Wednesday, March 29, 2023

Longbox Junk - Punisher 2099 #1

Welcome to Longbox Junk, the place to find all the comic reviews you never asked for!

Last time out, I jumped into the future world of Marvel 2099 by taking a look at the first issue of the line's greatest success, Spider-Man 2099.  It was the first title put out in the line and Marvel definitely hedged their bets on it kicking off Marvel 2099 with a bang.  Their bet paid off. Simply put, it was a great start!  

So let's continue our little trip into the future by taking a look at a series that walked the line between grim social commentary and dark comedy.  Where Spider-Man 2099 #1 gave us a brief look at the heights and horrors of the ruling Corporations, the comic at hand dives down onto the gritty streets below the skyscrapers, where law enforcement has become a paid commodity usually only available to the wealthy.  

A bit of research tells me that Punisher 2099 was actually the fourth and final original 2099 title to be launched, so I'm writing these a bit out of order.  I didn't know that when I started.  Ravage 2099 and Doom 2099 were the second and third launch titles.  I'll get to them soon.  

But for now, let's see what happens when a cop on the edge discovers Frank Castle's war journal 100 years down the road from when the original Punisher roamed the streets, shall we?  WE SHALL!

PUNISHER 2099 #1
Marvel 2099 (1993)

COVER: Tom Morgan


SCRIPT: Pat Mills & Tony Skinner
PENCILS: Tom Morgan
INKS: Jimmy Palmiotti


Like the Spider-Man 2099 cover, I have to apologize for the poor quality of my scan.  I TRIED to angle it a little bit to better capture the flavor of the foil border. . .the dark blue here was even WORSE scanning than Spidey's red.  I guess it SORT of worked.  You can at least see a little more of the intricate detail embedded in the border this time. These 2099 foil border covers are great, but super hard to scan.  


Getting past the cool border, the cover itself. . .well. . .let's just say it's SO 90s that even the 90s are like, "Hey, can you tone it down a little?".  It's nicely done, but it definitely hits every checkbox that there is for cliché hyperactive 90s art. The pouches, the shoulder pads, the exaggerated musculature, the weird feet, the crazy looking guns. . .and more.  It's all there! 

This cover is the sort of cover that someone could easily point at and say, "There. THAT'S the 90s." and most comic fans wouldn't disagree.  I'm not saying it's a BAD cover at all.  If you were there collecting comics in the 90s, this is the sort of thing that's LOADED with nostalgia.  A sort of " so bad it's good" feeling.  But enough about the cover. Let's get inside!


We begin our tale following a man as he desperately flees from a gang of "Street Surgeons", criminals who steal organs from living victims and sell them on the black market.  The terrified man tries to call the police ("Public Eye" a corporate-owned law enforcement agency) and is told that his account is delinquent, leaving him at the mercy of the Surgeons!

The Surgeons are interrupted during their assault by a hulking man, armored and bristling with weapons.  He easily takes down multiple gang members by himself, brutally killing them all and saving their terrified victim.

We switch scenes to the next day, at Alchemax Corporation's Public Eye headquarters.  The Chief and his staff are reviewing video from multiple brutal attacks that have been carried over the past few nights.  The perpetrator is a mysterious vigilante using some sort of technology to hide his face that they have so far failed to crack.

Special Agent Jake Gallows has been brought on to the case to assist. They review the case with him. . .all the victims were criminals who had already paid their fines and been released.  They try to figure out the vigilante's motivations, but can't come to a solid conclusion.

After the meeting, some of the other Public Eye officers are talking about Gallows, and we learn that he recently suffered a tragedy.  Gallows' mother, brother, and sister-in-law were all killed and Gallows himself severely wounded by a psychopathic gang during a day at the zoo (shown to us in flashback).  Now, Gallows is the only surviving member of his family.

