Roughly a century prior, a massive cataclysm brought about the end of the "Age of Heroes". The disaster also destroyed most of civilization, resulting in a much, much worse world than before. (And considering how bad it was before, that’s saying a lot.) The world is now run by massive Mega Corps (most notably Alchemax), the only police are the privatized Public Eye, and the entire planet is little more than a toxic deathball.
In the year 2099, however, four individuals suddenly get pulled into superheroism. Miguel O'Hara, a geneticist working for Alchemax, accidentally splices Spider DNA with his own. Paul Philip Ravage, executive for an environmentalist Alchemax subdivision, discovers corruption in his employer and goes on the lam to fight it. In distant Latveria, a long-lost dictator suddenly returns, and prepares to retake his homeland. Jake Gallows, a member of the private police force, becomes a violent vigilante when the law fails to condemn his family’s killer. Later, a small group of mutants gather in the Nevada desert. An amoral Hollywood producer turns on the Knights of Banner and is pelted with Gamma Rays. A hacker finds his personality trapped on the net, and is transported into a robot body to avenge his own death. Not to mention the many, many other heroes that began to crawl out of the woodwork...
Marvel 2099 was very much a product of The Dark Age of Comic Books, with Liefeldian physiques and ridiculous future slang. Nonetheless, the first four series (Spider-Man 2099, Ravage 2099, Doom 2099, and The Punisher 2099) sold extremely well. Spider-Man 2099 would become the most well-known series, and would be the only one to directly interact with the mainstream series. Doom 2099 featured exceptional writing, turning Doctor Doom into an Anti-Hero while still keeping him a Magnificent Bastard. Ravage was the only fully original character, and was written by Stan Lee for the first eight issues. Punisher 2099 was... well, a Dark Age comic.
2099's best strength, however, was its continuity. Editor Joey Cavalieri worked overtime to make sure every issue of the series fit, while also giving the creative staff considerable leeway in what they created. As a result, the series was akin to Marvel's Silver Age work; several comics that didn't cross over every month, but at the same time were clearly in the same universe, with events occurred concurrently. In fact, the lines only actually crossed over once, for the "Fall of the Hammer" story arc, and even that was tightly managed.
Facing declining sales, the comics culminated in the "One Nation Under Doom" event, where Doom took over the United States. It was inconceivably awesome, mostly because it was written by Warren Ellis.
Unfortunately, that was pretty much the end of it. Marvel, due to the effects of The Great Comics Crash of 1996, decided in a desperate bid to cut costs to fire Cavalieri. Nearly every writer quit in protest. The line limped along for a while, before every surviving series was canceled at once. In their place was "2099: World of Tomorrow," which ran for eight issues before also being cancelled. Finally, Marvel closed the universe off with "2099: Manifest Destiny."
Aside from some brief revisits, the entire 2099 franchise has largely become another part of geek trivia. Spider-Man 2099 has received some new attention from being featured in recent Spider-Man video games, most notably Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions and Spider-Man: Edge of Time. Oh, and he was also part of the Exiles for a while, and in the months just prior to Marvel NOW, writers tease the fans the Peter Parker's replacement in The Superior Spider-Man would be his 2099 counterpart, though this would eventually be proven false. However, he was a major player in some arcs, which led to Alchemax being created in Earth-616. Miguel now has a new ongoing series, and took part in the Spider-Verse Bat Family Crossover. In 2015, the 2099 timeline was one of the alternate universes featured in the third season of Ultimate Spider-Man, with Miguel appearing as one of the major characters. One of the mini-series featured in Secret Wars (2015) was Secret Wars 2099, a title focusing on the 2099 version of The Avengers (featuring analogues of Captain America, Iron Man, Black Widow, and Hawkeye).
Marvel 2099 provides examples of:
- '90s Anti-Hero: It just drips with every 1990s cliché to have ever existed. It also subverts the trope at least as many times as it plays it straight. The 2099 comics were laced with quite a bit of satirical humor, laugh-out-loud moments, and optimism. The line was largely about people finding heroes to believe in again.
- Affirmative Action Legacy:
- Spider-Man is half-Latino half-white, Ghost Rider is half-Japanese half-white, Doctor Strange is a young woman who looks at least vaguely Asian and Moon Knight is a Muslim woman.
- The subsequent revivals of the line reveal that Captain America is a Latina woman, Black Widow is an African-American woman, Iron Man suffers from dwarfism and The Vision is a woman. Two 2099 versions of Deadpool also exist, both of which are women and the original's daughters, one being a mutant and the other half demon.
- A Lighter Shade of Black: While Doctor Doom's morality has always been Depending on the Writer, this version was of the Noble Demon Pragmatic Villainy interpretation. As a man of his word who protects his subjects as long as they're loyal, he's demonstratively superior to the Corrupt Corporate Executive types who presently rule the world. He's still a absolute monarch and world-conquering tyrant but the conquered population of the United States ironically has more freedom under him than their previous oppressors.
