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REVIEW: MARVEL UNIVERSE SPIDER-MAN 2099
By Thomas Wheeler

In 1992, Marvel started a new, speculative future branch of the Marvel Universe. Originally announced by Stan Lee, and largely the creation of Lee and John Byrne, it underwent several name changes, from "The Marvel World of Tomorrow", to "Marvel 2093", to ultimately, "Marvel 2099". The first three books -- Spider-Man 2099, Doom 2099, and Punisher 2099, featured futuristic takes on pre-existing characters. For that matter, there was a good chance that Doom was in fact, a time-lost Victor Von Doom.

The world of 2099 has been described as a "cyberpunk dystopia", similar to the world of the popular movie "Blade Runner". North America is a corporate police state ruled by a few huge megacorps, most notably Alchemax, which owns the private police force known as the Public Eye. There were, prior to the launch of the titles, no active super-heroes in this world, and the previous heroes are largely regarded as myths, or at best, considered as an "Age of Heroes" that abruptly ended in an unknown catastrophe a century earlier.

Fans requested further titles, and Marvel produced X-Men 2099, as well as introducing 2099 versions of Hulk and Ghost Rider. The comics had a strong degree of interconnectivity that was similar to the mainstream Marvel Universe, thanks in large part to the 2099 editor Joey Cavalieri. Such events as "The Fall of the Hammer", which involved a plot by the corporations to technologically recreate the Norse pantheon of Thor, as well as "2099 A.D.", which stood for "After Doom", during which time Doom, revealed to indeed be the original, conquered the United States, had repercussions throughout the various 2099 titles.

In 1996, when Marvel, during a cost-cutting exercise, fired Cavalieri, many of the 2099 creators, including Peter David, who had been the writer throughout the run of Spider-Man 2099, the imprint's most popular title, quit the line in protest. As sales slumped, the 2099 titles were canceled and replaced by a single title, 2099: World of Tomorrow. The title lasted only eight issues before being canceled. The 2099 universe has popped up from time to time, but never regained its original place.

For myself, I enjoyed some of the titles, especially Spider-Man 2099, and Doom 2099. Both titles had the longest runs of all of the 2099 titles, with Spider-Man enduring for 46 issues, and Doom for 44.

And you ultimately just can't keep a cool character down. It's perhaps no great surprise that Spider-Man 2099 is the most fondly and well-remembered of the 2099 characters, but it may be a bit of a surprise that he's remembered well enough to have been brought into the Marvel Universe line of action figures! Well, I was certainly surprised. Surprised enough that although I don't consider myself a major collector of Marvel Universe, I decided to get him, and I'm glad I did.

I've given you an overview of the Marvel Universe of 2099, and of its publishing history and unfortunate demise. Let's now take a look at Spider-Man 2099 specifically. This is not Peter Parker, people.

Spider-Man 2099 is in fact one Miguel O'Hara, a resident of the future New York City, many years after the end of what history calls the "Heroic Age". He grew up with his mother Conchata, younger brother Gabriel, and an abusive father George. A rebellious boy with prodigy-level intelligence, Miguel is an adolescent when he is awarded enrollment into the Alchemax School for Gifted Youngsters, owned by the powerful Alchemax megacorp.

Miguel eventually becomes head of the genetics program at Alchemax, intended to create new corporation-controlled super-powered soldiers called "corporate raiders". Miguel is specifically inspired by surviving records concerning Spider-Man and hopes to one day create a similarly-powered person. But after a human test subject dies during an early experiment, Miguel tells Tyler Stone, Vice President of R&D for Alchemax, that he wishes to resign from Alchemax and discontinue his genetics research.

Rather than let Miguel leave, Tyler Stone tricks Miguel into taking Rapture, an addictive drug that genetically bonds to the user, and which only Alchemax is legally allowed to distribute. If O'Hara does not remain with the corporation, then Stone must assume that he is getting the drug from the black market, and will have him arrested. Not wishing to be a blackmailed addict, Miguel recalls that he entered his own genetic code into the machine's databanks during initial experiments, using it as a human DNA test sample. Intending to use this older template of his pure genetic code to write over his current biology and free himself from the drug, Miguel sneaks into the company and uses the gene alteration machines on himself.

After Miguel turns on the machine to rewrite his DNA, his jealous subordinate Aaron Delgado sabotages the machines, causing them to alter Miguel's genetic code to be 50% spider DNA. Miguel survives the process but realizes he now has spider-like abilities.

