Miguel O’Hara is Spider-Man 2099. Much like Peter Parker he got his spider-powers from a lab accident (although his origin is slightly more complicated). He works for a mega-corp called Alchemax, and hates his boss Tyler Stone. He is constantly being harassed by the neo-fascist police force of the 21st century known as the Public Eye.
This issue’s story starts out with Miguel and his brother Gabe visiting Woodstock 2099. It’s not nearly as popular as the original, however. There’re only a few small crowds gathered around a giant floating holographic stage. Miguel is making snarky comments about it all when suddenly a random concert-goer morphs into a hulking, raging beast-man!
Miguel finds a convenient port-a-potty (I guess the future’s not all it’s cracked up to be) to change into his Spider-Man togs, then cuts a hole in the back of it with his talons and leaps into action. The rampaging beast-man is about to throw a passerby across the field when Spider-Man swings by and catches her. The beast-man then charges Spider-Man, who gives him a really good left hook. This shocks the beast-man, who suddenly morphs into a tiny little rat-creature who then promptly runs away and gets stepped on. After he dies he morphs one final time into his true human form.
Before Spider-Man can try to figure out what’s going on, the Public Eye makes an appearance and starts clearing out the area. Spider-Man tussles with them a bit, but then he hightails it out of there.
On their way back to New York, Gabe and Miguel discuss the strange turn of events. It seems there’s a new designer drug on the market called Chameleon. It was originally developed by Doctor Winston Fong-Gomez for Alchemax (of course), but it was deemed too volatile and the project was scrapped. Miguel does some snooping on the company computer at work and eventually discovers that the good doctor’s last known address was Downtown…
Cut to St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Downtown. Father Jennifer is being harassed by a couple of junkies. Spider-Man shows up and scares them away. He asks her about the good doctor, but she says she never heard of him. She has, however, heard of a big time drug dealer known as Major Jones (yes, really) who sells Chameleon out of a compound a few blocks away.
Spidey follows the aforementioned junkies back to their hideout. He gets shot at by laser cannons, but rips them out of the wall using his webbing. Then he tears the reinforced steel door off its hinges with his spider-strength.
Inside he finds Major Jones (who looks like a reject from the Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band) and a few of his flunkies sitting around a table. Spider-Man tells him that he’s there to shut him down, but then Major Jones’s flunkies (there are four of them, by the way) all turn into slobbering beast-people.
Spidey tries to web them all up, but their claws shred through it. Then he does a flying kick and tears into the middle of them. They soon threaten to overpower him, though. Then he starts in with some smoothe talk and gets them to conveniently turn against each other. This gives him the opportunity to go after Major Jones.
Spidey flings him onto his own table, and starts questioning him about his supplier. Unfortunately, Major Jones landed on several bottles of his own drug, Chameleon, which broke open and pierced his back. Uh oh, it looks like a massive overdose for the bad guy!
While his lackeys are busy killing each other, Major Jones transforms into a big pile of goo. Spider-Man can do nothing but look on. He’s upset that he didn’t get Major Jone’s supplier, who he is convinced is Dr. Winston Fong- Gomez. But now he’s got no proof and no leads.
I liked this story a lot. It had a lot more meat to it than previous Spider-Man 2099 stories in this series. There was mystery, there was action and the birth of a new supervillain to boot. Plus, there were no deus ex machina explosions to tidy up everything at the end.
I think Len Wein, even 20 years after his heydays of writing Spider-Man in the 70s, really had a good handle on this character and his environment. Spidey moves from Alchemax, to Downtown and all the points in between seamlessly. He makes great use of the supporting cast, something that even fell by the wayside in the main Spider-Man 2099 title. Most of the previous writers in this anthology got too hung up on future technology, while ignoring the actual storytelling. Wein uses it to move the character along, but still keeps the core concept of super-heroics in the spotlight. It’s a shame that he never got to further explore his ideas for the character.
Unfortunately, this is the last issue of 2099 Unlimited. The rest of the issue is filled up with Machina Jones (the standard cyborg bountyhunter gag) and a final appearance of the humor strip inspired R-Gang 2099.