Superior Foes of Spider-Man #12

Posted by Mike McNulty, a.k.a. Stillanerd 20 June 2014

That's right--no more delays or fill-in issues this time! Your favorite bunch of super-villain misfits are back and getting in trouble once again. And in case you folks may have forgotten (and as The Superior Foes of Spider-Man #12's recap page is kind enough to remind you), Boomerang, having just convinced his old boss, the Owl, that the Chameleon stole a painting showing Doctor Doom's true face, ran into both a very angry Beetle and Overdrive. Meanwhile, the Shocker, having the fabled head of former leader of the Maggia crime family, Silvermane, was about to be sold out by his buddy, Hyrdo-Man. Rest assured, hilarity and mayhem will ensue.

The comic begins right at the very last scene of The Superior Foes of Spider-Man #9, after which Beetle and Overdrive have commandeered a school bus full of kids that has been damaged by ninja-style weaponry, and are confronting Boomerang over having sold them out and leaving them for dead after the raid on the Owl's headquarters. Boomerang tries to change the subject by asking why Overdrive tricked out a school-bus, why a fifth-grader is brandishing a sword, to which Overdrive briefly explains that he owes money to Mr. Negative for him giving Overdrive his powers, that his forces attacked them, and that he stole a school-bus because he didn't have a lot of options to get away.

Beetle is about to blast Boomerang to which he responds that it wasn't him, but the Chameleon. He then goes on to claim that while he was in jail with the Chameleon, they didn't get along. So when the others came to bail him out, the Chameleon sucker-punched him and, when he came to, he found himself on a fishing barge with an ID chip in his back—which Overdrive points out is the plot from The Bourne Identity--while the Chameleon took his place. Beetle and Overdrive don't believe him, especially after Boomerang let's it slip that “the Chameleon” killed Shocker instead of “chickening out” and quitting like he told them. However, before Beetle can kill Boomerang, the Owl shows up and, having been convinced it was the Chameleon that stole the Dr. Doom painting, that Boomerang is telling the truth. Beetle and Overdrive, frustrated, decide to leave, but when the Owl offers them a job, they decide to stick around.

Meanwhile at an Italian restaurant, Hydro-Man is telling Hammerhead and his crew about how Shocker has the head of Silvermane in his possession and wants a “finder's fee.” Hammerhead, almost succumbing to an impersonation of James Cagney, is skeptical about Hydro-Man's story, so he sends some of his men out to check to see if the story is on the level and for another to contact his therapist as “it's an emergency.”

We then return to Boomerang as he explains the layout of the Chameleon's hideout and the traps therein –exactly like he did for the Owl's hideout back in The Superior Foes of Spider-Man #5—only for Beetle to say they are not falling for that trick again, pointing out that he's already screwed them over once and that now they're working for the Owl who just hour earlier tried to have them killed. Boomerang, however says they're not actually going to go after the painting for the Owl, that they'll use the Owl and his firepower as a distraction to take the painting for themselves. Beetle points out this is exactly what Boomerang did to them when robbing the Owl, but Boomerang insists it'll be different because, unlike last time, they'll be a team, and that the score will be enough for Beetle to start her own empire and for Overdrive to pay off his debts to Mr. Negative.

When Boomerang inquires about Speed Demon, Overdrive texts him and Speed Demon arrives. Beetle notices Speed Demon has been crying, and while Speed Demon denies it, he's thinking about Inspector the dog. When Boomerang explains to Speed Demon that the team is back together, Beetle says they haven't agreed to anything yet. However, the Owl, having overheard this, point outs that any one who chooses to leave run the risk of violating the terms of their “nondisclosure appropriate anticipatory actions, etc.” and, this time, Beetle won't be able to call her dad, Tombstone, to held them out. Owl also says he's brought Boomerang a visitor—his bartender girlfriend. Upon seeing Boomerang, the bartender rolls up her sleeve, punches him in the face, and tells him “Don't ever call me again” as she storms out. Then the Owl takes Boomerang to introduce to him the new members of his gang, as Boomerang requested more villains for the job, which includes The Fly, Mountain Man Marko, Mirage, The Armadillo, Shriek, Cyclone, The Squid, Clown from the Ringmasters of Crime, Bi-Beast, Scorcher, the Kangaroo, and the Spot. And with Boomerang, Beetle, Speed Demon, and Overdrive, the Sinister Six has now become The Sinister Sixteen!

