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Longbox Junk - Hulk 2099 #1

491 views • 290 days ago • (0) Comments

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!
 
BUT!
 
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
 
NO EXIT
 
SCRIPT: Gerard Jones
PENCILS: Malcolm Davis
INKS: Chris Ivy
 
THE COVER:
 
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!
 
THE STORY:
 
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.
 
THE REVIEW:
 
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!
 
 

CONCLUSION

 
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.

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Longbox Junk - X-Men 2099 #1

693 views • 333 days ago • (0) Comments

Welcome to Longbox Junk? You want comic reviews you never asked for? You're in the right place!
 
I've been spending a little time checking out the dark future of Marvel 2099, and so far it's been a pretty nice trip.  A little high (Doom 2099 and Spider-Man 2099), a little low (Ravage 2099) and a little in between (Punisher 2099).  
 
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
 
THE GATHERING
 
SCRIPT: John Francis Moore
PENCILS: Ron Lim
INKS: Adam Kubert
 
THE COVER:
 
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!
 
THE STORY:
 
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. . .
 
THE REVIEW:
 
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.
 

CONCLUSION

 
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.

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Longbox Junk - Doom 2099 #1

692 views • 350 days ago • (0) Comments

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
 
THE COVER:
 
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!
 
THE STORY:
 
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.
 
THE REVIEW:
 
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.  
 

CONCLUSION

 
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!

- read more

Longbox Junk - Ravage 2099 #1

802 views • Apr 13, '23 • (0) Comments

Welcome to Longbox Junk! If you want comic reviews nobody ever asked for, you're in the right place!

 
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
 
RAVAGE
 
SCRIPT: Stan Lee
PENCILS: Paul Ryan
INKS: Keith Williams & Steve Alexandrov
 
THE COVER:
 
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!
 
 
THE STORY:
 
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!
 
 
The End.
 
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. . .
 
THE REVIEW:
 
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.

CONCLUSION

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.

- read more

Longbox Junk - Punisher 2099 #1

707 views • Mar 30, '23 • (0) Comments

Welcome to Longbox Junk, the place to find all the comic reviews you never asked for!

 
Last time out, I jumped into the future world of Marvel 2099 by taking a look at the first issue of the line's greatest success, Spider-Man 2099.  It was the first title put out in the line and Marvel definitely hedged their bets on it kicking off Marvel 2099 with a bang.  Their bet paid off. Simply put, it was a great start!  
 
So let's continue our little trip into the future by taking a look at a series that walked the line between grim social commentary and dark comedy.  Where Spider-Man 2099 #1 gave us a brief look at the heights and horrors of the ruling Corporations, the comic at hand dives down onto the gritty streets below the skyscrapers, where law enforcement has become a paid commodity usually only available to the wealthy.  
 
A bit of research tells me that Punisher 2099 was actually the fourth and final original 2099 title to be launched, so I'm writing these a bit out of order.  I didn't know that when I started.  Ravage 2099 and Doom 2099 were the second and third launch titles.  I'll get to them soon.  
 
But for now, let's see what happens when a cop on the edge discovers Frank Castle's war journal 100 years down the road from when the original Punisher roamed the streets, shall we?  WE SHALL!

PUNISHER 2099 #1

Marvel 2099 (1993)

 
 
COVER: Tom Morgan
 
DEADLY GENESIS
 
SCRIPT: Pat Mills & Tony Skinner
PENCILS: Tom Morgan
INKS: Jimmy Palmiotti
 
THE COVER:
 
Like the Spider-Man 2099 cover, I have to apologize for the poor quality of my scan.  I TRIED to angle it a little bit to better capture the flavor of the foil border. . .the dark blue here was even WORSE scanning than Spidey's red.  I guess it SORT of worked.  You can at least see a little more of the intricate detail embedded in the border this time. These 2099 foil border covers are great, but super hard to scan.  
 
BUT I DIGRESS!
 
Getting past the cool border, the cover itself. . .well. . .let's just say it's SO 90s that even the 90s are like, "Hey, can you tone it down a little?".  It's nicely done, but it definitely hits every checkbox that there is for cliché hyperactive 90s art. The pouches, the shoulder pads, the exaggerated musculature, the weird feet, the crazy looking guns. . .and more.  It's all there! 
 
This cover is the sort of cover that someone could easily point at and say, "There. THAT'S the 90s." and most comic fans wouldn't disagree.  I'm not saying it's a BAD cover at all.  If you were there collecting comics in the 90s, this is the sort of thing that's LOADED with nostalgia.  A sort of " so bad it's good" feeling.  But enough about the cover. Let's get inside!
 
