Welcome to Longbox Junk, where I write comic reviews even though nobody asked me to!
We're continuing my journey into the dark future world of Marvel 2099. So far, it's been a nice little trip. It seems that Marvel learned some lessons from the failed New Universe and created a more cohesive and exciting world for the future versions of their superheroes to inhabit.
This time out, I'm going to take a look at the final Marvel 2099 launch title, Doom 2099. It's generally regarded as one of the best 2099 series, and was popular enough that it was the ramp that Marvel used to launch a 2099-wide crossover from. . .One Nation Under Doom, where Doctor Doom took control of the United States and caused massive, lasting changes in EVERY 2099 title (including some deaths that ended under-performing titles like Ravage 2099). Not bad for a comic that has. . .well, really no collector value at all.
BUT. . .
If there's one thing I've learned writing these Longbox Junk reviews, it's that just because a comic is in the bargain bin (which is where you can find Doom 2099 these days), that doesn't mean it's bad. After all, Doom 2099 wasn't your average superhero comic.
What we have here is a series that (taken as a whole) is only one of two that actually delivered on the cyberpunk promise of Marvel 2099 (the other was Ghost Rider 2099, one of the last series to come out, and one I've already reviewed). Where most of the other 2099 titles focused on the superheroics, Doom 2099 dived deep into the science fiction aspects of the future world.
Yeah. . .there's superheroes to be found here, but overall, Doom 2099 was much more character and world-focused than your Spider-Man or X-Men 2099 (for example) were. Many of the issues are dark and introspective and feature little action compared to other 2099 comics. The stories were dense at times, and asked some pretty heavy questions as the series went on. . .
Is ruthlessness a necessary attribute for a good ruler? Do the responsibilities of absolute leadership permit a ruler to bypass the common sense morals and ethics that govern other (and in Doom's mind, lesser) men? Is the security of a sovereign kingdom. . .a nation of Doom's native people. . .worth sacrificing the principles of justice and individual freedom?
Like I said. . .not your average superhero comic. And as you can probably tell, I'm a fan of the darker, heavier storytelling of Doom 2099. But I'm getting ahead of myself and starting to review this comic right here in the introduction before I even summarize the story! So enough of that.
Ready? Let's do it!
DOOM 2099 #1
Marvel 2099 (1993)
COVER: Pat Broderick
MUSES OF FIRE!
SCRIPT: John Francis Moore
PENCILS: Pat Broderick
INKS: Pat Broderick
So I finally figured out the secret to posting decent pics of these foil border covers. Instead of scanning them like I usually do, I take a picture with a camera and crop it. It's not perfect, but it works. I think maybe the brighter silver (and gold with Ravage 2099) might also make a difference. I guess I'll find out with X-Men 2099's blue border coming up next. BUT ENOUGH OF THAT!
I absolutely LOVE this cover! That silver foil border makes a perfect frame for a stunning character shot of Doom in his new 2099 blue and silver color scheme surrounded by massive flashes of lightning. This cover is bold and powerful and one of the best Marvel 2099 had to offer. THIS is the kind of cover that makes me want to pick up a comic. It's a real eye-catcher. Let's get inside!
We begin our tale in Antikva Vilago, Latveria, the year 2099. The village has fallen on hard times and is now mostly a seedy black market exchange. We are introduced to Wire (a Gypsy computer hacker) and his girlfriend, Xandra, as a deal goes bad and they are forced to run from a heavily-armed security patrol. . .
During their escape, the pair are amazed to see a strange armored figure appear from nowhere in the middle of a crackling ball of light and energy! The Gypsies take advantage of the distraction to help their escape from the patrol as they confront the mysterious figure, who seems confused.
When threatened by the patrol, the figure loudly proclaims himself to be called Doom and destroys the patrol vehicle with a blast of energy.
Doom stops the Gypsies, asking them for information. He learns that his castle is in ruins, Latveria is now being ruled by someone called Tiger Wylde (Welcome to the 90s!), and that the year is 2099. Having learned the situation, Doom decides to immediately take action to remind Latveria who its TRUE ruler is. . .
