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As I continue on my Longbox Junk journey into the future world of Marvel 2099, I've come to a comic that definitely gives me some mixed feelings. . .
On the one hand, Ravage 2099 was the last ongoing series that Stan Lee wrote. That sentence alone SHOULD indicate a bit of respect associated with this comic. I mean, it's the final regular writing job that the late, great Smilin' Stan worked on, right? RIGHT?
BUT. . .
On the OTHER hand, Ravage 2099 is generally regarded as the worst of the 2099 line.
It was the second launch title of Marvel 2099, coming in hot on the heels of Spider-Man 2099 with high expectations. Sales were initially great, based on Stan Lee's involvement, as well as that of artist Paul Ryan (who was the regular artist on Fantastic Four at the time and a fan favorite). But the decline in sales not long after launch wasn't just steep. . .it was almost vertical. By the end of 1993, Ravage wasn't even in the Top 300 comics for sales.
Ravage 2099 is a VERY common find in the bargain bin. It's a series that seems to have been kicked to the curb and kicked HARD. I've never seen any issues of Ravage 2099 in the regular (basically cover price) back issue bins, it's been kicked that hard. Ravage is bargain bin ONLY. If you have any of these in your collection, don't plan on selling them. Nobody wants these comics.
A short story, if you'll indulge me for a moment.
I had a flea market stand for the past couple of summers, trying to sell some comics cheap to make space in my storage area. I was selling them for a dollar. Everything a dollar. I couldn't sell any Ravage comics. I put them into a box where I was giving comics away for FREE to kids. I couldn't even GIVE these away!
In other words, this series is the very DEFINITION of Longbox Junk.
So what gives? Why are these comics so unloved? Let's find out.
Ready, folks? This might get messy, but. . .I'M GOIN' IN!
RAVAGE 2099 #1
Marvel 2099 (1992)
COVER: Paul Ryan
SCRIPT: Stan Lee
PENCILS: Paul Ryan
INKS: Keith Williams & Steve Alexandrov
Finally! A decent cover shot showing off the awesome detail on the foil border of these 2099 comics!
Instead of scanning it (which came out just as crappy as the other two I've done) I took a picture with a digital camera and then cropped it. The lighter gold border on Ravage might have also helped. In any case. . .I'm quite pleased, except where the flash was too much up on the top. I guess nothing's perfect.
BUT ENOUGH ABOUT THAT. . .
The cover itself is very well done. A great action shot pushing past the border for a nice 3-D effect. I like the colors on this one quite a bit. The different shades of green on Ravage's costume contrast nicely with that gold foil frame. I really like the Ravage logo, too! It's actually one of the best logos in the whole bunch, in my humble opinion.
But, like the Punisher 2099 cover, Ravage 2099 is DEFINITELY 90s-tastic. From the pouches, pads, and straps of Ravage's costume, to the gritted teeth and weird, oversized gun, this one checks most of the boxes for a stereotypical 90s "Grim-n-Gritty" cover. It's not QUITE as over the top as the Punisher 2099 cover, but you can most certainly tell what decade this comic came out without even checking the indica.
Let's get inside!
We begin our tale following a man desperately trying to elude a pursuing "ECO Patrol". They manage to corner their quarry in the sewers beneath the city. The terrified man is no match for the heavily-armed ECO troops, who brutally murder him.
We shift scenes to a luxurious corporate office high above the city. It's the ECO Central office of Paul-Phillip Ravage, chief of the Alchemax Corporation's division in charge of punishing ecological criminals. . .a sort of pollution-focused private police force.
Ravage is angry that his ECO patrols have yet to bring in a live "polluter" (loosely-organized eco-terrorists) so that they can be interrogated and their leadership found. He suspects that the terrorist leaders are corrupt officials within Alchemax itself.
We also meet Ravage's assistant (and love interest), Tiana. She's concerned that Ravage's obsession with finding the leadership of the terrorists will lead him down a dangerous path.
Her own father tried to expose corruption in Alchemax and was exiled to Hellrock, a deadly island of pollution and mutated humans known as Mutroids (I guess Marvel wasn't QUITE ready to bring mutants into the 2099 line yet, so they had to be called something else until X-Men 2099 came on the scene later, BUT I DIGRESS).
Later, Paul-Phillip encounters a young man named Dack, who claims that his father (the man killed in the introduction) was no terrorist, but had discovered a connection between the Polluters and Alchemax and was killed trying to get the information to Ravage.
Ravage decides to go straight to the top and confront the Director-General of Alchemax, Anderthorp Henton. He presents Henton with his suspicions and his belief that Dack is telling the truth. . .there's a high-level coverup of Alchemax's involvement with eco-terrorists.
The Director-General promises to immediately begin an investigation into the claims.
Unfortunately for Ravage, the corruption goes higher than he thought. After Ravage and Dack leave, the Director-General calls a meeting of high level Alchemax executives and it is decided that Ravage is no longer a useful in their plans. His suspicions and investigation have now marked him for death!
Unknown to Henton and the other Alchemax executives, Ravage's assistant, Tiana, has been listening in on their conversation. She's horrified by the discovery that Ravage's suspicions are true and that he's been targeted for assassination! She hurries to warn him.
In the meantime, a clandestine ship delivers a mysterious passenger to the docks. It's a deadly mutroid from Hellrock! We follow the mutated human as it moves toward Ravage's office. . .where Tiana has found Paul-Phillip and is frantically trying to warn him of the assassination plot against him.
Ravage refuses to believe Tiana at first, having full confidence in the Director-General. But THEN the hulking mutroid bursts into the office! As Ravage calls for backup and tries to protect Tiana, the mutroid doesn't attack. Instead, it calmly offers Ravage "payment" for betraying Alchemax as one of the terrorist leaders.