Realizing that there is now a person with abilities similar to Spider-Man, Tyler Stone sends agent to hunt down this person. To conceal his identity while he fights his pursuers, Miguel dons a bodysuit with a mask that he once wore for the Mexican Day of the Dead festival. Miguel chooses this costume because it is the only clothing he has that is made from Unstable Molecule Fabric, meaning is is the only clothing he owns that won't be torn or shredded by the spider-talons that now occupy his hands and feet. Miguel's adventures as the Spider-Man of 2099 have begun.

One particular story that I especially enjoyed was a 1995 one-shot, written by Peter David, titled "Spider-Man 2099 meets Spider-Man", in which Miguel and the present-day Spider-Man, Peter Parker, switch places, discovering that their predicament is caused by experiments being run with temporal energy generators in both time periods. They are ultimately able to resolve the matter, with Spider-Man 2099 having a far better handle on the "Heroic Age", and ultimately both heroes returning to their original times, with their parting words to each other being identical -- "GREAT costume!"

The character of Spider-Man 2099 turned up in the Exiles comic book, another personal favorite of mine. The villain Proteus traveled to Marvel 2099, possessing the body of the Hulk of that era. Spider-Man 2099 joins forces with the Exiles to stop him. Proteus unmasks Miguel O'Hara before the public. Spider-Man 2099 then convinces Proteus that coming to his reality was a mistake and that he should move on. Later, feeling guilty that he has inflicted the crazed villain onto a parallel Earth, and now afraid of being hunted down since his identity has been exposed, Spider-Man 2099 leaves his world and joins the Exiles in their reality-hopping adventures. After several more adventures, the Exiles are scattered across the multiverse, and Miguel O'Hara winds up on a parallel world where he is found by a woman living on the beach. After an unspecified amount of time, the woman and Miguel fall in love, and he chooses to retire and remain on that world.

As enjoyable as it was to see the basic character of Spider-Man 2099 revived, it should be noted that as a result of Proteus' interference, this is not the same Spider-Man 2099 that was portrayed in his own title, but rather a near-identical one -- to a point -- from an alternate timeline.

As for the 2099 timeline proper, it was shown in 2099: The World of Tomorrow, that the polar ice caps melt and a massive deluge kills most of the world's inhabitants. The remnants of humanity face a new threat from space: the techno-organic Phalanx. Spider-Man works together with Doom 2099 to end the invasion, in which Doom sacrifices himself for the survival of mankind.

In the later one-shot 2009: Manifest Destiny, society rebuilds following the Phalanx invasion. Miguel reopens Alchemax, and reawakens Steve Rogers, offering him Thor's hammer, Mjolnir. Later, Rogers passes Mjolnir to O'Hara, who gains new power from it. Miguel then rules for the next thousand years, ushering in an unprecedented age of peace, prosperity, and progress from Earth to the surrounding worlds. In 3099, Rogers is once again revived and takes the hammer, allowing Miguel to retire. Not a bad way for Spider-Man 2099's life to play out, really.

As to his powers and abilities, Miguel O'Hara is a highly skilled geneticist with genius-level intellect. Although not a trained fighter, he quickly develops an effective fighting style that maximizes the use of his superhuman agility, strength, and senses.

He has the proportionate strength, speed, and agility of a spider, with strength that is likely equal to that of the original Spider-Man. His speed allows him to dodge gunfire from a short distance. He can perform complicated acrobatic and gymnastic maneuvers that would be impossible for anyone else and maintain perfect balance even under extraordinary combat conditions.

Miguel's powers give him increased vitality and resistance to injury. His metabolism allows him to heal several times faster than a normal human, but he's no Wolverine in that respect.

Unlike the original Spider-Man, Miguel O'Hara does not possess a "spider-sense" to warn him of oncoming threats. On the other hand, Miguel possesses enhanced vision and hearing, which the original Spider-Man did not have. He can see in complete darkness and can accurately perceive and "zoom on" on people and objects that are a great distance away.

Spinnerets in his forearms enable him to fire an organic adhesive substance from the top of his wrists, very much like the original Spider-Man's webbing. Although the original; Spider-Man is able to have any part of his body adhere to surfaces through unknown means, Miguel can only cling to surfaces with his hands and feet, due to angled talons protruding from his fingers and toes. These talons are not retractable, but they do fold down when Miguel concentrates, and automatically when he touches his own skin so that he doesn't injure himself.

