Superior Foes of Spider-Man #9

Posted by Mike McNulty, a.k.a. Stillanerd 19 March 2014

To recap: Beetle, Speed Demon, and Overdrive, having realized they've been double-crossed by Boomerang, are searching the city to give what's coming to him. Shocker is having to put up with the verbal abuse of his new roommate, the disembodied cybernetic head of Silvio Silvermane. And things would really well for Boomerang after his second date with the nameless, attractive, and sassy bartender only to literally be in the cross-hairs of a somehow not quadriplegic and blind Bullseye. So why is Bulleye, if it's really him, going after Boomerang? And who is the surprise guest-star, or should I say, guest-stars, of this issue? Might as well go ahead and read on to find out.

THE STORY
The issue opens right where the last issue left off, with Fred Myers, aka Boomerang, and the bartender kissing after their date while Bullseye targets them with a telescopic rifle. As Bullseye fires however, Fred pulls a boomerang he hid under his clothes and throws it at the bullet and deflects it's flightpath. 

It's here we then get Boomerang's opinions on Bullseye, and claims the assassin's reputation as a “badass” who “never misses” is overrated and “all about branding.” This, Fred claims, goes back to when he tried to audition to work for the Kingpin, only to be rejected because he didn't have enough “personality.” Which, for Fred, was code that the Kingpin didn't take him seriously because of his original Boomerang costume. He also laments how Bullseye became Daredevil's archenemy simply because he once killed Daredevil's lover, Elektra, while Fred has unsuccessfully tried to become Daredevil's archenemy for years. And as we see a scene of him drinking alone while while Bullseye gets all the attention a bar, Fred concludes by saying how “it's all about marketing” and that he's “twice the assassin for hire” Bullseye is, but never got a chance to prove it.

Back in the present, Fred catches his boomerang he threw to deflect Bullseye's bullet, which stings his hand. Although Fred claims that he's been looking forward to a showdown with Bullseye, he takes the bartender by the hand and runs, tossing boomerangs to deflect more bullets. The bartender says she and Fred are going to die in spite of his reassurances to her because, unlike him, Bullseye is “a real super-villain.” This makes Fred think he has to get himself a new publicist, as he and the bartender find seek refuge inside a church.

Meanwhile, Morris Bench, aka Hydro-Man, shows up at the Shocker's apartment. Shocker opens the door a crack and tries to convince Hydro-Man to leave, only from inside, Silvermane asks if the pizza he wanted has arrived yet. Hydro-Man asks what's going on, and Shocker claims its just the TV, and that now is not a good time. Hydro-Man, however, says that tonight is “movie night” and that he “needs structure” as part of his rehab. Hydro-Man then starts having a nervous breakdown, so Shocker tells him to “give him a second,” closes the door, and attempts to hide Silvermane's head. The commotion makes Hyrdo-Man turn into his water form and seep through the door, short-curcuiting the Shocker's TV in the process. Shocker reluctantly shows Hydro-Man that he has the head of Silvermane, who then proceeds to make fun of Hydro-Man by calling him “Crybaby Man.”

Back at the church, Bullseye kicks open the doors and, gun in hand, demands that Fred come out of hiding. Bullseye states that Fred has bragged all over town about how much better he is. The bartender gives Fred a harsh look, while Fred shrugs his shoulders, acting like he doesn't know what Bullseye is talking about. However, we see a montage of Fred showing off his skill at darts to his Sinister Six, saying “let's see that loser Bullseye do that,” as one of his boomerangs hit the bullseye; then we see him at court defending himself by claiming he's innocent because the client who hired him choose Bullseye, “the second best assassin in New York” instead; and then finally, we see him making out with his defense attorney in the bathroom, telling her how “it's definitely bigger than Bullseye's.” 

