When adjective-less Spider-Man first debuted in the 90s, creators like Todd McFarlane and Erik Larsen had the freedom to use a multitude of characters from across the Marvel Universe. The result was multiple team-up arcs with hot heroes of the era like Ghost Rider, Wolverine and X-Force. Spider-Man 2099 #17 feels like a story out of that era: a fun team-up-because-we-can adventure (something writer Peter David half-jokingly admits himself), and while this new arc does seem to return to some of the storylines of the past, it doesn’t raise the stakes enough to bring new excitement to the series.
After two arcs of costumed battles in 2099, Miguel returns to his original revenge mission of taking down The Fist in 2016 for their New York restaurant attack that put his girlfriend, Tempest, into a coma. Miguel hasn’t evolved as a character; he continues to be frustratingly stubborn when it comes to The Fist. He even devotes a whole page to a monologue about how smart it would be to call the Avengers or Spider-Man, but he continues to make this personal. In previous arcs, this same attitude has created a lot of the situations that have led to the rise of The Fist. Peter David’s use of Elektra makes sense: The Fist is an off-shoot of The Hand, which happens to be in her wheelhouse of expertise, but her introduction into this story takes up practically all of the issue. David also misses an opportunity to re-establish or even up the stakes. Elektra makes a small reference to The Fist’s goal of destroying America, but there’s no catalyst or game-changing event to get readers re-invested into this story.
This is probably more of a pet peeve than a legitimate critique, but this issue continues to use the holographic character of Lyla as a plot crutch panacea. There never seems to be hard and fast rules about her power set, abilities and limitations. Early in the issue, she can’t get Miguel’s clothing right, because she doesn’t understand the language, and it makes a fun joke Later she functions as a sentient being who’s able to step in and intervene when Miguel is knocked unconscious. Lyla has become this series’ equivalent of Miles Morales venom sting.
The majority of the issue involves Miguel and Elektra interacting as civilians, and penciler Will Sliney packs the pages with tons of great facial expressions. The highlight is a full-page spread of Elektra and Miguel out of costume, where Sliney packs the pose with tons of tension and exasperation. On another page, Sliney copies and pastes a panel of Miguel and Elektra as talking heads, but blurs a different face in each to show who is talking. Some may think this is a shortcut, but it’s effective here. Color artist Michelle Rosenberg stepped up to the plate when the issue’s setting changes to the mountains of Colorado. Instead of the typical neon blues and greens of Nueva York, she uses a sunset pallet of purples, pinks, and reds that gives the scene a great look.
We’re now 17 issues in on this volume, and I’m still not connecting with the main character. He’s not really fighting to fix the future as the cover of the book suggests; instead, he’s fighting to fix mistakes that his own stubborn attitude has helped create. You’d have to go back to the first arc of the previous volume of this series to get stories of a man trapped in the past trying to change the future. Back then, Miguel was influencing Alchemax in 2015 in ways that would have an impact on 2099. It seems the creators have either abandoned that concept, or are playing the long game with it. Instead, the series has become about Miguel’s fight against a terrorist organization that may have the ability to travel back-and-forth in time. It’s still an interesting premise, but the first story of this arc does little to get me excited about the stories to come.