Sunday, July 29, 2012

I Read This--X-MEN 2099 Vol. 1

 One of the big problems with superhero comics, I've found, is that all too often, a really idiotic idea will slip through, despite a number of gatekeepers whose job it is to prevent that very thing. In our Age Of The Eternal Crossover, this is a much more pronounced problem as ever, as scads of valuable time and precious trees have been wasted in tortured PATRIOT Act allegory, an invasion that succeeds only by the willing suspension of intelligence of the planet being invaded, or even interminable months of America putting its trust in the hands of a man with a daft haircut who once tried to commit a human sacrifice to appeal to some magic goblin people.

 I'd mention Norse gods trying to destroy the world with cursed hardware, but I think I've made my point.

 Things happen for what could best be termed "no good damn reason," is what I'm getting at here. None of these ideas were all that ill-conceived, and from their respective poor starts, they stumbled in the middle, and ended in a muddled mess that entirely justified the deep misgivings of slaving an entire publishing line to one idea.

 The 2099 line is not one of those. It's an utterly pointless subset of Marvel's output that happened to come along at just the right time in the early 90's boom to stumble around for years for little to no reason, working diligently under the radar and never once letting on that it had only the most wafer-thin premise to stand on. Year in and year out, 2099 books remained on the stands, buoyed by Spider-Man 2099 (which was good less because the premise worked, but more because they put good writers and artists on it and gave them their heads) and Doom 2099 (featuring Warren Ellis doing realpoitik-esaue stuff with superheroes back before that was every single Ellis story ever) the rest . . .well. You had Punisher 2099 and Ravage 2099, whose big selling point was that it was Stan Lee's triumphant return to writing comics. The question of whether Stan Lee had realised that writing comics had changed in terms of craft in the interregnum is left to the reader to decide.

 Anyways, creatively, the line was a little wanting. But this is the early 90's, when anything, even Boof and the Bruise Crew, is doing 100,000 copies at least, and so 2099 gets extended with two more books--Ghost Rider 2099, which features Chris Bachalo drawing a cyberpunk book with all that implies, and X-Men 2099, a book which is poised to do huge numbers because anything with an X on it until about 1998 is a guaranteed money-spinner.

 Which is a good thing, because X-Men 2099 has a number of flaws. It was a bold choice, I thought, to launch an X-Men book divorced of its utterly mad future history (which had really blown up to this insane future chronology that would never ever actually happen because superhero comics only deal in the perpetual now) and that could only prove to be a much needed access point for a franchise that was rapidly collapsing into a singularity not seen since the 5 Years Later era Legion of Superheroes.

 I found it less artistically justified that the book is basically one group of generic characters fighting another group of generic characters with either the opening credits of Blade Runner or the middle part of The Road Warrior in the background. Seriously--it's either Megatokyo or post-nuclear Australia in every single scene. There are, according to the back of the book, 9 issues of X-Men 2099 included in this collection. By the end of it, I could safely say I really had no interest or desire to read more about any of these characters, they were just . . .there.

 Moreover,  the X-Men are virtually indistinguishable from the other characters they fight (and the addition of some ersatz X-Men later on doesn't help any) and even with a few subplots simmering along, a character death that happens immediately Just To Show We Mean Business, and the nominal leader of the X-Men is slowly losing his mind and going evil and really, none of it means a damn thing, really.

 And no disrespect to anyone who worked on the book (John Francis Moore and Ron Lim work well with what they have) but shit, at least I had some idea of who some of the Youngblood characters were after issue #2. By nine issues of X-Men 2099, I didn't really hate any of the characters, I actually felt nothing at all one way or the other.

 So, why, if this book is such a non-entity, did I 1) pay money for it and 2) feel the need to write about it? Well, I think I paid maybe $5 for the trade (bless Marvel's out-of-print closeout sales!) and 2) well . . .more often than not, the 90's get pared down into this narrative that it was all stuff like Youngblood or Shadowhawk, or Razor or Witchblade--that from the years of 1992-1995 there was nothing but crass, shiny crap that made the comic industry crash and then Kingdom Come came along and redeemed superheroes again and everything slowly got back to "normal." (no, really--people actually believe that's what happened) when the truth of the matter is what it's always been in superhero comics--good ones everyone can hold up and admire, bad ones that make you want to hide your face in shame, and a whole bunch of books in the middle which are just. . .empty calories. X-Men 2099 is empty calories.


C. Elam said...

X-Men 2099 is one of those things that I forget exists until someone reminds me. I think I have/had a Hero Ashcan of it and it made zero impression on me.

The origins of the 2099 line are so fractured and weird that it makes perfect sense to me that they tried to do an X-Men book with no ties to the X-Men. Wait, it doesn't, but nothing about that launch makes any sense.

Kazekage said...

I still have my Batman vs. Grendel Hero Illustrated ashcan. No, I don't know why either!

Well, I can get what they were trying to do, and it made sense to try to prop up the 2099 stuff with a proven seller but . . .geez. An idea or two to drive it would have been a good idea.