Axel-In-Charge: Extending "Secret Wars," Excitement for a "Totally Awesome Hulk"
Another reread review/Nostalgia November crossover post as I discuss the first Marvel 2099 crossover, “The Fall of the Hammer,” which had the line’s five titles come together to tell one story over one month (plus the prologue issue of Spider-Man 2099 since I own it as well). Spoilers on, of course.
The Nostalgia November archive can be found here
“The Fall of the Hammer” took place at the beginning of 1994, over a year into the 2099 universe when it had reached five titles after X-Men 2099 launched a few months previously. The reason why is obvious, but why not let editor Joey Cavalieri tell you himself (or tell Steve Vrattos in Marvel Age #132):
I want to show that these books are not merely this concaternation, and everybody is all together. The crossover changes the status quo. These characters can no longer operate in secret. The floating city is so public that now the heroes have become part and parcel of everyday life in the 2099 Universe. The second Heroic Age has begun.
That sounds great, but does the crossover deliver? Before going there, I may as well delve into that whole ‘how does this story fit into the tapestry of Chad’s life’ bit that everyone loves. Well, let’s be honest, at the age of 10/11 (as my birthday is at the end of January, which is when this crossover shipped), getting five comics in a single month is unlikely. Do you think I had $1.60 (Canadian price) each week to spend on comics? But, thankfully, this was around Christmas and my birthday, so I was able to use gift certificates and other bits of money to actually get every issue of this crossover. Now, you may remember me saying at some point that I never really followed the 2099 line of titles except for the odd random issue, which begs the question why would I want this crossover so much? Thor. I’ve always been a Thor fan and a fan of alternate versions of characters I know and love, so a future version of Thor? Sign me up! Of course, this version has little to do with the original beyond the same name, but still… Thor 2099! Hells yes, I wanted some of that. So, that’s how I managed to obtain an entire crossover that wound up costing the princely sum of $9.60 (including Spider-Man 2099 #15, the prologue)… holy shit, this entire crossover cost less than ten bucks… (it cost Americans $7.50). Yeah, the ’90s sure did suck, right? Oh ho ho… onto the books!
Spider-Man 2099 #15 by Peter David and Rick Leonardi acts as a lead-in to “The Fall of the Hammer” by continuing the plot thread that Spider-Man is perceived as a harbinger of Thor by the people of Downtown New York. He plays into it because it gives people hope and keeps them on his side… although there’s a nice scene where a woman asks him to heal her disfigured child and he can only mumble something about asking Thor when he sees him. Obviously Miguel O’Hara is having some fun as Spider-Man, playing the big man who stops gangs from hurting people and David is great at throwing in a grounding incident like that. At the same time, Alchemex is prepping their floating city that’s shaped like an inverted hammer and has been nicknamed Valhalla by some of the Thorites working on it. I find that name odd since the energy bridge that allows hovcars to reach it is a rainbow and is nicknamed Bifrost… so shouldn’t the city be nicknamed Asgard? This issue is split between setting up the crossover and advancing subplots of the title (which I won’t bother with because they’re irrelevent here). Not a bad issue at all… any time I reread an old issue of Spider-Man 2099, I kind of want to track down the rest since it seems like an interesting book. Corporate intrigue, a new hero, a corrupt future, lots of soap opera drama… fun book. The issue ends with the bringing of Valhalla’s main power grid online, but something goes wrong and the power doesn’t come online… instead it’s been disrupted by Thor and Heimdall… they have returned and they are pissed off.
