If you Spider-Fans have been living in a closet, you wouldn't know that Miguel O'Hara has been displaced in the current 616 timeline. He has decided to work at Alchemax as the assistant to his egotistical grandfather, Tiberius Stone. The CEO of Alchemax, Liz Allen, nearly discovered Miguel's identity as Spider-Man 2099, but he managed to make her believe he's simply from the future. Liz, though, now knows she had leverage to manipulate Miguel with, especially when it comes to shady dealings in her company.
The issue opens up with Miguel O’Hara contemplating in his office. He thinks about his discussion with Liz Allen last issue and assumes he still has his job because the guards allowed him into the building. He also presumes that Liz didn’t call the NSA, Stark, or the Avengers. “So should I be relieved…or worried?” he wonders. Soon, Liz enters Miguel’s office and explains she wants him to accompany Tiberius Stone to Trans-Sabal to sell Spider-Slayers to the country’s government. He isn’t “wild about the idea” but she doesn’t care. Liz thinks his input could be valuable, and he expresses his opinion that it’s a terrible idea altogether.
At this point Liz becomes fed up and decides it’s time to fully establish their working relationship. Miguel assumes she plans on blackmailing him, but she believes that, since he’s from the future, he is valuable for her to direct the company properly. Their relationship is a “two-way street” but she expects him to obey her commands. Therefore, Liz wants him to pack his bags and go to Trans-Sabal. Miguel seethes, “Yes ma’am,” and she leaves the room.
Soon, aboard a private plane, Tiberius Stone asks if something is bothering Miguel. Our main character explains he isn’t comfortable selling Spider-Slayers to the Trans-Sabal government for them to put down a rebellion. Stone is convinced their saving lives, though, and elucidates, “The current ruler, Jalfaha Dahn, is currently using his army against his people. Citizens are dying. Soldiers are dying. And the fighting doesn’t end. How many people are going to keep fighting once they see our Spider-Slayers?” By ending the insurgence, Stone believes that he’s preventing further killing. Miguel still isn’t convinced of the dealing’s morality.
After a silent plane ride, Miguel and Stone arrive at Jaffan, capital of Trans-Sabal, and they leave the plane. They are greeted by Jalfaha Dahn himself, and he explains the shipment of Spider-Slayers arrived intact. “And the fellow you sent along to oversee their use … A most interesting individual,” Dahn mentions. Before Miguel can figure who this “individual” is, he senses danger and uses his accelerated vision to find a group of insurgent snipers upon a nearby perch. He pushes Stone out of the way and manages to save him from a bullet. Dahn orders his soldiers to fire at the rebels while everything goes into chaos. Meanwhile, Miguel and Stone duck into an airplane hangar, the former playfully describing the rebels as the “welcome wagon.” Suddenly, Miguel is shot in the head and falls to the ground.
Soon, a group of rebels in Jeeps drive by to grab Stone and Miguel. They knock Miguel’s egotistical boss unconscious with the butt of a gun and decide they only need one hostage. A rebel prepares to shoot Miguel point-blanc, but he webs his gun and socks him in the face. Sadly, Miguel is too late to save his boss, whom the rebels are driving away with, still unconscious. They fire at him, but he dodges the shots. Miguel comes to the conclusion he must save his grandfather to assure he doesn’t “blink out of existence.”
Momentarily, Jalfaha Dahn greets Miguel and is pleased to find he knocked out a rebel. He reassures him that they will find Stone. Our main character is determined to not simply sit around and hijacks a Jeep to track down his boss. Apparently, he planted a subcutaneous transmitter on Stone when they first met, and Lyla quickly tells him his location. Driving through the city of Jaffan, Miguel is depressed by the civilians’ living conditions. “Months of war have reduced what was once a very nice area to rubble,” Miguel thinks. He is frightened by the idea of Spider-Slayers adding further to the damage and decides that he must find somebody that Tiberius will listen to convince him to cancel the deal.
