Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Timestorm 2009-2099 #1

Remember the Marvel: 2099 universe? Maybe I should preface that by asking if you were following the industry in the early 1990s, when the line was launched, expanded, downsized and then discontinued within only a few short years. If you were, chances are good you can’t help but remember. Well, if you hadn’t noticed, the present year also ends in a nine, and since Marvel missed the boat last decade, now’s as good a time as any to return to those forgotten characters and see what they’ve been up to since the last time we saw them.

In Timestorm 2009-2099, Brian Reed shares the story of the modern Spider-Man and Wolverine’s journey through time, where they’ll undoubtedly run into descendants, old enemies and futuristic versions of themselves. Reed gets the time frame and many of the most basic nuances of the old 2099 line correct, but never manages to deliver on most of the universe’s darker overtones. At their core, these books were a warning against the downfalls of trusting a super corporation and the consequences of ignoring the environment. Were those deeper connotations accompanied by a bright neon cityscape and a very slightly altered dialect? Sure, but that was never the line’s focus. Captain Planet-like as they might seem in retrospect, at least that direction gave the books a certain personality and shared vision that united them.

It’s not that I have a big problem with the writer’s decision to investigate the shallower aspects of life in the future. Surely that kind of focus could be every bit as intriguing as the time we’ve already spent digging at the roots of this society. It’s more his lack of ingenuity, elaboration and originality that’s turned me off to this story. Everything’s taken at face value: touched on the surface and then written off as fact without any further time dedicated to explanation. Why not give a bit of background to the history of the Mad Max style “Ultimate Combat Arena” when the story arrives there? How about the nondescript laser pistol that somehow teleported Spidey into the land of tomorrow? I’ve found that much of the appeal of future-focused storytelling is in the details, but those seem to be the last thing this writer has an interest in exposing.

Artist Eric Battle matches that reluctance every step of the way. Reed presents Spider-Man and Logan as simple cardboard cutouts, spraying recognizable phrases just to make sure we recognize them, and Battle visualizes them just as generically. Every male character in this universe is thick and ripped, including the traditionally slender Peter Parker, while all the ladies could share a single dress size. Battle recognizes the potential of the brightly glowing city skylines on the few chances he’s given to do so, but they aren’t nearly as imposing and impressive as they were when I first saw them fifteen years ago.

This is all around mediocre. It matches dull, riskless storytelling with generic, unappealing artwork. Brian Reed somehow manages to miss out on the appeal of both the modern Marvel Universe and its 2099 counterpart in this crossover, and Eric Battle doesn’t exactly make things any easier on us. This isn’t horrible, but it is terribly carefree. I’d welcome a proper return to the better parts of the 2099, but this isn’t the kind of homecoming it deserves. Flip through it. It isn’t bad enough to recommend a skip, but it also isn’t good enough to merit a closer look.

On a scale of 1 to 10, where 1 is poor and 10 is amazing...
Overall Score: 2.5

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