Spider-Man 2099 #16 by Peter David and Rick Leonardi kicks off the story proper by following up immediately on the previous issue. Thor wants everyone off of his city, but takes a liking to Miguel’s girlfriend, so he steps in, leading to one of my favourite scenes in the whole story: Thor goes to punch Miguel, but Miguel stops the punch with one hand, causing Thor to remark that he’s more than he appears and Miguel responds, “And you’re less!” Very cool and direct… except that angers Thor more, so he tosses Miguel out of the floating city via a big window. He’s, of course, safe because of his superpowers, but Dana (his girlfriend) doesn’t know that and is mourning him in the hovcar trip down… while a man berates her for being sad about Miguel, because all he did was piss Thor off — “What’s a god supposed to do?” the man asks. Asshole. Spider-Man returns to Valhall and goes toe-to-toe with Thor for a while until he uses Heimdall’s sword to draw blood, pissing Thor off to an even new level of pissed-off-ness. The fight ends with a repeat of the Thor/Miguel confrontation, except, this time, Thor uses his hammer to knock Spider-Man through a window. He manages to glide down to safety… until the hammer falls on him. When he wakes up, the Punisher has a gun pointed at his head. A great start to the crossover as we don’t get to see all of the new Asgardians yet and Thor is established as being more akin to his Norse roots than the superhero we know. He’s prone to rage and extreme violence, has no problem killing or taking women as he pleases. He’s not heroic, but fits into the Thorite religion’s conception of him. Also, Spider-Man is the leading character of the 2099 line, so having them fight right off is a good hook… and that Thor could defeat him twice shows that he’s not some cheap punk. Of course, this is the best issue of the crossover, mostly because Peter David and Rick Leonardi are the best creative team. Leonardi’s art on this issue (and the last) is fantastic. Great line work, lots of dynamic layouts… his Thor looks menacing, particularly when he decides to end the fight with Spider-Man. Leonardi uses heavy shadows so all we see is his eyes and mouth, which is snarling with rage as his monstrous hand goozles Spider-Man…
Ravage 2099 #15 by Pat Mills, Tony Skinner, and Grant Miehm has Ravage teaming up with the X-Men to get onto Valhalla because Meanstreak’s friend (and Spider-Man 2099 supporting cast member) Jordan Boone needs help. There’s some conflict between Ravage and the X-Men, but they put their differences aside to find a way to bring the city down because of the ecological damage it causes. This leads to the X-Men squaring off against Heimdall, while Ravage is attacked by Hela… who is his former secretary/assistant/love interest Talia. The first revelation that the Asgardians aren’t the returned gods at all, but transformed people… something hinted at, but to have it revealed like this is probably the biggest thing in this issue. The fight between Hela and Ravage comes down to Ravage willing to die to prove that he cares for Talia, while she moves to stab him with her trident/rake… she ultimately can’t do it, but also pushes Ravage away as she runs off to figure out who she is. Not a great issue as it spotlights probably the 2099 characters I care the least about: Ravage and the X-Men. Unlike the others, they never seemed interesting to me, so an entire issue devoted to them isn’t appealing at all. Plus, Miehm’s art is flat-out ugly. Just awful stuff. Oh, and there’s a page where the Punisher and Spider-Man realise they’re on the same side and decide to work together to take down Thor and his ilk.
X-Men 2099 #5 by John Francis Moore and Ron Lim tells us how the X-Men wound up in New York (Meanstreak wanting to find Boone) and expands on their fight with Heimdall — who is far too much for them. While Thor is all power, Heimdall is very skilled with his advanced senses and heightened reflexes. He barely moves, preferring to wait for the X-Men to attack him, and he takes them out with ease, even the speedster Meanstreak. The fight is eventually ended with Loki shows up and gives a device to Meanstreak that shuts down Heimdall’s powers — and Loki is revealed to be Boone. He got involved with the project, but sabotaged it so he could also keep his core identity, making him the perfect embodiment of the trickster god. He plays both sides against one another in an effort to fuck over Alchelex, which is entertaining. He’s probably my favourite of these new Aesir simply because he’s so well done. The issue ends with the final 2099 player, Doom, arriving and Thor also making an appearance, threatening to kill them all. A solid issue, aided by Ron Lim’s art, which is rather good — darker than usual since most of the issue takes place during a storm Thor created. The fight against Heimdall is well done as is the reveal of Loki. All of the back story on how the X-Men got there was a drag, but you do have to accomodate the readers of that title, I suppose.
