the process here, with the insanity of Flipside, a horrifying combination of Carnage and Deadpool.

The Good
1) Again, I wonder where we're going with Tyler wooing Dana.  David does a great job of showing how excellent Tyler is at manipulation, spinning a web for Dana about how he's all alone, despite his fortune and power.  While technically true, it's clearly not the whole story, something that Dana (again, not the sharpest knife in the drawer) doesn't suspect.  Along those lines, I thought it was interesting that David gives us more detail about Kron's death, but little actual information.  Tyler claims that Kron was killed by "rogue madmen," but, given the source (and the victim), it clearly wasn't as accidental as Tyler makes it seem.

2) The brutality of Flipside really keeps the reader on his toes the whole issue.  You just legitimately had no idea what he was going to do next after he unexpectedly slices the guy's throat.  I mean, when he suddenly had the Venomesque tongue?  Crazy.  I just loved the whole horror-movie vibe, like when he reappears fully assembled at the end and tells Packrat to run.

3) David again reminds us that Miguel isn't Peter Parker here.  Although his conscience may get the better of him in the end, Miguel does, after all, abandon Packrat and his troops to Flipside, since, in his words, they're the ones that wanted him revived in the first place.  It's a good reminder of what a reluctant hero Miguel is.  He does the right thing in the end, but he's not necessarily happy about it.

4) The idea of Flipside killing Miguel by suffocating him within his body was, um, gross.  But, it did at least seem to force Miguel to confront his somewhat suicidal tendencies of late and make him realize that he didn't want to die that way.  Of course, his inability to prevent Angela's death seems to be just another log on the fire of his depression and I wonder how he's going to find his way to a good mental place.  Based on his conversation at the end of the issue and the title of the next one, Route 666, we seem to be going on a classic journey in the wilderness and I'm excited to see where David goes with that.  I've seen hints of the 2099 world in other series, but I think that it'll be interesting to see Miguel in a different environment.

The Unknown
1) Is the mystery woman watching Tyler and Dana outside the restaurant Conchata?  Or someone else?

2) David seems to set up Xina as an Aunt May figure here, making her hate Spider-Man (or, at least, dislike him) due to his inability to save Angela.  David had appeared to be moving us full speed ahead in having him reconcile with Xina, but this speed bump is a clever one.

3) I really do wonder about Flipside and hope that David finds a way to tell that story before the series ends!

The Unsure
In the letters pages, several people have complained about the young Miguel back-up stories.  At first, I thought that they were OK, since they really teased out the relationship between Miguel and Tyler.  But, I'll admit that I'm not really sure where David is going with them now.  I thought we were bringing it to a close with Kron's impending expulsion, but the last two issues just seem to be dragging out the story.  I wonder if David is setting up the fact that the beginning of Tyler's beef with Miguel came from his eventual testimony, but I really wonder if it's that simple.  At any rate, I do feel like, at this point, I'd like David to wrap up these back-up stories and focus more on Miguel in the present.

Friday, May 24, 2013

2099 Unlimited #8: "Public Enemy Number One"/"Behind the Eight Ball"/"Rumors of War"

** (two of five stars)

Favorite Quote:  "Are you calling us stupid?" "You don't need such an accusation."  -- A pitchfork-wielding villager and Doom

"They" have activated the White Dog, whose job it is to bring back "Red Dogs," one of whom, named the Public Enemy, is loose.  He is, in fact, walking the streets of New York, expositing that he survived a mob attack that left him as a "bloody pulp" because Red Dogs are indestructible and his tissue regenerated.  Satisfied that he proved his point that the public could act when inspired, he decides to retire from being the Public Enemy.  However, he overhears two people complain about the toxic rain, with one of them wondering why one of the superheroes doesn't do anything about it.  The Public Enemy is enraged that these men want someone else to solve their problems, believing that Alchemax isn't responsible for the acid rain, but the public is for not doing anything to stop it (or Alchemax).  He then witnesses a raid by the Eco-Cops on a playground, demanding that parents present their "parent licenses."  One woman tries to run and they stop her; using their bio-scanner, they discover that she doesn't have a license and has, in fact, been twice refused one.  The officer asks what made her think that she could have a child without passing the "parenthood tests" and, as she's dragged into custody, she responds that she has natural rights.  The other parents are outraged, since she's legally supposed to get the right to appeal, but they decide not to do anything, enraging the Public Enemy all the more.  His rage is personal, since he was apparently also separated from his parents at a young age.  However, he controls himself, reminding himself that he's starting a new life, one where he won't interfere in the lives of the "gutless public."

Elsewhere, the White Dog exposits that he's the one responsible for killing all the other Red Dogs after the war, since the government knew that they wouldn't be able to re-assimilate.  On the streets again, a man and his robot wife draw the glares of other pedestrians since she's not wearing her "synthi-skin" to hide the fact that she's a robot.  She justifies it by saying that she only cares what her husband thinks of her, noting that she gained "full legal rights of citizenship" when she became sentient.  However, a pedestrian throws a brick at her, starting a riot.  Suddenly, some sort of officer appears, knocking down the robot's husband and attacking her.  She implores him to stop since her programming forbids her from harming humans, but, before he can fire on her husband, the Public Enemy arrives.  He opens fire on the crowd, marveling how the public only bands together when they want to victimize someone for being different.  While the robot and her husband escape, the Public Enemy relishes the violence that he just committed.  His reverie is interrupted by the arrival of the White Dog, who informs the Public Enemy that he was sent to protect the population from "homicidal maniacs" like him.  The Public Enemy's bullets bounce off the White Dog, in no small part, he says, because he was designed to kill Red Dogs.  The Public Enemy exposits that he killed the scientists involved in the Red Dog project, since they had experimented on his parents to see how they had given birth to him.  White Dog exposits that his powers allow him use radiation to melt down Red Dogs; as such, the government gathered them all in a room after the war for the White Dog to use his powers on them all at once.  Proving his point, the White Dog begins to summon his energy to destroy him and the Public Enemy scrambles to pry loose a mag-lev track.  He wraps it around his hands and uses it against the White Dog, expositing that it is a super conductor, so it maintains a uniform temperature.  Feeding back the energy into White Dog (and nearly killing himself in the process), the Public Enemy manages to cause the White Dog to explode.  Pondering that he's stronger than other Red Dogs because of his parents' genes, the Public Eye hears the acclimation of the crowd of onlookers.  However, he's mortified by their affection, announcing that they are now his enemy.