After Gallows recovered from his wounds, the leader of the gang who killed his family was caught and put on trial.  It turned out to be Kron Stone, brother of Tyler Stone (from Spider-Man 2099, remember? If not, then check out my review of Spider-Man 2099 #1 HERE), one of the top executives of Alchemax Corporation. . .who are also the owners of Public Eye. 

After being found guilty in court, an unrepentant Stone flippantly paid his massive fine on the spot with his Corporate "Black Card" (basically unlimited funds for extremely privileged Corporate executives).  Gallows flew into a rage and attacked Stone in the courtroom, only to be saved from arrest himself by his fellow cops.

After the trial, Gallows was convinced that the legal system no longer works.  There's no real justice when someone can just buy their way out of a conviction right in the courtroom.  

We then follow Gallows to a hidden place where he and his best friend, Matt Axel, have been storing weapons, armor and equipment for months, waiting for the right moment.  That moment has come.

Among the items they've been illegally collecting is an old journal found in the police archives. . .the journal of a man named Frank Castle, but called The Punisher.  A journal that now inspires Jake Gallows to become something more than just a cop in a failed system. . .

. . .it inspires Jake Gallows to become a new Punisher for a new age!

The End. . .To be continued.


Okay then.  Punisher 2099 #1.  Let's break it on down!

The overall impression I get from reading this comic is the same impression I got from the cover.  This is a comic that IS the 90s. The narrative offers an overheated, ultra-violent tale of the sort that pretty much defined many 90s comics that came in the aftermath of the Image explosion onto the scene.  

That is to say, where Image can be seen as desperately shouting "We want to be Marvel!", at the same time, Marvel (seeing the sales numbers of Image titles) was also shouting "We want to be Image!" in a strange Ouroboros that eventually collapsed the entire comics market.  

Punisher 2099 #1 is a gloriously over the top example of the ongoing battle for readers between Image and Marvel that was taking place at the time it came out.  And in hindsight 30 years down the road, it was a pretty good effort.

The writers Marvel brought on were British veterans of comic book science fiction dystopia, with work on A.D. 2000's Judge Dredd, as well as Marshall Law and Third World War.  You can definitely see shades of Judge Dredd and Marshall Law in Punisher 2099.  The choice of writers was a brilliant one for Marvel.

Similar to those British dystopian works mentioned above, the surface veneer of ultra-violence rests on a hidden layer of dark and subversive humor.  I'm not sure if comic fans of the time went much deeper than the surface layer, but there are some pretty nasty jabs at the American fetish for violence (while at the same time, trying to enforce a broken sense of ethics) to be found.  This can be seen more so in future issues as one reads beyond the first, but there ARE a few hints of the British brand of subversive humor here and there in this issue.

The dark, somewhat exaggerated and almost nightmarish art delivers a solid punch of violence, but stumbles during non-action scenes. Like the story, it positively reeks of the 90s, so enjoyment of the art style will be pretty much based on the reader's tolerance for the signature over-the-top art that defined the 90s.  In MY opinion, it's not the best art of the 2099 bunch, but it's the sort of art that an action-packed narrative like Punisher 2099 needs. 


This is a first issue of an ongoing series.  There are TWO things (in my humble opinion, of course) that make what I consider a successful first issue.  Does it introduce new characters and their situation in a new reader-friendly way? Does it make me want to read more?  TWO things. Is that really too much to ask?

The answer to both of these are YES.  Maybe not as an enthusiastic yes as I gave Spider-Man 2099, but this comic DOES introduce Jake Gallows and the gritty streets of his future dystopian world quite well.  And as a big fan of both Punisher AND Judge Dredd, the Mighty Marvel Mashup of them that is Punisher 2099 makes me want to read more. 


If you're a fan of dark, dystopian science fiction with an ultra-violent edge like that found in Judge Dredd, then you will like Punisher 2099.  It's basically an Americanized version of that popular British character.  Becoming even more so as the series goes on.

If you're expecting intricate storylines and deep narrative, then you're going to be disappointed.  This is the sort of comic where you can literally see what you'll be getting with a look at the cover.  It's over the top comic book junk food, but it's GOOD over the top comic book junk food.  A deliciously violent guilty pleasure.

