Ultimate Spider-Man #16

   When you’re exploring the mind of a madman as a writer, you walk a fine line of making the madness something folks can relate to in some way which makes the character that much more frightening to the reader or you make his ramblings so incoherent that you don’t know what the hell is going on so you end up losing interest in the story. The problem I am seeing with Doctor Octopus in the story two date is a little two fold. One, we don’t have much to base his character on. We had a brief introduction to him when Peter toured the Osborn facility and he stole some of Peter’s blood. From there we see him involved in the explosion at the labs which he spends time in a government hospital for and now he is cuckoo bananas. We as readers are not going to like every character we see but we have to have some sort of reaction to them. For Doctor Octopus, I am not having that reaction. Any sort of feelings I have for the character are more related to his status as a villain in the original Spider-Man universe (Marvel Universe 616 for you nerds out there).   Doc Ock is currently having issues remembering his past which brings him to the home of some other rich industrialist. It is implied that Otto had been giving the person who owned that room industrial secrets from Osborn Labs. That is fine and all but it doesn’t do much to explain what is really going on because again, we’ve not spent too much time with this character to really know what motivates him.

   Think of Star Wars: The Phantom Menace. The big badass of the film was Darth Maul. A part from having a cool look and being a part of a great fight scene, what do we know about him? No, we don’t need to know his whole life story but what motivates him? Why is he a Sith? What brought him to be aligned with Darth Sidious? We don’t know this information. We’re expected to not like the guy because he’s wearing black and he has horns. That is not the way to give us a bad guy in a story. We have to know what motivates him. Even if that motivation is based on incorrect information of if the guy just loves being evil, knowing the motivation for why they are bad is key to making us as the audience have the reaction the writer wants us to have in the story. In the case of a movie there can be some cheats of course which comics can replicate in a sense two since they both involve visual and written arts together. But making a guy look bad is not the way to set him up for you audience to accept him as bad. They just may think he’s an idiot.

   We get our first official introduction to SHIELD in this issue. Turns out the room that Doc Ock trashed was owned by one Justin Hammer. Folks that are fans of the Marvel Cinematic Universe will recognize that name of course since Justin Hammer, played by the great Sam Rockwell, played a younger version of the character in that movie. This character will end up having the same type of values as the movie version but since we are just meeting him here we don’t know that. He’s just a very important business man that has enough clout that he can discuss top secret information with SHIELD agents.

   It is interesting that our first introduction to SHIELD is clouded. The casual Marvel fan will probably have nothing but good things to say about the organization what with the characters they see on a regular basis like Nick Fury, Agent Coulson, Agent May, and others but here we’re not quite sure where SHIELD stands. If they’re talking to someone who has been involved in corporate espionage they themselves may not be an organization that we should trust. I like that they kept the agents appearance so ambiguous.

   We do get a little follow up with Gwen Stacy this issue. Her motivation for pulling the knife on Kong is that no one was helping Peter after Kong kicked him. She wanted to help him out, especially since she stated she thought he was cute. That is nice and all but as I stated in my previous review, her actions are quite ridiculous for what the situation asked for. I mean, she saw that Peter and Kong earlier had been having a conversation about mutants that didn’t result in Kong kicking Peter’s ass so her reaction was quite stupid if you ask me. Not that it is bad that she defended someone but you would think there were any number of ways that she could have responded that didn’t involve recreating the fight scene from West Side Story.

Bottom Line:

   It is my job to critique. Just because I look for things that may not have gone right in a story doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy the work. This story was pretty damn good considering some of the areas that I felt Bendis failed with. My biggest issue overall has to do with the sheer lack of information we have about Doctor Octopus. He’s killed a few people so sure he’s a bad guy but as of now we don’t have any motivation apart from insanity that is driving him to do what he is doing. The original Doctor Octopus was very much insane as well after enduring a nuclear accident but you did get the impression that, no matter how wrong his motivation was, that he had something he was working towards. He had a goal. He had motivation. So far, Doc Ock in the Ultimate universe does not have that motivation.