THE STORY:
 
We begin our tale following a man as he desperately flees from a gang of "Street Surgeons", criminals who steal organs from living victims and sell them on the black market.  The terrified man tries to call the police ("Public Eye" a corporate-owned law enforcement agency) and is told that his account is delinquent, leaving him at the mercy of the Surgeons!
 
 
The Surgeons are interrupted during their assault by a hulking man, armored and bristling with weapons.  He easily takes down multiple gang members by himself, brutally killing them all and saving their terrified victim.
 
 
We switch scenes to the next day, at Alchemax Corporation's Public Eye headquarters.  The Chief and his staff are reviewing video from multiple brutal attacks that have been carried over the past few nights.  The perpetrator is a mysterious vigilante using some sort of technology to hide his face that they have so far failed to crack.
 
Special Agent Jake Gallows has been brought on to the case to assist. They review the case with him. . .all the victims were criminals who had already paid their fines and been released.  They try to figure out the vigilante's motivations, but can't come to a solid conclusion.
 
 
After the meeting, some of the other Public Eye officers are talking about Gallows, and we learn that he recently suffered a tragedy.  Gallows' mother, brother, and sister-in-law were all killed and Gallows himself severely wounded by a psychopathic gang during a day at the zoo (shown to us in flashback).  Now, Gallows is the only surviving member of his family.
 
 
After Gallows recovered from his wounds, the leader of the gang who killed his family was caught and put on trial.  It turned out to be Kron Stone, brother of Tyler Stone (from Spider-Man 2099, remember? If not, then check out my review of Spider-Man 2099 #1 HERE), one of the top executives of Alchemax Corporation. . .who are also the owners of Public Eye. 
 
After being found guilty in court, an unrepentant Stone flippantly paid his massive fine on the spot with his Corporate "Black Card" (basically unlimited funds for extremely privileged Corporate executives).  Gallows flew into a rage and attacked Stone in the courtroom, only to be saved from arrest himself by his fellow cops.
 
 
After the trial, Gallows was convinced that the legal system no longer works.  There's no real justice when someone can just buy their way out of a conviction right in the courtroom.  
 
We then follow Gallows to a hidden place where he and his best friend, Matt Axel, have been storing weapons, armor and equipment for months, waiting for the right moment.  That moment has come.
 
Among the items they've been illegally collecting is an old journal found in the police archives. . .the journal of a man named Frank Castle, but called The Punisher.  A journal that now inspires Jake Gallows to become something more than just a cop in a failed system. . .
 
 
. . .it inspires Jake Gallows to become a new Punisher for a new age!
 
 
The End. . .To be continued.
 
THE REVIEW:
 
Okay then.  Punisher 2099 #1.  Let's break it on down!
 
The overall impression I get from reading this comic is the same impression I got from the cover.  This is a comic that IS the 90s. The narrative offers an overheated, ultra-violent tale of the sort that pretty much defined many 90s comics that came in the aftermath of the Image explosion onto the scene.  
 
That is to say, where Image can be seen as desperately shouting "We want to be Marvel!", at the same time, Marvel (seeing the sales numbers of Image titles) was also shouting "We want to be Image!" in a strange Ouroboros that eventually collapsed the entire comics market.  
 
Punisher 2099 #1 is a gloriously over the top example of the ongoing battle for readers between Image and Marvel that was taking place at the time it came out.  And in hindsight 30 years down the road, it was a pretty good effort.
 
The writers Marvel brought on were British veterans of comic book science fiction dystopia, with work on A.D. 2000's Judge Dredd, as well as Marshall Law and Third World War.  You can definitely see shades of Judge Dredd and Marshall Law in Punisher 2099.  The choice of writers was a brilliant one for Marvel.
 
Similar to those British dystopian works mentioned above, the surface veneer of ultra-violence rests on a hidden layer of dark and subversive humor.  I'm not sure if comic fans of the time went much deeper than the surface layer, but there are some pretty nasty jabs at the American fetish for violence (while at the same time, trying to enforce a broken sense of ethics) to be found.  This can be seen more so in future issues as one reads beyond the first, but there ARE a few hints of the British brand of subversive humor here and there in this issue.
 
The dark, somewhat exaggerated and almost nightmarish art delivers a solid punch of violence, but stumbles during non-action scenes. Like the story, it positively reeks of the 90s, so enjoyment of the art style will be pretty much based on the reader's tolerance for the signature over-the-top art that defined the 90s.  In MY opinion, it's not the best art of the 2099 bunch, but it's the sort of art that an action-packed narrative like Punisher 2099 needs. 
 
