Comic Book Review: Ultimate Spider-Man #103

It is Christmas Eve here at the Bunker. I think I’ll have enough time to squeeze out one review before the festivities start today. It is hard to find a story arc currently on the market more entertaining than the Clone Saga story arc on Ultimate Spider-Man. Bendis is just killing it on this title. Bendis is a ball of fire and he just keeps cranking out one wildly exciting read after another. There is no doubt in my mind that Ultimate Spider-Man #103 is going to a fantastic read. Let’s hit this review.

Creative Team
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Penciler: Mark Bagley
Inker: Drew Hennessy

Art Rating: 7 Night Girls out of 10
Story Rating: 9 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 8 Night Girls out of 10

Synopsis: We begin with Kitty Pryde at the X-Mansion hearing about the events of the past several issues on the nightly news. Kitty runs off to Professor X and demands that the X-Men immediately go help out her boyfriend Peter. Professor X initially declines stating that Nick Fury is a law enforcement officer and they shouldn’t get involved in this situation. Kitty yells that if this was one of Professor X’s girlfriends then the X-Men would have already been assembled and ready to go. Professor X and Cyclops then agree that the X-Men should go help Peter.

We cut to Aunt May begin admitted into the hospital. Invisible Woman then decides to take a blood sample from Richard Parker. Invisible Woman uses a hospital computer to interface with the Baxter Building computer in order to run tests on Richard Parker’s blood.

We shift to Peter Parker staring at Doctor Octopus and thinking that he should just kill Doctor Octopus. That he is so fast, nobody could stop him from killing Doctor Octopus. Nick Fury proceeds to try and defuse this very tense and hostile standoff between the clones and Doctor Octopus.

The Fantastic Four arrive on the scene and Peter asks Reed to please help Mary Jane. Nick Fury tells Reed not to get involved. Peter gives Mary Jane’s unconscious body to the Thing. The decomposing clone that infected MJ with the Oz serum yells “NO!” and jumps at the Thing. A S.H.I.E.L.D. agent blasts the clone and kills him. Nick Fury yells at his men to stop firing.

Nick Fury tells Doctor Octopus that he has a lot to answer for. Doctor Octopus tells Nick that he doesn’t answer to him. Nick Fury responds that Doctor Octopus is under arrest. Doctor Octopus then reveals that after Spider-Man defeated him, the federal government approached him with a deal. He would get out of jail in turn for working for the federal government to design a super-soldier. That many people in the federal government distrust and hate Nick Fury and his little band of self-loathing super heroes (The Ultimates). That these people in the federal government don’t want Nick Fury being the only person with his finger on what they call the “Captain America” button.

Therefore, the FBI hired Doctor Octopus to engage in research to develop more super soldiers. Doctor Octopus tells Nick Fury that Nick can’t arrest him because he is not in Nick’s jurisdiction. Doctor Octopus then tells Peter that he used Peter’s blood sample from Doctor Connors way back during the Venom story arc. Doctor Octopus tells Peter that his research completely perverts and destroys ever single part of Peter and his life.

We cut back to the hospital where Invisible Woman gets the results back from the blood tests on Richard Parker. The results show that Richard Parker’s blood sample is a 99.342% match for Peter Parker. Richard sees the results and is shocked. Invisible Woman takes Richard by the hand and asks him to take a walk with her.

We cut back to Doctor Octopus telling Peter that the man that Peter thought was his father is just another clone that they rapidly aged and programmed into believing that he was Richard Parker. Doctor Octopus says that his ability to clone Peter is the greatest discovery since Bruce Banner discovered gamma radiation mutation. That Tony Stark, Reed Richards, Norman Osborn nor Richard Parker did it. Doctor Octopus did it. That Doctor Octopus is the smartest of all of them.

Peter then asks Nick to make a deal with him. Peter asks Nick to take his men and leave for ten minutes and leave Doctor Octopus alone with Peter and the clones. Doctor Octopus tells Nick to do his job and round up the spider-clones. That an FBI team is on its way for cleanup. Nick then tells his men to vacate the building. Nick then tells Doctor Octopus that he is right. Nick isn’t in charge of this situation. That Doctor Octopus is. So Doctor Octopus can deal with Peter and the spider-clones.

Suddenly Peter and the clones attack Doctor Octopus. Doctor Octopus is angry that Peter has brought this situation to this level. That Doctor Octopus was trying to keep this part of his life a secret. Suddenly, metal pieces start flying all around the room. One of the metal poles impales and kills the four armed spider-clone.

Doctor Octopus says that it was never his mechanical arms. It was the metal. That Doctor Octopus can control metal. We see Doctor Octopus with newly formed metal arms made from the metal in the lab. End of issue.

