Superior Foes of Spider-Man #5

Posted by Mike McNulty, a.k.a. Stillanerd 20 November 2013

So after four issues of planning and scheming and the occasional backstabbing, the Sinister Six (although there's now only four members what with Boomerang having stuffed Shocker inside the trunk of a car and pushed over a bridge because he knew about Boomerang working with the Chameleon) are finally going to pull off the biggest caper any super-villain has ever dared to try—the heist of the fabled head of Silvermane. Will these would-be master criminals succeed and thus prove themselves as a new force to be reckoned with? And is the Shocker really dead? Well, let me just say right up front that whatever preconceived notions you had about what you thought was going to happen during this heist, toss them out now. Because I guarantee, it really doesn't go the way you would expect it to.

The issue opens at “someplace awful,” with a guy tied to a chair inside of a dingy cell-like room guarded by two thugs. The man in the chair nervously asks if their boss is “going to show up soon,” and we that positioned directly over his head is a netted tube filled with hundreds and hundreds of hungry rats. A voice then tells the tied-up man, whose name is Tommy, “at least he knows it's true” that “the Owl eats rats.” And we see that the voice belongs to the Owl.

Tommy attempts to sputter out an apology, only the Owl is busy tending to the rats, explaining to Tommy the difficulties of feeding rats, how quickly they breed, and how their teeth never stop growing—saying they can reach up to a foot long—and grind them down as they literally “eat you out of your house and home.” Then he tells Tommy they should discuss his being “caught with [his] hand in mommy's knicker drawer.” It seems Tommy has stolen a good deal of money from the Owl and has spent it all on endless partying. The Owl politely demands that Tommy to pay the money back along with a “healthy return investment,” and that he might forgive him and consider going future business with him. Tommy, however, says that even though he doesn't have the money, he can repay the Owl by showing him how he robbed the Owl in the first place, how he got away with it for as long as he did, and that the Owl can pass that knowledge to his associates.

The Owl, seemingly intrigued, tells Tommy this “interesting proposition” reminds him of a story back when he was working for his former boss, the Man-Bull. He says there was once this “golden opportunity” that required an expert safe-cracker, and that he and Man-Bull choose a retired ex-con named Willie Valentine. Problem was, Willie doted on his Romanian wife, so when he told her about the heist, she wouldn't allow it. So the Owl and Man-Bull decided to blackmail Willie into doing the heist: Man-Bull would go Willie's house and hold his wife hostage and set-up a camera. Then the Owl would show Willie the video feed to coerce him into going along with the robbery, or Man-Bull would do “terrible things” to Willie's wife. However, it turns out that Man-Bull was “quite the smooth talker” with woman and literally wined and dined Willie's wife. So when the Owl showed Willie the camera feed, instead of seeing Man-Bull threatening the wife, they saw her having sex with him. Thus, there was no longer any leverage on Willie and it put the Owl in a “awkward spot.” However, the Owl says he learned an important lesson: “if you want to get a man to do something for you, best not show a tape of a bull **** his wife.” And that moment, the rats chew through the ropes of their net and tumble on top of Tommy as he screams.

As the Owl leaves the room, he tells his men to grab a few of the rats when their done as he's “starving.” When then see a full-page spread of the Owl eating a rat as Boomerang's narration reads “So yeah...this guy, right? Let's rob him.”

We then see the remaining members of the Sinister Six, Boomerang, Speed Demon, Beetle, and Overdrive, on a rooftop overlooking the Owl's compound, ready to carry out the heist of Silvermane's head. Boomerang says that the guards are changing shifts which means they have to move fast. Speed Demon doesn't realize this was his cue. When he does, he points out how he's “a little off” due to his ankle injury, which he's treated with duct tape and wears a Rollerblade. Beetle then states how they should go over the plan again, and passes out binders for each of them which contain their individualized assignments, maps, fail-safes, alibis, etc.—all of them color-coordinated and having a glossary of terms—that she put together the night before. While Overdrive believes this is helpful, Boomerang angrily tosses the binders away and reminds Beetle that he's the one in charge. Beetle counters by saying if Boomerang gave the “slightest indication” of knowing what he was doing, then she wouldn't have any problem following his orders. Boomerang tells her the job is easy to understand as it's just a simple “snatch and grab,” but Beetle states that if he's such a great leader to tell them what happened to the Shocker.

Boomerang, not wanting to reveal his double-cross from last issue, states that the Shocker “chickened out.” Beetle doesn't buy this, stating that the Shocker probably quit because, like her, he doesn't have any confidence in Boomerang's “non-plan.” Boomerang responds to the accusation by claiming that the Shocker put himself into the position of choosing between himself and his teammates “after years of self-doubt and paranoia,” and that the team doesn't really need him as they have plenty of “firepower” as it is. And after sarcastically suggesting the Beetle can go down to the Owl's men and annoy them with “paperwork” as well, he once again orders that they have to move fast and this time, Speed Demon runs off.