Spidey arrives home and asks Lyla to fix him some dinner.  When she calls him "Miguel," he reminds her to keep it quiet, destroying a nearby surveillance camera to prove his point.  When Lyla has the robot drone fix his favorite dinner, Miguel tells her that he'd marry her if he could and realizes that he needs to get a gift for Xina from the upcoming auction of twen-cen artifacts for fixing Lyla.  Elsewhere, a man is reviewing the catalogue for said auction when he's called to dinner by his sister.  He expresses disdain that rich people would waste their money on such items when so many people are in need.  His sister says that it's not his concern what people spend their "hard-earned money on," leading his father to harangue his brother for not having a job, forcing the family to eat microwave dinners.  The brother retorts that his father could do something more than call his bookie, but his dad says that he can't help that he was downsized by Alchemax.  The man, named Michael, leaves the table to his room as his father and brother continue to argue, announcing that he'll soon be able to buy the family some real food.  He appears in a costume and calls himself Data Pirate, planning on making the rich "stand and deliver."  At the twen-cen auction, Miguel is sweating the expensiveness of the items on bid when Data Pirate arrives, using some form of telekinesis to grab the items.  He leaves behind a Coke bottle but makes the rest his "buccaneer's booty."  Miguel changes into his costume (after disabling a security camera) and goes after the Pirate, who laments that he's become a tool of the rich.  The Pirate fires off a blast at Miguel and then escapes into the night, heading home.  Miguel follows him, surprising the Pirate in his apartment.  Noting that he had left behind the Coke bottle at the auction, Miguel hypothesizes that the water would interfere with his technology, so he uncorks the Magic Eightball that was part of the "booty" and hurls the "water" at Pirate.  In so doing, he shorts the Pirate's system, causing the holograms to disappear and revealing that Pirate's "family" was actually holograms.  Miguel contemplates the sadness of that discovery, wondering if Michael had never had a family or lost one.  As he collects up the items and departs, he pledges not to get that attached to Lyla.

In Latveria, Doom expresses outrage (never a good thing) when his adviser informs him that his intelligence reports indicate that the Zefiro gypsies are speaking of a liberator who will deliver them into a golden age free of fear and persecution.  The adviser notes that Tiger Wylde had brought in "criminals and miscreants" who had threatened their freedom previously and Doom notes that their freedom is his to grant.  He heads to a device that cloaks him in the guise of a Zefiro so that he can gather intelligence firsthand.  That night, he approaches a Zefiro tribe, posing as a weary traveler.  Over dinner, one of the Zefiro tells of an "ambitious general" oppressing them and talks about Tranque the Terrible, the liberator arisen from his crypt to lead his people.  Doom asks about Tranque and the Zefiro express shock that he is unaware of him, since he was the one who "rousted the thieves from the Court of the Emperor Rodo" 99 years earlier.  Learning the name of the general (Verbragge), Doom calls his adviser while everyone else sleeps, telling him to check on the mausoleum   The adviser confirms that Tranque's crypt is empty and Doom heads into town, angered by the sight of two Zefiro hanging at the town's entrance as a warning to other Zefirans.  Two guards refuse to answer Doom's questions about Verbragge's location (since he's just a common Zefiran) and Doom dispatches them quickly.  They then point the way and Doom bursts into a banquet hall.  Revealing himself and announcing himself a Zefiro, Doom has Verbragge shot, a sign to all enemies of the Zefiro clan.  However, one of the men there notes that Verbragge was acting on intelligence brought tho him by spies that claimed that Doom was the person that Tranque was going to overthrow.  Doom brushes off the idea that he needs protection (justifying the murder of Verbragge), but departs to seek confirmation of these rumors.  He spots a burning village and, upon arrival, learns that the village is burning because Tranque has returned and is leading troops to defeat Verbragge's faction.  Doom asks if anyone has seen Tranque and a man holding an unconscious child says that she had, with two friends.  (She was unconscious due to smoke inhalation.)  He tells Doom that the villagers had set off bonfires to celebrate the news of Tranque's arrival and they spread, burning down the village.  Doom continues to investigate, disturbed by the man's question about whether Latveria can afford someone provoking war on its borders.  Doom finds Tranque and convinces "him" to surrender, revealing the two aforementioned friends of the unconscious girl standing on each other's shoulders to animate the armor.  The kids say that they just put on the armor and that it was the adults who thought that Tranque had returned.  Noting the kids' "keen" interest in Latverian history, Doom punishes them by making them polish the old suits of armor in his castle.

The Review
Although the Public Enemy and Spider-Man stories have some good parts, they were really overall pretty meh.  The writing in both stories was somewhat awkward and overly expository, particularly in the Public Enemy story.  But, they both did tell stories that reflect the sad realities of the 2099 world, from parents having to get license permits to a guy living with a family of illusions.  It shows how socially isolated everyone in the 2099 world is and I don't think we had really had that sad reality so well underlined before this issue.

The Good
1) I like the concept of the Public Enemy, particularly in the sense that he gives voice to the idea that the 2099 world is the way that it is because people let it become that way.  One of the obvious questions running through the 2099 line so far is how humanity got to this point, where corporations run everything.  Was it a gradual process or did the corporations grab power by taking advantage of the chaos that followed the huge event that ended the Heroic Age?  In other words, is it like America today or was it like 1990s Russia?  Either way, the people of the 2099 world have accepted their lot in life and it's this acceptance that fuels the Public Enemy's anger.  I mean, he's a bit of a one-note character and I'm not really sure how you'd actualize his campaign against the public themselves, unless he's just going to start randomly murdering people who gather and watch his battles with other metahumans.  But, he does provide a view that we haven't necessary had so well developed previously.

2) I definitely didn't see the twist at the end of the Spidey story coming.  Beyond just the sadness inherent in the story, Kavanaugh makes it all the sadder by implying that this family was so real to the Data Pirate that he really thought that he needed to steal money to put food on the table.  Not a happy story.

The Bad
1) I had to do a Google search to learn that the Public Enemy was originally an enemy of Punisher 2099 (a missing text-box probably would've told me that had it been included).  It was clear that he had appeared somewhere since we were pretty clearly supposed to know all about the Red Dogs.  However, since I don't read "Punisher 2099," I was pretty much clueless about anything related to them for the entire story.  How did his parents give birth to a Red Dog if it seems that all the other ones were manufactured?  Why didn't the White Dog know about him if his job was eliminate all of them?  Despite all the exposition in this story (and, wow, it had a lot), we never really got the answers that we needed to understand why the Public Enemy is so angry and survived the Red-Dog purge.