Meanwhile in a dark room, Stone is met by the leader of the rebels, a woman named Mussaret. Stone is surprised a female is the leader in the Middle East, and she yells, “You understand nothing! My husband and eldest son led them! Now they’re dead! Both dead! Thanks to Jalfaha Dahn!” After a moment of regaining her composure, Mussaret explains that Stone will make a video for Dahn, explaining he will cancel the sale and leave the country in peace. Otherwise, he will leave the country in pieces. Stone disagreeably directs her to begin rolling the video.
Outside, Miguel, in costume, decides that he will grab Stone and leave. He hopes he is unconscious so he does not discover his identity. Mussaret asks Stone if he has been to Dahn’s mansion, which has over a hundred rooms, while she lives in a home of rubble. “When I was little I had such dreams of life. Such dreams. Do you think that any of them included this?” she asks. When asked what he dreamed of when he was young, Stone mutters he’s always wanted to be in charge. Mussaret explains that, to preserve the dreams of her remaining children, Stone must use his robots against Dahn.
Suddenly, the building begins to shake. Spider-Man 2099 falls from his perch, and Stone is knocked unconscious by falling debris. Mussaret orders somebody to get Stone some water. All of a sudden, the Scorpion bursts into the room and asks, “Who dies first?” Obviously, he is the agent that Stone sent with the Spider-Slayer shipment. Outside, Miguel recognizes the villain’s voice and wonders how he got out of prison, especially with his major injuries. Behind Mussaret, Scorpion asks, “You want to give me Mr. Stone or die first?” She fires at him, but to no avail.
Luckily, Spider-Man 2099 intervenes, webbing and kicking Scorpion in the face. Although Miguel won’t allow Scorpion to kill anybody, he will allow him to release Stone. The villain hits Spidey across the room with his pinchers and is angry to find that Spider-Man (with a different costume, he assumes) has followed him to a whole other country. Then, Scorpion reveals that tons of Spider-Slayers have surrounded them! Gargan growls, “Since you’re a spider, I’d say they’re in the right place!”
This installment of Spider-Man 2099, the first half of a two-parter, is an obvious set-up issue, but it still has its good qualities. One noticeable difference between this 2099 issue and the work I’ve read by Peter David in the 80’s and 90’s is the pacing. David has clearly been influenced by the more modern, slower pacing, and that’s very clear in this issue. In the old 2099 volume, David could have easily combined this and the last issue into one. To be honest, I’m not exactly sure if that’s a good thing, but hey, David has to prevent himself from becoming archaic. It just seems like his newer plotting doesn’t have the edge it used to.
Quickly the most interesting aspect of this issue is the whole dynamic between Stone and Miguel. Stone, as David has gotten across clearly, is an evil individual, pretty much the last person you would think a superhero would work for. The problem is that Miguel needs to protect Stone to ensure his own existence, all the while assuring he doesn’t do anything to tyrannical. This issue’s plot is fantastic at capitalizing on this: Miguel must convince Stone to not sell the Trans-Sabal government the Spider-Slayers to end an insurgency. But he is also faced with the challenge of saving Stone from the rebels, who are also attempting to convince him to end the deal. It’ll be very fascinating to see where David goes with this plotline.
As I’ve noted before, I appreciate how David has been working off of rich plotlines established by Dan Slott in his Superior Spider-Man run. Liz Allen and Tiberius Stone are both spinoffs from the series, both of whom David has been very successful at characterizing. David is also eager to use the Spider-Slayers and Scorpion. I enjoyed seeing that David played off the Scorpion’s rage against Spider-Man for breaking his jaw (see ASM #700). The whole Scorpion-working-for-Alchemax dynamic works too, because he’s always been a henchman/follower sort of villain.
Last but not least, Will Sliney’s art is incredible. The exciting layouts and precise detail always make the most boringly-scripted pages look good. As I’ve said before, Sliney’s interesting, somewhat jarring shadows add a futuristic feel to the book. He is also excellent at facial expressions. Although I haven’t liked his coloring in the past, Fabela does a notable job highlighting the line work.
Despite being a set-up issue, there is some good character interaction between Miguel and Stone and fantastic art. I'll give it 3 webs.
Peter David has used the fictional Middle-Eastern country of Trans-Sabal in the past, particularly in The Incredible Hulk #390-392 and X-Factor #76.