Living in the Marvel Universe presents an interesting situation for the devoutly religious. How do you put your faith in an intangible deity, when the world is filled with super-powered, God-like beings? It’s the exponential version of the question: “Why does God let bad things happen to good people?” In this world, having faith in heroes is more effective than having faith in higher powers. This is the conflict Peter David and Will Sliney address in Spider-Man 2099 #7. Although the creators don’t address any of the dangling plot lines of the first two arcs, this issue is a success for the way they attempted to tackle a higher concept than traditional super-hero fare.
The focus of the issue is the newly-created character, Glorianna. She’s a Parker Industries contractor who’s been transformed into an Inhuman, and her powers have instantly given her a new perspective on life. She now has the powers of a God and wants to be treated accordingly. She’s openly breaking God’s commandments in front of a priest and questioning the Almighty’s apparent indifference to terrorism, natural disasters and poverty. Some of her critiques are extremely biting, like when she compares God to an abusive husband.
This conflict has the potential to deeply challenge the beliefs of certain readers, but David stops just short of blatant blasphemy. Although Glorianna claims to be a God, it’s obvious that she hasn’t lost her connections to humanity. She has the power to transport anywhere, but repeatedly returns to familiar sites, like Liberty Island and St Patrick’s Cathedral. David also makes her flawed enough, so that we don’t need to actually consider her arguments. Instead of considering whether or not a superhero should be treated as a God, Glorianna is revealed to be mad with power, justifying the need to neutralize her.
The success of this issue exasperates my frustrations of issue #6. The creators devoted an entire issue to a conflict with the Inhuman Lash, then literally made that problem disappear on the fifth panel of this story. There was no need for this to be a two-issue arc. All the set-up of issue #6 is superfluous. This would have made a great one-off issue, something readers rarely get in today’s comics. If this had to be a two-issue story, why not spend more time mining around the interesting topic of faith, before watching Glorianna’s human flaws fail her lofty intentions?
The centerpiece of the issue is a battle in New York’s St. Patrick’s Cathedral, and the art team uses the setting to produce some great pages. Just like Times Square a couple issues back, it seems like Sliney does great work when he gets to destroy a Manhattan landmark. Both his interiors and exteriors of the church are packed with detail that draw in the reader’s eye, even more than the battle scenes themselves. He also makes simple, panels of inaction interesting, like showing Miguel’s POV, behind the mask, as he checks his Twitter feed while web-gliding. The coloring also excels with Rosenberg and Quintana using only using yellows and oranges for Glorianna. This makes her jump off the page and gives her a brilliance that isn’t seen elsewhere in the issue.
I’m still hungry for the story lines that David and Sliney have abandoned for the time being, but I’m excited how this issue tackled a loftier subject in what was basically a stand-alone issue. David has hinted in interviews that he wouldn’t shy away from politically charged themes, specifically terrorism. Here’s hoping that this issue is a new template for this series, whether we return to past plots or not.