2) This one isn't really a bad, per se, but it would've been cool if Miguel had ended the story with the gumball machine that he actually gives Xina as a gift in "Spider-Man 2099" #26.  (Of course, I also wonder if Miguel winds up stealing the twen-cen items that he retrieves from Michael's apartment.  Did he return them to the auctioneers and buy the gumball machine separately?)

3) The Doom story made little sense the more I thought about it (never a good sign).  I'm still not sure where the author, Colon, was going with it.  Why did Verbragge believe that Tranque the Terrible would lead an insurrection against Doom if the Zefiro believed that Tranque would help Doom in repelling Latveria's enemies?  In other words, why did each camp hear such different rumors, despite the rumors starting in the same place?  Plus, why were the rumors started in the first place?  If they were started by the kids wearing the armor and people seeing Tranque had "returned," you have to ask why the kids put on the armor in the first place.  How did they know about it?  How did they get into Castle Doom?  Colon seems to be using the confusion to prove the point that rumors are untrustworthy by their nature, but in the end all he winds up doing is telling a confusing story.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Spider-Man 2099 #29: "Going Out of Business Sale"

*** (three of five stars)

A machine of some sort scans the face of a man looking at it, trying to match it with a series of superheroes' faces loaded in its databanks.  It fails to place the face of the man, who calls it "Junior" and exposits that he promised someone named "Packrat" that he'd get Junior running.  Meanwhile, Packrat himself is addressing his "troops" as they speed on souped-up cars to Nightshade to scavenge its wreckage.  Underneath the destroyed Nightshade, Miss Pivot and Xina watch as the scavengers arrive on a monitor.  Xina says that they have to do something, but Miss Pivot says that confronting the scavengers will get them killed.  Xina worries about Angela and "Miggy" but Miss Pivot assures her that they probably made it to one of the other underground bunkers.  Above ground, one of Packrat's men finds Miguel and Angela; although Spider-Man tried to build a web cocoon around them, Packrat exposits that it failed to save Angela's life.  Realizing that Miguel is the real Spider-Man after cutting himself on one of his exposed talons, Packrat orders his men to gather up Miguel and leave Angela.

At Dana's apartment, Dana looks at a photo of her and Miguel before throwing it aside.  Tyler Stone arrives, telling Dana that Miguel hadn't been to work in several days and that he thought it meant that they had gone on a romantic getaway.  He states the obvious, that they aren't on such a getaway if Dana is there, and observes that she's been crying.  Dana tells him that Miguel has broken off their relationship and frets that he's now cavorting with Xina.  Tyler expresses shock that Miguel could cut loose "such a special young woman" and Dana tells him that he's been more than kind to her.  The two then share a kiss, though Dana then abruptly pushes Tyler from her.  Tyler says that he's overstepped his bounds and goes to leave, but Dana stops him, asking if he's had dinner.  Stone says that he knows a great restaurant near her place and, as she goes to wash her face, he informs Winston via a phone call to bring back Miguel (who's "rabbited") and send around the car for his dinner engagement, a "part of some carefully laid plans."  At Nightshade, Xina puts Angela's broken glasses on her corpse, commenting that she always needed her glasses.  A distraught Miss Pivot asks why they couldn't let them be and Xina wonders why Spider-Man didn't save Angela.  Meanwhile, Packrat and his troops drive across the desert with Miguel's body dangling between two spears attached to the front of one of the cars.  In New York, Gabe and Kasey depart for Mexico City for the Day of the Dead festival, with Gabe knowing that Kasey's new-found affection has to do with him "being" Spider-Man.

Miguel awakens to a re-run of "Mister Ed" and Packrat screaming at him, "Are you awake yet?!?"  The man who opened the issue talking to Junior offers Miguel a Pop-Tart and Packrat explains that they're foragers squatting in an abandoned research facility of some sort, which he hypothesizes was meant to protect its occupants from a major war.  Miguel tries to leave, commenting that he hasn't seen anything "this nutso since the Vulture."  Packrat mentions that he knows the Vulture and asks if they're friends; Spidey responds that they had "a...falling out."  Packrat offers Miguel a choice:  he can either fight his way to freedom or he can take on the task of fixing Junior.  He explains that Junior was there when they arrived and that he'd love to get him running.  Miguel takes a look and Junior's program scans his face, identifying Miguel as either Spider-Man or Venom.  As such, it blends the two of them and Junior transforms into a blend of them and comes to life, telling Miguel that he though that he'd never get there.  He leaps at Miguel, announcing that he's his flipside.  Miguel thinks that he's attacking, but instead he falls into his arms like a child and pats his face, he tells Miguel that he's going to be his "bestest friend" or he'll kill him.

In the back-up story, Miguel activates the shower to distract a knife-wielding Kron and then headbutts him.  Kron drops the knife and then punches Miguel into the locker room.  The two scuffle as Xina awakens and screams.  Angela arrives, tearing Kron off Miguel.  She throws him into an equipment cart and turns her attention to Miguel and Xina.  Kron grabs a baseball bat from the cart and rushes Angela from behind, but she notices and flips him.  She then breaks his arm ("It's only a hairline fracture.") and informs him that she's convening a committee to expel him.  Kron threatens her with his father and Angela escorts Miguel and Xina to the infirmary, asking if they knew how Kron broke his arm and accepting Miguel's answer that he slipped in the shower.

The Review
David delivers an issue reminiscent of the Hulk 2099 stories in "2099 Unlimited," with Miguel leaving New York and finding himself in the middle of a post-apocalyptic cult of sorts.  It's a smart move, putting aside some of the more personal drama of the last few issues and resuming our tour of the 2099 world.  We are also, however, left with a lot of loose ends, though I'm sure that they will return to cause Miguel trouble in the future.

The Good
I was really surprised that David killed off Angela.  He had really built her as a character in the "Young Miguel" back-up stories, so you have to wonder what impact that his failure to prevent her death will have on Miguel, particularly as he's still reeling from the revelations of issue #25.  Interestingly, though, David makes her somewhat responsible for her own death, having created Travesty but failing to control him.  A parable of science without responsibility, her story is.