We shift scene to the nearby capital of Latveria, Gojradia. A modern industrial city. Among the glittering high-rise buildings, we enter the office of Latveria's ruler, Tiger Wylde. He is confronting an Alchemax executive by video, accusing Alchemax Corporation of sending an assassin (who has failed). Alchemax, of course, denies any knowledge.
Ending the call, Wylde turns to his spiritual advisor, a Gypsy called Fortune, to read his cards regarding the situation. Fortune tells Wylde that change is in the air. . .a shift in power.
They are interrupted by Doom, blasting his way past the guards and into the office, demanding to see Wylde. Wylde and his bodyguard, Zone, are amused. . .assuming that they are encountering yet another uninformed Doombot that has activated. Doom proclaims that he is no robot!
Intrigued and believing that THIS Doom is no robot, Wylde mocks Doom. Telling him that even if he IS somehow Victor Von Doom, his day is long past, and that HE saved Latveria after Doom's disappearance long before. . .building it into a modern and independent nation, not run by the megacorporations that swallowed so many other countries.
Enraged by being dismissed, Doom attacks Tiger Wylde! Unfortunately, Doom quickly learns that his outdated armor and weapons are no match for the cybernetic Wylde's advanced technology. He is easily defeated.
Helpless, Doom is unmasked by Tiger Wylde. The face of a young man, unscarred is revealed even as he proclaims himself to be Doom and vows vengeance. Wylde mocks him, knowing that the man is much too young and doesn't bear the scars of the REAL Victor Von Doom.
Adding further humiliation to the easy defeat of Doom, Wylde burns his face before leaving him for dead and ordering the body of the imposter taken to the Neurotechs to salvage his body parts.
Wylde's advisor, Fortune, sees an opportunity and secretly takes the strange man calling himself Doom to her home, where she helps him recover from his wounds over the course of the next several days.
Doom awakens in a Gypsy camp, alive, but humiliated and now hideously scarred. Fortune tells him that she saved him because the cards told her that he would be the one to free Latveria from Tiger Wylde. Doom learns that they are of the ancient Zefiro clan of Gypsies. . .the same clan that Doom was born into. By the bond of blood they share, Fortune and the Zefiro pledge themselves to Doom's cause.
Doom and his new allies travel to a remote mountain range, where he uses a medallion Fortune wears to unlock a hidden facility that contains a stealth aircraft. . .the highest technology of Doom's time, hidden for an emergency escape craft almost a century ago.
Enlisting the aid of the Gypsy hacker, Wire, Doom has learned the location of materials and a scientist that can help him better prepare to take back Latveria from Tiger Wylde.
Doom and his new companions fly the cloaked aircraft to an island off the Peruvian coast, a secret research facility owned by the Pixel Corporation in search of one Doctor Celia Quinones.
Doom and his Gypsy companions make their way through the research facility, fighting their way past guards and automated defenses, finally breaking into the main laboratory itself, where Doom offers Dr. Quinones her freedom from the Corporation that has enslaved her in exchange for her services. Quinones agrees.
Later, Doom allows Quinones to operate on him. Using the secret advanced Pixel Corp. technology, Doom has nanoids fused to his nervous system, creating a cyber-neural interface that greatly enhances his motor and neural responses. But the technology is experimental and highly dangerous.
The restructuring of Doom's neural pathways leads to intense pain and hallucinations of the past. . .nearly driving him to madness as the operation proceeds. But through sheer strength of will, Doom prevails!
As Doom recovers, he is garbed in a new suit of armor. . .a cutting edge design made of an Adamantium Lanaxide alloy and configured to the nanotech now fused to Doom's nervous system. The technology is untested, but Doom has no time for tests! He has been reborn and every moment counts now.
Doctor Doom is dead. . .LONG LIVE DOOM!
The End. . .To Be Continued.
Okay then. . .Doom 2099, issue one. Let's break it on down!
