Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Spider-Man 2099 Meets Spider-Man #1

* (one of five stars)

Favorite Quote:  "Look, lady --" "I don't wanna look!"  "I mean listen!  I mean -- forget it!  Okay!"  -- a naked Miguel and a sheet-ed Mary Jane, as they contemplate each other across the bed upon their first meeting (P.S. to Mary Jane:  based on other ladies' comments about Miguel's goods, you probably should've looked)

The kids first seen joy-ridding above Uptown in "Spider-Man 2099" #1 are doing so again, with the driver insisting to his skeptical friends that their previous encounter with the Public Eye was a fluke.  However, once again, Spider-Man flies past them, with the Public Eye in hot pursuit; this time, though, it's Peter Parker, not Miguel O'Hara.  The kids swear off joyriding forever while Pete defends himself against the Public Eye.  He leaps onto one of the flyboys' skybikes and holds the officer by the neck, demanding to know what year it is.  The flyboy tells him that it's 2099 and then Peter bails, jumping off the bike and down a smoke stack.  Meanwhile, in the "present," Miguel awakens in bed, reflecting on how his fight with the Vulture took a lot from him.  He orders the lights to go to half, but gets confused when they don't respond to his voice.  He calls for Lyla as someone in bed next to him stirs and turns on the light.  They startle each other, particularly since Miguel is naked.  He grabs his costume and pulls it around his loins while Mary Jane demands to know where Peter is.  Miguel flees through the skylight, only to be more shocked when he looks on old New York.  Elsewhere, a mysterious figure wearing a gauntlet emblazoned with a spider looks upon the scene, telling another figure that "it's all happening, just as our records indicate it's supposed to."

In 2099, Pete exposits that he had been in bed with Mary Jane when a bout of insomnia drove him to some late-night web-slinging and he suddenly found himself in 2099.  He stumbles upon Downtown, which he remarks looks and smells more like the New York that he knows.  In the "present," Miguel marvels at the old technology, contemplating how awful it is to still have traffic accidents but how liberating it is not to have the Public Eye watching everything that one does.  He sees the "Daily Bugle," remembering that the news came in a printed format "before they discovered printer's ink caused cancer."  He heads to the newsroom and asks the journalists for help in researching the day's events to see if he can figure out why he's there.  However, JJJ, Jr. interrupts him, telling him that a wardrobe change won't fool him into thinking that he's not the "wall-crawling freak."  Miguel webs up JJJ, Jr.'s mouth and then decks him, inspiring the staff to offer its help.

In 2099, Hikaru-sama contacts Tyler Stone, telling him that Stark-Fujikawa has detected energy fluctuations from Alchemax's main research-facility that it hasn't seen in a century and that the two companies outlawed by mutual agreement.  Stone denies breaking the accord and agrees to Hikaru-sama's request to inspect Alchemax's facility.  Meanwhile, Peter contemplates staying in the future.  He notes that cops are still trying to get him, but that he's used to that (and that Downtown doesn't seem to have any).  He ponders the opportunity to start anew and be "quits" of villain likes Dr. Octopus, while noting that it'd kill him not to see "MJ again..and the others."  Suddenly, the Vulture attacks, telling him that he hoped that Spidey would've stayed clear of Downtown after their "brouhaha" the previous day.  Pete manages to grab the Vulture's wing pack and hurl him into the pavement, where the Vulture threatens to kill a group of bystanders "just because [Pete] angered him;" Pete stops him by knocking him unconscious.  The saved onlookers beg Pete to baptize them as spiderites, but Spidey flees.  He's stopped by Gabe, who asks why he changed costumes.  Before he gets an answer, Gabe asks Spidey to go talk to Kasey since she's still "hung up" on him.  Pete just stares at him and Gabe tells him that he's just Miguel O'Hara to him.  Pete tells Gabe that he's got the wrong "webhead" and Gabe panics that he inadvertently revealed Miguel's secret identity to a stranger.  Pete tells him to calm down a minute; Gabe does and annoys Peter by asking him (again) to go talk to his girl.

In the "present," Miguel tells the reporters that the date sounds familiar.  A reporter mentions that Fujikawa Industries is demonstrating some sort of "energy conservation device."  Miguel corrects her with "Stark-Fujikawa," but Robbie Robertson tells him that it's just Fujikawa, "a small Japanese firm trying to get themselves noticed."  Miguel realizes that it's the first day of the "end."  Before he can do anything, though, JJJ, Jr. revives and goes after him.  Miguel pulls off his mask to prove that he's not who JJJ, Jr. thinks that he is (since the present Spidey wouldn't take that risk) and then informs him that Spider-Man is revered as a hero in the future but JJJ, Jr. is lost in obscurity, "not even a footnote."  He then leaves with the information that the reporter printed for him while the mysterious figures watch, expressing anxiety over whether Miguel while swing past Mary Jane, who's standing outside the "Bugle" waiting for Peter.  However, Miguel grabs her, using the word "shock" to let her know who he is.  (He used it in their first encounter.)  He drops her on a rooftop and exposits that Fujikawa winds up losing control of the power source that it's testing that day when super-villains attack it, sparking a series of events that lead to the "Great Cataclysm" and the disappearance of every hero, with Spider-Man being one of the first.  Miguel is trying to find Peter and asks Mary Jane to trust him, since she has nothing to lose.  However, Mary Jane doesn't know where Pete is, since he was next to her when she went to sleep (as Pete had already told us).

