Sorry about the delays lately, folks. It's summertime and the hotel I manage is JUMPIN'. I haven't been able to do much readin' and reviewin' this past month or so, and it's probably going to be the same until September. To illustrate. . .I started writing this review on June 7. Bear with me, good people!
BUT ENOUGH EXCUSES!
Welcome to Longbox Junk, the blog stuffed absolutely FULL of comic reviews NOBODY asked me to write!
I've been having a fun little trip to Marvel's dark future 2099 comics line lately. There's been ups and downs along the way, but I think it's about time to move along to something else.
But I'm not done just yet!
Before we leave the world of 2099 I'm going to look at one more. One of the last monthly 2099 comic titles before the entire line imploded, condensed, and ultimately fizzled out in 1996. . .coinciding with the imploding, condensing and ultimately fizzled out comic collecting boom of the 90s in general.
So let's strap ourselves into the Longbox Junk time machine for one more visit to the past. . .er. . .future? Whichever one it is (probably both), let's go take a look at HULK 2099!
Before we set out, a bit of a disclaimer.
Before doing this review, I didn't realize that Hulk 2099 #1 does NOT have the first appearance or origin of Hulk 2099 in it (except for a bit of a flashback skimming over it). The first appearance of Hulk 2099 was in the first issue of a 2099 anthology series called 2099 Unlimited.
Actually I was pretty confused while reading this issue. I distinctly remembered reading the origin of Hulk 2099, but the comic at hand wasn't ringing any bells and seemed to dump me right in the middle of a story that was already happening. A little research showed me the error, and so I had a choice. . .either review 2099 Unlimited (which also has a Spider-Man 2099 story in it) OR stick to my guns and review this one.
I ultimately decided to go ahead and stick with Hulk 2099 #1.
The way I see it is that, if I were a comic fan in 1994 without the benefit of the internet to hold my hand every time I had a comic-related question, then THIS would be the comic I would assume had Hulk 2099's origin in it. It SAYS #1 right there on the cover, right? RIGHT?
ANYWAY. . .
2099 Unlimited had such poor sales, I probably wouldn't even have known it existed anyway back when it was out. It only lasted 10 issues, was bi-monthly, cost more than your average comic, and was pretty much propped up by Spider-Man 2099, as far as I can tell. So I'm coming in here like it was 1994 and that awesome shiny green foil border cover happened to catch my eye on the rack.
SO. . .
Hulk 2099 is a bit of a strange bird in that the first issue of the series is actually a continuation of another series entirely. . .but we're gonna get through it okay. It's gonna be okay. I promise. Ready?
Let's do it!
HULK 2099 #1
Marvel 2099 (1994)
COVER: Malcolm Davis
SCRIPT: Gerard Jones
PENCILS: Malcolm Davis
INKS: Chris Ivy
Further reinforcing the illusion that this is actually the first appearance of Hulk 2099 is that shiny foil border that characterized all the other first appearances of the 2099 line. . .this time in glorious dark green! (2099 Unlimited doesn't have the foil border)
I REALLY like this cover a lot! It has a dark, nightmarish, twisted feel to it. . .bold, thick inks contrasting with vibrant color really make this brutal portrait of the future Hulk stand out in a big way. There's things popping out all over the place to catch the eye. The colors really stand out to me. This is one of my favorite 2099 covers, coming in a close third behind Doom 2099 and Ghost Rider 2099.
Let's get inside!
We begin our tale by being thrown right into the action! The Hulk is fighting his way through the security at a water reclamation plant outside of Los Angeles.
He abandons the fight to take care of one last bit of business his human alter-ego (Ruthless virtual reality studio executive John Eisenhart) has left before he can leave civilization behind and roam the desert.
That business is to take a young boy in his care (Gawain, the last of the now destroyed "Knights of the Banner") and get him to a safe place after John cashes out his contract to Lotusland Entertainment.
But as the two of them arrive at Lotusland, they are surprised to see employees fleeing the area. It seems the company is under some sort of attack. . .
