The main character of this series is supposedly the real Doctor Doom brought back to life in the year 2099 (even though he appears younger and does not have his telltale facial scarring). Letting this anti-hero loose in the corporate nightmare world of Marvel 2099 was a stroke of genius, but it took Warren Ellis to really make the character reach his true potential. Later in this series, Doom even achieves his aim of taking over the United States of America! This issue is from an early episode in his campaign to rule the world...
This is the penultimate chapter of the Fall of the Hammer storyline, but here's all you really need to know:
Alchemax, the biggest mega-corp in Manhattan recently debuted a flying city called Valhalla, complete with genetically enhanced gods known as The Aesir to con the people into buying condos and stuff like that. Y'know, the standard evil corporation thing. The Aesir - which includes facsimiles of Thor, Loki, Heimdall and others - really believe they are the gods they appear to be. And, the X-Men have just finished kicking their butts (see X-Men 2099 #5 for the details).
Thor returns to the scene to confront them but Doom steps out of the shadows and tries to reason with him by revealing the truth behind the entire scheme. He tries to convince Thor that he is not really the God of Thunder but Thor is either too thoroughly brainwashed or too far gone to listen to reason. Oh, and Doom also reports that the floating city is losing power and will crash into New York City very shortly.
Thor easily knocks Doom through a wall with one blow. Loki reveals to Doom that all of Thor's power comes from his hammer. That's all the clue Doom needs to turn the tide. He performs some technical mumbo jumbo and shorts out the hammer's energy source. The power feedback makes a huge explosion and they both fall to earth in like flaming meteors.
Loki, by the way, is actually Jordan Boone, a friend of Meanstreak from the X-Men (which explains why that group got involved in this fiasco in the first place). They tries to convince Boone to help them take down Alchemax. Meanstreak thinks whatever process Alchemax used to enhance him has truly unhinged his friend's mind. Loki just changes into a bird and flies away.
(This begs the question - if Alchemax has enough power to grant god-like abilities to a random group of people, why isn't everyone in 2099 a superhero? I guess you can handwave that by saying the cost is prohibitive and the mega-corps keep a tight control on the technology, but still...)
Anyway, back in New York Thor is retrieved from the crater he made and wakes up in a darkened lab. He examines a row of upright, man-sized tubes that are all empty save for one. The occupant is a woman that Thor recognizes as Sif. A man with long, white hair and wearing yellow lenses over his eyes appears and explains that the subject chosen to be Sif didn't turn out right and died. Who is this creepy looking dude? He's Avatarr, the shadowy CEO of Alchemax and creator of the Aesir. Obviously, he is the Big Bad of this storyline.
Thor threatens to kill him but Avatarr transforms him back to his mortal guise with a few words. This is where the true origin of the Aesir is revealed. Turns out it they were actually just a bunch of Thorites (which is a major religion in 2099) who volunteered to be experimented on. Avatarr then converts “Thor” back into his superhuman form and sends him to confront the heroes that have assaulted Valhalla.
Now, Doom himself steps out from the shadows and confronts Avatarr. During their exchange we get a big info dump on everything that's been going on throughout “The Fall of the Hammer” storyline. Avatarr says he manufactured the Aesir as a response to the new crop of heroes. He says, “Heroes are a dangerous abstraction. They breed independence.” In response, he created Valhalla to draw the heroes out of the woodwork. “I chose to create my own larger-than-life heroes to control their effect on the public.” Furthermore, his overall aim is to destroy the heroes and replace them with his own stooges. Some conspiracy, huh? (Actually, that's a pretty neat idea.)
Instead of ending their confrontation with a knock down drag out fight, Avatarr reminds Doom that the city is going to crash soon and kill thousands. He says the old Doom wouldn't care, but “in this decade you've been infected with a conscious.” It's clear these two schemers are at a stalemate for now. While these two have been parlaying, however, the city's propulsion and anti-grav system begins to fail. The city lurches to the left and the right and people start falling off the edges. Avatar takes advantage of the distraction and leaves Doom to contemplate his next move.
Luckily, the X-Men are still on the scene and help aid in the mass evacuation that suddenly starts taking place.
So, by now you may be asking yourself why I am reviewing this story. Well, on page 22 we get the reason in that Spider-Man 2099 finally puts in an appearance in this universe-wide crossover. (Yay for Spidey!) He's hitched a ride with the Punisher and has arrived on the floating city just in time to help with the evacuation. Loki then shows up to taunt Spider-Man, saying he's the reason all this happened because he was the first hero to re-appear and threaten the mega-corp's powers. Punisher threatens to shoot him, but Loki quickly disappears again, saying he's “not staying for this little Ragnarok – the Twilight of the Gods is always such a drag.”
Meanwhile, the X-Men have finished the world's fastest evacuation and left the other heroes to wrap things up. Spidey and the Punisher seem to be the only ones left on the floating city. They argue about what to do next (hint the Punisher is in favor of hunting down the Aesir and offing them) when Doom shows up to announce that Thor is on his way.
This is a historic moment, because this is the first official meeting between the line's flagship characters. Spidey is dubious on whether Doom is truly on their side. “Doom was a bad guy. I remember from the research I was doing,” he says. Doom replies, “History repeats. Your 20th Century counterparts were equally annoying.” And despite everything you've ever learned about how heroes are supposed to act when they meet up these guys actually forgo the fisticuffs and confer together to get up to speed on what's been going on.
Punisher wants to kill the Aesir (he is furious that Alchemax has compromised his former religion) and Doom wants to save the city from destruction (not out of any altruistic motive but to use it for his own nefarious purposes). Oh, and just for completeness' sake, Ravage shows up just to remind everyone that the city is falling fast and they need to do something quick.
It echoes certain aspects of Watchmen (imperfect people playing heroes against impossible odds) and manages to take it in an interesting direction.
Yes, corporate-sponsored superheroes are old hat now, but 27 years ago it was still a fresh concept. If it was done by more competent writers it could have made a bigger impact. As it is, it turns out to be just another by-the-numbers team-up.
The Fall of the Hammer storyline concludes in Punisher 2099 #13.