As you can probably tell from the introduction to this review, Doom 2099 was one of my favorite 2099 series. It stood out among the rest by not only focusing on a villain as protagonist, but with a darker story infused with the cyberpunk themes missing from other 2099 titles.
Doom is an almost Shakespearian character that is consumed by fulfilling his own destiny of greatness, no matter what the cost. The issue ends with a quote from Henry V, so it's pretty clear the neo-Shakespeare direction of the story is entirely intentional. It definitely adds a sort of gravitas that isn't present in other 2099 titles. I can see, even from this first issue, that the writer wanted THIS story to be something different.
Making a villain the "hero" of the story gives Doom 2099 layers of grey that make it stand apart from the superheroics of other 2099 titles, but John Francis Moore was a writer definitely suited to a cyberpunk anti-hero tale with shades of grey. I didn't realize it until I did a bit of research for this review that Moore was a collaborator with Howard Chaykin on the second volume of one of my favorite bargain bin indie comics that ALSO takes place in a dystopian science fiction world. . .First Comics' American Flagg.
Knowing that NOW, I can definitely see shades of Moore and Chaykin's creation here in the high-tech, but spiritually empty, consumerist world in which Corporations have come to replace governments. But here, that premise is taken down a different path with the Machiavellian Doom and his unceasing push toward fulfilling his destiny.
On the art side of things, prolific comic veteran Pat Broderick gives Doom 2099 the dark, dramatic style that this tale stepping outside the bounds of your average superhero comic needs! His moody, hard-edged art perfectly compliments this story of a man brought to nothing and trying to force his way back into greatness through sheer will. Marvel definitely put the right team on THIS series!
Looking at Doom 2099 as a first issue, I ask the same two questions of ANY first issue I review:
Does it present the characters and the situation in a new reader-friendly way? Yes. Even for readers who have NO idea of who Doctor Doom is, there's enough exposition sprinkled through the story that ANY fan of dark science fiction will be able to enjoy this issue. It's a testament to Moore's writing that he can make such a well-known character feel brand new!
Does it make me want to read more? Again, yes. With Doom humiliated and brought to nothing, but still declaring that it is his destiny to rule, I can't help but want to jump right into the next issue to see what happens! THIS is a comic that grabs you and doesn't let go.
I'm pretty sure you can tell by now that I'm a fan of Doom 2099. As far as I'm concerned, it was one of the best mainstream comics of the 90s, and one that I can point at when people moan about how crappy 90s comics were.
If you're a fan of dark science fiction/cyberpunk stories, then I heartily recommend Doom 2099, if you haven't read it yet. The entire series is a great read! When Moore leaves the title to write X-Men 2099, we get some early work from Warren Ellis that REALLY cements this title as one of the best 2099 had to offer.
Where Moore based the overarching narrative of Doom 2099 on Henry V, under Ellis, the story took on the darker, more personal, and more tragic tones of Macbeth, with Doom playing the role of the monarch who, consumed by ambition (Taking over the United States of America), sacrifices his friends and the rule of law in the pursuit of power. A dark, compelling story!
But there I go again, moving past THIS issue to sing the praises of the series as a whole.
Overall, Doom 2099 #1 is a great introduction to the series that new readers can get right into and will make them want to immediately get into the next issue. . .and the next. . .and the next.
There IS a massive 400+ page collection of the series on Amazon that will set you back close to 300 bucks, as well as digital collections to be had. . .but the issues aren't hard to find in the bargain bins at all, except a few toward the end when Marvel was reducing print run as 2099 slowly ground to a halt.
No matter HOW you get your hands on Doom 2099, I urge anyone reading this who wants a dark cyberpunk tale with some superhero seasoning sprinkled in to find a way to read this series! It's a bargain bin staple, and pretty much worthless to collectors, but in MY humble opinion it's pure Longbox Junk gold.
Up Next. . .
That's right, MORE Marvel 2099!
We're moving past the original launch titles and into the second wave with X-Men 2099.
Be there or be square!