Original Spider-Man 2099 artist Rick Leonardi reunites with writer Peter David! Cause for celebration, right?
Unfortunately, no. This feels more like a fill-in issue (which it is) than an epic reunion. Leonardi’s art is serviceable yet lackluster, and compared to his thrilling work on the original title the results are nothing short of disappointing.
David’s script doesn’t help. While snappy and delivering some very clever and entertaining page transitions, it doesn’t exactly give Leonardi many big moments to let loose. Spider-Man 2099 #5 isn’t a terrible issue, but considering the talent involved and the legacy of their previous efforts, it feels like a special opportunity has been wasted.
It could be the absence of Al Williamson’s masterful inks, or maybe the one-off nature of a crossover issue offered too little substance to overcome. Whatever the case, anyone looking for the sleek and surprising pages David and Leonardi routinely delivered will be left empty handed.
Putting past performance aside, the issue provides typical crossover tie-in fare. Edge of Spider-Verse continues as villain Morlun hunts for Spider-folk across the multiverse. We’re shown various Miguels on various Earths engaging in battle against Morlun, with a handful of alternate dimension Avengers thrown into the mix.
The action beats are satisfying, if nothing spectacular, and David shifts from multiverse to multiverse with humorous segues and some neat transitions. However, there’s not a ton of visual differentiation between dimensions, making it challenging at times to remember which Spidey is which.
The inks and color art add to the uniform blandness of the book. While bold in places, Antonio Fabela applies the issue’s colors with perhaps too much weight, as does inker Livesay with his indigo. Leonardi’s linework seems stifled under the thick finish and the palette feels caked on and heavy. The pages look professionally produced, but there isn’t a lot of tangible passion on the pages from any of the art team. This overall look accomplished is paint by numbers.
As far as events go, Edge of Spider-Verse has been something as a sleeper surprise for Marvel. From Spider-Gwen to Akira inspired future shock visions, the series has met acclaim for its creativity and exploration of new territory beyond the realm of Peter Parker. It’s a bummer that Miguel’s standalone entry in the saga feels so routine.
Here’s a character that flipped the Spider-Man mythos on its head decades ago. Where Parker was geeky, poor, and unsure, Miguel was smooth, successful and supremely confident. Think Tony Stark with less humility getting in the way. The world around Miggy was equally different from Parker’s 20th century Queens. The future Spider-Man occupied the inspired landscape of 2099, a place of soulless megacorporations, mass privatization of services, and strident authoritative justice meted out by militarized police forces (the future may have arrived ahead of schedule).
So we get a multi-dimensional story that hops around and ties in the main Edge of Spider-Verse villain, but the “real” Miguel is AWOL. We see hints of his wit and cunning, but really nothing of consequence until the closing pages, which dovetail into next week’s Amazing Spider-Man.
All told, in the annals of crossover, fill-in issue history there have been much worse entries than Spider-Man 2099 #5. It’s a passable chapter in the Edge of Spider-Verse story and David’s obviously been to this rodeo before. While juggling the mandates of tying into a larger story and advancing the title’s own ongoing plot, David manages to provide some clever turns and entertaining beats. It’s a shame that founding 2099 artist Rick Leonardi isn’t given more room to showcase his many talents, and also a shame that the rare reunion of Spider-Man 2099’s creators wasn’t arranged for something a bit more meaningful than this issue. Let’s hope that the stars align and David and Leonardi get the chance to work together on a more in-depth Miguel story sometime soon.