Thanks to the Avengers mucking around with time travel to end the Age of Ultron, the timestream is in flux. Case in point: on November 9, 2013, i.e. ‘today’s’ date, Horizon Labs will be destroyed by a temporal event, one that will undo the life of Tyler Stone, CEO of future megacorp Alchemax. To prevent this, as well as various other temporal disturbances plaguing 2099, Miguel ‘Spider-Man 2099’ O’Hara has traveled to 2013 to save the life of Tiberius Stone, erstwhile Horizon employee and current flunky of Allan Chemical, which has just executed a hostile takeover of Horizon. That hostile takeover has earned the ire of Otto ‘Superior Spider-Man’ Octavius, who tried to take out his frustrations on Tiberius; when Miguel intervened, Otto lost control of his temper and knocked him unconscious. Too bad that Miguel was just about to explain how to prevent the destruction of Horizon and everyone in it!
And that’s just the main plot! In the subplots, Carlie Cooper and Yuri ‘the Wraith’ Watanabe are trying to track down the truth behind the Superior Spider-Man; an overstretched Otto is failing to keep up with his personal, professional, and extra-curricular responsibilities, with one result being that Max Modell fired him; and the new Green Goblin is tightening his grip on New York’s underworld, right under Otto’s nose.
I think that about covers it!
|Executive Producer:||Alan Fine|
|Chief Creative Officer:||Joe Quesada|
|Editor In Chief:||Axel Alonso|
|Assistant Editor:||Ellie Pyle|
At some hive of scum and villainy in the Caribbean, Carlie and Yuri are having a car-chase-cum-gunfight-cum-acrobatics-off-of-moving-vehicles confrontation with an underworld financier named Morant. Like you do. It’s an exciting sequence, but seems more in Jason Bourne’s line than Carlie and Yuri’s, even if Yuri is wearing her Wraith costume. The chase ends at Morant’s private compound, where the banker, driven mad with terror by Yuri’s fear gas, is shredding financial documents. Thanks to some quick gunplay, Carlie retrieves the documents, which account for huge transfers of assets to Spider-Island, i.e., Otto’s base of operations, all paid for from the bank accounts of Otto Octavius.
“Gotcha!” Carlie exults. Good for her! That’s powerful leverage she and Yuri have now. I’m not sure what they can do with it - Blackmail? Exposure? I’m sure Otto is resourceful enough to fend those off - but they certainly can make his life difficult.
Back at Horizon, the temporal event that will destroy the Labs is only 15 minutes away. The Horizon Gang is annoyed with Otto for knocking unconscious the man who could save them, but they’re just as annoyed with Tiberius Stone, who’s the cause of their doom.
Cause? Yes. Grady can prove it all, thanks to his excursions through the time door. Tiberius committed three acts of sabotage: he unlocked the safety on Peter Parker’s Alpha-energy generator in ASM #692; he recalibrated Grady’s time door in ASM #678; and he tampered with Sajani’s reverbium at some point before ASM #648. By “playing with” the fabric of space and time in the presence of an alien harmonic frequency (those three incidents respectively) Stone caused a temporal event which will destroy Horizon in less than a quarter of an hour.
Parenthetical aside: Dan Slott is doing some subtle retconning here. As per the ‘I Killed Tomorrow’ arc, Grady’s time door was poised to destroy New York not because it had been tampered with, but because Grady hadn’t checked his math properly. And as per the ‘Big Time’ arc, Sajani’s reverbium was dangerous because it was unstable, not because Stone did anything to it. In fact, Stone says as much in his brief appearance in ASM #651. There wasn't any hint that Stone was intentionally fouling up the Horizon Gang’s work until the 'Alpha' arc; Slott is moving the goalposts here.
But hey, why not? The idea that Stone would try to make room in the roster of the Lucky Seven by making them look like sloppy, negligent workers is entirely in keeping with his personality, and there’s no reason to suppose he couldn't have gotten up to these dirty tricks behind the scenes. And why wouldn’t he lie to the Kingpin about it? Lying comes naturally to him. So it’s a righteous retcon, one that builds up this story while without doing violence to those previous ones. No complaints on the part of this reviewer… though this pay-no-attention-to-the-retcon-behind-the-curtain business explains why Marvel Editorial didn’t see fit to provide caption boxes directing readers back to the issues where Stone committed his misdeeds. In two out of three cases, there’s no misdeed to find.
Okay, let me revise my previous statement: there’s a little bit of violence to the previous stories. I liked the fact that ‘Big Time’ and ‘I Killed Tomorrow’ showed Grady and Sajani to be talented scientists, but not infallible ones: just like the rest of us, they could do great things, but were still prone to error. Revealing that their most prominent missteps were not the result of everyday weakness, but were the result of malevolent interference, retroactively makes them less human and more cartoony. Oh well; it’s all in service of a great story.
Back to the recap! To fix this problem, Otto will need some reverbium. Too bad Max ordered Sajani to destroy it all in ASM #650. Luckily, Sajani disobeyed Max and kept some, which Max finds infuriating. But there will be time for that later. Right now, the Horizon Gang - plus an unwilling Stone, who, against his will, accompanied Miguel to the Lab - have to pull together and stop the temporal event.
“Spider-Man, wait! There’s one more person we need. Your friend, Parker… if we’re right, this is all happening because the fabric of space and time is being subjected to its destructive vibrations. And Parker was the only one who could solve the equation to cancel them out. He pulled that off on his first day at Horizon. It’s why I gave him the job.”
We readers remember that incident, back in the aforementioned ASM #648. Does Otto?
No, he doesn't. Otto deleted all of Peter’s memories back in Superior Spider-Man #9. He can only remember those memories that he’d previously accessed. Did he ever access that one?