Additionally, Spider-Man 2099 possesses venom glands and pronounced canine teeth. If he bites an opponent, he can release a toxin that temporarily paralyzes his enemy.

Spider-Man 2099 has made his way around a bit, outside of the comics. He was one of several Spider-Man variants available in the video game "Spider-Man: Web of Shadows". He is also one of four versions of Spider-Man featured as playable characters in "Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions".

So, how's the figure? Pretty impressive. I tend to agree with the original Spider-Man's assessment -- GREAT costume. It doesn't really look anything like the classic Spider-Man costume -- and yet it evinces just enough of it so that it really couldn't represent anyone else.

The costume is mostly a shimmering dark blue, which has been rendered on the figure as a metallic color, which works superbly well. The "eyes" are set apart by being outlined in these strange red images that sort of capture the look of the original Spider-Man, while at the same time being completely different. There's a downward point to them, and these details on the sides that look almost like spider legs.

The chest emblem is especially impressive, and borderline creepy. Certainly in keeping with the notion of this being something that O'Hara wore to a "Day of the Dead" festival, the image is a huge, red skull, complete with eyes and nose, but with these downward pointing spikes that, along with apparent "legs" emanating out to the sides, give the skull-like image a definite spider-like semblance. The legs extend to red stripes running down the arms.

In a way, the costume is plainer than the original Spider-Man's, and yet, at the same time, it has a distinct Spider-Man feel about it, and is certainly both dramatic and more than a little fear-inspiring. If Bruce Wayne had seen a spider instead of a bat when he was trying to think of an identity for himself, he might have come up with something like this...

There are two large spikes protruding from the upper forearms. These are part of the costume, not any part of Miguel's physiology.

Hasbro has done something a little unusual with the figure in my opinion, in that some parts of the figure have been painted black, including the area around the face-- not counting the red eye detail, of course -- the chest, insides of the arms, and parts of the legs.

I think what they were trying to do here was to emulate the illustrated style of the character. In comic books, there are certain limitations to pen and ink, and if you want a character to look like he's dressed more darkly than the color palette is likely to allow, you put in a lot of black shading, with the color around the edges. This can then be interpreted in a number of ways. Either the costume has a certain metallic sheen to it, or it's darker than one might otherwise think, and this is how it reflects (or absorbs) the ambient light in the setting. It's a neat trick, and it certainly works well enough in pen and ink on the comic book page.

As to how well it works on a three-dimensional action figure? On the one hand, I can see what Hasbro was trying to do here. Make the figure look as "comic accurate" as possible, as well as just maybe liven up a color scheme that would have otherwise been restricted to all of two colors -- metallic blue with red trim. That's not a lot to work with. Then again, the Hulk got away with green and purple for decades.

In fairness, it doesn't really look that bad. Conversely, I'm not entirely sure it was necessary, and there's almost a degree in which, especially on the legs, which admittedly don't have any other detail on them, as the red doesn't extend to the legs whatsoever, where I almost feel like I'm looking at a figure that wasn't fully painted -- as if the metallic blue missed some significant spots. Still, under the proper lighting, it works well enough for the effect that I believe Hasbro wanted to achieve, and in that regard, fair enough.

There's one aspect to Spider-Man 2099's costume that I've never been all that fond of. He has a small, web-like air foil attached to the back of his costume, which fans have sometimes called a "web-cape" The material for this air foil, which is a rather raggedy-looking thing, was obtained from a hang glider and is made from a material called "Lite Byte", which is specially made to capture and direct air currents, and gives off a low level of anti-gravity particles. This allows Spider-Man 2099 limited gliding abilities, valuable in the New York of 2099, which has skyscrapers far larger than in our present day, and which are often too far away for him to fire a web line.

It still looks a little silly, though, in my opinion. Nevertheless, Hasbro has done a good job of duplicating it, molding it from translucent plastic and giving it sculpted web detailing. Appearance-wise, it looks pretty good for what it is, and is arguably preferable to the fabric version that a 6" version of this character was equipped with a number of years ago. However, it could stand to have been made a little more flexible, since it's spread out a bit, and does hinder the backward movement of the arms somewhat.

