28th Nov2019

‘Marvel 2099: Alpha #1′ Review

by Dean Fuller

Written by Nick Spencer | Art by Viktor Bogdanovic | Published by Marvel Comics

marvel-2099-alpha-1-cover

I’ve written elsewhere that I had become in more recent years quite jaded by the big crossover event, or the ‘buy 36 books to get the whole picture’ event. Good storytelling was being jettisoned in favour of editorial control, and the industry as a whole was suffering. Then DC started doing these type of comics, well, better. I have been really enjoying Year of the Villain, Tales from the Dark Multiverse, Event Leviathan and DCeased. Not perfect, but solid entertainment. So, what can Marvel do? Can they raise their game? Seemed like this relaunch of the 2099 universe, with specials and mini-series galore, was a good place to start. And what better place to start than this Alpha issue, where it all kicks off. Let’s take a look.

For those not in the know, the 2099 Universe was a Marvel imprint launched way back in 1992, and ran for several years. It took established characters and gave them a futuristic spin, so characters like The Punisher, Spider-Man, X-Men, and even Doom got a tech makeover, soon to be followed by many other heroes and villains. Entertaining and fun, Spider-Man 2099 was especially good, the 2099 characters have since then occasionally reappeared here and there. Now it seems Marvel has decided it is time to take centre stage again. An interesting choice of writer in Nick Spencer, as after his disastrous Captain America run I don’t think he is universally popular with fandom. A good story always helps smooth the way, though, right?

We start in a 2099 that is not going well, with Brooklyn falling apart at street level. Is that really Thor getting involved? Back in the Alchemax Building, and Miguel/Spider-Man, we are back on safer, more familiar ground. Or are we? is that really Conan 2099? and does Doom really have The Watcher in a Clockwork Orange contraption? Nick Spencer really wants you to go ‘no way!’ it seems, and certainly grabbed my attention. We learn that Doom ‘cleansed’ Earth, by wiping out both the existence of heroes and the memory of them, and is vigilant in making sure no heroic times return to enable humanity to reach its potential by itself. Ah, so Miguel O’Hara is not yet Spider-Man 2099, hence the flashback to the encounter with the Spider-man mutate. You think Conan 2099 was a shocker, wait till you see Herbie the Robot rock up. I kid you not.

Through Doom’s eyes, we get a look at this bleak world. Brooklyn. Nueva York. Transverse City, not a place for the good. Herbie narrowly escapes being ripped into parts by the arrival of Venture, who seems to be a mercenary of sorts. Bad trade, but good person. Herbie asks her is she can help him find his ‘mother’ and , payment agreed, a quest is afoot. Doom it seems, though the eyes of The Watcher, sees all, and is well placed to snuff out any challenge to his authority. The Watcher warns him though that a challenge is soon coming, and that Doom may find himself in trouble. Is it Thor? Certainly a major player it seems, and Thor is immortal. Nice mystery to tease us with.

This was a decent introduction to the start of the 2099 line of books, but not much more. The character introductions and spotlights were brief, with very little explanation of who, what and when. I get that an air of mystery is a good thing, but Nick Spencer could have maybe filled in a little more back story for the non-crusties out there. A little confusing and scattershot at times, but on the other hand also intriguing and promising. Spencer’s uneven writing streak continues it seems. The art, by Viktor Bogdanovic, is very good, with some particularly strong images and panels throughout. The introduction of The Watcher is especially effective. It is the strong, clean lines you now see quite a lot, technically strong if lacking a little of the artists’ own personality. Certainly not a fan of the 6 box page, that’s for sure, with a real mix of panel sizes and page layouts. Pleasing on the eye, and that’s what counts.

For an introduction, this wasn’t bad at all. As a story this was jumbled and confused, so more work needs to be devoted to helping us understand these characters and their world. That will come, hopefully.

For now, let’s just ponder on the fact that Conan the Barbarian and Herbie the Robot are in the same story. Nick Spencer has sure won THAT bet.

***½  3.5/5

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