The Unknown
1) The obvious question, at this point, is what Tyler's plans are when it comes to Dana.  David has been hinting that Tyler's interest in her has gone beyond the professional ever since he approached her about helping Alchemax in the beginning of the series.  However, it's clear that these plans have little to do with Dana and more to do with Miguel.  But, seriously, what's his endgame?  Is he just screwing with Miguel because he's his son?  Does it have something to do with his comment in issue #25 that his attacks on the O'Hara boys is about business and not personal?  But, if it is actually business, once again, what are the stakes?  How does torturing Miguel (and/or Gabe) help business?  Or, does it have to do with him "knowing" that Miguel is Spider-Man?  (Also, needless to say, given the revelation that Tyler is Miguel's father, it's also super creepy.)

2) If I'm not mistaken, we've seen someone also mention recently that the Vulture came from a place like Nightshade (as he himself also admitted during his earlier appearance, mistaking Miguel for someone like him).  Given that we only have 17 issues left, I doubt that David is going to time to explore this lurking threat that he's built throughout the series, namely the creation of metahumans by small-time corporate actors.  But, with the revelation that Packrat is one of them, too, since he went to the same "school" as the Vulture, it's really a shame.  It's an intriguing idea, since it really gets to how Wild West much of the 2099 world is.  It's also intriguing that both Vulture and Packrat led these sorts of scavenging, post-apocalyptic cults.  Did their "school" train them to be these sorts of leaders?  I hope I'm wrong, because I'd really love to know.  (Plus, if more of them do exist, it could also really set up a bad-ass Sinister Six 2099.)

3) I wonder what's going to happen with Travesty.  Assuming that he's not dead, he's on the loose now, which can't bode well for Miguel.

4) I can't wait to see what the deal with Flipside is, particularly if he's someone from the current timeline.  (He seems Deadpool-esque to me.)

5) I wonder who Winston is going to send after Miguel...

The Bad

1) One thing that bothered me from last issue and still bothers me here is that Angela destroying Nightshade seems super extreme.  OK, I get that they didn't want Alchemax to take control over them, but was it really worth sacrificing everything to prevent their research from falling into Alchemax's hands?  Does Nightshade view itself (and its research) as "good" and is afraid that Alchemax will use it for "evil?"  David never really makes that clear, which is why Angela's actions seem so extreme.

2) We never really learn what Headhunter and the Corporate Raiders' powers are.  What was that metallic sheen that they had?  Miguel seemed to be able to cut through it, so it seems to have been something that only shrugged off energy blasts.  But, it would've been nice to get some more information on them, particularly if they are Alchemax's elite corporate-raider squad.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Spider-Man 2099 #28: "Travesty"

*** (three of five stars)

Favorite Quote:  "Look straight down that way, you can see the theater district all lit up.  Y'know, I hear they're finally closing 'The Fantastiks.'" -- Gabe to Kasey (theater humor!)

Announcing himself as "Travesty," Sgt. Estevez attacks Miguel, telling him that he became this "travesty" in order to kill Spider-Man in revenge for him ruining his life.  Miguel avoids Travesty's blows and fires off some one-liners, but he's really wondering what he did to inspire Travesty to become the monster that he's become and if all the good that he's done as Spider-Man is going to be outdone by inspiring this "unspeakable, monstrous evil."  Angela tries to get Travesty to focus on Headhunter and the Corporate Raiders, reminding Sgt. Estevez that Spider-Man has solid "anti-corp" cred and hypothesizing that he's at Nightshade because he heard about the hostile takeover and wants to help.  Travesty rejects Angela's attempt to sway him, reminding her that he only allowed Nightshade to experiment on him to get revenge on Spidey.  Meanwhile, Headhunter orders his Corporate Raiders to continue their attack and Miguel attacks him, barely avoiding his cane's plasma blast.  Worrying that he's fighting on too many fronts, Miguel's life gets more difficult when the Corporate Raiders throw their briefcases at him and they become mini-planes shooting their own energy blasts.  Miguel decides to go vertical to get some maneuvering room and the mini-planes and Travesty follow him.

Meanwhile, in New York, Gabe and Kasey are enjoying the lovely evening on a park bench when Gabe tries to broach the Spider-Man subject.  Kasey asks him not to deny who he is, since she'd hate to think that he doesn't trust her.  Gabe puts his head in his hands and Kasey posits that he's under a lot of stress.  She tells him that she wants them to leave town for a while, without the costume, so that she can prove that she's attracted to him for being Gabe and not Spider-Man.

At Nightshade, its defenders try to repel Headhunter and the Corporate Raiders, but their guns' blasts bounce off them.  Elsewhere, Miguel manages to lose the mini-planes by throwing off their heat sensors while hiding next to a warm generator, but Travesty finds him.  Angela orders Xina and Miss Pivot to evacuate to the underground shelter and then activates a self-destruct sequence.  Outside, Travesty destroys the mini-planes, thinking that Miguel had sent them after him, while Miguel tries to stop Headhunter and his cronies.  Pondering how they're the most cold-blooded villains that he's ever faced, Miguel finds himself grabbed by two of them, only to be freed when Travesty attacks them, since Spider-Man is his prey.  (At Travesty's arrival, the Corporate Raiders scatter.)  Angela makes her way to the evacuation tunnel just as Headhunter blasts into it, announcing that Nightshade is now a division of Alchemax.  Two of the Corporate Raiders make their way into the research and development facility, marveling at the sophistication of Nightshade's research.  However, one of them realizes that Angela has activated the self-destruct system and they leave in a hurry.

Outside, Miguel manages to take down Travesty just as Headhunter and the Corporate Raiders flee past him.  Miguel attacks Headhunter, who tells him that the facility is going to blow and take down the city (or, at least, most of it) with it.  Miguel hears a scream and lets Headhunter go.  Before Headhunter can shoot Miguel in the back, Travesty breaks his gun, laying claim to Spider-Man once again.  Miguel finds Angela, but, before he can get them to safety, Travesty arrives.  Miguel tells Travesty that he has to let him go or they'll all die, but Travesty refuses, since, even if they do, Miguel will know that Travesty killed him.  Miguel points out the obvious problem with that statement while Miss Pivot and Xina hope that Angela is on her way.  However, the facility then explodes.