The Good: Damn! Bendis does it again! Ultimate Spider-Man #103 is another smoking hot issue. It is incredible how insanely entertaining Bendis’ Clone Saga story arc has been. And this is coming from a person who absolutely despised the 616 Clone Saga story arc. Bendis just keeps topping himself issue after issue to turn in one of the best story arcs that I have read in a long time. I know I may bash on Bendis over on the New Avengers, but I have nothing but the highest praise for his work on Ultimate Spider-Man.

Just when you thought this story arc couldn’t get any crazier, Bendis somehow finds a way to do just that. Ultimate Spider-Man #103 drops two more big bombs on top of the reader. The first is that Richard Parker isn’t who he claims to be. In fact, he is just another Peter Parker clone who has been rapidly aged and programmed to believe that he is Richard Parker. The second bomb is that Doctor Octopus’ true power is the ability to control metal.

I really dig how Bendis is handling Doctor Octopus’ character. In Ultimate Spider-Man 103, Bendis elevated Doctor Octopus from a goofy Spider-Man villain to one of the most evil, sinister, dangerous and hated Spider-Man villains. This is an excellent example of how a writer can take a villain previously viewed as somewhat of a joke and mold and transform him into a big time Class A villain.

Bendis managed to place Doctor Octopus on the same level or possibly even higher than the other great minds in the Ultimate Universe including Reed Richards, Tony Stark and Norman Osborn. And with the revelation that Doctor Octopus can control metal, this villain gets a serious power upgrade as well. Both of these moves convert Doctor Octopus into a Spider-Man villain that I find to be much more detestable and threatening and, therefore, more enjoyable to read about.

Doctor Octopus has been elevated to the status of one of Spider-Man greatest nemesis. Doctor Octopus has completely destroyed every aspect of Peter’s life. It is going to be gratifying to watch Peter deliver some much desired revenge on Doctor Octopus.

I dig that Richard Parker is actually a Peter Parker clone. To me, the fact that Peter is an orphan is crucial to his character. To have one of his parents still alive would change too much of Peter’s basic character that should be present in the Ultimate version just like it is in the 616 version. Certain very basic core elements of a character shouldn’t be messed with when making an ultimate version of a 616 character. For me, Peter Parker just has to be an orphan.

Now, what makes this startling discovery even more intriguing is that Aunt May showed her true face when she thought that Richard Parker was still alive. Aunt May basically admitted to not wanting to raise Peter and that she wanted Peter out of her house and out of her life. Now that Richard Parker is nothing more than a clone of Peter, which would mean that Aunt May would be Peter’s sole guardian once more. After that nasty blowup, I think it would make Peter living with May a bit uncomfortable. It should be fun to see where Bendis goes with this plotline.

Bendis also did a nice job handling Nick Fury in this issue. I love how Nick decides to leave Doctor Octopus to clean up his own mess. I’ll be interested to see what Nick Fury does now that he knows there are forces within the federal government conspiring against him.

The scene with Kitty at the X-Men’s mansion was classic. Bendis shows off his great sense of humor by poking fun at the X-Men’s history of engaging in galaxy spanning adventures just because one of Xavier’s girlfriends might be in trouble. Classic.

I am also incredibly impressed with Bendis’ plotting talents. Bendis has been laying the seeds for the Clone Saga story arc all the way back to the Venom and Carnage story arcs and Gwen Stacy’s death. It is cool to see how Bendis carefully plotted everything out and we are now seeing how the previous pieces to this puzzle all fell in place to lead us to where we are now. This is one excellent job by Bendis to show the ability to deliver strong plotting abilities with such long range plans in mind. Bendis really shows off his incredible vision and planning.

As always, Bendis delivers excellent dialogue. Dialogue is almost always going to be great when Bendis is writing a comic book. It is without a doubt his greatest strength. Bendis also does a great job invoking plenty of emotion and passion from the reader. We can truly feel Peter’s pain as he see how his life has been completely destroyed by Doctor Octopus. We can feel Peter’s hopelessness and rage at the end of this issue. All we want to see is Peter pound that nasty smile off of Doctor Octopus’ face.

Bagley provides some solid artwork. I have never been that wild about his style, but it has slowly grown on me. I never thought it was bad; I just never was particularly impressed with it. Of course, go figure that once I start warming up to Bagley’s style he goes and announces that he will be leaving the title soon. Sheesh.

The Bad: No complaints at all.

Overall: Ultimate Spider-Man #103 was another kick-ass read! Bendis is a ball of fire on this title right now cranking out one exciting issue after another. Right now, Ultimate Spider-Man just might be the most entertaining comic book on the market. If you haven’t given this title a try then do yourself a favor and at least get the trade of the Clone Saga story arc whenever they put one out. I can’t imagine too many people being disappointed with Ultimate Spider-Man.