Welcome to Longbox Junk? You want comic reviews you never asked for? You're in the right place!
But now we're moving past the initial four launch titles of Marvel 2099 and into the second wave of releases. And if you know Marvel, you KNOW it's only a matter of time before they start wanting to milk their favorite mutant cash cow. . .the X-Men.
BUT. . .
There was a problem. That problem was named Chris Claremont, the comic legend who had been the primary architect of Marvel's "X-Books" and the keeper of their convoluted continuity at the time.
You see, Claremont had ALREADY detailed the future of the X-Men. Beginning with the seminal "Days of Future Past" in 1981 and moving forward from there over the years laying down a complicated and bewildering (to anyone not a dedicated X-Men fan) collection of alternate and parallel future realities that provided fans of Marvel's mutant superheroes with high stakes time travel drama and apocalyptic visions of the future.
Yeah. . .a bit of a problem.
The solution was to just completely ignore everything about the mainstream X-Men comics and create a whole new X-Team that would fit the dark cyberpunk theme of Marvel 2099. In other words, an X-Men story that new readers could jump in on without knowing a SINGLE BIT of the tangled mutant tapestry woven by Claremont.
If you think about it, it was a HUGE risk. They couldn't use Wolverine! NO WOLVERINE! I mean, this was the 90s. An X-Men comic without Wolverine, without Gambit, without Cable, without ANY of the characters that were a big part of driving Marvel comic sales at the time. . .it just sounds like madness!
But they did it. By Gawd, they rolled the dice and went for it. And it worked!
Well, at first it did, anyway. X-Men 2099 came out of the gate strong, and within a year the title was on the verge of overtaking Spider-Man 2099 as the flagship title of Marvel 2099. . .but it wasn't long before interest began to wane. Sales dropped over 65% and the title eventually fell out of favor enough that it was cancelled in 1996 after 35 issues and two one shot specials. Today X-Men 2099 comics are pretty much worthless to collectors and are a bargain bin staple.
So what happened? Let's take a look at the first issue of Marvel's biggest 2099 gamble and try to find out, shall we? We shall!
X-MEN 2099 #1
Marvel 2099 (1993)
COVER: Ron Lim
SCRIPT: John Francis Moore
PENCILS: Ron Lim
INKS: Adam Kubert
It's another one of those SWEET shiny foil borders that set Marvel 2099 apart and are SO hard to get a good scan of. I think I did okay with this one. I'm thinking of going back to redo the first two. I probably should. but I digress!
Honestly, this cover isn't hitting me like the rest. It's not a BAD cover, but aside from the AWESOME logo there's just not much here to set this cover apart from any other 90s team shot. Remove the logo and this cover could be on any number of 90s Image "We want to be Marvel!" era team covers with a name like DEATHSTRYKE or CYBER HUNTERS.
I love the logo. I love the border. The rest is. . .okay. Let's get inside!
We begin our tale in the Nevada desert, with a young man named Timothy Fitzgerald. He's been wandering and has been given directions to the abandoned town of Nuevo Sol, along with a card for entry, by a mysterious Indian woman he met in Arizona.
He's greeted at a door marked with a red X by a hulking, mechanical-looking man. Entering the supposedly-abandoned building, Fitzgerald is surprised to find himself in the middle of a raging party!
Fitzgerald quickly meets a young woman who introduces herself as Tina. . .short for Serpentina. He's shocked as Tina openly displays mutant powers of stretching her limbs. She explains that he's in a safe place for mutants, nomads, Corporate discards, and all manner of outsiders.
We switch scenes to the glittering and decadent desert city of Las Vegas and the sprawling penthouse floor of the gigantic Synge Casino, where we meet Noah Synge. . .the man who ruthlessly controls the Greater Nevada Syndicate.
He's confronted in his seeming place of safety by the sudden appearance of a mysterious Asian man called Xi'an. The two of them obviously know each other, and Xi'an warns Synge that his days of kidnapping nomads for the sadistic pleasures of Synge's customers are over.
Synge laughs off Xi'an's warning and tells him that he will buy and sell who he wants. Xi'an tells Synge that this is his final warning, and that next time, it will be war.
Shifting scenes again, we find ourselves in the Synge Casino below. A captured mutant "terrorist" called Bloodhawk is being publicly put on trial for his crimes, with his fate resting in the results of the spins of a slot machine while customers bet on the outcome.
As the unfortunate mutant is dragged to await the final spin of the "Cavalcade of Justice" to determine the manner of his execution, we meet Desdemona and Lytton Synge. . .the decadent son and daughter of Noah Synge. They mock the captured mutant as he passes.
Later, two mutants sent by Xi'an to rescue Bloodhawk from Synge, appear. Krystalin (who can produce and manipulate crystals) and Meanstreak (with super-speed) break the captured mutant out of captivity, but Bloodhawk seems to be rather ungrateful and informs his rescuers to tell Xi'an that he will never become one of his disciples before flying free into the night.
Here the story breaks for a FIFTEEN PAGE preview of the Marvel 2099 line in general. It might make this review a bit longer than it needs to be, but the preview pages are actually pretty cool, so I'll throw a few of them in here for you because why not? Check 'em out!
Okay, enough of THAT and back to the review at hand. Now where were we? Ah, yes. . .
When they go to inform their father of Bloodhawk's escape, Desdemona and Lyttan Synge discover that the elder Synge has been brutally murdered. Lyttan immediately blames the death on Xi'an and vows to bring an end to the mutant leader.
We switch scenes back to Nuevo Sol, where Xi'an has returned and is ready to address the gathered outcasts as to the direction they will be going now that Synge has ignored his warnings. Unknown to Xi'an, an assassin is among the crowd, moving to find his vantage point and waiting for his signal to strike while the mutant leader speaks, inspiring those gathered. . .including a listening Fitzgerald.