Security bursts in, guns drawn and demanding that Ravage surrender himself as a traitor and terrorist!
Ravage realizes that Tiana was right and he'd been set up by his own superiors as a terrorist leader, with a mutroid offering payment on security camera. He desperately fights his way through security with Tiana, but before they can escape, Director-General Henton sets off a hidden bomb in Ravage's office, destroying both him and the mutroid, along with any evidence of Ravage's innocence. . .OR SO HE THINKS!
Ravage and Tiana have survived the explosion by sheer luck. The two of them make their way to Dack's inner city apartment, where Ravage leaves Tiana in safety before leaving on a mysterious errand. . .
At a nearby ECO Central junkyard, Paul-Phillip strips away the last traces of his former identity, garbing himself with armor and weapons made of junk. At that moment, Paul-Phillip is dead. . .and there is now only RAVAGE!
Wait. There's more? It SEEMS like that was where this comic should have ended, but okay. . .
As the newly-born vigilante Ravage commandeers an old garbage truck to set out on his path of revenge against those who betrayed him and left him for dead, we shift scene to Hellrock Island. . .
In a forbidding castle looming over the toxic wasteland of Hellrock, we are introduced to the ruler of the mutroids. . .a demonic entity known as DETHSTRYK (Welcome to the 90s)!
His most trusted servitor, known as Seeress, informs her master that she has had a vision of a man dead and reborn again, named Ravage. She has seen that he will become Dethstryk's greatest foe.
Dethstryk vows to destroy Ravage, for none shall stand in the way of his plans to CRUSH THE ENTIRE HUMAN RACE! Dun-Dun-DUNNNNNNN!!
NOW The End. To be continued. . .
Allrighty then. The first issue of Ravage 2099. Let's break it on down!
Unfortunately, I can see why Ravage 2099 is considered the weak link in the 2099 launch titles. So what went wrong? Let's get THIS straight before I go on. . .Stan Lee is a legend in the comic world and I have no business trying to knock him down from the well-deserved pedestal he stands on.
BUT. . .
You can definitely tell Stan was past his prime here. The writing is honestly not very good. It's not AWFUL, mind you. It's just that it's a weird mashup of the bombastic Silver/Bronze Age and the grim-n-gritty 90s that just doesn't work well. It's a little schizophrenic, to be honest.
For example. . .In the early parts of the story, Ravage speaks in clipped, precise tones. By the end of the story, he's a trash talkin' tough guy. Another example. . .in the early parts of the story, the focus is on corporate corruption. By the end of the story, we have a demonic creature named Dethstryk.
There are more examples, but let's not beat it into the ground. This issue reads like two separate stories and Stan Lee was obviously struggling to fit his signature style into a grim-n-gritty comic world that had passed that style by.
THAT SAID. . .
I did find it interesting that Lee was trying to create an entirely new, environmentally-focused hero. Ravage was actually the ONLY 2099 comic that didn't build on an existing hero (or heroes) in some way. I'll give credit where it's due, Stan Lee was TRYING to create something new and unique here. Unfortunately, it didn't quite pay off.
Another good point about Ravage 2099 is the art. Paul Ryan does a great job bringing the future world of Marvel 2099 to life! From the bright and sterile corporate offices Ravage inhabits at the start of the story to the dark and grimy junkyard where Ravage throws off his identity at the end of it, Ryan's art is crisp and interesting. And again, that cover. . .very nice!
So let's look at this from the point of view of it being a first issue and the TWO things I judge a first issue on. . .
Does it introduce characters and their situation in a new reader-friendly way?
It does. The world of Marvel 2099 was a pretty remarkable framework and Ravage fits into it neatly.
Does it make me want to read more?
Well. . .not really.
Putting aside the weak writing, Ravage fails to capture my attention in another way. It tries to do what other Marvel 2099 comics do better, even when held up against JUST the two series I've reviewed already. Spider-Man 2099 tells a better tale of corporate corruption leading to the creation of a new hero. Punisher 2099 tells a better tale of a grim-n-gritty street vigilante out for justice. Simply put, there's nothing here that can't be found elsewhere. Ravage feels kind of. . .unnecessary.
I WANTED to like Ravage 2099. I WANTED to give it some sort of redemption from the stigma of being one of the worst series of the 2099 line. I WANTED to give Stan Lee some respect for getting back into the saddle one last time and bringing the comic world something new and original.
Unfortunately, I really can't do any of those things, except maybe some respect for Stan Lee's attempt to create 2099's only original hero. It's a shame that I have to say that I can't really recommend Ravage 2099 except as a curiosity.
Marvel made a mistake by bringing in Stan Lee as the writer on this one. Yeah, it pumped sales at first, but that didn't last long once the reality set in that Lee couldn't really mash the Silver/Bronze age and the grim-n-gritty 90s together.
So instead of a fan favorite epilogue to Smilin' Stan's writing career, going out on a high note of gritty science fiction superheroics, the world got a comic that was disliked and unnecessary enough to the overall 2099 narrative that it's now ONLY to be found in the bargain bin, and nobody even really wants it then. Honestly, it makes me a little sad to write those words, because I can tell that Stan Lee WAS making what he thought was a good effort.
All that said, I didn't find Ravage 2099 to be a BAD comic. Just very disappointing. If you're curious enough to take a look, you won't have trouble finding individual issues in just about any bargain bin. It's never been collected, except for some crossover issues in collections of other 2099 series.
Up Next. . .
MORE Marvel 2099!
Join me as I take a look at the final 2099 launch series DOOM 2099!
Be there or be square.