- Black and Gray Morality: Spider-Man and the Hulk were both Corrupt Corporate Executives and not great people in their personal lives either, the Xavier analogue of the X-Men had a dark side in his backstory that resurfaced once or twice, and Doctor Doom is the closest thing to a Big Good. Despite that and more, the overall arc was fairly idealistic. See the Dark Age entry.
- Came Back Wrong: An attempt to revive the previous Black Panther is ruined thanks to the current Black Panther's intervention. He instead becomes a raging cyborg, dealing massive destruction to Wakanda before Doom can take him down.
- Character Development: Doom 2099 is less bombastic, doesn't go into hammy rants, cares about others and will abandon his plans and risk his life to save innocent people. In one issue, he even bows to a Wakandan princess in a gesture of respect. When he time travelled to the past and met up with present-day Doom, he was less than impressed.Doom 2099: Gad! Was I really such a boor?
- Chosen One: Spider-Man is called the "Harbinger of Thor", and is prophesied to save the world. Turns out he really was the Chosen One, and was the third person to wield Thor's Hammer (with Captain America being second.)
- Church Militant: The Sisters of the Howling Commandments.
- Colony Drop: Attempted in the crossover storyline Fall of the Hammer by the villains.
- Continuity Snarl:
- About halfway through Manifest Destiny, the Watcher has Miguel and Captain America gather all of Earth's surviving heroes for a final battle. Among them was the Punisher 2099, despite being, you know, dead for several years by that point.
- The aforementioned death happened in 2099 AD Apocalypse (see also Dropped a Bridge on Him below) which had Continuity Snarls of its own. The Punisher 2099 is suddenly back on Earth, while his own last issue (which came out the month before) had him in deep space. Hulk 2099 in turn had his appearance radically altered in his last issue, and is back to his old appearance without explanation. Fan Wank has pointed out that both of these characters had previously established doppelgangers, which might explain this.
- Manifest Destiny also explained that the Solar System was enveloped in a bubble of cosmic energy which formed a nigh indestructible barrier put there by aliens to isolate Earth from the rest of the galaxy. Conflicting with this is that several different alien species had previously shown up in various 2099 titles.
- Corrupt Corporate Executive: They more or less run the world in 2099.
- Crapsack World: Cyberpunk is almost always grim, and this is no exception.
- Cyber Punk: Especially Ghost Rider 2099, who starts out as a stereotypical outlaw hacker pitted against a megacorporation.
- Dropped a Bridge on Him:
- Ravage and the entirety of Hellrock are encased in liquid Adamantium, pulled up with a tractor beam, and hurled into space.
- 2099 AD Apocalypse is nothing more than a series of bridge drops, mostly of the minor characters that never got their own books... with two exceptions. Punisher 2099 is vaporized by a giant spider, and Hulk 2099 goes out via Suicide by Cop.
- Earn Your Happy Ending: Manifest Destiny ended the line this way.
- Emphasize EVERYTHING: Ravage 2099 especially.
- The Extremist Was Right: Doom liberally skirted around the Moral Event Horizon for most of his series, but when he finally took over the United States, his reforms greatly cut down on pollution, made necessary items more available, and generally improved life for everyone. About the only thing that got him some flak was the Punisher-run SHIELD. That is, until things got worse...
- Fantastic Drug: Quite a few examples:
- Rapture was a legal designer drug developed by (and exculsive to) the Alchemax corporation that would be distributed to employees in order to keep them loyal to the company. A "very high-powered, mind-expanding hallucinogen," it causes the user to feel perfectly calm and collected... unless he tries to fight the drug's effects, in which case it causes him to hallucinate wildly, "seeing monsters everywhere." It also bonds with the user's DNA in short order, becoming so addictive "you need it the way you need air to breathe." Geneticist Miguel O'Hara, who would become the Spider-Man of 2099, was slipped the drug by his boss when Miguel tried to quit the company. He tried to rid his system of Rapture by rewriting his own genetic code using a stored file of his genome which he'd been using for experiments. Things didn't go as planned, and Miguel ended up with spidery traits in his DNA as a result.
- A similar drug, Rhapsody, was mentioned in an issue of X-Men 2099, in which it was revealed that the Synthia corporation secretly laced its food products with the drug, so that consumers would become addicted to eating Synthia food, at the expense of their health.
- Chameleon 2099 turned out to be a drug rather than a person, which not only manipulated a user's DNA, it allowed him to shapeshift (either partially or completely) into whatever animal happened to suit the user's mindset at the time of taking the drug. Users have been seen assuming the characteristics of animals like bulls, mice, felines, and dogs. It was an Alchemax-designed drug, but "unstable even by their standards" to the point that users often die painfully from the toll it takes on their systems.
- Chain is one of the most illegal of drugs in that era. In 2099 A.D. Genesis, it was revealed that the legislation on Chain had been upgraded from a "thirty-year stretch" (being physically aged by three decades) for possession to a "death penalty" for even having it on one's person. In his only appearance in the 2099 comics, the Daredevil of that era planted a dime bag of Chain on a drug dealer just to make sure the dealer never pushes drugs again. At the time, the dealer had been peddling a drug laced with "a rider chemical" that "causes communicable sterility". In short, Daredevil signed a drug dealer's death warrant for trying to sterilize everyone in Downtown.