As Xi'an speaks of strength and unity among the outcasts, Fitzgerald senses something wrong and catches sight of the waiting sniper! He reveals his mutant power of draining and channeling electricity as he pushed through the crowd and strikes the assassin just as he fires!
As Xi'an goes down, the gathering is attacked by a heavily armed Synge Security Enforcement team, demanding the surrender of everyone there. Chaos and panic ensues as the crowd attempts to flee the trap.
As Fitzgerald and several of the other mutants escape into hidden tunnels below Nuevo Sol, we learn that Xi'an is wounded and close to death but Fitzgerald managed to throw off the assassin's aim enough to save his life. As they make their escape, Xi'an weakly invites a shocked Fitzgerald to join his new X-Men!
To Be Continued. . .
X-Men 2099 #1. . .let's break it on down!
First things first. Full disclosure. If you've read much of this blog, you might already know this, but if not, then here it is. . .I'm really not a fan of team books. This review will be fair, but generally-speaking, if you're a fan of team books, you MIGHT have an entirely different view on this comic (and I'd be glad to hear it).
Don't get me wrong. I don't HATE team books. There's some good team book stories out there that I really like. Just generally, I don't have a taste for them. Just letting you know.
ANYWAY. . .
Having said all that, it probably won't come as a surprise when I say I didn't really like this very much. Putting aside my general dislike for team books for an honest look at things, X-Men 2099 just seems a little weak, and sort of feels like Marvel felt like anything with "X" slapped on it would sell.
Once again, don't get me wrong. There ARE some things I liked about this. Let's talk about those.
Like Doom 2099, X-Men 2099 leaves behind the Mega-Corporation run cities and shows the reader another side of the 2099 world. Where Doom 2099 showed us a bit of the fractured nations of Europe, X-Men 2099 gives us a glimpse of organized crime beyond the reach of the Corporations. I liked that a lot.
I compare the two different views of Doom 2099 and X-Men 2099 from the rest of the 2099 line because they were actually scripted by the same writer, John Francis Moore. But where Doom 2099 was dark and compelling, X-Men 2099 seems to be weak and diluted. . .bogged down by the introduction of the larger number of characters needed for a team book.
So I liked that Moore continued to show different parts of the world of 2099, but he didn't quite manage to pull it off as well as he did with Doom 2099. A shame. The organized crime angle is interesting.
Another thing I liked about X-Men 2099 also comes from John Francis Moore. . .
Although I don't like the X-Men very much in general, I know that they have always been comic book stand-ins for various marginalized communities through their history. . .from the Civil Rights movement to acceptance of LGBTQ individuals, the X-Men have always represented standing up for the dignity and respect of those who are hated by others.
X-Men 2099 continues that tradition of representation by speaking up for the poor, the unwanted, those that are seen as having no "worth" to the wealthy. It's actually a point of view that probably resonates better today with the huge gap between the "haves" and the "have nots" that has greatly expanded since this comic was written 30 years ago. It may not seem as important as representing the rights and dignity of colored or LGBTQ individuals, but it's still noteworthy and interesting, and I'll give credit where it's due.
Other than those two things, the interesting bunch of little 2 page 2099 previews, and that the art is pretty solid in a 90s-tastic way, there's not much else I liked about this issue.
The story jumps around and it feels like the reader has been dropped into the middle of it instead of starting at the beginning. The various mutants seem like they could be swapped in and out of just about any 90s team book from Marvel or Image. . .except for Xi'an, none of them are very interesting or unique in appearance of ability.
Judging this issue on the same two questions I ask of EVERY first issue of a series. . .Are new characters and their situations introduced in a new reader friendly way and does the issue make me want to read more. . . X-Men 2099 rates a no on both.
New characters are just thrown at the reader. . .some of them having to describe their powers in painfully obvious exposition (usually to people that we assume they have known for a while and should know their powers already).
The issue just isn't interesting enough to make me want to read another one. It's not BAD, it's just not good enough to make me want more. It's feels like something that exists because Marvel just HAD to have some X-Men in their 2099 line. That reason isn't engaging enough to carry a series. . .as I believe the steep (65%) in sales not far down the line shows.
What we have here is an issue that COULD have been great. John Francis Moore had already proven his hand at writing in the dark cyberpunk future setting of Marvel 2099 with Doom 2099. Unfortunately, he doesn't quite pull it off here.
There's things to like in Moore's glimpse at the criminal underbelly of the world of 2099 and his comic book exploration into the dichotomy of rich vs. poor in a world where people are nothing but commodities.
But the multiple cardboard cutout mutants that needed to be introduced water things down enough to make this ultimately feel bland and uninteresting. . .like something Marvel felt obligated to give to the fans instead of the strange labor of love that Doom 2099 seemed to be. It's hard to believe that the two series were written by the same person, they're that different.
Overall, X-Men 2099 could have been called ANYTHING else and still have been the same story. There's nothing to set it apart from the glut of team books being put out by Marvel and Image (and Valiant, and Malibu, and everyone else) during the 90s.
I have to give Marvel credit for taking the gamble of putting out an X-Men book without any of the characters that were selling X-Men comics in the 90s, but unless you're a big fan of everything X-Men and/or 90s team books in general (or just want to read EVERYTHING from the 2099 line), I would say to go ahead and skip X-Men 2099. There's just nothing in the story or art to set it apart from any other random 90s team comic. It's not BAD, it's just sort of. . .there.
Up Next. . .
One last visit to Marvel's dark 2099 future. . .HULK 2099!
Be there or be square.