In the back-up story, Miguel hears Xina's scream from the locker room and he hesitates  worrying that it's a prank to get him to go into the girls' locker room and have everyone laugh at him again.  In the locker room, Kron strips off Xina's towel and admires her.  But, Miguel arrives, jumping on Kron's back and wrapping a towel around his eyes.  The two fight and Miguel manages to block Kron's knife thrust with the towel.  When Miguel tells him to be careful with the knife because he almost cut him, Kron tells Miguel that he still doesn't get it.  Xina (now wearing a t-shirt) grabs Kron's arm, but Kron throws her into a locker, knocking her unconscious.  Miguel tries to flee, but Kron follows, so he throws some sort of sports ball at him.  He then unloads the entire basket full of balls, tripping Kron.  However, Kron follows Miguel into the showers, telling Miguel that he's in a dead end and that he's going to hit the showers "piece by piece."

The Review
This issue is solid, giving us some more insight into Nightshade than we got last issue.  Although I can't quite remember why Sgt. Estevez, now Travesty, is so mad at Miguel, he proves to be a great foil for Miguel, seriously complicating his efforts to save the day and raising some difficult questions about the unexpected consequences of Miguel's heroism.

The Good
1) I like Miguel's comment about babbling to fight his terror and buy some time.  Peter Parker did the same thing and I always appreciates David's efforts to remind us of the similarities between them, since they are so different in other ways.

2) I thought Miguel pondering the repercussions of his actions was great, how all the good that he's done might be overshadowed by the bad that he inspired in the creation of Travesty.  It's the sort of philosophical contemplation that most superheroes face at some point in their career and Miguel's facing it now actually reminds you how new he is to the superhero business.

3) I love the Laserbeak-esque briefcases!  Seriously, profoundly awesome.

The Unknown
My guess is that David is having Gabe and Kasey leave town for a while so that he can focus on other plots.  But, I still wonder where he's going with the two of them.  As expected, Gabe doesn't seem to be directly lying to Kasey yet about being Spider-Man, but he's certainly misleading her by not correcting her and I think we can definitely expect some interesting repercussions to that.

The Bad
1) It might've been useful for David to recap why Sgt. Estevez wants Spider-Man dead.  I searched my previous reviews and found that he was fired because he opened fire on Spider-Man for having assaulted his son (a fellow Private Eye officer), thereby provoking the wrath of Tyler Stone, who had ordered the Private Eye not to open fire.  But, since most people aren't anal-retentively chronicling Miguel's adventures, it probably would've been useful to be reminded of that, since it happened 23 issues earlier.

2) Continuing on the Sgt. Estevez theme, Angela promised Sgt. Estevez that he could get revenge on Spider-Man with his new powers when she made the initial approach to him in issue #8.  Now, I understand that she was trying to redirect Travesty to the more immediate threat, but her sudden declaration of Spidey's "anti-corp" cred was a little disingenuous.  Travesty himself reminds her that getting revenge on Miguel was part of their deal.  I think it would've made more sense to have her stress that he could get Miguel after he defeated the Corporate Raiders, rather than having her imply that Spidey was one of the good guys beyond reproach.

3) The back-up story had some weird art to it, in the sense that Boller used all sorts of comic devices that didn't fit the fact that it was an incredibly dark story.  I'm surprised the editor let it pass.  Using cartoonish eyes to depict Miguel fleeing from a knife-wielding Kron seemed to undermine where David was going with the story.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Spider-Man 2099 #27: "Deadly Nightshade"

** (two of five stars)

Favorite Quote:  "Their gates are closed, sir."  "Well, that's hardy surprising, Pembert.  Kick 'em."  -- Pembert and the Corporate Headhunter, as they approach Nightshade

Xina drives Miguel to Nightshade in an "antique" car without breaks, resulting in a terrifying ride that ends with her deploying parachutes to stop.  Miguel complains about banging his head on the dashboard, but Xina reminds him that he found the "shoulder strap" too restrictive.  Xina reveals a surprise -- Lyla has come with them, after Xina created a "patch-link" between the car and her data base.  Lyla informs Miguel that he has a message from Gabe, which Miguel instructs her to delete.  When Xina asks whether he wants to hear it, he responds that it probably has to do with their prior conversation, when he asked for Miguel to come over his place.  In a flashback, Miguel recalls Gabe telling him that Kasey has returned and is being nice to him for reasons that Gabe doesn't quite understand.  A still-depressed Miguel tells Gabe that he can't come and Gabe whispers whether it has to do with Spider-Man.  Miguel responds that it doesn't, but that things change.  Gabe reminds him that somethings don't change, like them being brothers:  "Same parents, same gene pool."  He starts to either offer to help Miguel or ask for Miguel's help despite his situation, but Miguel ends the call before he can finish his sentence.  In the present, Lyla informs Xina that she's sent ahead the entry codes to Nightshade and the car makes its way into the complex.

At Alchemax's "Talent Search Division," a suited man arrives to convene a meeting of other suited men.  He reviews Nightshade's assets (research on interdimensional breakthroughs and gene manipulation) and liabilities ("aggressive and well-armed").  Given its defenses, Tyler Stone has decided to send in the big guns, namely the guys at the table.  One asks if they need more recruits, but the suit man, who calls himself the Corporate Headhunter, tells him that they -- the Corporate Raiders -- should suffice.  They are then ordered to open suitcases and they morph into people with metallic skins.

At Nightshade, Angela greets Miguel and Xina, offering them a tour.  However, she realizes that Miguel is still with Alchemax and, despite him swearing that he's not a fan of Alchemax, she kicks him off the tour since the town's rules say that someone from a rival can't see the research and development section.  Elsewhere, the corporate raiders approach Nightshade (and have another hand of gin) while a recovered Kasey initiates sex with Gabe, confirming that she thinks that he's Spider-Man.  In Nightshade, Miguel contemplates buying a robotic dog named Scooby when an alarm sounds, signaling that Nightshade is under attack.  (In his cell, a shadowy Sgt. Estevez grunts, "Aaallll...chemax?")  The Corporate Raiders are attacked by Nightshade's "laser-sighted plasma cannons" but blast through the closed gates.  Miguel witnesses their invasion and changes into his costume on a rooftop, as, elsewhere, Sgt. Estevez breaks from his cell.  Headhunter announces that he's initiating a hostile takeover and, when one of Nightshade's guards fires on him, he deflects the blast back, killing him.  Spidey attacks Headhunter, but, before anything else happens, Sgt. Estevez's shadow appears over Miguel and he declares that he can't decide who to kill first.