Speed Demon then quickly takes out the guards, and in the process hits a dumpster and topples to the ground, though he radios back that he's "good." Overdrive then pilots a remote control helicopter and, with his powers, transforms it into a full-sized, fully armed Apache helicopter, which then blasts the front of the Owl's compound with rocket launchers. With the perimeter secure, the Sinister Six regroup at the entrance. However, Speed Demon says they have about 10 seconds before the rest of the guards show up. Boomerang tries to stay calm, telling the team that everything's going to be fine as long as they stick together and have each others backs. He then proceeds to lead them to the direction where they need to go, only to complete forget whether they have to take the second hallway on the left or right. An exasperated Beetle then hands Boomerang one of her binders to show him the map. We then get a two-page spread that's a cross-section of the inside Owl's base, which shows, among other things, armed guards, a giant masher with blood, werewolves, giant scorpions, ninjas, a mustached fitness trainer with a nun-chuck, killer plants, a huge loris monkey, and the vault containing Silvermane's head.

The Sinister Six then charge into the compound and attack the first wave of guards, with Boomerang narrating how everything has been building towards this big score, that if they fail here, they might as well “pack up the tights right now,” but also expressing full confidence in his team. Boomerang is then being pinned down by one of the Owl's men, he orders the others to go get the head without him while he holds off the guards. Thus Speed Demon, Beetle, and Overdrive fight their way down through waves of guards, avoiding the giant masher, then barely escaping the werewolves, only to run into the giant scorpions, all the while barely holding it together and getting more and more terrified.

Meanwhile, Boomerang knocks out the guard who had him pinned and then...causally strolls over to an elevator (which he purposefully neglected to tell the rest of the Sinister Six about) and takes it down to the bottom floor, thus avoiding all the booby-traps, monsters, and guards. Boomerang then turns to the elevator's security camera and waves, and the feed is being watched a very ticked-off Owl. Owl then orders one of his men to bring him his Prius and then, as they make their getaway to call their “friend in Denver” to do a job—one the Owl “suspects [this “friend”] will enjoy.”

Boomerang then reaches the vault and we learn it does not contain, and never did contain, the head of Silvermane. Instead, the vault contains what Boomerang was really after all along—a painting which shows Doctor Doom without his iron mask (Boomerang's hand obscures the face from view) entitled “The True Face of Victor Von Doom,” which Boomerang describes as “the most valuable and sought after piece of art on this Earth.” Furthermore, Boomerang reveals that the head of Silvermane really was just a myth all along, telling the readers, “Did you seriously think that was a real thing?”

We then cut to a scene where a tow-truck is bringing in a wrecked and torched car into a junkyard. The tow-truck operators, believing there's nothing worth salvaging off the car for themselves, leave the yard. Then a series of repeated “thuds” come from the trunk until finally the Shocker kicks the trunk open, crawls out, and collapses to the ground. A voice then asks if the Shocker is all right and we see that it's a boy accompanied by his dog. Shocker gets to his feet as the boy asks if he's hurt, if needs to go to the hospital, or if he should get his mom. Shocker declines the boy's help, groggily telling the boy to “stay in school” and “don't do drugs” while saying how he was double-crossed. He then asks the boy for the way out, and as the boy does so, Shocker sees a remote control car...with the head of Silvermane attached on the top! Then Shocker grabs Silvermane's head and runs off before the boy has has a chance to stop him.

So not only was Boomerang's heist another one of his elaborate cons in order for him to steal something completely different, but the first story he told about Silvermane's head back in issue #3 and believed to have been entirely made-up turns out to have really happened. Definitely didn't see either of these twists coming, and Nick Spencer pulled them both off beautifully. Then again, if you've been reading the series (and if not, why aren't you by now?), clever and witty writing such as this has been par for the course for Spencer since the first issue of the series.

The beginning, however, was quite possibly the best usage of dark humor the comic has used to date, and re-established the Owl as a truly twisted and menacing villain, even if he does care for his “meals” and loves the hum of his electric car. It serves as a horrific reminder that as zany and hilarious The Superior Foes of Spider-Man can be, it is still a comic book about super-villains, and, to paraphrase Wolverine, what these characters do isn't very nice. Even Boomerang, charismatic rogue that he is, is still willing to stoop as low as setting up his own team as cannon fodder to get what he wants. Yet, Spencer manages to make these villains, all of whom certainly not in the top-tier of Marvel's staple of characters--compelling, colorful, and interesting all the same.

Steve Lieber, once again, is also in top form with his illustrations. This time around, we don't just get his quirky images and sight gags such as Boomerang having gears turn in his thoughts as he tries to explain the Shocker's absence, or the Beetle imagining Boomerang being eaten by piranhas, or the clouds of dust with “Pew, Pew” sound effects when Speed Demon takes out a guard. (And there's probably several more that I've missed). Here, we get a whole emotional range, from gruesome moments such as the Owl feasting on a rat, to the fantastic moment where Overdrive's transformation of the remote control helicopter. Particularly memorable is the two-page spread of the Owl's base, which you initially think all the dangers shown must be highly exaggerated only to discover later they are indeed very real.

Funny, action-packed, with great dialogue and character moments, this is yet another outstanding issue with no signs of falling in quality.


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