*** (three of five stars)
Favorite Quote #1: "Don't seem like he's got anything worthwhile. Suit's kinda tight." -- Ash or Sonner, stating the obvious
Favorite Quote #2: "DO YOU THINK ME A FOOL?!" "Well, I kind of hoped." -- Maestro and Miguel
Miguel returns to 2099, only to discover that Nueva York has been destroyed. He contemplates whether he's the lone survivor of 2099, but then gets struck by some sort of energy javelin and knocked unconscious. Two men stand over him and discuss whether he has anything on him worth stealing (see "Favorite Quote" #1). One of them crouches to inspect the body and notices that Miguel has no marks on him. Miguel suddenly grabs him, announcing that they hadn't hit him, because he's really fast. He hurls the man into his friend and webs them together, threatening to kill them (and describing graphically how he would do so) unless they tell him what happened. He asks their names, and Ash givers his name and tells him that his friend is Sonner; he also tells Miguel that they're Scanners. Miguel asks what that means, and Ash tells him that they scan the area to see if they can find anything worth bringing home. Miguel asks where "home" is, and Ash tells him that it's a couple of miles from there, on the outskirts of Dystopia. Miguel wonders where he's heard that name before, but he can't place it. He then drags the pair to their feet, cuts them free of the webbing, and orders them to take him home.
They arrive at the village, and Ash and Sonner are shocked to see that it's abandoned. Miguel asks how many people were living there, and Sonner tells him about 40 or 50 people had been. Miguel asks if they were just out hunting, but Ash says that they wouldn't all be gone at the same time. A frustrated Miguel comments to himself that nothing makes sense, that it's "confusion piled on top of absurdity" at this point. Just then, Ash and Sonner are encircled by bolas, and a bunch of soldiers appear, aiming their guns at Miguel. One of them observes that they found some stragglers, and another one orders Miguel to surrender. Miguel refuses and dodges the incoming gunfire. As he begins to take out the soldiers, he wonders how the world was destroyed. He hypothesizes that it was due to nuclear weapons, but wonders what triggered such an attack, since most countries got rid of their arsenals years earlier. Suddenly, a sonic boom hurls him to the ground, and a reeling Miguel wonders what happened. He then realizes that he's experienced that sort of attack before, and he discovers Maestro standing over him.
Miguel recognizes Maestro, but immediately wonders why he's there, since he encountered him (with Captain Marvel and Rick Jones) in an alternate future. However, Maestro thinks that Miguel is Peter Parker. Miguel shakily asks Maestro why he's there, and Maestro expresses shock that he knows him, asking if they've met yet. Miguel wonders whether he's in Maestro's past or if the Maestro that he met was from an alternate future from this Maestro. (Oy, time travel.) Maestro asks if he time traveled to get here, and Miguel confirms that he did. Maestro then asks if he could take him back to the past with him. Miguel agrees, telling him that he'll just go get his time machine. But, an enraged Maestro attacks him, saying that the real Spider-Man would never agree so quickly to take him back with him. Miguel manages to evade his attacks, but, eventually, Maestro grabs his foot and begins slamming him into things. As his ribs crack, Miguel realizes that Maestro is toying with him, since he could've just killed him. Maestro then hurls him into the ground, and Miguel wonders if Maestro is eventually going to kill him as he begins to lose consciousness.
Maestro orders his men to take Miguel, and they begin to ride to Dystopia. Miguel weakly asks why, in Maestro's words, "humanity [blew] itself to hell," and Maestro asks if he'd ever heard of a corporation called Alchemax. He tells Miguel that Alchemax began a program in the early 21st century that went horribly wrong; "one thing led to another, nukes flew, and that was the end of that." The group arrives at Dystopia, and Sonner asks about his people. Ash tells him to be quiet, but Maestro responds, telling them that he was feeling artistic. He says that he needed materials and then tells them to turn around, whereupon they see the bodies of their people chained to a sign spelling out Maestro's name. They look suitably horrified, and Maestro is pleased, saying that it was "exactly what [he] was going for." He then promptly crushes their skulls. Maestro then takes Miguel into the dungeon, telling him that it's interesting that he appeared when he did. He says that his interest in alternate worlds helped him capture another individual that could be of use, but she's proven stubborn. He's hoping that Miguel's broken body will inspire her to talk and throws him into a jail cell. Miguel opens his eyes to discover that the other prisoner is Strange.
Well, that escalated quickly!
I had to read my summary and review of "Captain Marvel (1999)" #27-#31 to remember how Miguel met Maestro in the first place. It was a fairly convoluted story, but, essentially, Thanatos (an alternate version of Rick Jones) sent Miguel and Captain Marvel to Maestro's timeline to get Dr. Strange's amulet and cape, which Maestro possessed. Combined with the time platform that Thanatos had stolen from Alchemax, he was planning on reordering reality so that he would be the only Rick Jones in the multiverse. (Yeah, I know, it's not the most ambitious of goals.)
Armed with that knowledge, let's get to it.
The art team really shines in this issue. From the destroyed Nueva York vista to Maestro throwing around Miguel like a rag doll, Sliney really just nails everything. Plus, Fabela's colors do a great job of painting a post-apocalyptic future. It's great stuff from start to finish.
1) By the end of this issue, it seems pretty clear that we're in Maestro's timeline, not Miguel's. However, Maestro didn't recognize Miguel as Spider-Man 2099, so, again, it's unclear if we're in Maestro's past (before he met Miguel) or if the Maestro that Miguel met was from an alternate future. Plus, at some point, we have to learn why Miguel was sent to Maestro's timeline and not his own, since all the other Spiders seemed to get home OK.
2) David seems to be setting up Miguel's return to our present, since Maestro informs us that it's Alchemax in the early 21st century that set in motion the destruction of Earth. But, again, just because that's true of Maestro's timeline doesn't mean that it's true of Miguel's. If Miguel discovers that his timeline's Alchemax didn't put into action the same program that it did in Maestro's timeline, then he'd have no reason to return to the past. But, David may actually be unifying the timelines here, revealing that Maestro's timeline existed at a later point in Miguel's. If so, Miguel would have incentive to return to the past to fix the problem. I guess we'll see.
Miguel's reaction to the (alleged) destruction of Nueva York was odd. First, he never seems to question whether he was in Nueva York. The 2099 line had any number of destroyed cities; Southern California seemed to be littered with them. It stands to reason that Miguel could've been sent to the right timeline, but the wrong place. Moreover, even if it had clearly been Nueva York, he declares that he's the lone survivor of 2099, despite the fact that nothing presented to him in that moment implies that the destruction would be global; it's just one destroyed city. I think that it's pretty easy to argue that Miguel was in total shock, so he wasn't exactly thinking straight. (He himself says that his mind felt like it was "shutting down.") But, it was weird nonetheless.
This is nit-picky, but, in the scene where Sonner asks about their people, Sliney inverts them, with Ash referring to Sonner as "Ash."