Comics : Marvel Comics Presents (Vol. 2) #8
As a former member of the Avengers and Nextwave, Machine Man has never been lauded by his team mates. He's certainly respected, and valued in a fight, but he's constantly found himself on the C-list of super heroes. Perhaps because of that, he now finds himself at a therapist's office in search of some guidance.
Marvel Comics Presents (Vol. 2) #8 (Story 2)
Summary: Spider-Man appears
Arc: Part 1 of "Imitation Skin"
We open up with Ultron attacking Machine Man and Spider-Man misunderstanding the situation and attacking them both. As a flashback, it's rather difficult to pinpoint the specific time of this scene. Ultron identifies himself as Ultron-5, and Spider-Man seems a bit naïve so that would point to an early point in the Marvel Universe. However, Machine Man's first appearance was in 1977, so it's difficult to say when this actually took place.
Back at the office of Machine Man's therapist we get a very brief look at the history of Machine Man and his problem with not holding a proper identity.
Flashing back to the battle, Spider-Man appears to have the upper hand in the struggle as he disables both Ultron and Machine Man. However, the tides somehow turn and Spider-Man find himself holding on to Machine Man as he tows Ultron into space, eventually causing Ultron to blow up.
Back at the therapists office, Ultron's head crashes through the ceiling, his flashback colliding with the present day. Even odder, the therapist doesn't seem to notice.
First thing we should do is take all the continuity issues and place them in a little box. Let's mark that box "Stuff that doesn't make sense". Now, looking at the story itself, let's take a look at the stuff that doesn't make sense on its own. First off, the fight is completely disjointed and confusing. Spider-Man beating Ultron and Machine Man is odd enough, but going from standing in victory to flying in space seems to involve an enormous gap in time. One that is never explained and serves to be a bit annoying.
Next, the whole question of a robot going to a mental health expert. Machine Man's father placing his memories would supposedly be the source of that, but it would also imply that his mental state actually changes over time, which would require a working brain. But I suppose going down that direction will lead us down the dark corridor of super hero science which is a step removed from magic.
Looking at the story itself, there's a juxtaposition between Ultron, Machine Man, and Spider-Man that's a bit interesting. These three characters represent humanity and robotity in various points on a continuum. Ultron is a somewhat fitting description of a standard artificial life form, albeit one with some extreme tendencies. Spider-Man is the every man as always, the basic type of person used to represent humanity. Machine Man is trapped in-between these two extremes, not being one or the other. This is leading to his identity crisis and his subsequent visit to the therapist. It's an interesting premise, although a therapist being a uniquely human source of therapy, a hybrid might have been more fitting. Perhaps a philosophical mechanic? I don't know, just throwing a possible option out there.
So, there's a rather interesting premise here buried in various flubs with storytelling and continuity. On the one hand, it should be applauded for doing something a little different, but on the other hand, it's hard to imagine the Marvel Universe being so small that only big name characters like Spider-Man and Ultron would need to be used to create what looks to be a reconstructed memory. Something tells me this story would have been better served by using characters who are more obscure, or maybe characters who are actually original. But this is a Marvel comic, so let's not get too nuts.
Bumping this story out of slightly below average territory is the art by Niko Henrichon. I adored his work in Pride of Baghdad and have been anxious to see him do something again soon. While this wouldn't be my first choice, I did enjoy seeing his take on the characters involved. It would be nice to see him on a title that's a little more Spider-man centric.
It's worth looking at for the art to be sure and the concept ain't too shabby. It's a shame the plotting let's this one down.