In the back-up story, Miguel manages to maneuver a soccer ball around Kron, who pants him.  Everyone (including Xina) laughs and, when Kron dares Miguel to do something about it, Miguel flees.  The coach orders Kron to give him 50 push-ups, but Kron suggests that he gives him his father's private line instead.  The coach sends Xina after Miguel while promising to have a chat with Kron.  Xina finds Miguel and, when Miguel says that she hurt him by laughing, she apologizes.  But, she tells him that he'll continue to invite Kron's bullying until he challenges him.  Later that night, Kron enters the girl's locker room as Xina is exiting the shower.  She demands that he leave and he pulls a knife, telling her that he thinks that she's plotting against him with Miguel and that he'll show her what he does with people who get in his way.  

The Review
This issue is fine -- and an improvement over the last one -- but I will say that it went pretty quick, in part because five of the 17 pages of the main story are essentially splash pages.  After David spent so much time building the mystery of Nightshade, it's weird to see so little of it now that we're actually there, particularly since we're thrown straight into the fight.

The Good
1) I'm glad that Miguel is no longer suicidal.  Although it's somewhat weird that he's so quickly recovered when he was just, hours earlier, planning on killing himself, I'm just going to take the win and pretend that last issue didn't really happen.

2) Headhunter and the Corporate Raiders are pretty awesome.  I'm not sure what their powers are yet, but Headhunter himself seems a worthy enemy for Miguel.

3) I failed to mention it last time, but I do love that we're returning to Sgt. Estevez's story.  Peter David, man.  Never leaving a plot dangling.

The Unknown
I wonder where David is going with Kasey thinking that Gabe is Spider-Man.  I mean, Gabe hasn't lied yet, but he's definitely misleading Kasey by failing to correct her.  At some point, he's going to have to decide to tell the truth (or, at least, deny that he's Spider-man) or he's going to be outted.  Knowing Gabe, I'm guessing that he's going to be indecisive and let Kasey labor under the impression that he's Spider-Man without actually lying about it.

The Bad
Angela appears nothing like she was in previous versions.  I get that it's a guest artist, but it's like he didn't even look at how Leonardi had portrayed her previously.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Spider-Man 2099 #26: "Hostile Takeover"

* (one of five stars)

Favorite Quote:  "Your face has excessive moisture, indicative of tears.  Has something caused you distress?"  "Ohhh...yeah.  I found out Tyler Stone is my father."  "How nice.  Shall I add him to your Christmas card list."  -- Lyla and Miguel, showing why everyone, not just Miguel, is glad that Lyla is back

At Alchemax, a Public Eye officer informs Tyler Stone that Kasey's life signs have been stabilized and that she's ready for "trial and punishment."  Instead, to the officer's surprise, Tyler orders him to remove her armor and to dump her at a specified address.  Elsewhere, Miguel dreams of killing himself, still reeling from the revelation that Tyler is his father and that he didn't have to become Spider-Man.  Meanwhile, at Nighthade, Angela receives word from her assistant, Miss Pivot, that Alchemax is aware of their research and that they have an "83% chance of corporate raiders attempting a hostile takeover."  Angela expresses confidence that they can fend off the raiders, as they've done in the past, but Miss Pivot reminds her that the last effort cost them a lot.  Angela asks about "subject 394" and Miss Pivot brings her to see Sgt. Estevez, who's apparently proving to be overly aggressive.  Miss Pivot expresses concern over the possibility of letting him loose, but Angela notes that they may need him.

At Miguel's apartment, a crying Miguel realizes that Lyla has returned to him and attempts to hug her, falling through her image.  Lyla asks why Miguel is crying and he informs her that he discovered that Tyler is his father.  He then asks her to put through a scrambled call from Spider-Man to the CEO of Stark-Fujikawa.  Elsewhere, Gabe wallows in misery over the fact that he let the Private Eye officers take Kasey while Conchata dusts, mysteriously asserting that, "It's going to work out."  Suddenly, Gabe hears the flyboys, who drop off Kasey's body. At his apartment, Miguel asks the head of Stark-Fujikawa why Kasey was dragged into their fight and Hikaru-sama, for his part, asks whether Spider-Man is who he says he is.  When Miguel expresses surprise that the CEO is the guy that he saved (in issue #19), Hikaru-sama realizes that Miguel is who he says that he is.  He then informs Miguel that he powered up Kasey to balance the scales, after Miguel defeated the Specialist but saved him.  He powered up Kasey, who he had reason to believe was important to Spider-Man, and then sent her into the field without any training, "certain that the results would be disastrous for her."  He tells Miguel that the scales are balanced and, when Miguel exclaims that she was innocent and that he'll get even with him, Hikaru-sama warns that Miguel should not underestimate Stark-Fujikawa's resources.  He reminds Miguel that they found Kasey, so they can find other people important to him.  He says that he doesn't want to make Spidey a pariah, but that Spidey should not force his hand or call him again.

As Hikaru-sama ends the call, Dana arrives.  Lyla stalls as Miguel changes from his costume, asking Dana if she's destroyed any relationships lately.  When Dana asks who taught Lyla to say that, she responds that it just popped into her head.  Miguel arrives in a robe, telling Dana that he didn't get a lot of sleep and that it's not the best time.  Lyla continues to ask if Dana has destroyed any relationships, while Dana tells Miguel that she thinks that he's been keeping weird hours because he's been seeing Xina.  Miguel says that she just fixed Lyla, something that Dana doesn't buy.  Miguel stresses that it's a bad time and Dana continues, saying that he never trusted her.  Miguel asks her to go and Dana screams at him, asking if or when their lives will return to normal.  Miguel says that he doesn't know if that's possible, scaring Dana, who tells him that she loves him.  Miguel tells her that he loves her, too, but again asks her to leave.  She tells him that they can work out any problem, but Miguel flips, throwing something at her as he screams for her to leave.  Devastated, Miguel collapses to his knees, thinking, "Lord in Heaven...please.  Let me die."  Later, Miguel gives Xina a gumball machine to thank her for fixing Lyla.  He says that he gave it to her now in case they don't see each other again.  Xina comments on how "Kevorkian" he sounds and then asks if he was planning "to hang around" the city that week.  Miguel responds that he "planned to hang" and Xina tells him to come to Nightshade with her to visit Angela.

