Peter David and Will Sliney may finally be settling in on the central conflict of this series, after one of the longest set-ups in comics. The terror outfit of The Fist, whose random attack way back in issue #1 put Miguel’s fiancé in a coma, sparking 17 issues of time-crossing, revenge-fueled adventures, is finally emerging from the shadows. Plus, it seems that Miguel is actually closing in on them, instead of enabling their efforts. Even more exciting is the return of several key players from the series’ last volume. Spider-Man 2099 #18 gives readers every reason to be excited, despite a somewhat confusing introduction of a new villain.
Despite the context clues from the cover, I believe this issue suffered from a little bit of character confusion. I’m no Reed Richards, but it took me several reads and a trip down a Google-hole to figure out who all the players were in this issue. The dark-skinned woman mingling at the convention is the same mystic who appears in the issue’s final pages, but I initially thought these were two different people. I assumed the woman at issue’s end was Rhonda/Glorianna, Jasmine’s girlfriend from issues #6 and #7, who evolved into an Inhuman before being recruited by The Fist in issues #9 and #10.
After some research, I found Marvel’s preview of the issue, which explains that The Fist is tapping into an “ancient” evil. Add to that Peter David’s comments from this year’s NYCC, where he revealed that a new female villain would be introduced who could turn people into zombies. Finally, with all that context and another read through, it became clear that this woman was Madea. The confusion may have been caused by two things: heavy inks and colors later in the issue that gave her a different look from previous pages and unclear dialogue. This all may have been obvious to other readers, but I wouldn’t be surprised if some had the same reaction as me. It’s still refreshing that The Fist has females in major roles of its organization: the leader Aisa, the all-powerful Glorianna and now this new villain Madea.
Ultimately, all this confusion on my part is slightly superfluous, because it’s far from the most interesting thing going on in this issue. That would be the return of Alchemax’s leaders Liz Allen and Tiberius Stone. It’s hard to believe that these characters who were so integral to the crux of the series’ last volume, haven’t been seen since the first few issues of this volume. There’s also never been any resolution to the tease from issue #12 revealing that Ty Stone is somehow involved with The Fist in the present. Hopefully the appearances of Tiberius and Liz are indicators that Alchemax and the Stones will be returning to a focal point in the series.
Aisa’s monologue is very interesting when The Fist overtakes the airwaves to announce their attack. The Fist claims to be rising up against the injustices of financial inequality and a history of corruption. If you strip away the violence, it’s a lot of the same rhetoric that one may have heard at a Sanders rally earlier this year. Is David making commentary on the current political climate with The Fist? It will be interesting to see how their politics will be represented in the future.
Unfortunately, after 18 issues, we’re not seeing much character development from this cast. Captain America 2099 is just another warrior and is rather two-dimensional as a character, despite a unique backstory that involves a form of multiple-personality disorder. Even Miguel himself just seems to bounce from plot to plot without much self-awareness. The best character development goes to Jasmine, the assistant to Raul. She doesn’t buckle to authority, even though she’s not in a position of power, and she seems to have things under control, despite being surrounded by chaos. Even Jasmine’s outfit is more interesting than anything else on the page. The white suit and purple scarf really stand out in a series where the usual dominant colors are neon shades of blue and green.
Speaking of the artwork, Sliney gets in lots of great facial expressions, thanks to a mass poisoning that turns people into zombies. Tiberius’ is literally tearing at his face. Liz’s mouth is gaping open in shock. It’s an excellent way to write for Sliney’s strengths. The issue also has a number of great full-page spreads. Sliney is given a lot of real estate to flex his pencils. Raul’s transformation is an excellent full-page pose packed with emotion.
I’m enjoying where this issue is going, but ultimately, this arc has been too slow and is only starting to gain momentum. The last issue centered around a commercial flight to Colorado. In this issue, we spend even more time on a plane. It would be forgivable, if these moments were spent enriching the characters, but that hasn’t been the case. Ultimately, I’m not optimistic about how this story will end. We’ve seen past arcs start to climax, but then dwindle to an incomplete or unsatisfying conclusion. The newest solicits involving the return of Man Mountain Marko aren’t helping things either.