This article was originally published at Comics Bulletin on July 9, 2016.
When you talk about Marvel Comics, you often talk about franchises. You don’t just discuss the Avengers or X-Menbook, but the Avengers or X-Men line as a whole. It’s how the publisher has organized their IP in order to better manage and sell it. This year, Comics Bulletin Co-Managing Editor Chase Magnett has been diving down the rabbit hole of these franchises in review series. So far he has tackled classic teams like The Avengers and X-Men as well as Marvel’s push to make the Inhumans happen. Now he’s looking at a franchise based not on a team, but a single character: Spider-Man. Is the massive proliferation of Spider-books resulting in quality or just quantity? Let’s find out.
Spider-Man 2099 #11
Written by Peter David
Art by Will Sliney
Colors by Rachelle Rosenberg
Letters by Cory Petit
Who is Miguel O’Hara? That’s an honest question. It’s not one posed by Spider-Man 2099 #11, but it is one that reading the issue will leave you asking. Miguel O’Hara is purportedly Spider-Man 2099 and the hero of this comic book. But the comic itself hardly supports that status. It is a comic that follows O’Hara being jerked between events by other people who go to great lengths to explain what is happening and why it matters. Yet Spider-Man 2099 #11 fails to ever illustrate any of its drama, which presents a particularly painful irony in the comics forms.
O’Hara spend the entire issue being pulled from one location to the next. He begins captured allowing him to have villains explain what is happening, then he is rescued allowing a hero to explain what his happening. Not only is the constant stream of exposition boring, but it fails to actually construct any sense of character. Actions are determined by plot, rather than anything beyond the most superficial of motives. Based on this comic it would be difficult to provide a description of anyone within it. This is most painful in terms of the lead character who is merely a ragdoll being pushed between scenes.
These problems are only exacerbated by a complete lack of gravitas or sense of tone. The dire straits that O’Hara finds himself in are never actually felt within the comic. The leader of the Sinister Six has a goofy secretary and makes cracks about ordering pizza that undermines any sense of vulnerability in O’Hara’s capture. While a devastated New York City is shown in the background, there is never a reason illustrated within the pages ofSpider-Man 2099 #11 why it matters. Having new characters tell readers that something is important is an entirely different thing than actually making something important, and only the former is available here.
The artwork found in Spider-Man 2099 does nothing to ameliorate these gaping character problems. On a simple design level, artist Will Sliney’s approach leaves everything to be desired. Consider the elements to be revealed throughout the issue: a futuristic Sinister Six, a post-apocalyptic New York City, and a troubled resistance force. Each of these elements reads as being under-designed at best and outright derivative at worst. New York City is a stack of glowing red buildings on top of other buildings that have fallen at 45 degree angles. None of the new Sinister Six are appealing with a Goblin that is slightly more techy and a Vulture with steel wings. Doctor Octopus having the actual arms of an octopus is the only thing approaching cleverness.
Examining the visual storytelling itself, the results may be described as workmanlike. Panels are stacked in a clear reading order, but fall with such a steady rhythm that they are yawn-inducing. This could be easily prevented by filling those panels with interesting details and perspectives, but none of those are to be found. Sliney’s linework provides enough to discern what is happening, but never anything more. Meanwhile, the brief moments of action provide little sense of geography or movement. There is no hook to be found within what ought to be a devastating and fascinating future to make your eyes desire seeing any more of it.
Previously in my review of Spider-Gwen #9, I had noted the lack of decisions from the leading character as a deeply troubling component of the comic. However, in that instance writer Jason Latour was able to provide a dramatic final moment and decision to launch the series forward. Furthermore, the artistic team on Spider-Gwen was able to pave over these problems with stunning visual presentation. None of those benefits are to be found in Spider-Man 2099 #11. It is a lifeless narrative that gives you no reason to read one page after another, much less any issues in its future.