This a comic book of its time.  That time was the early 90s and the competition between Marvel and Image for readers.  Of the 2099 line, Punisher 2099 is probably the most frozen in that era (except maybe Ravage 2099, but we'll get THERE in a bit) as regards both story and art.

If you have some nostalgia for 90s comics, then Punisher 2099 will be a decent read.  If you shudder with horror at the mention of the "Dark Age of Comics" that was the 90s for a lot of comic fans, then you'll probably want to steer clear.  Like I said above. . .look at the cover.  That's what you're getting.

This series has never been collected, but the individual issues are extremely easy to find in back issue bins.  Over the years I've collected almost the entire run (I think I'm missing 5 or 6 of the 34 issues) just from digging through bargain bins.

Up Next. . .

MORE Marvel 2099!

It was Stan Lee's final ongoing comic series. 
Unfortunately, it's also commonly regarded as the worst of the 2099 line.
Let's take a look and see if we can find out why.

RAVAGE 2099!

Be there or be square.

Wednesday, March 8, 2023

Longbox Junk - Spider-Man 2099 #1

Welcome to Longbox Junk, the blog FULL of comic reviews you never asked for!

Marvel 2099.

If you've ever been Longbox Junkin' through a bargain bin, I can GUARANTEE you've seen some Marvel 2099 comics.  Like Marvel's New Universe, the early "We wanna be Marvel" Image, and just about anything from Valiant or Malibu, Marvel 2099 comics are some of the ubiquitous bread and butter books that can be found in almost ANY bargain bin out there.

But what IS Marvel 2099? Why are there so many of them in the buck-a-book-bins?  Are they worth reading? SO MANY QUESTIONS!  Well, I've decided to dive into the world of Marvel 2099 over the next few Longbox Junk posts and see if I can find some answers.

Let's tackle the first question first.  What IS Marvel 2099?

The basic answer is that Marvel 2099 was a project by Marvel Comics launched in 1992 to showcase the mainstream Marvel Universe 100 years in the future (107 years, actually.  But who's counting?). In a nutshell. . .science fiction superhero comics.

The setting was a dark, dystopian, cyberpunk future where powerful corporations basically run the world.  The superheroes of the past are long gone (due to some sort of calamity that isn't really explained. . .it has something to do with Doctor Doom) and are pretty much legends of a time called "The Heroic Age". But now a NEW age of heroes is at hand!

Marvel 2099 launched with four original series. . .Spider-Man 2099, Doom 2099, Punisher 2099, and Ravage 2099.  Of the four, only Ravage was based on an entirely new character and not a re-imagined future version of an existing character.  Not to digress, and we'll discuss this more later, but Ravage 2099 also has the distinction of being Stan Lee's last work on a monthly comic series.

The 2099 imprint was an immediate hit with readers, with Spider-Man 2099 being the most popular title, and remaining the most popular 2099 title to this very day, where Spider-Man 2099 has been in several series post-2099 collapse, and still makes fairly regular guest appearances.

The rest of the 2099 titles were also popular enough that Marvel continued to release 2099 titles until 1998.  Another victim of the collapse of the comic industry in general around that time.  They were comics that were highly-regarded by fans at the beginning, and hardly-noticed at the end.

Over the next few Longbox Junk entries, I'm going to take a look at the first issues of some of these 2099 comics.  First up is the top dog of the bunch, the aforementioned Spider-Man 2099.  

It's the only 2099 character that has managed to outlive the imprint itself, and the only one that is even the least bit "collectible" today.  And when I say "collectible", what I mean is that a nice clean graded and slabbed 9.6 copy of Spider-Man 2099 #1 will get you about $100.  That ain't retirement money, folks.

SO. . .

It's not worth much to collectors, but still seems to be pretty popular.
Now the question becomes, "Is it any good?"

