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READ MY LIBRARY ENTRY 62: The Superior Foes of Spider-Man!

Beware the Superior Foes of Spider-Man!

Beware the Superior Foes of Spider-Man!

Thanks to the run he did on DC’s tenure with the T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents and his excellent Image book Morning Glories, Max has been a big fan of Nick Spencer for a while, but hasn’t read any of his Marvel work…until now!  With the first trade paperback of Superior Foes of Spider-Man now available and given to him as a birthday gift, Max dives headfirst into Nick Spencer and Steve Lieber goodness to find a title in which you really don’t need Spider-Man at all to have a good time, just some dastardly no goods who are literally no good at what they do!

Super-Fly Comics & Games’ plucky sidekick Max Lake has embarked on a journey to read his collection of comics! Join Max every Thursday as he takes on his Library! Titles reviewed by this blog do not necessarily reflect what the store has in stock, but you can always email the store to special order something that you’ve seen here at superflycomics@gmail.com. You can also call Super-Fly at (937) 767-1445 or just ask someone at the store next time you’re there for special orders. You can read past entries of the blog here. Any questions or comments for Max should be sent to maxdlake@gmail.com. Comments are currently closed, though we’re looking into a new way to do comments so stay tuned. Check out @maxdlake to follow Max on Twitter. Most entries deal with Max re-capping what he’s read in detail, so be aware that there is a SPOILER WARNING for this and all entries, though Max usually leaves out the big spoilers/shockers/moments and leaves those for the reader to discover. The things Max writes do not necessarily reflect the views of Super-Fly Comics & Games, and Super-Fly Comics & Games is not responsible for what Max says—especially anything that bugs you.

Hey hey all you Super-Flyers and Fly-Hards!  Welcome to yet another edition of the Read My Library Blog, where I get down with the books that take up my reading space and give you the low down on ‘em!  This week, I chose a super new addition to the Library, something my wife gave me for my birthday (May 11th) a day early: the first trade paperback of Marvel’s Superior Foes of Spider-Man written by Nick Spencer and drawn by Steve Lieber.  I was interested in this series for a couple reasons.  First off, as a lifelong Spider-Man fan, I remember fondly back to my middle school/high school years of collecting and a mini-series that came along called The Sinister Foes of Spider-Man, which focused on the members of the Sinister Syndicate (such as the Beetle, Hydroman, Speed Demon, Boomerang and the Rhino) as they tried (and failed) to commit crimes and get one over on everyone’s favorite neighborhood webslinger. The other reason I was interested in this series was its author, Nick Spencer, who I am most familiar with due to his phenomenal run on DC’s time with the classic T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents characters (if only DC would publish Spencer’s run in one volume!  Like a T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents Archives Vol. 8!!!) and a little less so with his excellent Image series Morning Glories (which I need to read more of!).  Though Spencer has now spent a majority of his career as a (mostly) Marvel exclusive writer, I have yet to read any of his work at the House of Ideas.  While I was tempted to check out his run on Secret Avengers, I knew I couldn’t resist Superior Foes of Spider-Man, and I’m glad I went for this series in its first graphic novel collection—even though it is somewhat of a far cry from the Sinister Foes series of old.

While there are some similarities between Superior Foes and Sinister Foes, the biggest ones are that it’s a comic that focusses on the bad guys and that these bad guys are less than successful.  That’s where their paths diverge.  Superior Foes is less serious and is instead funny, and is practically humorous in its characters’ ineptitude—the book is practically a comedy of errors. But it’s also genuinely funny too in the way the characters interact with each other, reminding me a bit of another comic of my earlier youth: DC’s Justice League International by Keith Giffen, J.M. DeMatteis and Kevin Maguire.  While not quite the “BWAH HA HA” laugh riot of JLI, there’s still quite a lot of chuckles to be had. Surprisingly, Superior Foes features a couple of the same characters from Sinister Foes of Spider-Man, former members of the Sinister Syndicate: Boomerang, Speed Demon and an all new (female) Beetle, along with the Shocker and newcomer Overdrive (who I hadn’t even heard of before this series).  Together, these five are the Sinister Six.  Confused?  So are they, and though Beetle rallies the team for another member, Boomerang is quick to point out that they have a sense of mystery about them this way, and better yet, they only have to split the loot five ways instead of six.  Plus, no one wants to go back to the Sinister Syndicate name (Boomerang and Speed Demon remember their losing ways in Sinister Foes of Spider-Man too it seems!).

