Waiting for the Trade – Superior Foes of Spider-man

Waiting for the Trade

 
by Bill Miller

 
Superior Foes of
Spider-man (1): Getting the Band Back Together

By Nick Spencer and
Steve Lieber.

Collects Superior Foes of Spider-man 1 -6.

 

Why I bought this: It
features the Shocker, who is one of my two favorite silver age Spidery
villains. Plus I tend to enjoy villain centric titles anyway.

 

The Plot: Boomerang
reforms the Sinister Six (using the members of the Sinister Syndicate) in hopes
of pulling off a heist for Chameleon. The other featured characters are Beetle,
Shocker, Speed Demon and Overdrive.
 
As always spoilers ahoy below

Chapter 1 – Boomerang narrates his origin and tells the
reader how a villain who is usually a punching bag keeps going day to day and
his plans for the new Sinister Six that he has formed with only five members.
He’s arrested by Spidey in the early pages and from jail asks Shocker and
Boomerang to feed his bird. They rob the pet store on the way and when they get
to Boomerang’s apartment find Hammerhead waiting for them. There are diamonds
hidden in the birdseed but apparently not as many as Hammerhead expected leading
to Hammerhead hospitalizing Shocker while Speed Demon runs away (pew!).  Boomerang makes nice to the crew by promising
a big score though Beetle is reluctant to join in even though her own heist of
comic book store is not going well. Chameleon visits Boomerang in prison and we
learn he impersonated Hammerhead at Boomerang’s apartment. Boomerang also owes
Chameleon something big thus if this score Boomerang is planning comes through
the team will get nothing out of it. Boomerang gets out of prison and returns
to being a punching bag.

Chapter 2 – Boomerang’s narration sets up the Punisher as
the guy super-villains at his level most fear running into before we cut to the
gang planning the heist, which breaks down into a funny debate on how they can
be the Sinister Six with only five members: Boomerang’s concept being it will
keep whoever they face guessing on when the sixth member is going to show up
Next we see Boomerang meet with his lawyer. Then the gang goes to a fancy
restaurant in costume. This is interrupted by the Punisher and everyone
scatters leaving Boomerang alone. Once alone Punisher reveals himself as
Chameleon and we learn he wants Boomerang to steal Silvermane’s severed yet
still living head. We cut back to villain HQ where the gang is deeply impressed
that Boomerang has returned alive after facing the Punisher. Except the readers
learn Shocker saw the Chameleon reveal from outside the restaurant. Finally
Boomerang gets his day in court and ends up with the probation but is dismayed
to find out Mach VII (the original Beetle who reformed in Thunderbolts) is going to be his probation officer.

Chapter 3 – So we get the origin of the head of Silvermane,
which starts with his real origin as a crime boss who became a cyborg in the
80s and then leads to this new insane story where he gets decapitated in a
fight with Owl and Hammerhead, the head is thrown in a dumpster and ends up
being found by a boy robotics genius who attaches Silvermane’s head to a remote
control truck and the two go on to live happily ever after. Boomerang then
tells us that story is crap and only dumb crooks believe that story; he says the
head is really being held hostage by Owl all these years just so he can torture
it. Next we get Boomerang’s take on Mach VII which is basically he didn’t like
Beetle much when they were teammates in the Sinister Syndicate and he really
hates him now that he’s become a hero courtesy of the Thunderbolts. Next
Boomerang learns his crew has voted him off the island because they think it’s
too risky to have a member that could be followed by a Thunderbolt. Boomerang
drowns his sorrows at a bar then goes to a support group for loser
super-villains that Mach VII set him up with. This leads to him meeting with
Mach VII and stooging out his teammates to get even with them and we end with
Heroes for Hire attacking the crew.

Chapter 4 – We get a brief fight scene with a few laughs in
it that ends with H4H winning. Boomerang visits Chameleon in jail who fails to
see how Boomerang having his teammates arrested helps him get what Boomerang
owes him leading with Chameleon giving him an ultimatum to compete the job in
24 hours. Back at the bar Boomerang meets a potential love interest in the
bartender though he fumbles their first meeting pretty badly. Boomerang then
frees his crew and tells them to suit up. Shocker takes Boomerang aside to
confess he saw (but did not overhear) the Chameleon as Punisher thing and
Boomerang manages to talk his way out of it saying he just wanted to impress
the gang and they hug. Boomerang gives us this rah-rah internal monologue about
why he wants to be a team leader intercut with his getting bartender girl to go
out with him only for the cliffhanger to reveal that he has locked Shocker in
the trunk of a car and pushed it into the river.