Spider-Man 2099 is certainly well-articulated, and is fully poseable at the head, arms, upper arm swivel, elbows, wrists, mid-torso, legs, double-jointed knees, and ankles. I don't usually approve of double-joints, since I think they look good and don't always work well enough to really be a fair tradeoff as such, but characters who wear darker costumes seem to be able to get away with it a little better. Spider-Man 2099 almost does, but there's still this weird "separation" look at the knee that is my biggest complaint about this sort of articulation, that's pretty evident on him.

I would like to discuss one aspect of the figure's design in particular, which I have also encountered on a couple of other recent Marvel Universe acquisitions, Iron Man 2020 and Doc Samson. The hip articulation has been redesigned from the earlier days of Marvel Universe, and it's a vast improvement. Would that the Iron Man 2 line would take a cue from this.

Previously -- and still, in the case of the Iron Man 2 figures -- the leg articulation design was a sort of ball-and-socket thing, where the hip joint was the "ball", installed into the lower torso somehow or other, and possessing a rather peculiar and not always cooperative swivel and rotation, that didn't always work that well together. The rest of the leg was then attached to this, allowing it an additional rotation, which to be honest, wasn't much of an improvement. As I have discovered with my Iron Man 2 figures, you can get an interesting variety of action poses out of these figures, but just try to get one to stand up straight and evenly...

The new design for the legs that I'm seeing in Marvel Universe is a distinct improvement, both visually and functionally. It takes its cues significantly from G.I. Joe, in that there is a small "ball" for each leg, already attached to the lower torso, and which cannot be readily seen once the leg itself is secured. The only thing that's lost is the upper leg swivel -- hardly a major loss in my opinion -- and the look of the figure is distinctly improved because the area is not as "broken up" visually with multiple articulation points. I'm not sure what the overall fan and collector response has been to this alteration, but I, for one, certainly approve. The figure looks better and works better.

I don't usually discuss packaging that often, but there are a few things worth noting. When the Marvel Universe series first started, Nick Fury was pictured on the back, encouraging buyers to become a member of SHIELD, and directing them to a Web Site called "furyfiles". In keeping with events taking place in the comic book at the time, with future assortments, Nick Fury was replaced by Norman Osborn, and the SHIELD emblem on the front and back of the package was replaced with that of Osborn's organization, HAMMER. Now that that particular fiasco is done with, we have a third image, that of Steve Rogers in his new role as "Super-Soldier", and a new SHIELD emblem is back on the package.

However, the reference to "furyfiles" is no longer present, and there's also no longer a little envelope within the package, featuring a trading card of the figure with biographical details on the back, or an "official" sounding letter addressed to Tony Stark, Norman Osborn, or whomever. The lack of the Web Site doesn't really bother me, but I sort of liked the little packet, and I'm wondering how many other fans will miss it.

Accessorywise, although the little packet is gone, Spider-Man 2099 nevertheless comes with a display base with his name imprinted on it, and a web line that can be attached to his wrist to make him look like he's web-swinging.

Any complaints? Nothing too major. The paint job is a little odd, but tolerable. The biggest complaint I would have is that the head looks quite small relative to the rest of the character. In fairness, the head is pretty much featureless from a sculpted standpoint, with the mask details painted on. But really, it could have stood to be somewhat larger. Maybe it's harder to sculpt something that's largely featureless?

So, what's my final word? Despite recent video game appearances and the very infrequent but occasional appearance of something 2099 related in Marvel Comics, Spider-Man 2099 is still a somewhat obscure character. However, there's also no arguing that he's the most prominent character of the 2099 concept. Personally, I'd love to see a Doom 2099 figure someday. He's arguably the second most prominent character.

This is not the first figure of Spider-Man 2099. But it is certainly the first in this scale, and certainly, this Marvel Universe line should be regarded as the primary source of Marvel Universe action figures these days. I'm pleased that Hasbro is willing to bring in some of the more obscure characters of the Marvel Universe into it, such as Doc Samson, or Iron Man 2020, or Spider-Man 2099. And overall, they've done a fine job with this one.

If you're a fan of Spider-Man, or of the Marvel 2099 world, or of Spider-Man 2099, you'll definitely enjoy this figure, and will want to bring him in to your collection.

The MARVEL UNIVERSE figure of SPIDER-MAN 2099 most definitely has my very enthusiastic recommendation!