In a bravura sequence, we see classic Spider-Man panels, redrawn to feature an unmasked Otto Octavius in the place of Spider-Man. The panels, of course, are done in the style of the original artist, which means we get a lot of Steve Ditko and John Romita, Sr. pastiche. Nothing wrong with that! And beneath those panels, which read across the top of a two-page spread, we see a strange, unexplained series of silhouettes, showing a figure digging itself out from captivity under shadowy earth.
“P-Parker,” Otto manages. “Parker’s here.”
Very interesting. I predict we’ve just seen the genesis of Peter Parker’s return. But let’s pay attention to the present story, not future ones.
Coming back to himself, Otto finds that while he was lost in memory, the Horizon Gang have hastily built a machine to cancel the temporal event. All they need is Parker’s equation.
“You - you don’t have it, do you?” asks Max.
“I would if you’d stop blathering on!” Otto snaps. “I have this!”
Max hesitates, and then makes the right call. “Everyone out! Now!” he yells.
(Though I think that everyone should have left the building even if Spider-Man did know the equation. Risk management, people!)
Stone tries to leave, but Miguel, who’s come to while Otto was spaced out, restrains him. If Stone dies in the temporal event, then Tiberius Stone and Alchemax will never come to be. That means Miguel will never come to be either, but that’s a choice he’s happy to make in order to purify 2099 of the Stones’ malign influence.
But it will mean more than that. Miguel now learns that Stone’s death under these circumstances will, according to his hotline to Alchemax in the future, undo the “entirety of the timeline”. “All of 2099 is being unwritten!” says one particularly meta scientist. Is what would replace it better? Miguel doesn't know. Is he willing to play God to this degree?
Nope. Outside he and Stone go.
Inside, Otto has finally figured out the Wakandan calculus that Parker computed once before. He enters it with one minute to spare…
...but it’s incorrect. Otto - and all of the Labs - are destroyed in a controlled implosion, leaving a huge crater where the building’s footprint used to be. Otto’s final thought is an agonized realization that, when it came to the test, he proved inferior to his predecessor.
With Horizon destroyed and Tiberius Stone safe, 2099 is safe and Tyler Stone is restored to temporal health. Naturally, he betrays Miguel by smashing up the time machine and telling his scientists not to build another, leaving Miguel stranded in the past. Tyler is free to join Liz Allan, who’s in the process of setting up a new venture. The ‘Oscorp’ name is coming off of her skyscraper, to be replaced by ‘Alchemax’, which has been formed by a merger of Allan Chemical, Oscorp, and the intellectual properties of Horizon Labs. As one of the founders, Tiberius Stone has finally found his paradise, but there’s a serpent lurking. Thanks to his A.I. assistant Lyla, Spider-Man 2099 has established a present-day alter ego, ‘Michael O’Mara’, who’s just landed the job of Tyler Stone’s personal assistant. His plans aren’t clear yet, but what is clear is that Miguel has not given up the fight.
Neither has Max Modell. He’s got no company left, but he’s made a deal with Mayor Jameson, who has a soft spot for Max, for Marla’s sake. If Max promises never to do Big Science in New York City, ever again, JJJ will see the federal indictments and the pending lawsuits against Horizon go away. Max accepts. The instant JJJ drives away, Max and the Horizon Gang use Big Science to retrieve Spider-Man from the timeline. Where was Otto all this time?
“I - I don’t know,” he manages. “I can’t remember.” Truth or cover-up? Time will tell.
Max coolly dismisses Spider-Man; he now considers any obligation he has to him, or to Peter Parker, satisfied. Modell promptly moves his operations to his personal yacht, just like he did during “Ends of the Earth”. It’s implied that the Horizon Gang goes with him. Well, Grady and Bella, at least. Juergen Muntz has been unseen since ASM #689, and has had only brief cameos since ASM #681. Does Juergen even work for Max anymore?
Uatu Jackson doesn't. His mom thinks he needs to “take a break from all of this”. Neither does Sajani. She’d like to come along, but after she lied about the reverbium, Max can only say that “I’m running very low on trust right now”. That’s okay - Otto is happy to give her a job at Spider-Island (that can’t be good).
Speaking of running low on trust, Max is not the only person that Otto has let down lately: Aunt May is worried that he bailed on their dinner date without calling, and MJ is seriously annoyed that Peter has essentially ignored her since Superior Spider-Man#2, up to and including letting her nightclub burn down in Superior Spider-Man#10. MJ wants Peter out of her life, permanently; she won’t be calling him any more.
That’s okay, though. As per the next issue caption box: “The Black Cat Returns!”
After a recap like that, I’m almost out of words! But not quite.
The fact that the recap was so long indicates just how plot-heavy this issue was. It’s only 22 pages, including front and back matter, and it reads fast, but there’s a lot of material here. Old plotlines close: the Big Time era is now firmly behind us, with Peter Parker no longer unemployed by Horizon Labs. MJ Watson is out of Otto’s life for good. But Carlie and Yuri are back to make trouble, and the Black Cat will be back to stir the pot. And there’s still more to tell regarding Miguel, Stone, and Alchemax.
And Otto’s superior schtick is pretty thin now, so thin that - if I read it right - Peter may be returning.
So much story! So exciting! So many payoffs of old stories and new ones established! This is what I read comics for.
Last time I wrote that “I love it when plots develop in rapid-fire fashion like this. It’s the middle of an arc, so I’ll limit myself to four webs, but this arc is on its way to earning a five-star rating from me.”
Last time, I footnoted that I couldn't credit why Otto was unwilling to accept that Miguel might be a time traveler. Having just read All-New X-Men Special #1 where Otto teams up with the time-displaced original X-Men, I’m even less satisfied with the idea. Otto accepts that those X-Men are time travelers pretty quickly.