BUT, ALL THAT ASIDE. . .
 
This is a first issue of an ongoing series.  There are TWO things (in my humble opinion, of course) that make what I consider a successful first issue.  Does it introduce new characters and their situation in a new reader-friendly way? Does it make me want to read more?  TWO things. Is that really too much to ask?
 
The answer to both of these are YES.  Maybe not as an enthusiastic yes as I gave Spider-Man 2099, but this comic DOES introduce Jake Gallows and the gritty streets of his future dystopian world quite well.  And as a big fan of both Punisher AND Judge Dredd, the Mighty Marvel Mashup of them that is Punisher 2099 makes me want to read more. 
 

CONCLUSION

 
If you're a fan of dark, dystopian science fiction with an ultra-violent edge like that found in Judge Dredd, then you will like Punisher 2099.  It's basically an Americanized version of that popular British character.  Becoming even more so as the series goes on.
 
If you're expecting intricate storylines and deep narrative, then you're going to be disappointed.  This is the sort of comic where you can literally see what you'll be getting with a look at the cover.  It's over the top comic book junk food, but it's GOOD over the top comic book junk food.  A deliciously violent guilty pleasure.
 
This a comic book of its time.  That time was the early 90s and the competition between Marvel and Image for readers.  Of the 2099 line, Punisher 2099 is probably the most frozen in that era (except maybe Ravage 2099, but we'll get THERE in a bit) as regards both story and art.
 
If you have some nostalgia for 90s comics, then Punisher 2099 will be a decent read.  If you shudder with horror at the mention of the "Dark Age of Comics" that was the 90s for a lot of comic fans, then you'll probably want to steer clear.  Like I said above. . .look at the cover.  That's what you're getting.
 
This series has never been collected, but the individual issues are extremely easy to find in back issue bins.  Over the years I've collected almost the entire run (I think I'm missing 5 or 6 of the 34 issues) just from digging through bargain bins.
 
Up Next. . .
 
MORE Marvel 2099!
 
It was Stan Lee's final ongoing comic series. 
Unfortunately, it's also commonly regarded as the worst of the 2099 line.
Let's take a look and see if we can find out why.
 
RAVAGE 2099!
 
Be there or be square.

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Longbox Junk - Spider-Man 2099 #1

935 views • Mar 9, '23 • (0) Comments

Welcome to Longbox Junk, the blog FULL of comic reviews you never asked for!
 
Marvel 2099.
 
If you've ever been Longbox Junkin' through a bargain bin, I can GUARANTEE you've seen some Marvel 2099 comics.  Like Marvel's New Universe, the early "We wanna be Marvel" Image, and just about anything from Valiant or Malibu, Marvel 2099 comics are some of the ubiquitous bread and butter books that can be found in almost ANY bargain bin out there.
 
But what IS Marvel 2099? Why are there so many of them in the buck-a-book-bins?  Are they worth reading? SO MANY QUESTIONS!  Well, I've decided to dive into the world of Marvel 2099 over the next few Longbox Junk posts and see if I can find some answers.
 
Let's tackle the first question first.  What IS Marvel 2099?
 
The basic answer is that Marvel 2099 was a project by Marvel Comics launched in 1992 to showcase the mainstream Marvel Universe 100 years in the future (107 years, actually.  But who's counting?). In a nutshell. . .science fiction superhero comics.
 
The setting was a dark, dystopian, cyberpunk future where powerful corporations basically run the world.  The superheroes of the past are long gone (due to some sort of calamity that isn't really explained. . .it has something to do with Doctor Doom) and are pretty much legends of a time called "The Heroic Age". But now a NEW age of heroes is at hand!
 
Marvel 2099 launched with four original series. . .Spider-Man 2099, Doom 2099, Punisher 2099, and Ravage 2099.  Of the four, only Ravage was based on an entirely new character and not a re-imagined future version of an existing character.  Not to digress, and we'll discuss this more later, but Ravage 2099 also has the distinction of being Stan Lee's last work on a monthly comic series.
 
The 2099 imprint was an immediate hit with readers, with Spider-Man 2099 being the most popular title, and remaining the most popular 2099 title to this very day, where Spider-Man 2099 has been in several series post-2099 collapse, and still makes fairly regular guest appearances.
 