Bullseye continues by saying that, even though he was in the middle of a much more important job, he took the offer from the person who hired him to kill Fred because he wanted to give Fred the chance “set the record straight” and demands that Fred to “show me what you got.” Fred then jumps out of hiding and throws his boomerang directly at Bullseye...and misses, the boomerang flying out of the church. As Bullseye has Fred at gunpoint, Fred hopes to distract him long enough until the boomerang can return to hit Bullseye in the back of the head. However, Bullseye interrupts their conversation to close the church doors, thus making the boomerang strike them instead of Bullseye, and make Fred think “Wow. He really is good.” In desperation, Fred uses the bartender as a human shield, saying “You can kill me...just don't don't kill the woman I love!” a move which makes Bullseye face-palm and declare “this is embarrassing.” The bartender, very pissed off, calls Fred pathetic and elbows him in the groin, making Fred sees stars and double-over in pain. And before he passes out, he sees Bullseye hitting on the bartender.

Back at the Shocker's apartment, Hydro-Man tells Shocker that with the head of Silvermane in his possession, Shocker could be a major crime boss. But the Shocker says he never really wanted to be a crime boss as it's too much responsibility. When Hydro-Man tries to counter that the Shocker would be set for life, Shocker points out how it never really works out that way, that anyone who tries to become a crime boss either ends up dead, in jail, or hounded by the Feds, the Avengers, or the Kingpin. Shocker adds that, unlike Boomerang, he always saw being a super-villain as just another job, not a means to get to the top, to just keep his head down and get out early. Shocker says he knows this makes others think he's a coward, but he's never cared about his reputation (especially given his costume). He also says he was saving his money and looking to retire in Hoboken, New Jersey, until he stumbled upon the head of Silvermane, which he doesn't know why he took in the first place. 

Hyrdo-Man tells Shocker to stop being down on himself and make a “personal inventory,” pointing out how the Shocker has almost killed Spider-Man many times, and that maybe he found Silvermane's head for a reason and that it could mean “real big things.” Shocker thanks Hydro-Man for the pep-talk and apologizes for not telling him about Silvermane's head, and Hydro-Man asks Shocker if can use the bathroom. It's then that Shocker remembers that the flush on the toilet doesn't work, but when he goes to check on Hydro-Man, Shocker see that Hyrdo-Man has escaped through the toilet bowl, presumably to spread the word that the Shocker has Silvermane's head. Silvermane can't help but tell the Shocker “Boy, you sure are stupid.”

We then see Fred and the bartender bound and gagged in a storage room, when Bullseye enters along with the Owl. The Owl, after telling the bartender about his and Fred's history, demands Fred to tell him the whereabouts of the painting of Doctor Doom. Fred, however, lies and says he didn't steal the painting—it was the Chameleon. Fred claims that, by duping the Sinister Six into the robbing the Owl and thus making the Owl find and kill him, the Chameleon has pulled off the “perfect crime.” Fred also says he can prove it was the Chameleon. He'll go to the Chameleon's place and, by using one of his “camera-rangs,” can show the Owl via video-feed that the Chameleon has the painting, most likely hanging over his desk.

The Owl, believing Fred's lies and all but convinced of his plan, points out how Fred is just putting himself at risk of being killed by the Chameleon instead. Fred suggests Bullseye can cover him as he's the “world's number one assassin.” It's at this point the Owl reveals that Bullseye is not the real Bullseye but a robot Life Model Decoy brought over from Denver by the Tinkerer. And right on cue, the Bullseye LMD reveals his robotic face and the Tinkerer pops in to say hello to Fred. This makes the bartender even more angry at Fred and Fred feel insulted.

Fred, as Boomerang, then goes to the Chameleon's hideout while being watched by the LMD Bullseye, with the Owl keeping the bartender as insurance. Inside, as the Chameleon admires the painting of Doctor Doom, he shifts back-and-forth between a handsome man and a beautiful woman professing their love for one another soap-opera style and, just as he's re-enacting their kiss, one of his henchman walks in to tell him Boomerang has arrived (and the henchman, disgusted by what he just saw, contemplates washing his eyes out with bleach).

As Boomerang enters the Chameleon's office and demands his share of the painting, a hidden camera in his mask shows the Owl his POV. And, because there's no audio, the Owl doesn't hear Boomerang and the Chameleon's conversation recounting what actually happened, about how Chameleon hired Boomerang to steal Silvermane's head, only to learn it was a ruse for Boomerang to steal the painting of Doctor Doom from the Owl for himself, which the Chameleon then took to even the score. The Chameleon wonders if he was wise in letting Boomerang live, but concludes that Boomerang is too “harmless” and “sad.” To which Boomerang says if that was the case, then how was he able to pull one over on both the Chameleon and the Owl, and tells the Chameleon how he's “not fit to wear his rocket boots.” And just as Boomerang had hoped, the Chameleon changes his face to look like him, saying that Fred's boots “fit quite well.” Thus the Owl, now fully convinced Boomerang had been telling him the truth, angrily smashes his TV.

