An unsung hallmark of writer Peter David and artist Will Sliney era is on display in Spider-Man 2099 #11: World-building. Ever since Miguel O’Hara returned to comics several years ago, they’ve dutifully unveiled entirely new versions of 2099, multiple times, with nuance and efficiency. There’s been the Maestro’s dystopia, the “Secret Wars” corporate oligarchy, and now a world run by the Sinister Six. This may be one of their most elaborate settings yet, with the creators introducing many new characters with multiple motives at a rapid pace.
In this version of 2099, The Sinister Six runs Alchemax and all of Nueva York. It’s full of references to 90s continuity that original fans are sure to enjoy, but newer readers won’t necessarily need to understand in order to be up to speed. We’re introduced to this reality’s Goblin, who originally appeared in a handful of issues in ’95-’96. Here, it’s revealed that the Goblin is actually Father Jennifer D’Angelo, which is no random name; back in the 90s, Peter David wanted Jennifer to be the Goblin of 2099, but he was removed from the book before he could make the reveal. Consequently, another writer decided that the Goblin would be Miguel’s brother, Gabe. This Venom is also a throwback from the 90s and considering that he seems to know who Miguel really is under the mask, this could be Kron Stone, Miguel’s older half-brother. We also get Kasey, Miggy’s brother’s girlfriend, and her Payback armor, which she first received in Spider-Man 2099 (vol. 1 #24) back in 1994.
There are also some references to more recent continuity. I appreciate Miguel’s offhand comment about the Maestro, a reference to a the 2-issue arc from 2015. Even though the last volume of the series ended without tying up some of its dangling plot lines, this Easter egg rewards long-time readers who invested time and money into those issues.
Sliney and Rachelle Rosenberg are tasked to create a drastic new 2099 and have few pages to pull it off. As usual, they’re up for the challenge, giving different, distinct looks to New York’s upper atmosphere and underground ruins. The creators even give this world a six-panel origin story steeped in today’s real-life fears of sleeper cell terrorism and biological attacks. There are some great background details that add to the scenes, including a creepy room of men wired to chairs and staring at monitors. Rosenberg’s neon shades of blue and green illuminate the interiors in a way that conveys an environment of conformity and lifelessness. When she switches to bright reds and oranges, it’s such a sharp contrast, you can almost feel it in your eyeballs.
One of the consequences of all this world-building is that the original plot hasn’t moved forward much. Is Miguel’s mission to get back to the present to fix this future, or is he now fully committed to taking on the Sinister Six? This isn’t a problem if you enjoy the issue in its context as the second chapter of a multi-issue story. If you’re judging this issue on its own, this could be seen as a weakness.
Spider-Man 2099 #11 showcases the creators' skills in efficient world-building and includes 90s nostalgia in great ways that don't alienate newer readers.