The rest of the 2099 titles were also popular enough that Marvel continued to release 2099 titles until 1998.  Another victim of the collapse of the comic industry in general around that time.  They were comics that were highly-regarded by fans at the beginning, and hardly-noticed at the end.
 
Over the next few Longbox Junk entries, I'm going to take a look at the first issues of some of these 2099 comics.  First up is the top dog of the bunch, the aforementioned Spider-Man 2099.  
 
It's the only 2099 character that has managed to outlive the imprint itself, and the only one that is even the least bit "collectible" today.  And when I say "collectible", what I mean is that a nice clean graded and slabbed 9.6 copy of Spider-Man 2099 #1 will get you about $100.  That ain't retirement money, folks.
 
SO. . .
 
It's not worth much to collectors, but still seems to be pretty popular.
Now the question becomes, "Is it any good?"
 
Spider-Man in a dark, cyberpunk future.  Let's check it out!

SPIDER-MAN 2099 #1

Marvel 2099 (1992)

 
 
COVER: Rick Leonardi
 
Begin the Future History of Spider-Man 2099
 
SCRIPT: Peter David
PENCILS: Rick Leonardi
INKS: Al Williamson
 
THE COVER:
 
90s-TASTIC! My apologies for the poor scan that doesn't properly show off the shiny red foil border.  I tried several times and this is the best I could do.  I looked online and it seems a lot of people have the same problem.  That red foil just does NOT scan well.  Trust me, it looks SO good. BUT I DIGRESS!
 
What we have here is a wonderful portrait of Spider-Man 2099 leaping into action, nicely showcasing the new Spidey's cool costume design!  The bright yellow title has a really interesting look and contrasts perfectly with the shiny red foil that you can't really see here.  THIS is a cover that jumps out and catches the eye!
 
It's such a great cover in just about every way (There ARE the weird 90s feet, but nothing is perfect, right?). I just love this cover! I'm not even a Spider-Man fan, but this awesome 90s cover makes me want to get inside and check this comic out, so let's GO!
 
THE STORY:
 
New York (er. . .NUEVA York), 2099.  We begin our tale in progress as the Alchemax Corporate police force called Public Eye pursue a mysterious and highly-agile costumed figure through the towering downtown skyscrapers.  He manages to eventually elude them by going to ground and blending into the crowd at a shopping mall. . .
 
The mysterious figure makes his way home to Babylon Towers, a luxury apartment building owned by the Alchemax Corporation.  Here, we learn that his name is Miguel O'Hara and are introduced to his virtual personal assistant, Lyla, as Miguel watches video messages he's received over the past five days.
 
The messages from his employer Tyler Stone, his best friend Gabe, and his fiancée Dana introduce us to several supporting characters.  They are all deeply concerned in one way or another about some sort of serious situation or incident that Miguel was involved in.  Miguel ignores the messages and begins making a journal entry. . .
 
O'Hara is (or WAS) a hotshot genetic scientist working for Alchemax Corporation.  He was working on a project to create a superior "Corporate Raider".  A genetically-enhanced special operative to do Corporate dirty work.  He was basing his research on a figure of the long past "Heroic Age" called Spider-Man, who seems to have been genetically-enhanced with spider DNA somehow.
 
The head of O'Hara's research department, Tyler Stone, demands that the project be tested on a human subject.  Miguel protests that the project isn't ready for human trials yet, but Tyler is O'Hara's superior and insists the trial go forward on a convict that has been chosen.
 
Miguel reluctantly agrees and performs a modified trial run on the convict meant to enhance his DNA for increased strength by combining it with an ape.  The experiment goes badly and the convict is transformed into a twisted mutant with superhuman strength that attacks Miguel, but dies quickly after breaking free.  Miguel is horrified, while the other scientists are pleased with the progress.
 
Miguel is so shaken by the incident he was forced to take part in that he immediately goes to Stone's office and resigns from Alchemax.  Tyler seems sympathetic to Miguel's reasons for resigning and even shares a drink with him.
 
Unfortunately for Miguel, Tyler reveals soon after their toast that the drink contained Rapture. . .an extremely powerful and highly-addictive drug created by Alchemax.  A drug that bonds with the DNA and makes escape from addiction to it almost impossible.  And since Alchemax is the only one who manufactures Rapture, Tyler is certain that Miguel will "reconsider" his resignation.
 
Horrified by the thought of becoming a chemically addicted slave to Alchemax, Miguel tries to fight the effects of the Rapture and fails.  He violently attacks his fiancée when she tries to calm him down.  Miguel reveals how he's been tricked into being addicted to Rapture.  Dana understands, but is unable to help him.  
 