Leaving Gawain with the car, John tries to contact his superior, but finds the systems locked down. Unable to terminate his contract and cash out his Lotusland shares, John finds himself facing an interrogation by the Corporate psychologist, demanding information about John's recent whereabouts for the new owner of Lotusland. . .who reminds John that even his very THOUGHTS are the property of the Corporation under his contract.
AND THEN WE SWITCH SCENES. . .
We follow the underground musician Quirk. . .who had accompanied John through the desert in search of Gawain during his first days as the Hulk. She returns to her old Los Angeles neighborhood and seeks out Stevie, an old friend. She's decided she's done with monsters and wants to get back to work singing.
But as the two discuss her future plans, Stevie's studio is attacked! Stevie is killed and Quirk is taken captive as part of a "Hostile takeover".
SWITCHING SCENES BACK TO LOTUSLAND. . .
John endures interrogation, knowing it will be the only way to access the systems and cash out of his contract. The questions cover John's recent activities and absence. . .and in doing so, we get a condensed flashback version of Hulk 2099's origin (as seen in detail in issues #1-#6 of 2099 Unlimited, which I guess I SHOULD have reviewed instead of this issue, but here we are.)
John Eisenhart was tasked with finding new material for Lotusland. He followed rumors of a cult living in the desert outside of L.A. who were living a strange monastic lifestyle, called "The Knights of The Banner."
Upon investigating the cult, he discovered that the "Banner" was Bruce Banner, the original Hulk. They refused to sell John the rights to their story, but Eisenhart befriended a young boy (Gawain) and through him learned that the Knights were carrying out highly illegal gamma ray experiments to try and recreate the original Hulk. . .
As the questioning continues, we learn that Eisenhart betrayed the Knights and reported them to the authorities. . .hoping to buy the story from THEM once they had captured and broken the Knights.
But what John didn't count on was the heavy resistance the Knights would put up. They fought a pitched battle with the authorities and John was caught in the middle of it. Learning of John's betrayal and seeing that there was no hope for the Knights, Gawain activated their gamma device, which exploded. . .turning John into the Hulk.
But John keeps THAT part of the story to himself, claiming that the device exploded and that was all. He ends the interview, proclaiming that he wants nothing more to do with Lotusland and demanding to cash out his shares and contract. But as he does, the sounds of combat outside the room can be heard!
A strange cybernetic-enhanced person bursts into the room, proclaiming himself to be Draco. . .the new owner of Lotusland. John doesn't seem to be particularly impressed. Lotusland security forces also burst into the room and a firefight erupts between Draco's cybernetic forces and Lotusland's humans.
John notices that Draco's forces look exactly like those he fought at the water reclamation plant and wonders why someone would take over a water plant AND an entertainment company, but he doesn't have time to wonder for long as the firefight becomes more violent and he decides to make a run for it.
As John runs back to the parking garage, Gawain hears the commotion and leaves the car against John's orders to remain. A force of guards pursuing John fires on him as Gawain rushes toward the sound of fighting. Seeing John is in danger, Gawain (being sworn to protect human life as a Knight of The Banner) throws himself in front of John, saving him but being killed in front of John's horrified eyes!
John's horror at Gawain's sudden, brutal death quickly turns to rage. . .and we know what happens when a Hulk gets angry, right? Transforming into the twisted 2099 version of The Hulk while cradling Gawain's dead body, John howls Draco's name and immediately rushes back into Lotusland for vengeance!
Smashing his way through both Draco's and Lotusland's security forces, Hulk confronts Draco, demanding payment for Gawain's life right there and right now!
ANNNNNNND. . .
To be continued.
Okay, so there we have it. The first issue that's sort of not a first issue of Hulk 2099.
Let's break it on down!
Hmmmm. . .okay. Well. . .yeah. I guess the first impression I get is that maybe I SHOULD have reviewed 2099 Unlimited #1 instead. This story just jumps right in and assumes readers have already been following Hulk's six part adventure through the other title.
To be fair, it was probably just as confusing for comic fans in 1994 who picked this up without reading 2099 Unlimited. What I'm trying to say is that right off the bat this issue fails the first expectation I have for the first issue of a new series. . .does it introduce the characters and their situation in a new reader friendly way?