   The art work this issue was nothing to write home about but it wasn’t bad. I would call it average. It didn’t do anything amazing that really stood out but it kept the story chugging along without too much distraction.

Hulk #1

Hulk

Yet another number 1 issue, this time dealing with The Hulk. Marvel as of late it seems have been doing what television has been doing for years and having self contained stories involving their popular characters during a set issue limit. Basically, we’re getting a season involving one story that will come to a close. We’re past the time in Marvel at least where we see issues get to issue 100, 200, or 500.

This starts off with the premise that Bruce Banner has been shot in the head. A group claiming to be SHIELD takes a brain surgeon to operate on him. Turns out this doctor has a history with Bruce since they had gone to college together and he had teased him. That gives the doctor a chance to reminisce on their history together and to ask himself what he could have possibly done to have changed Bruce Banner’s path towards being the Hulk. We then learn that the people we thought were SHIELD are another group altogether looking to use the Hulk as a weapon.

I like the decision the doctor has to make. He realizes that as a doctor he has sworn to protect life at all costs but he also realizes that if the Hulk were manipulated by anyone else he’d be a dangerous weapon that could be used to kill people the world over. The conscience decision that he has to make is a great element of this story.

I also like the fact that what ultimately saves everyone is the actions of someone who had happened to be saved by the Hulk in the past. While the Hulk is certainly guilty of lots of destruction over the years, LOTS of destruction, he still ends up doing the right thing at the end of the day. It was a nice little nod to his past that helped shape the course of this story without having to rely too much on past events.

For the most part I liked how the past is used to service the story at hand. While you do have to have a base knowledge of the Marvel Universe as a whole coming in to simply know some of the basics like The Hulk himself or SHIELD and the members of SHIELD we encounter like Coulson and Maria Hill, this does not stop you from enjoying the story at hand. What I would have liked to see though was a little more explanation as to how and why Bruce Banner was shot. I have no clue as to what was going on so I did feel a little lost at the start of the story.

The artwork was pretty solid. The locations appeared quite small which did hold back from the believe-ability of the story at hand. It’s my biggest complaints with comics as a whole. The story needs to feel big. It needs to feel like it is taking place in a real location. Yeah, not all stories need Sergio Leone type of locations to be included in it but it does need to feel real. The main location for this story, the hospital room where the Hulk was being operated upon, felt like a set which, hey, I’ve watched enough television over the years to suspend disbelief but it did throw me a bit.

Bottom Line:

This is a good start. You do feel a little lost if you don’t know some of the hows and whys as to how the Hulk was shot but that shouldn’t take away your enjoyment of the this issue. A strong majority of the issue dealing with back story is used to enhance the story at hand. I give this story a strong 6.

The biggest issue most folks have with comics is the sheer volume of stories told over the years. You don’t know where to start. You also fall into the trap of starting at a certain point only to find out the greatest friend a comic book writer ever had, Captain Ret-Con, can change elements of stories that you may like, such as writers deciding Mary Jane Watson and Peter Parker should no longer be married. (Oops. Spoiler.) Much like the television show Doctor Who as well as the mother of all great modern television shows Buffy the Vampire Slayer, comics today, mainly the stories coming from companies with characters who have been around for many years, should focus on having a series be a finite set of issues, a season involving one story if you will. The next season can reference what happens in the previous season if it wishes but letting a comic line for a character like the Hulk go past fifty issues at the very most will just intimidate people and keep them from diving into the story. I am not saying back story should be done away with. As was done in this story, the history of characters can be used to great effect to further the story at hand. The thing is the average reader should not have to take a college course just to get a primer on the action at hand.

The art work, while average, does not really disappoint. It’s not sloppy like some comics like to do today which is nice. My biggest issue has to do with the locations in the story. It comes across like it is being filmed or drawn if you will on a sound stage. I like depth in the scenery of my stories. For that, I have to give the artwork a 6 as well. It was good, it served its purpose, but it is easily forgettable.