Spider-Man 2099 – The 2015 Weekly Writer Challenge: Peter David (Part 2)
52 weeks. 52 different writers. 2 trade paperbacks or hardcovers a week. Each week I’ll take a look at a different writer and read two different collected editions from within that person’s repertoire to help in the examination of their work.
Peter David is easily the definitive Spider-Man 2099 writer. He’s the man who has done the most work towards not only creating the character but also developing him. David created the character alongside artist Rick Leonardi back in 1992. The two men would work together sporadically for several years on the book, maintaining great success. In 1996, David abruptly departed the book, along with several other writers of the Marvel 2099 books at the time, following the firing of then editor Joey Cavalieri. The editors all left there books in a stance of solidarity over the firing with many of the 2099 books ending shortly thereafter. David would return to the character of Spider-Man 2099 in 2014 due to his recent reintroduction in the regular Amazing Spider-Man title.
Spider-Man 2099 Volume 1
In the year 2099, wiz geneticist Miguel O’Hara works for Alchemax, trying to develop “Corporate Raiders”, genetically enhanced humans who work under the thumb of Alchemax. When the head of Alchemax, Tyler Stone, demands more compelling results from Miguel, he poisons him with the highly addictive drug Rapture. Without many options, Miguel uses his research as a way to try to cure his sudden and unexpected addiction. Using the genetic layout for Spider-Man, Miguel’s attempt to cure himself go awry when his jealous corporate rival, Aaron Delgado, sabotages hi equipment. The malfunction result in Miguel inheriting many of Spider-Man’s amazing powers and even developing a few new ones of his own.
Peter David introduced a whole new style of Spider-Man to readers back in the 90’s when he co-created the character of Spider-Man 2099 with artist Rick Leonardi. To fit in with the times of 90’s, David introduced a cockier, edgier man under the mask, giving the world Miguel O’Hara. O’Hara is written as a less humble style of Peter Parker, with tons of brains but still questionable morals. David gleefully plays with the idea that Miguel has yet to learn that fateful Spidey lesson of “with great power comes great responsibility”. As such, there are more than a few scenes where you see Miguel make decisions that fly completely in the face of everything the modern Spider-Man stands for. That is essentially what makes Spider-Man 2099 so interesting, it keeps with some classic traditions of Spider-Man but for the most part it’s an entirely different style of Spider-Man.
As I said above, Miguel is a far cry from the loveable and dorky Peter Parker. If anything, Miguel is close to the polar opposite of Peter, as many character close to him are quick to point out, referring to him as “self centered” or only out for himself. Even with his new found super powers, Miguel doesn’t immediately develop a need to use the powers for good or to help other people. It isn’t until he sees unnecessary violence unfold in front of his very eyes that his heroic nature begins to slowly form. Spider-Man 2099 doesn’t deal with much street level crime, something that Peter Parker not only deals with on a daily basis but also cut his teeth on. As such it’s a slow build towards becoming a selfless hero and it doesn’t even occur in this whole volume. Miguel maintains a reputation of being hard to find, much like Peter Parker, but is a condescending jerk at the same time, making his dry wit a sharp contrast from the quirky quips of Peter Parker. His rude nature isolates him a lot from the other supporting members of the cast at times, causing them to point to Spider-Man 2099 as a shining example of what being a good man is in comparison to Miguel, even though the characters never realize they are one in the same.
Peter David builds a fairly standard secondary cast around our hero Miguel, drawing on characters like Gabriel, Miguel’s brother, Dana, his fiance, and Tyler Stone, his boss. Each of these three characters have somewhat large roles to play in the story, in their own interesting way. Gabriel is the younger brother who thinks Miguel is a complete and utter jerk yet still supports him. He shows concern for his brother and his recent change in attitude but also turns to his brother without hesitation when his girlfriend falls into trouble with The Specialist, a futuristic samurai. Peter David tries to cast Gabriel in a bit more of a responsible role, reserving your average sibling ladder. Even still, he tries to reflect the youthfulness of the character through some of his impulsive life decisions. Ultimately, the biggest difference between Gabriel and Miguel falls upon the fact that Gabriel is rather cowardly wherein Miguel is just brash and smug. Dana, Miguel’s fiance, doesn’t get as much time to shine in this volume but does make a few odd decisions during her scenes. There are more than a few moments where there’s some romantic tension mentioned between Gabriel and Dana, making you wonder why the two aren’t an item even though it’s hinted they were once upon a tme. Nonetheless, Dana seems like a perfect fit for someone like Miguel, as she is a no nonsense type of girl who is quick to try and put Miguel in line.
When we look on the villain side of characters, there is definitely an interesting collection of them that David chooses from. The previously mentioned Tyler Stone, head of Alchemax, is definitely what you could consider the main antagonist as he threatens Spider-Man 2099’s existence for his own gain. Throughout this first batch of stories, Tyler Stone remains rather enigmatic but still comes off as a scoundrel, doing whatever it takes to get his own way. There are hints that there could be someone even larger pulling the strings behind Stone but he still serves as a great face for the suggested primary villain. Other than Stone, Spider-Man mainly faces off against three villains, Venture, The Specialist and The Vulture. Both Venture and The Specialist are rather mundane one-note villains who don’t really threaten Spider-Man 2099 so much as just serve as catalysts to set up larger story beats. When Peter David sinks his claws into the 2099 version of the classic Spidey villain, the Vulture, is when things get a little bit more interesting in the villain department. David initially sets up Vulture as a man seeking out Spider-Man 2099’s unique abilities to help him with his own gain but then goes further to use him as a way of doing a bit of world building, establishing the fact that there are different social classes and gangs like the Freakers or Thorites. Ultimately, Vulture helps to really showcase the difference between Spider-Man and Spider-Man 2099.
The best part of David’s story with the first collection of Spider-Man 2099 stories is the way he tackles different ideas that he still uses in his writing today. David spends quite a fair amount of time here talking about corporations and how they basically run everything. As it is beautifully highlighted during a climatic battle between Vulture and Spider-Man 2099, David gets across that the bigger companies devour the smaller ones and leave the scrapes for the consumers. Every smaller bit of this story gets swallowed up into the larger bits, with those larger bits specifically being tied to the Alchemax Corporation. It’s great stuff on the David’s behalf to tie his overall message rather subtly into the general narrative only to then wave it in your face during the Vulture story.
Collects: Spider-Man 2099 #1-10
Best Character: Miguel O’Hara
Best Line Of Dialogue/Caption: “There was a horrible man in black, and he went through there. Okay, Lyla? Good girl.” – Lyla
Best Scene/Moment: Vulture talks about his shared philosophy with Spider-Man 2099 – Issue 7
Best Issue: Issue 2. Issue 2 is part of the opening arc of this collection of stories that sets out to really establish the origin for Miguel O’Hara as Spider-Man 2099. This issue gives you a great sense of what Miguel O’Hara is all about and gives him a chance to really shine with his new powers. All this plus we get to see the building of a bit of the secondary cast and David’s wit, humour and charm are on full display throughout.
Why You Should Read It: Before Ultimate Spider-Man came along in the new millennium there was Spider-Man 2099, a wildly different, futuristic take on everyone’s favourite wall-crawler. Peter David gives the reader the polar opposite of Peter Parker, showing us that being an upstanding citizen isn’t necessarily a requirement for being Spider-Man. To see a character that is a jerk still be a loveable hero is such a joy and there’s few writers who could do it as well as Peter David does here.