Thursday, October 9, 2003

Ultimate Six #2 - A Review

Written by: Brian Michael Bendis
Penciled by: Trevor Hairsine
Inked by: Danny Miki
Colored by: Dave Stewart
Lettered by: Chris Eliopoulous
Editor: Ralph Macchio
Publisher: Marvel Comics

Doctor Octopus has always been, for my money, the best Spider-Man villain ever. Why? Well, he’s one of the first villains Peter Parker ever fought… in fact, Peter faced him more than any other villain during the history of Stan Lee’s run. His origin also closely mirrored Peter’s; a man of science unwittingly given powers after a lab accident. But Otto Octavius’ accident also effected his mind, turning a once benevolent scientist, probably the greatest expert on radiation on the planet, into a jealous and petty madman. So I couldn’t help but feel a little sorry for the guy as there was a little bit of suggestion that his taking the path of villain was not completely his fault; he was as much a victim of circumstance as Peter Parker.

But despite that sympathetic element, he was still every bit the villain. He was one of the few villains who could match wits with Peter on the level of a scientist. He also proved to be no mean strategist, leading most of the various incarnations of the Sinister Six against Spider-Man. And depending on who is writing him, he is also one of the few villains who can match Peter insult for insult, quip for quip… and exhibits no mean sense of humor himself. I remember a scene in one of the Spider-Man novels (Revenge of the Sinister Six, I believe), where he is holding the Bugle Staff hostage, recognizes Betty Brant and thanks her for being “one of my first, and most agreeable hostages”. Betty angrily asks him if it really made him feel powerful, menacing a helpless young woman. (See Amazing Spider-Man #12, true believer!) Doc Ock just smiles and says, “Yes, actually, it did. Thank you for being so kind as to ask.” And nobody, but nobody else in the Spider-Man rogue’s gallery almost married Aunt May.

It’s going to be a good time to be a Doc Ock fan in the coming months. In addition to getting a costume redesign and a new story arc in Spectacular Spider-Man, he’s also going to be appearing in TWO mini-series; the first of which, Negative Exposure, also came out this week with “Out of Reach” starting later this year. And of course he will be THE villain in the Spider-Man sequel coming out this summer. And then, of course, we have this… his appearance in Ultimate Six.

Bendis has translated the classic character of Doctor Ocatvius into the Ultimate universe beautifully. Though he was rather amoral before the accident, working for the unethical Norman Osborn AND acting as a spy for rival Justin Hammer, his vicious streak doesn’t fully emerge until he is left as a freak “just to see what would happen” by Hank Pym and other SHIELD Scientists. Though it is unclear if he has been driven completely insane by the accident in this universe, it is clear that he is just as twisted now, as his 616 counterpart. Still, it is Otto who is the first to “break ranks” in the holding cell arranged for him and four other “illegal genetic mutations” (To wit- Green Goblin, Kraven the Hunter, Electro and The Sandman) and offer to help Hank Pym and his scientist with curing the conditions of the other villains.

Not surprisingly (at least to us fans of the good/bad Doctor), things go wrong and Otto effects a brilliant plan which results in the escape of all the villains in question. The issue closes as they escape and discuss finding “the Sixth man”… who turns out to be someone that I had not seen mentioned in ANY of the on-line discussions regarding this story arc.

The art by Hairsine and Miki is quite different from the styles of the artists on both Ultimate Spider-Man and The Ultimates, but still enjoyable. It has the fine detail of Bryan Hitch’s pencils, but is much cleaner and smoother flowing. It has the cleaner feel of Mark Bagley’s pencils, but also seems much darker and more subdued than the high-energy, every-moving style that Bagley employs. In short, the art, like the story, appears to be merging two totally different styles and succeeding… forgive the pun… Marvelously.

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