Spider-Man in a dark, cyberpunk future.  Let's check it out!

SPIDER-MAN 2099 #1
Marvel 2099 (1992)

COVER: Rick Leonardi

Begin the Future History of Spider-Man 2099

SCRIPT: Peter David
PENCILS: Rick Leonardi
INKS: Al Williamson


90s-TASTIC! My apologies for the poor scan that doesn't properly show off the shiny red foil border.  I tried several times and this is the best I could do.  I looked online and it seems a lot of people have the same problem.  That red foil just does NOT scan well.  Trust me, it looks SO good. BUT I DIGRESS!

What we have here is a wonderful portrait of Spider-Man 2099 leaping into action, nicely showcasing the new Spidey's cool costume design!  The bright yellow title has a really interesting look and contrasts perfectly with the shiny red foil that you can't really see here.  THIS is a cover that jumps out and catches the eye!

It's such a great cover in just about every way (There ARE the weird 90s feet, but nothing is perfect, right?). I just love this cover! I'm not even a Spider-Man fan, but this awesome 90s cover makes me want to get inside and check this comic out, so let's GO!


New York (er. . .NUEVA York), 2099.  We begin our tale in progress as the Alchemax Corporate police force called Public Eye pursue a mysterious and highly-agile costumed figure through the towering downtown skyscrapers.  He manages to eventually elude them by going to ground and blending into the crowd at a shopping mall. . .

The mysterious figure makes his way home to Babylon Towers, a luxury apartment building owned by the Alchemax Corporation.  Here, we learn that his name is Miguel O'Hara and are introduced to his virtual personal assistant, Lyla, as Miguel watches video messages he's received over the past five days.

The messages from his employer Tyler Stone, his brother Gabe, and his fiancée Dana introduce us to several supporting characters.  They are all deeply concerned in one way or another about some sort of serious situation or incident that Miguel was involved in.  Miguel ignores the messages and begins making a journal entry. . .

O'Hara is (or WAS) a hotshot genetic scientist working for Alchemax Corporation.  He was working on a project to create a superior "Corporate Raider".  A genetically-enhanced special operative to do Corporate dirty work.  He was basing his research on a figure of the long past "Heroic Age" called Spider-Man, who seems to have been genetically-enhanced with spider DNA somehow.

The head of O'Hara's research department, Tyler Stone, demands that the project be tested on a human subject.  Miguel protests that the project isn't ready for human trials yet, but Tyler is O'Hara's superior and insists the trial go forward on a convict that has been chosen.

Miguel reluctantly agrees and performs a modified trial run on the convict meant to enhance his DNA for increased strength by combining it with an ape.  The experiment goes badly and the convict is transformed into a twisted mutant with superhuman strength that attacks Miguel, but dies quickly after breaking free.  Miguel is horrified, while the other scientists are pleased with the progress.

Miguel is so shaken by the incident he was forced to take part in that he immediately goes to Stone's office and resigns from Alchemax.  Tyler seems sympathetic to Miguel's reasons for resigning and even shares a drink with him.

Unfortunately for Miguel, Tyler reveals soon after their toast that the drink contained Rapture. . .an extremely powerful and highly-addictive drug created by Alchemax.  A drug that bonds with the DNA and makes escape from addiction to it almost impossible.  And since Alchemax is the only one who manufactures Rapture, Tyler is certain that Miguel will "reconsider" his resignation.

Horrified by the thought of becoming a chemically addicted slave to Alchemax, Miguel tries to fight the effects of the Rapture and fails.  He violently attacks his fiancée when she tries to calm him down.  Miguel reveals how he's been tricked into being addicted to Rapture.  Dana understands, but is unable to help him.  

Miguel resolves to not become a slave.  He comes up with a desperate plan to sneak back into his Alchemax lab and subject himself to the DNA combining process he's been working on.  The experiment has Miguel's DNA profile encoded in its files, so he can replace his Rapture mutated DNA with a copy of his own clean and unaltered DNA.