Thus, when the Chameleon and his men hear a knock on the door of their headquarters, they look outside to see Boomerang and his new crew waving hello right before they attack. Sure enough, just as Boomerang planned, the new members are busy fighting the Chameleon while he strolls over to the elevator. Only this time, Beetle an Overdrive insist on accompanying him and upon leaving the elevator first. However, when they get to the bottom floor, Overdrive and Beetle are attacked by giant chameleons, allowing Boomerang to give them the slip. But to his surprise, Mirage is waiting for him, claiming that the Chameleon has already escaped with the painting of Dr. Doom. Boomerang, however, realizes it's the Chameleon and knocks him out. Overdrive then arrives, and Boomerang, as promised, shows him the painting of Dr. Doom and lets Overdrive take it. But Boomerang is not the least bit worried because—the painting of Dr. Doom was a fake all along! Instead, Boomerang goes after his real target, which is the contents of the Chameleon's safe.

Back at the Shocker's apartment, Shocker is stressed over the fact that Hydro-Man, who he considered a friend, has betrayed him. Silvermane, however, points out that Shocker's “friends” are criminals, and that Boomerang, who was also supposedly Shocker's friend as well, also betrayed him by stuffing his body in a car trunk and pushing it off a bridge. Shocker says that there's supposed to be a code, that gangs are like a “family” and that they're supposed to stick together. Silvermane says that even when he was the head of the Maggia crime family, he never trusted any of his people, and that the stuff about “family” was just another way to keep them in line and that “only the saps buy it.” He adds that the only way to stay alive in the business is to make others fear you, and tells Shocker, “Who would ever fear a nobody like you.”

At this, Shocker goes over to his closet and gets out a bowling bag. Then, removing the bowling ball, stuffs Silvermane's head into the bag. Shocker then vows he won't get screwed over again, that he's through playing the nice guy and the team player, then angrily throws the bowling ball out the window, vowing he's going to give those who double-crossed him something to be afraid of. Outside, waiting on the street, are Hammerhead and his goons, ready to charge into the apartment building, guns drawn and loaded.

Oh, Nick Spencer and Steve Lieber—how we've missed you! More than that, as Boomerang's sly, metatextual comment in the beginning suggests, not only have we been waiting for “a really long time,” but we actually got a genuine issue of Superior Foes, something which is very welcome in light of the disastrous and pointless filler that was last issue. As this issue reminds us, it was never just the fact that what makes Superior Foes so good is that it's merely a funny look at Marvel's less notable villains. It was because Spencer and Lieber were able to effectively use verbal and visual gags in subtle and creative ways to show character without actually demeaning them. Thus, reading this issue was very much like a “greatest hits” compilation of the best gags of issue's past. However, like all “Greatest Hits” compilations, that can have its downsides.

This is why I thought the main story involving Boomerang once again conning his fellow teammates and the Owl the steal back the Doctor Doom painting from the Chameleon didn't feel as strong as it could have been. Granted, the point is that Fred is using almost the same tactics to pull off almost the same con, but this also means running the risk of making the humor feel recycled. Just like the other characters have become wiser to Fred's methods, so too have the readers when it comes to the punchlines Spencer and Lieber are employing. Which is why when we learn that everything Boomerang has done since Superior Foes #1 has all been an elaborate scheme just to rob to paltry contents of the Chameleon's safe winds up working as well as it does. Because even though we, like the characters, are starting to get wise to the act, there is always one more trick up Boomerang's—and Spencer and Lieber's—sleeve to keep us on our toes. Not to mention, it's the most revealing insight into Boomerang as a character yet, because for all of his elaborate scheming and convincing himself that he's a genuine criminal mastermind, Fred really is nothing more than a petty crook. After all, his master plan to rob the Chameleon is akin to getting rid of ant hill with a bazooka.