Boomerang is the leader of the “Six,” and though he has recently undergone a costume change and aspires to great things with his new team, he ends up getting pretty quickly caught by a briefly manifesting Spider-Man, webbed up, and thrown in jail for his latest crime spree.  While it is assumed that the Spider-Man here is really the “Superior” Spider-Man with Doctor Octopus on the inside of Peter Parker’s body, no commentary or timeline are given on this issue and whoever it is in the Spider-suit, it’s pretty much their only appearance in the entire first six issues/trade paperback.  I really liked that about this book, as Spidey is already all over the Marvel Universe and in more than one comic book.  This book is about just the villains and rightly so!  At any rate, Boomerang must then convince his teammates to bail him out, which they don’t go for at all.  Some lies and manipulations later, Boomerang successfully gets the “Six” to bail him out of the clink, and then he and his team are off and running on one scheme after another.  However, the lying and scheming that Boomerang used to get out of jail required a mystery partner (who I refuse to spoil for you here) who enlists Boomerang and his team on a certain heist for a certain item that could be seen as desirable and notable for the underworld of the Marvel Universe—and though the “Six” won’t see a dime of payment for this risky mission, only Boomerang knows that.  Of course, the truth is the last thing Boomerang wants to tell his teammates.

Along the way to this mission, Boomerang comes up with just about every conceivable distraction he can, or the “Six” does for him, including voting Boomerang off as leader and kicking him off the team.  Meanwhile, Boomerang also has to deal with the parole board after his recent jailing and gets a parole officer so…fitting, it’s once again something I don’t feel comfortable spoiling here.  I will say it is a familiar face to Boomerang, as well as longtime readers of the Marvel U, and Boomerang does everything in his power to manipulate this person to his own ends. In fact, that’s one aspect of the book that makes it so interesting: it is villains the book concentrates on, and because of that, these characters are constantly lying, cheating and backstabbing each other to their own machinations and desires—even when it is short sighted or not really a good idea, and this new Sinister “Six” have plenty of bad ideas, perhaps Boomerang the most of all.  While he is an effective leader in many ways, he is also effectively screwing his team over big time, and (almost) none of them are aware of this or the ramifications it holds for them.

New Beetle's the leader of the New Sinister "Six"

The new Sinister “Six” votes Beetle the new leader, with disastrous consequences!

The story builds for quite a bit with the team going through growing pains and inner fighting; apparently getting nearly wiped out by the Punisher; getting beat up by super heroes and captured; living to fight another day and re-electing Boomerang as leader, until at last it’s time for the mission Boomerang’s secret partner has set them upon.  Boomerang being the idiot he is, goes about it all wrong, but the all new female Beetle (who the rest of the team is head over heels for) has gone out of her way to organize a game plan that Boomerang is less than eager to utilize.  Still, it is this organization that may help the team survive the dangers that lie within the crime boss’ (another Marvel Universe stalwart) lair where the legendary item may actual reside.  Of course, because things often go wrong for our villains, they do here as well and only a couple of them may actually make it out alive…or maybe not.  Maybe one of them has an ace up their sleeve…?  It turns out we didn’t know as much about the members of the “Six” or their secret mission as much as we thought they did, and when someone left for dead survives, the craziest thing of all goes and happens.  Again, I don’t want to spoil anything, but I can’t wait to read the next TPB, and may break down and go track down the issues.  This series is that good.  I am so glad I got this book!

Nick Spencer writes a totally different story than I’ve seen him write before.  All of the “Six” are lowlife scum, but he makes them likable, even sympathetic, and not in a Tony Soprano way that you feel bad they’re having panic attacks or something equally horrible but they’re super cool anyway.  No, the members of the new Sinister Six are LOSERS and they are not cool, they’re all selfish jerks.  But you can’t help but root for them anyway, or at least laugh when they’re getting their lumps.  You don’t like that this mystery partner is manipulating them for a suicidal mission that will pay them nothing.  You don’t want to see them die, even though they probably deserve it.  There’s some great character interaction and development, and even though the characters are nogoodniks, you can’t help but be entertained by the way they act and interact.

Equally impressive are Steve Lieber’s visuals.  The characters are rendered in a nice style that is crisp and detailed, but with distinct lines and a great look to it that is not too realistic yet not cartoony either.    There are cartoon-like elements to the book, including the multiple times pictures are used as word balloons for each member of the “Six” to great effect.  It’s a perfect match to the book full of undesirable losers in (mostly) cool looking costumes that you can’t help but love.

Superior Foes Balloons

The “Six” bail out Boomerang, and we see their “word” balloons full of pictures, a device repeated a few times in the series to great effect!

While some were prophesying the end of Superior Foes with the end of the Doc Ock era of Spider-Man, issue #13 was just solicited in the latest issue of Previews, a time after the return of Peter Parker to his webhead role, which just goes to show that you can’t keep good (or at least idiotic) villains down.  I’m very happy to see this book continue, as it is yet another current Marvel book (along with Mark Waid’s Daredevil and Hulk books) that I enjoy reading and want to see more of.  Clearly it’s good I’ve shaken myself out of my DC-and-indy-only-and-non-Marvel ways last year! (What was I thinking back then?!?) I also owe a big “thank you” to my wife Maureen, for getting me to read Marvel in the first place, and for buying me this great graphic novel out of my file for my birthday!

Once again, I’ve written past my bedtime, so it’s “so long for now” from this end to you, Super-Flyers and Fly-Hards, till next week do we meet again!

Past entries of the Read My Library Blog

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