In 2099, Gabe leads a disguised Peter to Miguel's place.  (Notably, Pete's Spider-Sense tingles when he sees the Alchemax building.)  At Miguel's, Gabe introduces Peter to Lyla and asks her to do a retinal scan of Peter to facilitate returning him to his time.  Peter wonders if it would be bad to stay in the present, but Gabe tells him that he's tempted to return with him just to escape Alchemax watching everyone's every move.  Lyla tells Gabe that Pete has no record and, for some reason, this information convinces Peter to return home, so he decides to head to Alchemax.  In the present, Miguel begins to tell Mary Jane how much hope Spider-Man brings to people in his time, but he stops to marvel when he realizes that the coffee that he's drinking is made from real coffee-beans.  Mary Jane says that it's nice to know that people have a high regard for Peter, but, just then, Miguel sees some sort of wave of color with his accelerated vision.  In the future, Peter's Spider-Sense tingles as the Alchemax building emits a similar wave.  The mysterious figures are pleased with these developments, but they're surprised when someone dressed like a Goblin attacks them.  Miguel follows the waves, but he's interrupted when Venom attacks him.  Venom's senses let him know that it's not Peter in the costume and he demands to know who he is.  Miguel shakes off his attack and Venom comments that it's nice to be encountering a "strong silent type" after Peter ("Mr. 'Not-Half-As-Funny-As-He-Thinks'").  He attacks again and Miguel slashes his face with his talons.

Meanwhile, Tyler arrives in the lab where a group of Alchemax scientists have re-created Fujikawa's machine, which tapped into "temporal energy in the theoretical fifth dimension" and focused it into a time loop, essentially creating a perpetual-motion machine.  Stone orders them to shut down the machine, since Hikaru-sama is on his way, but the scientists tell him that they can't, since it's ignoring their instructions.  At that moment, Spidey arrives at Alchemax, where he's confronted by two Public-Eye officers.  As they open fire, he uses Web-Lines to re-direct their cannons, blasting an entrance for him in the building.  He follows the waves, where he's able to see Mary Jane in the "present."  Meanwhile, Venom and Miguel crash into the lab where the Fujikawa experiment is happening.  Miguel tries to reason with Venom, telling him that nothing will matter if he doesn't let him go.  Instead, Venom panics and flees.  Miguel looks where Venom was looking and sees visions of the 1990s heroes for the near-future, where they apparently rush to their doom.  However, at that moment, Peter arrives, grabbing him.  Peter notes that they're supposed to fight, "according to protocol," but instead suggests that Miguel follows his lead.

It becomes clear that they're between time until they arrive in some sort of desolate future.  At that moment, they're attacked by the Goblin figure, revealed to be Hobgoblin 2211, who plans to use "ret-con" bombs to blast both Spider-Men from existence.  However, Spider-Man 2211, one of the mysterious figures, saves them by grabbing the bombs with Web-Lines.  He tells the other two Spider-Man that they've done their job, but refuses to elaborate, saying that it's, "very confidential" and "involves a lot of math."  He then uses the bombs to destroy the two energy devices.  The two Spider-Men are then returned to their realities, but not before Miguel asks why Pete became Spider-Man and Pete tells him that he did so because he had to do so.  (Miguel responds, "Same!")  Pete embraces a relieved Mary Jane and Miguel quickly checks historical records, saying that the "Richards doctrine" means that history should be unchanged.  He confirms that it has remained the same, since the heroes did vanish.  But, the date is now gone and neither he, Gabe, nor Lyla remembers it.  Pete realizes how important he is -- with his actions affecting people whose parents' parents aren't even born yet -- and Miguel contemplates whether the space-time continuum is actually constantly in flux.

The Review
If you've been reading my "Spider-Man 2099" entries from the start, you'll know that I was initially inspired to start this whole project by "Spider-Man:  Edge of Time," a video game where Peter and Miguel interact across time.  Peter David wrote it and it stands in my mind as one of the best written video-games that I've ever played.  Needless to say, I had high hopes for this issue, given the similarity of the premises.  Unfortunately, they were dashed quickly.  The whole issue is a mess, from odd characterizations to a nonsensical plot.  I try to pick out specific issues with it in the following commentary, but, overall, it's hard to encapsulate just how bizarrely (and disappointingly) bad it really is.

The Bad
1) Kato Kaelin as President?  Really?  First, it sounds dated, as did the reference to Chelsea Clinton being President in issue #23.  But, it's worse than just being dated.  David is trying to get us to believe that U.S. politics dipped so low that the American people elected Kaelin as President.  I get that he's trying to make the point that the U.S. government eventually became so co-opted by the corporations that someone like Kaelin could be elected as one of the puppet Presidents, but it's seriously just a bridge too far.