What ends being more effective is the subplot about the head of Silvermane, and the lead up to a possible confrontation between the Shocker and (the real) Hammerhead. In hindsight, Herman Schultz, along with Fred Myers, has been undergoing the most significant character arc throughout the series, as we have steadily been watching him transform from being a pushover to becoming a badass. And now that he's undergone his Howard Beale “I'm mad as hell, and I'm not going to take this anymore!” moment, it's all but a foregone conclusion that the Shocker will be the one undo all Boomerang's careful planing, all because Boomerang is convinced that Silvermane's head is as made-up as the Doctor Doom painting. Also, I enjoy the fact that Hammerhead is fully aware of being influenced by and impersonating James Cagney. After all, he's always been a deliberate parody of mobsters from 1930's gangster films, so having Hammerhead himself realize this actually makes it funnier and gives him more depth.

One thing I do worry about is, because we've had two interruptions on this series in a row whether it's possible to regenerate the kind of momentum Superior Foes has been getting, especially considering the precarious position the title is in due to its low sales. That being said, it's good to see that Spencer and Lieber haven't lost their touch during their brief absence, and I'm eagerly looking forward to reading the next chapter in their amusing crime caper, especially since it's believed we might be getting the actual origin of Overdrive. Not to mention what actually did happen to Inspector that made Speed Demon cry? Do yourselves a favor and get some extra copies of this one to celebrate their return.

Superior Foes of Spider-Man #11

Posted by Mike McNulty, a.k.a. Stillanerd

In The Superior Foes of Spider-Man #10, we had an intermission of sorts with Beetle, Speed Demon, and Overdrive taking a reprise from their search for Boomerang by hanging out at a bar and swapping stories. In The Superior Foes of Spider-Man #11, that pattern continues. Only not only do we get an intermission from the main narrative of Superior Foes in which various characters swap stories, we also get an intermission from the entire series.

We open at a meeting of Super-Villains Anonymous, where the Grizzly confesses his latest lapse into crime. He says people used to be afraid of him, but lately he has sunk to luring drunks out of bars by playing children's music, specifically “Teddy Bear's Picnic,” as it makes them sentimental about their childhood and innocence depending upon how intoxicated they are. On one such occasion he lured a bar patron into a nearby alleyway and, after tying him up, took the cash from his wallet and gave it back to him, telling the man he mugged he was going to go get them a pizza.

After getting them the pizza, Grizzly reassures the man that he's not going to kill him, that he figured that since they “shared an experience together” it's only right for them to share a meal. The guy he robbed asks if Grizzly is lonely, to which the Grizzly confesses that he is, and that once he wished he could have a bit more solitude. He then talks about how he used to be a professional wrestler, but was fired because he was deemed as being “too violent.” He also goes on to say that when he commits a crime, he imagines himself back in the wrestling ring, and that he's performing for a “sellout crowd that hates my guts.” When the man asks Grizzly why he's “all stealth now,” Grizzly shouts that he's “no cowards” and slashes the man's bindings loose. Grizzly then says the man can go but then admits that he has indeed become a coward...because of Spider-Man. For Grizzly, Spider-Man used to be a “fun match” that, even when they fought each other, he found it hard to keep a straight face to keep from laughing at his jokes. However, Spider-Man has gotten more serious, capable of killing, and thus Grizzly feels he's now forced to hide and rob people in the shadows instead of doing so out in the open.

Once the man leaves, Grizzly hears music coming from up on the roof of a nearby building. As he climbs up, he recognizes the song as “The Itsy Bitsy Spider.” And on the top of the building, we see the Superior Spider-Man attack him. Below, the man Grizzly mugged hears him scream and vows never to drink again. After Grizzly finishes his story (and with Dr. Bong asking if Spider-Man actually killed Grizzly) the Super-Villain's Anonymous leader points out that Grizzly's fear of having a confrontation with Spider-Man didn't matter because it happened anyway, and because he survived it, then maybe he's a little less afraid. Grizzly is about to admit that the group leader may be right, but then hands his head and says he doesn't want to talk any more.