The Chameleon's tosses Boomerang out on the street, and, after dusting himself off and shouting back a threat, Boomerang gives the LMD Bullseye the thumbs up. Pleased that his plan was a success and that he's tied up all loose ends, Boomerang strolls down the street, causally picking someone's pocket and returning flirtatious smiles at women. However, a voice calls out his name and tells him to “get in.” When Boomerang turns around, he sees that it's Overdrive and the Beetle, having commandeered a school bus riddled with slash marks, katanas, sais, and throwing stars, and which is full of rambunctious kids.

THOUGHTS
One of the questions comic book readers ask themselves is why are some heroes and villains more popular than others? It's certainly one Boomerang, through all his braggadocio and all-too obvious jealousy over Bullseye, is asking himself. The answer, at least in the case of this comic, is that for all of his ambition and drive, Boomerang tries too hard to get ahead by trying to be someone he's not. Sure, Boomerang may fancy himself as just as skilled, if not better, assassin than Bullseye, but, as this issue shows, he's not even close to Bullseye's league (and that fact that it's not even the real Bullseye but a robot double drives this point home even more). Instead, where Boomerang's actual talents lie is his ability to lie and scheme his way out of trouble...which, of course, gets him into even more trouble. 

By contrast, while lacking Boomerang's ambition, the Shokder knows exactly who he is and has no illusions about himself. Thus, while not on the same level as the members of the original Sinister Six, he has managed to earn himself a reputation as one of Spider-Man's more formidable enemies without even trying, even if he can't appreciate this himself. It's no accident that the most well-known member of the new Sinister Six is also the most honest of the bunch, who doesn't scheme behind his teammate's back, and is only in the potential trouble he's in because the promise of Silvermane's head was too tempting for him to resist and placing his trust in those who are anything but trust-worthy.

Yet even though it finds much humor in their circumstances, as always, none of it ever feels mean-spirited or condescending, a testament to just how wonderfully fleshed-out every one of the characters in this series really are. As always, Spencer and Steve Lieber gives us visual and verbal gags a-plenty, with the comparison between Boomerang and Bullseye Twitter hits and the scene showing us how the Chameleon spends his quality time alone being real comedic gems. Not to mention the entire sequence of Boomerang and his would-be girlfriend being hunted by the Bullseye LMD and how it ends up subverting the all too-common plot of the “hero's” love interest being put in mortal jeopardy by the “hero's” arch-enemy.

In addition, the way Spencer and Lieber were able to tie together the subplots of Boomerang's date with the bartender (whose name we still don't know), the Owl's return and revenge, and the Boomerang's dealing with the Chameleon was simply brilliant. Also, Hydro-Man's guest appearance and interaction with the Shocker makes me almost wish that he was a regular member of the team (even though it would end the five members of the Sinister Six gag). Once again, another excellent issue which, if you haven't guessed by now, is par for the course for this title and definitely worth picking up.

Cataclysm: The Ultimates Last Stand #4

Posted by Donovan McComish

Hello everybody and welcome to my review of Cataclysm: The Ultimates Last Stand #4.

Synopsis:

As Galactus continues to construct his world eating machine, the X-Men observe from New York. Jean Grey and Jimmy Hudson suggest that they leave, but Kitty Pryde doesn't want to abandon the city to it's fate, saying they have to do something. As if on cue, Captain America arrives with Hawkeye via helicopter, asking the X-Men for their help. Storm and Hudson aren't too happy about this, but Cap isn't bothered about what they think as he's there primarily for Kitty, telling her the world needs her.