2) Gabe's accidental revelation of Miguel's identity to Peter is awkward.  First, based on where I think this issue falls in continuity, I don't know if Kasey is as obsessed with Spidey as she was (see the note at the bottom of this post).  But, Gabe saying, "look, to me, you're still just Miguel O'Hara," is a non-sequitur.  It has little to do with the situation at hand (Gabe trying to get "Miguel" to impress Kasey for him).  Was he trying to make the point that he doesn't think that Spidey's a big deal since he really knows that he's really just Miguel, but Kasey does, since she doesn't?  David doesn't really make that clear and, as such, it makes the scene feel like it was intended simply to hitch Gabe with Peter.  David could've done better, particularly since (as I mention in the next item) I'm not entirely sure why it was necessary for Gabe and Peter to meet in the first place.

3) I'm not really sure why Gabe needed to have Lyla scan Peter.  He seems to think that he'd be able to send back Peter to his time if the scan confirmed Peter's identity, but I have no idea why that would be the case, since David doesn't really elaborate on this idea either.  As a result, Gabe serves no purpose in this issue other than confirming that Peter doesn't have a record.  Although this confirmation shouldn't really have any impact, bizarrely, it winds up convincing Peter to go home.  I would've thought that realizing how much he loves his family and friends would've done the job and not the fact that he, I don't know, couldn't collect Social Security in 2099.

The Really Bad
1) I have no idea what the hell happens at the end.  Hobgoblin refers at least twice to Spider-Man 2211 as her "associate," but it's pretty clear that they're not working to the same ends.  How, then, are they associates?  The best that I can figure is that Spider-Man 2211 and the other mysterious figure were manipulating events to prevent the Great Cataclysm and Hobgoblin takes advantage of this manipulation to kill the Spider-Men and prevent Spider-Man 2211 from coming into existence.  But, even that possibility has problems.  After all, Spider-Man 2211 and the other mysterious figure know the sequence of events that Pete and Miguel should follow, implying that they've danced this dance previously.  At what point do they plan to intervene to change whatever result that they want to see changed?  Does Hobgoblin 2211 succeed in erasing the Spider-Men from history in the original sequence of events?  In other words, is the pivotal moment not Spider-Man 2211 and the other mysterious figure's manipulation of the events in the first place, but Spider-Man 2211 successfully stopping Hobgoblin from eliminating Peter in this time line?  If the goal wasn't saving Peter, but preventing the Great Cataclysm, how did the original sequence of events go?  How did the events that we see cause the Great Cataclysm and how were these two figures planning on preventing it?  Also, does it matter if the date that the heroes disappear is forgotten if the end result -- them disappearing -- is the same?  Essentially, since David never lets us know what Spider-Man 2211 and the other mysterious figure were trying to change, I wound up having no idea what they were doing throughout the issue.  I can't believe that David, the master of tying up loose ends, leaves so many here.

2) On some level, the real tragedy of this issue is that we only briefly see Miguel and Peter together.  It reminds me of critics of the movie, "The Mexican," who wonder why you have Brad Pitt and Julia Roberts in the same movie if they're going to spend most of it apart.  Given the number of premises that David could've used to get them to share screen time, as it is, I don't get why he uses one that results in them standing of the sidelines for a few panels while someone else does their dirty work.

The Terrible
OK, in the three years that I've had this blog, I don't think that I've ever used the title, "The Terrible."  But, OMG, this one deserves it.  Peter contemplates staying in the future?  Really?  Sure, he mentions that it'd kill him to lose Mary Jane and "the others."  But, we're really supposed to believe that he's actively thinking about it?  For starters, we're talking about the man who made a deal with the devil to erase his marriage to Mary Jane to save Aunt May, but he just lumps her together with "the others here?"  Really?  I have to stop writing about it before I start using too many profanities.

A Note on Reading Order:  As I mentioned in my review of "Spider-Man 2099" #39, the last batch of issues have been difficult to place in continuity.  Miguel mentions his fight with the Vulture here; Gabe's comment about Kasey seems to imply that Miguel is referring to his original fight with the Vulture, in issues #7-#8, since Kasey suspected that Gabe was Spider-Man by issue #27 (meaning that Gabe wouldn't be trying to use Spidey to impress her, as he is here).  Moreover, Miguel doesn't recognize the revived Vulture until issue #41 and doesn't even fight him in that issue, meaning, at this point, they've only had one fight.  As such, you could conclude that the events of this issue happen after issue #8 (possibly during issue #9).  However, I sort of doubt it, since this issue was published at the same time as issue #37.  It seems weird that David would turn back the clock 2.5 years.  As such, I think it's best to consider it as happening after issue #41, since, in "Fantastic Four 2099" #4, Miguel specifically mentions his encounter with Peter.  In other words, it's a mess, folks, something that Joey himself notes in the letters column of "Spider-Man 2099" #42 when he encourages us to view it as a "timeless" tale.  I'm going to post what I think is the appropriate order at the end of this project, but I'm still not sure that I know what it is.

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