The next villain to share his story is The Looter, who we see is now in a wheelchair, bandaged up, and wearing casts. The Looter talks about how he used to think small when committing a crime, and that he relied to much on his meteor gas-induced strength and agility. Also, every time he got into a fight with Spider-Man, he always thought with his fists instead of his brains. Even worse, was the embarrassment, such as being webbed up by Spidey and hanging upside from a lamppost waiting for the cops to arrive. And when he was in prison, he would always get a lecture from his brother about how he was wasting his life being a criminal when he should be a scientist.

It is after teaming up with the Basilisk during a job for Hydra and being caught by Spidey again that the Looter decided to set out to become a “Superior Looter.” He leaves New York where he traveled the country, learning leadership skills, implementing more technology into his costume, taking down rival criminals and minor superheroes—steps to make himself become more ruthless, cunning, and formidable. After taking down one hero called the Plainsman in St. Louis, the Looter knew he was ready and returned to New York to start his new criminal empire. However, we he learned from the criminals and super-villains that “Spider-Man” had changed and was more dangerous, he realized it was going to take more money to get them on board, thus decided to rob the entire diamond district, thinking he was fully prepared should “Spider-Man” show up. However, when SpOck did, he still managed to savagely beat him, only to become bored because he considers the Looter a “nobody.” Looter pulls a gun on SpOck, saying he's not a nobody and that he won't be webbed up again, to which SpOck beats him up some more and tells him he can “drag himself to the police.” Looter, after getting treated for his injuries, is horrified by how “Spider-Man” has changed, and, after escaping on a subway, vowed never to loot again. He then concludes his story to the Super-villain's Anonymous meeting by saying it's not risking himself telling about how dangerous “Spider-Man” has become, but to beware of the “sadistic creature” inside themselves that tells them to commit crime--“Not the Spider-Man in the suit, but the crazy, violent, out-of-control Spider-Man inside.”

One of the reasons it has taken me so long in getting around to writing this review (other than prior obligations and procrastination running interference) is that The Superior Foes of Spider-Man #11 is actually not an issue of The Superior Foes of Spider-Man. Oh, sure, it has The Superior Foes of Spider-Man as its title, and features some rather juiced-up versions of the new Sinister Six on the cover; but as you can tell from the summary, with the exception of the framing device of the Super-Villains Anonymous meetings, there is nothing—absolutely nothing—whatsoever to do with The Superior Foes of Spider-Man anywhere in this comic. At all! Instead, this comic is all about what effect the Superior Spider-Man has on Spidey's D-list villains, something this series has never been about. Also, considering how this comic came out right when Peter Parker was coming back as Spider-Man and The Superior Spider-Man was being replaced by the newly relaunched Amazing Spider-Man, this makes the timing of this filler issue even more strange and bizarre.

And that's exactly what this issue is: filler. Even worse, this comic is a complete bait-and-switch, and abuses the good will of the loyal readers who made Superior Foes such a success. It's as if Marvel took two stories intended as back-up features for the Superior Spider-Man that they never got around to telling and, realizing the series would soon be over and that there were delays on Superior Foes, decided to just shove him into that comic just to waste some time.

Now, I wouldn't be so mad if these stories were at least a bit interesting or contained some of the wit and charm of an actualSuperior Foes issue, but they don't. Not to mention, both stories are average at best, with equally average artwork, that both essentially tell the same thing: “Spider-Man” is now more “dark” and “violent” and so being a super-villain sucks worse than ever. Which again, doesn't even matter because The Superior Spider-Man was ending and the Amazing Spider-Man was coming back at almost the very same time this issue came out!

This is one of those examples in which a comic really is a complete waste of your time, especially if you're a fan of the Superior Foes, so don't even bother wasting your money on this one and pick up Superior Foes #12 instead. Speaking of which...


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