It's a good plan, and it seems to be working.  Unfortunately for Miguel, another scientist on the project finds O'Hara during the process.  The scientist, Aaron Delgato, is a rival of O'Hara's and believes that he's been pushed aside and his contributions to the project ignored while Miguel takes all the credit.  

Delgato sabotages the experiment by shutting off the safety overrides and injecting a random DNA profile into the process. . .the spider DNA O'Hara was hoping to use to create an enhanced Corporate Raider. 

 The sabotaged equipment explodes, but the sequencing had completed. Delgato is stunned to see O'Hara stagger from the wreckage. . .somehow alive!  He confronts Miguel, gloating about how Stone will put O'Hara away forever for destroying the lab, but is horrified to discover that Miguel O'Hara has been mutated by the experiment into a horrific human-like creature with fangs and claws. . .Dun-Dun-DUUUUUN!!

The End. . .To Be Continued.


It's plain to see that Marvel learned some lessons from their failed "New Universe" initiative a few years prior to Marvel 2099.  They weren't taking any chances THIS time around!  Marvel hedged their bets by rolling out Spider-Man 2099 first, with legendary modern comic veteran writer Peter David on the story.  And they were absolutely right that the magic was there this time!

I'm not a big Spider-Man fan, so I know Peter David more as an Incredible Hulk writer (where he had an award-winning TWELVE YEAR run), and I could definitely see shades of the Hulk in this story of science gone wrong.  I'd go so far as to say that this seems more like a proxy Hulk story than a Spider-Man story at all!

Yeah, it's DNA manipulation instead of Gamma Rays, but the same sense of scientific body horror is present in Miguel O'Hara's origin.  And THAT'S what I really like about this story.  David didn't take the easy path of making the 2099 Spider-Man a clone or a descendant of Peter Parker, but something entirely different.   

Instead of a wisecracking teenager learning that "With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility", we get a desperate adult scientist trying to save himself from becoming a chemically addicted corporate slave in a horror-tinged origin story that really seems more like one for a Spider-Man VILLAIN. 

It works! This is a GREAT origin story that ends on a cliffhanger that makes me want MORE!

On the art side of things, Marvel further hedged their bets on Spider-Man 2099 by putting veteran artist Rick Leonardi on the job.  I know Leonardi more for his DC work (and the original 4 issue Cloak and Dagger series), but Marvel definitely picked the right man for the job here! 

His pencils are the PERFECT compliment to the science fiction horror story being told here.  There's some superhero action frontloaded in this issue, but this tale really needed someone who could make the NON-superhero parts that are the majority of the issue sing just as fine.  


Those of you who have been reading Longbox Junk for a while now know that I have boiled down my requirements for a good first issue into the following TWO things:  Does it introduce new characters and their situation well?  Does it make me want to read more?  For Spider-Man 2099 the answers are yes and yes!

Marvel hedged their bets on this book being what was going to kick off Marvel 2009 with a bang and they were absolutely right.  Their choice of Peter David and Rick Leonardi as the creative team gave this comic (and Marvel 2099 in general) a hell of a running start!

In this issue, we get a great science fiction horror story with shades of the Incredible Hulk as a new character's origin.  The setting is solid, the conflict rings with horrible truth, and the main character is interesting enough that I want to read more. 

Spider-Man 2099 #1 is a win from cover to cover and fully deserves a Longbox Junk gold seal of approval.  If you're a fan of horror-tinged cyberpunk science fiction then check this one out even if you aren't a fan of Spider-Man!  It's been collected, it's online, and you can even still find copies of #1 in the bargain bins (I found one just last week in a two dollar box), so it's not hard to find.

Up Next. . .

Spider-Man 2099 got our little trip into the dark future of Marvel comics off to a good start. Now it's time to get into the gritty, violent streets of the city. 

What happens when a cop on the edge discovers the journal of a certain Frank Castle 100 years in the future? Let's find out in the first issue of Punisher 2099!

Be there or be square.