SPIDER-MAN 2099 CLASSIC VOL. 4 takes old-school Spider-Man ideas and throw them for a loop. Miguel O'Hara might have a desire to do good and be responsible, but he's not your father's Spider-Man. A darker future for Spidey, hampered only by slightly inconsistent art.
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Spider-Man has been swinging around for more than fifty years. His ideas and themes can get tiresome if they aren’t occasionally revamped. Luckily, revamping old ideas was the focus of Marvel 2099, an alternate future for the Marvel Universe. Some of the revamped characters were modern heroes put into the new era (FANTASTIC 4 2099, DOOM 2099). However, the majority of the 2099 roster were new heroes inspired by the classics (X-MEN 2099, HULK 2099). SPIDER-MAN 2099, created by Peter David and Rick Leonardi, has been the most successful of the bunch, with Miguel O’Hara (the title hero) surviving into the present day. Miguel took on the legacy of Spider-Man but has made it his own, which is clear in the collection SPIDER-MAN 2099 CLASSIC VOL. 4,  containing issues #23-#33.

SPIDER-MAN 2099: In The Beginning…

First, some backstory — Miguel O’Hara is a geneticist for Alchemax, one of the mega-corporations that have replaced the American (and possibly world) government in the 2099 Universe. Miguel has to create new super-soldiers for Alchemax. He draws inspiration from the legend of Spider-Man. His experiments fatally fail, however, and Miguel tenders his resignation. Alchemax head Tyler Stone tricks Miguel into taking Rapture, a powerful drug only legal through Alchemax distribution. Miguel attempts to purge the drug, but it mixes his DNA with a spider’s. He wakes up with Spider-Man type powers. Miguel searches for a cure and realizes how ignorant he was of the world’s suffering. He vows to protect the helpless as Spider-Man.

READ: Here’s our review of the adventures of another Peter Parker successor — The Scarlet Spider!

Miguel O’Hara’s origins feel like a twist on Peter Parker’s. He was a largely compliant cog taking advantage of a corrupt system. He wasn’t evil, but he could be called amoral. Miguel realizes Peter Parker’s lesson on responsibility when he gets kicked out of Alchemax. His character doesn’t totally shift, though. Miguel is still viewed by many as arrogant and selfish in Vol. 4. His past girlfriend, Xina (who Miguel cheated on), doesn’t believe that he wants to actually fix things.

Courtesy of Marvel Entertainment

SPIDER-MAN 2099 is  a Spider Of A Different Sort

That aspect shows the uniqueness of Miguel’s origin. Peter Parker started as a poor child in Queens. His powers didn’t solve his problems. However, that upbringing made him compassionate towards the needs of others. Miguel is the opposite version of that. He was largely successful in life and, while he had problems growing up, they shaped him into a successful scientist. That success also made him focus on his career and ignore the outside world. When Miguel got his powers wasn’t a door to fame like it was for Peter — it was a door to the world he’d been ignoring. His sense of responsibility is derived from the world around him, not on a single personal incident. Peter only had a single bad decision to regret; Miguel has a whole life of ignoring the outside world to redeem himself for.

Miguel approaches things differently than Peter Parker, who at least had a support system. O’Hara has a poor relationship with his mother, and his holographic A.I. Lyla and his brother Gabriel are the closest things to an Aunt May figure. The pressure of being Spider-Man and working outside the traditional law enforcement system pushes on Miguel hard. It’s a testament to writer Peter David that Miguel evokes classic Spider-Man morals while still being unique. The weight only grows as the story progresses though.

READ: Need more Spider-Man? Here’s a look at the Ultimate “Clone Saga!” 

Everything Old Is New in SPIDER-MAN 2099

The collection does contain familiar elements — a friend’s need for vengeance twisted to an evil purpose, Spider-Man dealing with a desire for revenge, questionable family secrets, and, of course, responsibility.  SPIDER-MAN 2099 manages to put everything into a new light. Two major corporations use the vengeful friend as a pawn, with no one but Spider-Man to go after them. The family secrets are borderline soap opera, but they still pack a punch. The desire for revenge functions as the most interesting and challenging aspect of Spider-Man 2099.

Courtesy of Marvel Entertainment

Miguel’s is reminiscent of Peter Parker’s, but it feels darker. He sounds like he knows murder is wrong, but he’s doing it anyway. Miguel began as a less moral character, so revenge doesn’t seem quite as far-fetched for him as it does Peter Parker. It also reflects some of the problems of his struggle for redemption. Miguel grew up with a more self-centered viewpoint, and it is coming back here in this volume. He knows murder is wrong, but he’s also falling back on listening to his desires rather than his sense of responsibility. Miguel is seeing something that will make him feel good, even though it’s destructive. He’s worked to suppress that urge, but a stressed Miguel is starting to give in. It also gives the story a new edge, almost like Miguel is skirting the edge of an old addiction.

Web Design of SPIDER-MAN 2099

It’s a shame the artwork doesn’t always match the story’s intensity. Rick Leonardi, Andrew Wildman, and others worked on SPIDER-MAN 2099. Leonardi did much of the work, but his style can be somewhat inconsistent (look above at the detailed face of Tyler Stone next to the dotted lines of Miguel’s mother’s face). The art changes from the above style to something totally different as a result.

Courtesy of Marvel Entertainment

The story overcomes the changes, though. Miguel’s story hits its stride when he falls into a personal struggle.  Miguel is able to reconnect with Xina, though not with ease. Xina may want to help Miguel, but she blames Spider-Man for not stopping Alchemax. Miguel’s resulting internal struggles are echoed in “Young Miguel.” This bonus comic focuses on Miguel and Xina as children.  Xina’s influence clearly pushes Miguel into doing the right thing. It does make him seem more like Peter Parker, but Miguel also shows his difficult childhood and how it started shaping him as an adult. It also shows how far he fell by cheating on Xina, who helped him be brave in the face of adversity.

This revelation is an important step, because Miguel shows he has always had the capacity for good, even when he was working for Alchemax. It’s important to recognize this here; otherwise, his transformation into Spider-Man would never have happened. He owes much of his new morality to what Xina taught him. In many ways, Xina is the thing Peter Parker never had — a living Uncle Ben that not only gives him ideals but holds him to them.

READ: Like this volume? Buy it here!

Thoughts On The Future

SPIDER-MAN 2099 CLASSIC VOL. 4 isn’t the ideal place to start Miguel O’Hara’s story, but it’s a great collection. The story reads familiar enough for long-time Spidey fans, but it veers off into different directions, pumping some new blood into these concepts. Classic concepts of responsibility invert from a troubled teen into a privileged adult, using the lessons of his childhood to grow into a hero. The artwork varies from time to time, but the strength of these new turns carries the collection through. It’s no wonder Miguel O’Hara has survived this long. He didn’t just wear the spider-logo, he made it his own.

Just like a successor should.

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