In the back-up story, Tyler tells George to apologize to Kron for harrassing him, but Conchata screams at Tyler, telling him that his son is a bully.  To Kron's chagrin, Tyler backs off his demand that George apologize and, after the Stones leave, George screams at Conchata for possibly angering Stone.  Conchata tells him that she was doing it to save him embarrassment and George gathers up the boys to leave.  Miguel laments to Xina that he now has to live with Kron after his mother got him into trouble and Stone's wife approaches Conchata, telling her that she agreed with her and thought that she was brave.  She says that she doesn't have the guts that Conchata has but that she'd like them to be friends.  She also reveals that she knows when Conchata's affair with Tyler began and ended and "about Miguel."  When Conchata asks why she'd want to be her friend after all that, Stone's wife comments that she's "loaded with class."

The Review
This issue is disappointing, particularly after the emotionally gripping last issue.  David makes it clear how he wants the readers to feel as they're watching Miguel reel from the revelation that Tyler Stone is his father and that his "addiction" to rapture was staged, but I don't really feel like he sells it.  Miguel just seems somewhat irrationally unhinged, something not helped by the fact that other characters around him.

The Unsure
I'm still not really sure why Stark-Fujikawa did what it did to Kasey.  According to Hikaru-sama, powering up Kasey and sending her into battle unprepared somehow balanced the scales that were unbalanced after Miguel defeated the Specialist but also saved Hikaru-sama's life.  According to him, one "did not fully balance out the other."  OK, sure, but I'm not really sure if Miguel was ahead or behind in that unbalanced equation.  Did powering up Kasey mean that Miguel was "behind" and needed something to put him ahead, but setting her up for failure meant that he didn't get too far ahead?  Or, was he ahead, so they had to do something bad to him, but it couldn't be too bad, which is why they gave Kasey some powers at least for a time?  It's confusing and not in an "intriguing Eastern ways" kind of way.  Plus, it still doesn't explain how Tyler knew that Kasey was coming in issue #24.  Does Hikaru-sama just not mention to Miguel that he tipped off Tyler?  I'm OK with corporate intrigue and David not spelling out the exact nature of Alchemax and Stark-Fujikawa's relationship.  But, I feel like the "inscrutable Eastern man" trope goes a little too far here, since it's clear that Hikaru-sama could've balanced the scales without empowering Kasey.

The Bad
1) My main problem with this issue is that Miguel seems to be seriously overreacting to the revelation that Tyler Stone is his biological father.  I mean, I'm not saying that it doesn't suck.  But, it seems odd that he's driven to the verge of suicide over it for two reasons.  First, it wasn't like he liked the man that he thought was his biological father, George O'Hara.  In fact, if it had been anyone else other than Tyler, I could imagine Miguel feeling relieved that George wasn't his biological father.  But, second, I just have trouble seeing Tyler as that bad.  After all, based on comments that other characters have made about Miguel before he got his powers, Miguel seems like he was a chip of the old block.  OK, I'm being a bit extreme, since we definitely saw that Miguel had a stronger sense of morality than Tyler did when he refused to engage in human testing (causing the events that led to him becoming Spider-Man in the first place).  Plus, Tyler did try to get him hooked to rapture (or, at least, seemed to have tried to do so).  But, is Tyler any more scheming than any other corporate leader in the 2099 world?  Would Miguel be this upset if he discovered that any other Alchemax big-shot was his father?  To be fair to David, he's certainly hinting at Miguel having a long history with Tyler, as seen in the back-up stories, so I get that we may just not yet fully understand the situation.  But, without already having a sense of this history, it still feels like something that would certainly upset Miguel but not really lead him to the verge of suicide.  David seems to be implying that it's the revelation that he also didn't have to become Spider-Man that's making it worse, but I also feel like that's a little overblown.  Sure, again, I'm not saying that it doesn't suck.  But, does Miguel really want to return to being the Alchemax patsy?  David has made it clear that Miguel doesn't quite have the same sense of responsibility that Peter Parker had, but does he really wish he had a "normal life?"  It all seems really melodramatic, even for Miguel.

2) As I mentioned, it's not just Miguel acting weird here.  David has made it clear that Dana might not be the brightest bulb, but her whole interaction with Miguel displayed a really low emotional intelligence.  I mean, I actually think that she came to a pretty reasonable conclusion that Miguel's weird hours and strange behavior meant that he was having an affair with Xina, but the fact that she suddenly switches from railing at him for having an affair to pleading with him when he tells her that he needs some space was just odd.  If she were that mad over Xina, why tell him that they can work out anything, as she does here?  Moreover, even if he scares her into dropping her anger, why push him when he tells her that he doesn't want to be pushed?  Plus, why does Xina suddenly decide that she doesn't hate Miguel?  It seems pretty clear that David has her invite Miguel to Nightshade so that he can confront whatever beast Sgt. Estevez has become.  But, David doesn't really do the legwork that would make me buy that she likes him enough to invite him on such a trip.  I mean, even if she downgraded "hate" to "dislike," inviting him on a daytrip seems to be a little much.  Finally, Tyler's wife wants to be friends with her husband's lover simply because she's "loaded with class?"  WTF?  I'm not even sure what that means.  All in all, as I said, everyone, not just Miguel, seemed to be acting weird this issue.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Spider-Man 2099 #25: "Truth Hurts"

**** (four of five stars)

Gabe tells his mother about the events of last issue, explaining how the Public Eye officers beat him while Kasey was taken from the scene.  He begs Conchata not to take him to the doctor and she agrees.  Gabe muses what his life would be like without Alchemax, where he and Kasey could be alone, and Conchata tells him to get some rest.  She tells herself that it's on her to make things right while, elsewhere, Miguel fights Venture.  Venture notes how much more aggressive Spidey is since he was when last they met and Miguel keeps him seriously on the ropes for most of their fight.  Venture tells him that he's making a mistake but Spidey responds that his only mistake was going easy on him the first time they fought.  He tells Venture that he and the "corps" have been harrassing him since he first got his powers, but they'll have to think again about their assumption that he was weak.  Proving his point, he maneauvers Venture onto a mag-lev track; Venture's metallic body is stuck to the track and he's hit by a mag-lev train.  Miguel expresses shock that he just did what he did, but even more shock when Venture crawls from the track, virtually unscathed.  He attacks, but Miguel uses Venture's own staff to overload his system.  He thinks the fight is over, but Venture ejects his hands from his body and uses them to pin Miguel to the ground.  Meanwhile, at Miguel's apartment, Xina has Lyla running again, but she's a little surprised when Dana appears.