Doom 2099 #14 by John Francis Moore and Pat Broderick features a great fight between Thor and Doom that leads to Thor confronting his true identity and history. Doom, for those unaware, claims to be the Dr. Doom we all know, making him the only 2099 character that may be the same as his regular Marvel universe counterpart. And his abilities seem comparable as he takes on Thor with a lot of skill — disrupting Mjolnir’s power source, creating an explosion that sends them hurtling to the ground… Doom uses his armour to become intangible, while Thor is left unconscious. When he wakes, he’s in a lab and see a dead Sif in a big glass tube. Then, Avatarr, the man behind the new Aesir arrives and returns Thor to his original state when Thor threatens him… apparently Thor is really a Thorite reverend who volunteered to become the god he’s always worshipped. Putting Thor in his place, Avatarr is then confronted by Doom, and their discussion is handled well… with Avatarr telling Doom that Valhalla will fall, so he can either take Avatarr out or save those it would kill. Doom goes to the others to stop Valhalla from falling, but only so he can control the city. During all of this, Boone/Loki reveals that he’s only on his own side, Spider-Man and Punisher arrive, the city evacuates (including the X-Men), and Spider-Man, Punisher, Ravage, and Doom unite to keep Valhalla from falling. Another solid issue. Visually, it’s the most distinct as the colouring and lettering are both done differently than the rest of the line — a more refined style (not necessarily better). The colours are more dark blue in nature, the font of the lettering less fluid… Broderick’s art is a step above Miehm’s but is otherwise the weakest of the bunch.
Punisher 2099 #13 by Pat Mills, Tony Skinner, and Tom Morgan concludes “The Fall of the Hammer” as the four 2099 ‘heroes’ work together to keep Valhalla afloat and defeat the new Aesir. The alliance between the four of them is tenuous, but offers a good dynamic with Spider-Man and Punisher working well together, while Doom and Ravage form their own little duo. They’re attacked initially by berserkers, genetically created warriors, so we get some action that leads to Doom and Ravage going to the engine room to repair the city — keeping it going and making it environmentally sound, while Spider-Man and Punisher fight against Heimdall and Baldur. Baldur had yet to appear and makes little impression beyond pissing the Punisher off more since that was his brother’s name. We get some nicely done internal dialogue as Jake Gallows and the Punisher debate the morality of him killing these fake gods — but he does it… with a plasma cannon. Doom and Ravage succeed as well, but Thor smashes the control panel or something, releasing a huge amount of energy that looks to cause the city to crash. In the ensuing fight, the Punisher figures out that Thor is really his parish priest and distracts him enough so Spider-Man can hit him from behind, while the Punisher tosses Mjolnir into the air, causing it to explode (for some reason) and stopping the weird energy patterns that were going to cause the city to fall (somehow). Thor is killed in the blast. The issue ends with a hologram of Avatarr addressing the heroes, concluding with a vision of the Punisher being killed in the future via his own molecular disintegrator that’s manned by I believe Jigsaw 2099. Not quite the conclusion that the story needed, but the four 2099 characters working together was handled well. The issue also put the spotlight on the Punisher without it seeming out of place or heavy-handed, which only really the Spider-Man and Doom issues did well, I think. Tom Morgan’s art is rough and dirty and absolutely perfect here.
All in all, a decent crossover. The idea that Alchemex would create their own Aesir to counterbalance the influence of this new breed of heroes is a good one — that they’d play on the religion centred around Thor is the extra little touch that makes this idea even better. For the most part, the crossover worked, but the X-Men did stand out as not fitting in exactly. Spider-Man, Punisher, and Ravage all operate in New York and have connections to Alchemex and/or the new Aesir, so their involvement works, while Doom showing up makes sense since he’s an egomaniac that would see this as a threat. The X-Men do little and disappear before the final showdown… They also had the right balance of known characters as the new Aesir and unknowns with three previously existing characters and a couple of nobodies. That gave it the right amount of personal elements without it seeming far too coincidental — and the characters that became the new Aesir all made sense in those roles. I think this crossover worked well because of the limited number of writers involved: four with two of those being co-writers. It reads very smoothly since everyone is on the same page and there aren’t a lot of different ideas pulling in all directions. It’s not an amazing crossover, but it executes the concept well and wraps it up when it intended while also leaving enough threads dangling for future stories. I think the ultimate resolution is unclear, which is certainly a weakness, but even then it’s still engaging and feels big.
So, I guess Joey Cavalieri wasn’t just talking empty hype…
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