This would be a no. It does not.
Once again, I'll be fair. This issue DOES skim over Hulk's origin, and they're actually some of the best pages in the comic. . .but the whole side story of Quirk and Stevie is extremely confusing and out of place in the context of just THIS issue. It fits just fine in the context of the story in progress told in 2099 Unlimited. Other characters like Ty and Keisha (John's friends/rivals at Lotusland) just sort of appear without any explanation at all. . .unless you've read 2099 Unlimited, where they are first introduced.
So as a continuation of the story in 2099 Unlimited, this is great. As the first issue of a new series. . .not so much. Pretty disappointing, and I'm sure there were comic fans at the time that felt the same way.
Don't get me wrong. This isn't a bad story at all. It's well written. The interrogation of John by the corporate psychologist stands out in particular. He deftly tells the doctor what he wants him to hear while we see the true story unfold in the surrounding art. It's very nicely done.
I like that we're getting yet ANOTHER point of view on the 2099 "universe". This time that of the cutthroat West Coast entertainment corporations. I also like that this version of the Hulk is skewed so that the human side is ruthless and manipulative while the monster side is heroic and caring. It's an interesting twist on the Hulk mythos and one I wouldn't mind reading more of.
Which brings us to the second thing I expect of a first issue. . .does it make me want to read more?
That would be a yes. This story throws us right into the middle of something that's already been going on, but there's enough meat on the bone for me to want to check out those 2099 Unlimited issues AND go forward into the Hulk 2099 issues after that. This version of the Hulk is different enough that it sort of hooked me into wanting to see more.
On the art side of things. . .90s-tastic in the best way!
Like the awesome cover, the art team of Malcolm Davis and Chris Ivy give us a twisted, slightly-exaggerated vision of the dark 2099 future with plenty of detail and bold inks. The art in this comic is really eye-catching and engaging.
Credit due to the colors of Tom Smith as well. There is a GREAT use of color in this story. The colors are bold, rich and vibrant. Everything pops and demands your attention. For a great example, just look at the page I scanned above of Quirk meeting with Stevie. So much color, interesting angles, great detail, cool panel shapes. That carries through the whole issue. VERY nice. I like this art team a lot!
As a continuation of the story started in 2099 Unlimited, this does a great job. As the first issue of a new series, not so great. Hulk 2099 #1 dumps the reader right into the middle of a story that's already been going on. There IS some background material to be found, but really, in order to enjoy this comic you need to have already read what came before it.
That aside, there's another problem with Hulk 2099 #1, and really, Hulk 2099 in general. It's a pretty fundamental problem. A kind of "big picture" problem when looking at this series as part of the 2099 line in general. . .
The whole setup for Hulk 2099 is derivative of other 2099 titles. . .a corporate-type has a life-changing violent encounter that leads him to turn against the corrupt corpocracy that he previously was a part of, mirroring the same basic setup for Spider-Man 2099, Ravage 2099, and Punisher 2099. This would be the FOURTH time the 2099 line used the same storyline.
To make matters worse, there was ALREADY a savage transforming man-beast in Ravage 2099, who had recently been revamped into a sort of Wolverine/ Hulk hybrid character in an effort to prop up sales of the unpopular title.
It's sort of a shame, because I DID find the character (and art) compelling enough to make me want to read more, despite the title sort of dumping me into the deep end of the pool with a story already in progress.
Overall, I liked Hulk 2099 and can recommend it to Longbox Junk readers who want a different and interesting take on the Hulk. But I wouldn't suggest starting with THIS issue. You're going to want to read the origin story in 2099 Unlimited first and then continue into this series.
It doesn't look like the 10 issues of Hulk 2099 have been collected, so you'll have to hunt down the individual issues. This is one of the 2099 series that I don't see that often in the bargain bin for some reason, but they're out there to be found. If you like the Hulk, give it a try!
Up Next. . .
I guess that's enough of Marvel 2099 for now.
Time to move along to something else.
It's July, and I usually like to throw in some Captain America, so how about we do that? Yeah. . .Captain America!
Be there or be square.