Monday, January 6, 2014

Spider-Man 2099 #41: "Despair"

**** (four of five stars)

Miguel lands in an Alchemax helicopter on the lawn of the ruined White House.  Pondering the wreckage, he's reminded of the Shelley poem, "Ozymandias," describing a great conqueror "powerful in his time...and since forgotten."  "Benzelli," one of the two guards escorting Miguel, asks why he's come to the White House, given that it's just rubble.  Miguel replies that he's there for closure and begins to rummage through the debris.  He then finds what he realizes that he was sub-consciously trying to find:  Tyler Stone's name plate.  Miguel observes that it's cracked, but still readable, making him realize that he can't get rid of Tyler's nameplate, let alone Tyler himself.  Miguel and the guards board the helicopter and the other guard asks him what he was trying to find.  Miguel responds, "Nothing."  The guard asks how he knew to stop looking if he was looking for nothing and Miguel responds because he found nothing.  (Profound, I know.)

In New York, Tyler, in a wheelchair, makes his way through the halls of Alchemax, to the shock of everyone around him.  He arrives at his destination -- Kron's tube -- and asks the lab technician to confirm that it is, indeed, Kron.  Before the technician can respond, Tyler mentions that the news footage indicated that Venom had no "internal structure."  The technician informs him that the symbiote bonded with Kron on a molecular level; he observes that the original Venom similarly had an outsized jaw and tongue.  Tyler cuts off the technician, demanding an answer; the technician confirms that it is, indeed, Kron.  Tyler demands Kron killed, noting that he has no legal status since he was already declared dead.  The technician tells Stone that he can't execute Kron, even given his "questionable legal status," since Miguel would have to give that order.  Tyler responds that he'll clear it with "Mike," telling the technician that he'll be in charge by the end of the day.

In New York, Spidey notices a group of Thorites burning Spider-Man in effigy, but then suddenly realizes that it's actually a Spiderite.  Spidey puts out the fire, while the Thorites throw prop hammers at him.  A Thorite screams at him for being a corporate tool while the angry guy from last issue (secretly the Vulture) calls him a traitor.  Spidey tells him that he fought the corps on their side and the Vulture tells him that he's now on "their" side, firing an arrow at him.  Spidey catches the arrow and remarks that the Thorites used to be peaceful.  The Vulture tells him that things change and orders the Thorites to attack Spidey.  In the melee, Spidey recognizes the guy as the Vulture.  The Vulture and his crew leave as the Public Eye arrives; Spidey tells them to call medics.  The Spiderite asks Spidey to tell him that he's not on the side of the corps and Spidey takes off his mask, revealing him to be Kenny, the Thorite from his first night as Spider-Man.  One of the flyboys tells Spidey that Kenny looks like a goner; Spidey punches him, confirming for Kenny that he isn't pro-corporation.  Saying that Loreen'll never believe it, Kenny dies and Miguel is bereaved, commenting that he didn't even know Kenny's name.

Downtown, the Net Prophet arrives, where he finds Father Jennifer with a shiner.  He asks what happened and she tells him that it was a poor, desperate soul.  She asks why the Prophet keeps visiting her and he asks her if she enjoys his visits.  She says that she does and, in fact, misses him when he's gone; in fact, she had prayed for him to return when she feared that he wouldn't.  She tells him that she's attending her sister's funeral that day and needs something life-affirming amidst all the misery that she sees every day, lest her soul shrivel and die.  He asks how much the Church has changed (nothing that she's Father Jennifer); she comments, "That much," and they share a kiss.

At Gabe's apartment, he smashes the mirror when he can't affix his tie ("stupid twencen relic"); Conchata arrives and helps bandage his hand and fix his tie.  (He lets her decide which task to do first, commenting, "Every decision I've made lately I screwed up.")  At Miguel's, he's also tying his tie when Tyler arrives.  He asks if he needs a lift to Dana's funeral and Miguel passes; he asks if he's seen Kron and Tyler tells him that he's ordered him killed.  Miguel is shocked, since he's Tyler's son, but Tyler says that gives him control to take his life, since he gave it to him.  Saying that it's taking responsibility for his mistakes, Tyler also tells Miguel that he'll be assuming the reins at Alchemax the next day.  Miguel says that he's glad to return them, since he wouldn't want to become Tyler.  Tyler tells Miguel that he loved Dana, that her sweetness and joy touched him.  He remarks that Miguel might think of him as a one-note villain, but she made him happy.  They suddenly here violin music and it's Lyla, saying that she thought that it was appropriate.