Soon afterwards, Kitty enters the Helicarrier with Cap and the rest of the X-Men, receiving a hug from an enthusiastic Tony Stark and a request for a blood and urine sample, as well as a pap smear, from Reed Richards. As Tony brings the mutants up to speed with the situation, he notices Jean Grey and has an idea, calling for Chang to get a Cerebro. He then outlines the plan to the X-Men. Since Kitty Pryde can disrupt machines by phasing through them, she can theoretically do the same to Galactus' device.

Richards injects her with an enhanced version of the late Hank Pym's growth serum, which is also enhanced with some Stark biotech (there's also some mention of a bio-stress suit, although Kitty still seems to be wearing the same outfit), so she can deal with the stress of phasing through such a large machine. Tony adds that she can also give Galactus a smack if she likes. A naturally concerned Storm asks if Kitty will survive the procedure. Richards replies that it's hard to say, but she probably won't, with Stark adding that they all know they're asking a lot. After a moments consideration, Kitty agrees, taking the opportunity to hug Storm.

While this has been going on, Chang has retrieved the Cerebro, which Tony then instructs Jean to use in order to enhance (what's with all the talk of "enhancement" all of a sudden?) her psychic abilities to use on Galactus. She soon gains access to his mind, reporting that he's hungry and desperate, unsure of whether he has the strength to finish his machine or what universe he's in, with no clue of how he got here in the first place or if he can even get back to his own reality. Unfortunately, Galactus senses her presence and doesn't take kindly to someone rooting around in his head, temporarily ceasing his building work and turning towards the Helicarrier.

Thor and several S.H.I.E.L.D fighters head out to distract the God of Oblivion (yes, that is an actual alias for Galactus), although he soon grabs hold of the thunder god and hurls him away like a pebble, straight through the Chrysler Building. Galactus advances on the Helicarrier, bellowing the words "I HUNGER!" (Wow, I never would have guessed that). With Director Chang ordering everyone to their battle stations, Cap asks Tony how much time they need. Neither he or Richards are sure, but Cap heads out in a jet to face Galactus regardless. Storm follows in order to assist the captain, conjuring up a tornado over Galactus, but the Helicarrier is caught up in the gale and is struck by the giants hand, causing it to go into a crash landing. As Galactus reaches forward to crush the ship, Cap flies in and seemingly sacrifices himself by crashing the jet into Galactus' mouth, trying to escape before it's destruction. With no way of stopping, the Helicarrier crashes into the ground with the rest of the heroes still inside. Galactus turns his attention back to his machine, once again uttering "I HUNGER"...

Thoughts:

If I could sum this issue up in a word, it would be rushed. The majority of this issue is exposition on how the Ultimates plan to stop Galactus with the help of Kitty Pryde, which wouldn't be too bad except that the issue never slows down to really see how these characters are dealing with the choices they've been forced to make, as well as what they've already been through beforehand. I'm pleased that the X-Men have become involved with the main story, but introducing them into the equation this late in the game means that a lot of the focus is taken off the established characters and their plot-lines. Miles in particular, despite being on the cover of the issue, has pretty much been shunted to one side in favour of Kitty Pryde, and we don't even spend enough time with her. The rest of the X-Men, with the exception of Jean Grey and Storm, don't do anything except stand around and Reed Richards and Tony Stark are reduced to mostly dolling out exposition, with the occasional joke thrown in.

There are some positives to this issue however. It was good to finally get inside Galactus' head and see how confused he is with his current predicament. I also found the supposed death of Captain America effective, as while it was a typical sacrifice, it was done in a very sudden manner, with no time for him to say goodbye to his allies. It's possible that he made it out of the plane, but it's unlikely given that his appearance on the cover was initially kept hidden. Looks like the Ultimate Universe needs a new President.

Art wise, Mark Bagley's work is unfortunately weaker as well with plenty of rushed panels, though Galactus himself still looks awesome and well detailed, and there are some more refined looking points dotted throughout. The moment where Jean Grey holds Cerebro in shadow was a particularly arresting image. The colours by Jason Keith however are still great, the palette of this issue is the darkest and most bleak of the series by far, as the situation goes from desperate to bleak. Overall this is the weakest issue so far. It's a shame that the X-Men didn't join the battle in the previous issue, especially as they were on the cover for no reason. It makes that repeated scene in #3 even more pointless....

Score: 2.5/5.0


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