- Perhaps the most bizarre example was found in X-Nation #1. The main characters, a group of teenagers living at the Xavier Institute for Indigent Children, had slipped away to a bar and try a unique hallucinogen: milk. They attached diodes to their foreheads; drinking milk stimulated their brains into producing bizarre hallucinations. But as one of them insisted, "'s really good f'r your bones an' teeeeeth."
- Fling a Light into the Future: Captain America was frozen yet again in the last days of the Age of Heroes. Because he was able to give a first-person account, Miguel is able to avert another such disaster, and in the end save humanity.
- From Bad to Worse: Invoked twice. The first was when Herod and a fake Captain America overthrew Doom, killed nearly all of the remaining heroes, and wiped out everyone in Latveria. The second was when the Phalanx cause over half of the land mass to be flooded, forcing most of humanity to flee to the Savage Land… and then deal with the aliens.
- Generation Xerox: Played straight and subverted, Depending on the Writer. Some characters may share similar powers to their namesakes, but have almost entirely different personalities, personal lives, and overall goals. The villains differ even moreso from their main universe counterparts.
- Heroic Albino: La Lunatica from X-Men 2099.
- Heroic Sacrifice: Doom, giving up his life to destroy the Phalanx.
- History Repeats: Twice—with the same character to boot! John Herod's Captain America clone had "being refrozen in a block of ice to be freed later again" as his cover story, though as mentioned above, this fate actually did befall the real Steve Rogers.
- Impossibly Cool Weapon: The Punisher's grenazers. Grenazers.
- Ironic Nickname: The proposal for Daredevil 2099 had "Daredevil" be one for the main character, who was to start out as a corporate lawyer who is perfectly content to get his paycheck from handling boring but safe cases.
- Kill 'em All: The final issue of Ravage 2099 is one of the most thorough deck-clearing exercises in comic book history. Doom shows up, douses the entire island in liquid Adamantium with Ravage and his entire supporting cast on it, then fires the lot directly into space. The end. Even the letter column is pretty matter-of-fact about this.
- Left Hanging: 2099: World of Tomorrow ends with the mutant and human survivors trying to work something out in the Savage Land, Miguel leaving to search for his brother, and D/Monix trying to claim Ghost Rider. Manifest Destiny reveals that Miguel found his brother, and that the mutants and humans managed to barely survive each other, but Ghost Rider’s sole appearance makes no mention of the cliffhanger. That doesn’t even mention the few billion other plotlines the writers were forced to give up on.
- Let's You and Him Fight: But of course.
- Multi-Ethnic Name:
- Miguel O'Hara is Portuguese/Spanish and Irish.
- Kenshiro Cochrane is Japanese and Scottish/Irish.
- Nice Job Fixing It, Villain!: When Miguel O'Hara decided to leave Alchemax, Tyler Stone slipped him some Rapture, so he would either stay with Alchemax to get more, or die. When Miguel tried to remove it using a gene splicer, Aaron Delgato, Miguel's co-worker, sabotaged the attempt with Spider DNA. That wound up bestowing Miguel with spider-powers that would enable him to become one of Alchemax's biggest enemies.
- President Evil: Believe it or not, A fake, robotic Captain America of all people.
- Red Right Hand: Pretty much every villain.
- Superpowered Evil Side:
- Inverted with Hulk 2099. The big green monster actually develops a heroic personality, while his human side, Eisenhart, verges on a sociopath.
- An odd example or maybe just a complete aversion, since Eisenhart was a horrible person before he became a Hulk but became a much better person after that. He was Good Is Not Nice most of the time post-irradiation.
- Super Reflexes:
- Unlike his namesake, Spider-Man 2099 does not have a Spider-Sense per se. Instead, he has enhanced perceptions that happen to tune in more quickly to what's pertinent, such as an immediate danger or a general plot point. Unlike Spider-Sense, it's limited by what his senses are focused on, and he can still be caught flat-footed.
- His counterpart in Timestorm does have Spider-Sense. However he was also given his powers at a much younger age.
- Taking You with Me: Doom tricks the Phalanx into coming after him, waits until they’ve got him cornered... and then orders an orbital strike, killing himself AND destroying the Phalanx fleet in one swoop.
- Title by Number: All the books have 2099 in their title.
- Twofer Token Minority: Spider-Man 2099 is of both Irish and Mexican descent.
- Ultimate Universe: The alternate 2099 seen in Timestorm 2009-2099.
- Urban Segregation: The New York of 2099 is a clear example of vertical segregation. The city's affluent classes live and work "Uptown" in luxurious skyscrapers built on top of the existing real estate. At the time of the comics, "Downtown" is a dimly-lit slum only for the poor and needy and desperate; Uptown citizens venturing Downtown are warned to proceed at their own risk.
- Villain Protagonist: Doom and the Punisher.