Miguel resolves to not become a slave.  He comes up with a desperate plan to sneak back into his Alchemax lab and subject himself to the DNA combining process he's been working on.  The experiment has Miguel's DNA profile encoded in its files, so he can replace his Rapture mutated DNA with a copy of his own clean and unaltered DNA.
 
It's a good plan, and it seems to be working.  Unfortunately for Miguel, another scientist on the project finds O'Hara during the process.  The scientist, Aaron Delgato, is a rival of O'Hara's and believes that he's been pushed aside and his contributions to the project ignored while Miguel takes all the credit.  
 
Delgato sabotages the experiment by shutting off the safety overrides and injecting a random DNA profile into the process. . .the spider DNA O'Hara was hoping to use to create an enhanced Corporate Raider. 
 
 The sabotaged equipment explodes, but the sequencing had completed. Delgato is stunned to see O'Hara stagger from the wreckage. . .somehow alive!  He confronts Miguel, gloating about how Stone will put O'Hara away forever for destroying the lab, but is horrified to discover that Miguel O'Hara has been mutated by the experiment into a horrific human-like creature with fangs and claws. . .Dun-Dun-DUUUUUN!!

 
The End. . .To Be Continued.
 
THE REVIEW:
 
It's plain to see that Marvel learned some lessons from their failed "New Universe" initiative a few years prior to Marvel 2099.  They weren't taking any chances THIS time around!  Marvel hedged their bets by rolling out Spider-Man 2099 first, with legendary modern comic veteran writer Peter David on the story.  And they were absolutely right that the magic was there this time!
 
I'm not a big Spider-Man fan, so I know Peter David more as an Incredible Hulk writer (where he had an award-winning TWELVE YEAR run), and I could definitely see shades of the Hulk in this story of science gone wrong.  I'd go so far as to say that this seems more like a proxy Hulk story than a Spider-Man story at all!
 
Yeah, it's DNA manipulation instead of Gamma Rays, but the same sense of scientific body horror is present in Miguel O'Hara's origin.  And THAT'S what I really like about this story.  David didn't take the easy path of making the 2099 Spider-Man a clone or a descendant of Peter Parker, but something entirely different.   
 
Instead of a wisecracking teenager learning that "With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility", we get a desperate adult scientist trying to save himself from becoming a chemically addicted corporate slave in a horror-tinged origin story that really seems more like one for a Spider-Man VILLAIN. 
 
It works! This is a GREAT origin story that ends on a cliffhanger that makes me want MORE!
 
On the art side of things, Marvel further hedged their bets on Spider-Man 2099 by putting veteran artist Rick Leonardi on the job.  I know Leonardi more for his DC work (and the original 4 issue Cloak and Dagger series), but Marvel definitely picked the right man for the job here! 
 
His pencils are the PERFECT compliment to the science fiction horror story being told here.  There's some superhero action frontloaded in this issue, but this tale really needed someone who could make the NON-superhero parts that are the majority of the issue sing just as fine.  
 

CONCLUSION

 
Those of you who have been reading Longbox Junk for a while now know that I have boiled down my requirements for a good first issue into the following TWO things:  Does it introduce new characters and their situation well?  Does it make me want to read more?  For Spider-Man 2099 the answers are yes and yes!
 
Marvel hedged their bets on this book being what was going to kick off Marvel 2009 with a bang and they were absolutely right.  Their choice of Peter David and Rick Leonardi as the creative team gave this comic (and Marvel 2099 in general) a of a running start!
 
In this issue, we get a great science fiction horror story with shades of the Incredible Hulk as a new character's origin.  The setting is solid, the conflict rings with horrible truth, and the main character is interesting enough that I want to read more. 
 
Spider-Man 2099 #1 is a win from cover to cover and fully deserves a Longbox Junk gold seal of approval.  If you're a fan of horror-tinged cyberpunk science fiction then check this one out even if you aren't a fan of Spider-Man!  It's been collected, it's online, and you can even still find copies of #1 in the bargain bins (I found one just last week in a two dollar box), so it's not hard to find.
 
Up Next. . .
 
Spider-Man 2099 got our little trip into the dark future of Marvel comics off to a good start. Now it's time to get into the gritty, violent streets of the city. 
 
What happens when a cop on the edge discovers the journal of a certain Frank Castle 100 years in the future? Let's find out in the first issue of Punisher 2099!
 
Be there or be square.

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