Cyberpunk cities stand over the crumbling dystopia we know as New York City. The word “shock” replaces the word “fuck” as society’s chosen swear word. Spider-Man, the X-Men and Doctor Doom roam the Marvel Universe.
Welcome to the year 2099 – over one hundred years in the future and the 90s still suck.
In 1992, Marvel Comics launched their 2099 imprint with Spider-Man 2099. Think Blade Runner only with Day of the Dead spandex, more flying cars and even more morally decrepit corporations. The protagonist, Miguel O’Hara (I identified with his name right away), is a hero for the people. He battles against the corrupt conglomerate known Alchemax. The book is (arguably) the best of the 2099 bunch thanks to writer, Peter David. Unfortunately that’s not saying much.
Reading 2099 comics was like watching a futuristic train full of Ritalin addled kids derail into a Jersey Shore night club.
I present you, Dear Reader, with an infuriating glimpse into the future…
In the beginning, X-Men 2099 was less a 2099 comic but more a re-imagining of the X-Men. The team is made up of mutants who swear to protect a (future) world that fears and hates them. Aside from that and a lot of melodrama, they really have no connection to the contemporary X-Men.
While it took a lot of editorial chutzpah to do a straight re-imagining, X-Men 2099 felt like both a rehash and dismissal of all that came before. Especially considering that a major part of the X-Men’s history is a dystopic future called Days of Future Past. You remember that, right? It’s the one NBC’s Heroes ripped off for something like four years.
Neglecting classics like Days of Future Past and featuring characters named Skullfire, The Theater of Pain and Bloodhawk (thanks Bloodshot, Bloodstrike and Youngblood); X-Men 2099 felt very, well, 90s. I’m surprised Marvel didn’t devise a blood/skull gimmick to sell the book instead of a blue foil card stock cover. Regardless, the book still looked like the 90s threw up all over it.
The Punisher has a pretty simple code. You kill, rape or aid and abet in either of those pursuits, you die. The Punisher, ever devoted to his craft, cleared a lot of judicial dockets and saved the American taxpayer a lot of money by killing criminal scum with all manner of weapons. Hell, he had comics devoted to his armory.
Punisher 2099 had a lot of potential. It started off co-written by Pat Mills (of Judge Dredd and Martial Law fame) and let’s face it, the idea of a Punisher with Star Wars weapons is pretty cool. I was really excited to see a Punisher wield a big old blaster rifle, like the Stormtroopers on Tatooine, blowing as yet unborn crooks to smithereens.
Instead, Punisher 2099 mostly used a “power bat” and he had a jail in his basement. I’m surprised no one took to calling the book Bleeding Heart Liberal Punisher.
In Doom 2099, Doctor Doom, arguably the best known villain in the Marvel Universe, woke up in the future. With outdated armor and a case of amnesia, all Doom knew was that his empire was in the hands of some cybernetic chuckle head named Tyger Wylde. Really? a guy called Doctor Doom can’t take out some chump named Tyger Wylde?
The book was pretty lackluster until Warren Ellis came along. Free of the Accursed Reed Richards, Doom sets out to show the world just how dangerous he is. How does he do that? He takes over the United States of America.
What’s worse? Most of the “heroes” go along with him! Obviously history isn’t a priority subject in the future.
Vulture 2099 was a cannibal hobo cult leader who flew. I remember being repulsed and fascinated by him in much the same way I am when it comes to watching black and white Spetsnaz training films on the Internet. He’s a lot closer to an actual vulture than his geriatric bank robber contemporary. You know what? He was pretty awesome!
Stan Lee created this guy. He protected a garbage dump. ‘nuff said.
I think I’m going to take a break from the 90s and re-read Steve Gerber’s Howard the Duck stuff.
Ian Vs. the 90s is an ongoing column in which I take a look back at a very dark time in comic books – the 1990s – in search of the best (and worst) that dire decade had to offer.
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