Standing over Miguel, Venture explains that he had no intention of fighting Miguel, since he was "obliged" to him for defeating Risque.  But, he explains that they're now enemies since Miguel came out swinging, telling Miguel, "You still got a lot to learn about power, son.  When to use it...and when not to."  Miguel leaves to the sounds of Venture using his staff to beat his still-paralyzed sister.  Miguel heads to Alchemax where he hitches a ride on Tyler Stone's car, committed to ending Tyler's threat to his family once and for all.  He reasons that Tyler is beyond feeling emotions except for fear, the same fear that Kasey felt when she was arrested, or Gabe felt when he was beaten, or Miguel himself felt when he was hooked on rapture.  Miguel decides to attack Tyler in his house, where he'll feel as safe as possible, so that he'll know that he'll never be fully safe.

Prepared to kill him, Miguel begins to inflitrate the house, using his accelerated vision to get past the security systems, while, in the foyer, Tyler is greeted by Conchata.  Tyler offers her a drink and they retire to the living room.  Conchata tells Tyler that his "goons" beat up Gabriel, but Tyler counters that Gabe threatened them with a gun.  Conchata retorts that he was trying to keep the Public Eye from taking Kasey and demands that she be released with a clean record and that they be left alone.  She also informs him that she knows that he addicted Miguel to rapture, asking how much Tyler hates her for continually going after her family.  Tyler stresses that it's business, with Conchata remarking that makes it even worse.  She threatens to bring down Tyler if he doesn't do what she wants, saying that she'll let his ex-father-in-law know that he was involved in the death of his late wife.  Tyler retorts that she has no proof, but Conchata insists that she does, though wonders if Tyelr wants to call her on the bluff that he's accusing her of making.  Miguel arrives in time to see Tyler kiss Conchata, informing her that she was the only woman who was ever a match for him.  Tyelr commits to release Kasey and informs her that he didn't really get Miguel addicted to rapture, expositing that it was a simulation; it was meant to last only three days, which is why he never asked how Miguel was dealing with his "addiction."  Miguel reels from the revelation that he could've had a normal life and Tyler tells Conchata that she doesn't want to admit that he might have genuine affection for Miguel.  Conchata tells Tyler that Miguel thinks that she hates him because she reminds him of her husband, but that the truth is that she only see Miguel's father, Tyler, when she looks at him.  She then threatens to kill Tyler if he tells Miguel.

In the back-up story, the Net Prophet enters cyberspace (as a real person, not a computer archetype) and notices a woman to whom he's drawn.  Before he can do anything, the woman's ex-boyfriend appears, trying to take her with him.  The systems operator tries to stop him, but he attacks, revealing that he's made modifications that make him untouchable in cyberspace.  The Net Prophet engages him and vaguely recognizes the sword and the shield that he's using.  On the ropes, the ex-boyfriend threatens the woman with a program that would fry her brain in real life, but the Net Prophet cuts off his limbs with eyebeams, convincing him that he's also doing so in real life.  In reality, he's put the ex-boyfriend in a "recursive loop" to keep him busy and kisses the woman.  The kiss awakens memories in him, but they fade before he can identify them.  The woman also disappears and the Net Prophet becomes convinced that she's the key to his past.

The Review
I actually knew the outcome of this issue, since this issue is the last one that I read the first time that I read this series.  (The revelation that Tyler is Miguel's father is pretty memorable, even 19 years later.)  So, everything after this point is new ground for me. 

This issue somewhat clears the decks of the plots that have been the focus of this series over the last few issues or, at least, moves them to the back burner.  David has recently spent time developing the world around Miguel, using him as our guide to the realities of the 2099 world.  But, we now return to a more personal focus, with Miguel taking center stage again.  You can tell that this issue is really going to define the next few issues (if not the rest of the series).

Along those lines, I think the key development here, besides the obvious, is actually the undercurrent of Miguel's fury running through this issue.  Between his attempt to kill Venture and his inclination to kill Tyler, David is making it clear that Miguel has had enough.  The revelation that Tyler is Miguel's father could either send him over the edge or somehow force him to come to some sort of peace with Alchemax's presence in his life.  I'm guessing that it's going to be the former rather than the latter, but we'll see!

The Good
1) Once again, David shows enormous respect for his readers by addressing a past loose-end, namely Tyler never noticing that Miguel wasn't actually addicted to rapture anymore.  Sure, he probably wondered why Miguel didn't berate him after realizing that he wasn't actually addicted to it, but, if Miguel didn't mention it, it makes sense that Tyler wouldn't broach the subject either.  Plus, the psychological harm that this revelation is going to inflict on Miguel is obvious, given that he never had to become Spider-Man in the first place.

2) The idea that Tyler could have affection for anyone, particularly Miguel, is interesting, particularly given Miguel's seemingly accurate assessment that Tyler has shut off real human emotions in the interest of climbing the corporate ladder.  We've seen hints of Tyler's secret compassion (such as his private moment of pain after he flushed his son's ashes down the toilet in issue #10), though whether it would really make any difference in the way he treats people (including Miguel) remains to be seen.

3) Speaking of affection, we really see Miguel as a caring older brother here.  He's usually so tightly controlled with his emotions, but David makes it clear that a large part of his fury has to do with the Public Eye goons beating up Gabe and taking in Kasey.  If Tyler Stone gets to have emotions, I'm glad that Miguel does as well.

The Unknown
1) The revelation that Conchata and Tyler had a relationship (and seemed to have been in love) raises the question about how a Downtown girl like Conchata got involved with an uptown guy like Tyler.  I'm sure David is going to tell us this story and I can't wait to see it.

2) Along those lines, I wonder what "business" Tyler has in persecuting the O'Haras.  Is it just that the boys keep running against Alchemax, forcing Tyler's hands, or does he mean something more specific?  How would persecuting the O'Hara boys specifically help him?  Is it related to whether or not he knows that Miguel is Spider-Man?

3) I wonder who Tyler's ex-father-in-law is?  Is it Avatarr?  It seems to be someone sufficiently powerful to be a threat to Tyler and not many people are on that list.  If it is Avatarr, it begs the question if Tyler is where he is because of nepotism?  It could explain why he's so ruthless, since he knows he doesn't deserve to be where he is.

4) Seriously, what the Hell happened between Risque and Venture that they hate one another so much?  I wonder if David ever gets a chance to tell that story.