How many cameos does it take to make a struggling book more interesting? In Spider-Man 2099 #14, Peter David and Will Sliney use their great world-building skills to reveal more of a universe that will certainly whet the appetite of 2099 Universe fans, old and new. Aside from a lot of cool and striking character reveals, this issue does not do enough to put the series back on the right track and does practically nothing to connect itself to the crossover that is splashed across the top of this beautiful cover.
This issue is a huge success for the art team. In previous issues, Sliney’s panels of 2099 lacked a lot of backgrounds and failed to give readers an understanding of this vision of Nueva York and the future. Here, the team delivers in spades. Newly, every panel has some kind of cityscape in the background. The battles are in front of actual buildings, and the buildings have individually lit windows. Colorist Rachelle Rosenberg uses different shades of purple to represent lit windows in futuristic high-rises, giving the city a distinctive neon glow.
The real joy of this issue’s art, is the introduction and reintroduction of a number of 2099-era characters, including Ghost Rider, Iron Fist, Moon Knight and Daredevil. Sliney also teases a cavalcade of Avengers and Defenders from the Secret Wars 2099 series. The issue’s artistic highlight was easily the full-page spread of Ghost Rider; the anarchic look of its bike is a stark contrast to the generic sterile buildings of the city and the aircraft of the Public Eye. Sliney also delivers in the small details, like the wide shots the show government surveillance in action and officers hovering in the skyline.
If there’s any shortcoming in the art, there are two panels where Miguel and Ghost Rider face a pair of Public Eye agents on hovercraft in front of them. In a massive feat of accuracy and strength, Miguel hits them each with a web shooter, then slings them directly behind him, causing them to crash into each other. It’s the equivalent of performing a stationary rower with two-ton weights, and that’s before you consider the vehicles’ velocity. The bottom line is it’s a very kinetic, powerful scene, but the artist’s POV doesn’t showcase it properly.
Peter David does so much world building in this era of 2099, one has to wonder if this era may begin to play a bigger role in the series in the future. Nothing in this issue indicates this yet, and these cameos could just be nods to 2099 characters of the 90s, like Ghost Rider, or a way to bring back heroes from last year’s Secret Wars 2099. So far, they’re nothing more than window dressing, and this issue doesn’t use them to advance the plot. It’s still unclear how The Public Eye work within the structure of Alchemax, what has happened to the Sinister Six, and how does it all relate to the Fist and the present. Oh, and did you know that this is a tie-in to “Civil War II?” The word Ulysses was used four times in two panels, so it qualifies as an official cross-over title.
If this series begins to shift the location of its adventures to 2099, then this issue and arc would be a great place for a reader to jump on. If these characters and cameos are just a device to stuff an issue with a lot of cool visuals and people, then this issue is just more of the same.