Chapter 5 – So the Owl is torturing an informer from his
organization (which leads to a very funny side story involving Man Bull).
Boomerang then organizes the heist which plays out like a ridonkulous video
game. When Boomerang gets to the vault we learn the whole head of Silvermane
was a scam and the true prize is a portrait of Dr. Doom without his mask on.
And then we cut to a junkyard where Shocker escapes from the car trunk and lo
and behold comes across Silvermane’s head on a radio-controlled car ala the
original story Boomerang dismissed.

Chapter 6 – So Boomerang goes on his date with the bartender
and it goes well. We then get the origin of the Doom painting (played for
laughs) and Boomerang reveals to the reader how his double-crossing everyone is
going to work out for him, which he apparently has already done. Cut to the Owl
who has captured Overdrive, Beetle and Speed Demon. He offers to only cut off
the legs of whoever informs on Boomerang first while promising to kill the
other two. Beetle’s counteroffer is to let them all go before it is too late
and we see her secretly texting behind her back. Back at Boomerang’s apartment
Mach VII busts in to confront Boomerang about the prison van break in chapter 4
but Boomerang swears someone must have stolen his m.o. since he’s gone legit
and is able to hustle Abe out of the apartment without him seeing the painting.
No sooner does Boomerang get rid of Mach VII than Chameleon shows up with some
goons to lay a beating on him. Back to the Owl’s HQ where an explosion rocks
the building and Tombstone
arrives looking mighty pissed. At which point Beetle unmasks and says, “Hi
Daddy” to him.

 

Critical Thoughts:
This book is crazy fun and super funny, and yet also manages to get serious
when it needs to.

Let’s start with Boomerang. Who would have ever thought it
in a million years that he would make such a good protagonist. His narration is
very well written throughout the entire story and really pulls the reader in
even when he when dislikable things like betraying his crew time after time.

Among the rest of the cast, the portrayal of Speed Demon is
so great. The running joke (see what I did there) that his first instinct as a
villain with super speed in every situation is to run away is inspired—and the
empty panels with the “pew” sound effect every time he disappears is one of my
favorite parts of the book. The new Beetle is a really interesting character.
We get small hints throughout the series that she is more capable than the
others; and the reveal she is related to Tombstone
means that is probably going to bear out. Overdrive remains under-developed but
he too has a couple funny thought balloons here and there.

My only real criticism is the treatment of Shocker. I’ve
said before Shocker is one of my three favorite Spider-man villains and in this
series he is presented the least capable of the five main villains; he is
basically just a dim-witted coward. I think the character deserves better as
this is Silver Age classic Spidey villain who invented his own weapons, has
been consistently shown to be more professional than a lot of Spidey’s more
traditional ego-maniacal villains and had been accepted twice into the Masters
of Evil to battle the Avengers on occasion. But Bendis made Shocker a punch
line in the Ultimate line and slowly but surely that’s been bleeding over in
the main Marvel Universe lately until we get this representation. On the other
hand it does show you how good this book is overall that it can character
assassinate a longtime favorite of mine and yet I am still really enjoying the
title.

One of the major positives is the series is not all fun and
games. I love the contrast between the loser villains who make up the core of
the book and the deadly serious villains. Chameleon is a perfect big bad for a
series like this. He’s not overly powerful—indeed you’d think most of these
guys (except Overdrive) could take him a straight fight. But he has resources,
reputation and intelligence far beyond them. Chameleon is actually the rare
villain whose stock has risen quite a bit modern era so that he seems a lot
more dangerous than he was in the Silver Age.

Ditto the reveal of Tombstone
at the end of this fills me with promise as he was a hardcore A-list villain
for about four years or so and then he just fell off the Earth (as so many
newer Spidey villains do). The big build to his reveal makes me confident that
he will be presented as he was during his peak years, and I’m fine with that
because he was a really strong villain during that era.

That is the other thing this book has going for it. By and
large it uses old continuity well. I like the use of history with the old
Sinister Syndicate stories that were a real highlight in Tom Defalco’s run as
well the use of some Thunderbolts history. The Silverman legend—while
ridiculously told—does touch on some real history too. And yet even if you
never read those old stories Boomerang’s narration makes it all very easy to
follow.

The art is also crazy fun and really fits the tone of the
book. Chapter 5 with its videogame inspired panels is a particular standout
from using the art to augment the tone. I don’t where Steve Lieber came from but he’s doing very good work here.
 

Grade A-. The
treatment of Shocker prevents me from giving it a full A but otherwise this
book is a hidden treasure. I know there are a lot of old bwhahaha JLI fans reading here
and tonally this book has a lot in common with that series, and that’s meant as high praise.