Father Jennifer delivers the eulogy at Dana's funeral.  She turns over the podium to whoever wants to speak; Gabe does, saying that he doesn't share Father Jennifer's faith, since, if God existed, he would've saved Dana.  He then comments that somebody should've saved Dana.  He says that he tried to make her happy but couldn't, hypothesizing that she needed people who needed her the most.  Xina then speaks, saying that Dana and she had been in competition; some might think that she "won," since she's there, but she says that Dana had more class and nobility than she did and wishes they'd been friends.  Father Jennifer invites Miguel to speak, but he freezes when he sees everyone in the crowd as Dana.  He leaves the podium without speaking and wanders through the graveyard, running into someone putting Spidey's mask at a grave marker.  He approaches her, asking if she's Loreen.  She asks if he knew Kenny and he says that they were acquaintances.  She says that none of his friends came, because the movement fell apart with the revelation that Spidey had gone corporate, but Kenny still believed that Spider-Man would make the world a better place.  Loreen says that Kenny had seen Miguel's unmasked face and claimed that he saw in his face the future of the world. She comments how insane that is and Miguel agrees; she breaks down crying, hugging Miguel and telling him that she has no one else.  She apologizes and he tells her, in a whisper, that he's also sorry.

At Alchemax, the next day, Tyler arrives at his office, but Miguel hasn't left it.  Miguel notes that he wasn't at the funeral, but Tyler says that he skipped it because he's not much for public displays of grief.  He asks if Miguel's cleared out the desk and Miguel tells him that he's staying in the job.  He tells him that he'll run Alchemax with compassion, dedicated to helping humanity; he informs him that he revoked Kron's execution order.  Tyler tells Miguel that he's in way over his head but Miguel tells him that he paid Tyler's doctors to verify that Tyler's not in his right mind; to twist the dagger further, he used Tyler's expense account to do so.  Tyler tells him that everything he has is from him and reveals that he's Miguel's father.  Miguel takes a sip of coffee and tells Tyler that he knows.  Tyler is stunned and Miguel tells him, "Now get out of my office...Dad."

The Review
David somehow manages to take all the angst and chaos of the last few issues and channel them into a new direction for Miguel.  With Spidey's role as protector of Downtown lost, David re-balances the equation, making Miguel more important as an agent of change in his own right.  It injects a Tony Stark/Iron Man dynamic into the series that I think could work really well, since it feels like a natural progression and not a forced change. 

The Really Good

David does a beautiful job of setting in motion the series of events that leads to the final confrontation between Miguel and Tyler.  Miguel starts the issue adrift as a result of Spider-Man losing his status as protector of Downtown and finds himself in a worse state when Kenny dies as a result of his faith in him.  It's hard to see how Miguel will emerge from this downward spiral, but David sets up the moment of redemption beautifully.  David uses Loreen to remind Miguel that Kenny had seen him unmasked and believed in the man behind the mask, not just the mask itself.  It rekindles the fire in Miguel, reminding him of the power that Miguel himself has, and emboldens him to take charge of Alchemax.  Daredevil can police Downtown (as the "Next Issue" box seems to imply).  But, Miguel can change Uptown and, in so doing, save Downtown.  The denouement itself -- Tyler trying to use his revelation that he's Miguel's father to undermine Miguel and Miguel responding by calling him "Dad" -- was worth the price of admission.  It's rare to see such a well choreographed issue, where the author moves the pieces in an unexpected way to produce an unexpected result, but it's what makes this issue such a pleasure to read.

The Good
I'm glad that Spidey recognizes the Vulture here.  At the very least, it'll help Miguel realize that the people of Downtown were manipulated into abandoning him.  It probably plays some part of his commitment to use his control over Alchemax to effect change, since he knew that all hope wasn't lost.

The Unknown
1) At some point, it would be nice to know what exactly happened between Kron and Tyler to make them want to kill each other.  For that matter, it would also be nice to know what happened to Tyler's first wife and how he met Conchata.

2) Who the Hell beat up Father Jennifer?

The Bad
In a great example of pet peeve #2, Miguel doesn't the Green Goblin at tall in this issue.  In fact, the Goblin doesn't appear at all (if you don't count Gabe's appearance).

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