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.

 

 

 

 

Waiting for the Trade Superior Spider-man

Waiting for the Trade

by Bill Miller

 

Superior Spider-man
(1): My Own Worst Enemy

By Dan Slott, Ryam
Stegman and Giuseppe Camumcoli

Collects Superior Spider-man 1 -5.

 

Why I bought this: The
last trade (ASM 698-700) was epic and I needed to read the follow up.

The Plot: Doc Ock
switched brains with Peter Parker and then Ock’s body with Parker in it died
leaving Ock as the new Spider-man. This trade is Ock’s first days in his new
role.
 
Spoilers after the break

 

Chapter 1 – Ock finds a new Sinister Six made up of
C-listers and takes them on but after taking a few hits decides it isn’t worth
taking a beating and attempts to flee. When a civilian is endangered he turns
around and saves the day but the Six escape. In his day job Ock is doing
Peter’s science job better than Peter but frets how he will never get credit
for it. He then goes on a date with MJ. Later he tracks down the Six and takes
them down hard. He is about to kill one of them when we see Peter’s ghost
arrive and subliminally makes Ock stop.

Chapter 2 – Ghost Peter is horrified that JJJ has finally endorsed
Spidey and that MJ is dating him and does not notice he is a different person.
Later MJ is attacked by mini-Vultures. Ock saves her and breaks up with her. MJ
relates the failed dates to Carlie Cooper, who begins to suspect the truth.
(Peter in Ock’s body had told Cooper the truth in the last trade but she didn’t
believe him at the time).

Chapter 3 – Ock traces the mini-Vultures back to the real
deal and is horrified to learn Vulture is using children as his underlings. Their
fight gets violent and ends with Spidey hospitalizing Vulture in front of
Cooper furthering her suspicions.

Chapter 4 – In a stunning splash page Spidey releases little
spider-bots across the city so Ock can monitor everything. He makes a few
arrests and then accompanies Aunt May to a doctor’s office. When he learns May
needs a cane to walk so he decides to invent a cure for all spinal injuries,
which horrifies Ghost Peter and the Horizon employees for some reason. We also
get a funny moment when Ock releaizes that as Peter he is no longer a doctor as
Peter never even got his master’s degree. This prompts Ock to enroll in college
again. Meanwhile Massacre escapes from Ravencroft killing 90s’ supporting
character Dr. Kafka in the process. Jameson and Spidey are called to the scene
and Jameson makes Spidey promise to kill Massacre next time they meet. Massacre
meanwhile lives up to his name in a diner full of civilians. In the cliffhanger
we see the Green Goblin is back in NYC.

Chapter 5 – Massacre blackmails a Cola CEO into funding him
to kill her competitors. As Peter, Ock meets his new tutor for school: a female
midget named Anna Marconi and they have an enjoyable dinner. Massacre begins
killing cops in the subway until Spidey arrives, disarms him and fatally shoots
him much to Ghost Peter’s horror. He then uses his spiderbots to expose the CEO
from the start of the chapter vowing to watch over and take responsibility for
everything in the city.

 

Critical Thoughts:
Overall this is very good. The concept alone is one of the most original things
I’ve ever seen in comics which is saying something when you consider has 50
years of history spread out over 1,000 individual issues. We’ve seen heroes
replaced before (Cap, Thor and Iron Man come to mind) but usually it is by
other heroes and the key supporting cast know a switch has been made. Here we
have a villain taking up the hero’s mantle and on top of that no one knows
Peter is gone including his loved ones. It is a strong concept and Ock is in
many ways the perfect villain to execute it with. 1) he’s always been show to
be driven by ego even in his most villainous moments (threatening to blow up NYC
so everyone would know he was superior to them or the recent Ends of the Earth
arc) yet he has also had moments of altruism over the years (trying to cure
AIDS, helping Sue Richards during childbirth, curing Peter when he was poisoned
during the Clone Saga). Thus the idea that once he finished off Peter and had
Peter’s powers he would try to take advantage of his fresh start and prove he
could be a better hero than Peter ever was fits very nicely into past
continuity.

I also like Ock’s initial reactions to his new life. I like
him running away in that first fight and thinking Peter had to be insane to
fight the kind of odds he often did. I love his outrage at not being a doctor
anymore and his disappointment that his name won’t be the one to get credit for
any science accomplishments he makes at Horizon. It all just rings true in a
character sense.

I also thought the villains are well portrayed, particularly
Vulture. I like the art a lot. I like the pacing in terms of setting up future
events (Carlie’s suspicions, the Goblin’s return). I also thought the ending
was very strong, with Ock taking Peter’s responsibility  catchphrase and spinning into an
NSA/Orewellian style nightmare as a natural extension of what an egomaniacal
mad scientist would do if he was trying to be a responsible hero. 

However, there is a big con and that is Ghost Peter arrives
way too soon and brings little to the table. Look we all knew from day one
Peter was coming back but we didn’t need to see him this soon. Chapter 2 is by
far the weakest entry in this trade with the Peter’s constant narration on Ock’s
actions just irritating. Worse it over simplifies the story. We all know Ock is
going to fail at being Spider-man. But for the story to have meaning Ock’s
failures and successes need to be his own and not caused by the subliminal
influence of Peter.

The Mary Jane subplot is also kind of weak, but in that case
I’ll give Slott a pass because it’s a damned if you do, damned if you don’t
situation. If Ock beds Mary Jane there are going to be cries of rape. If he
ignores her she would know something is up and fans would complain she’s being
marginalized in a story where she should have a presence. This way Ock rids
himself of her in a way that sidesteps the first issue, but also keeps her
loyal to Peter on a subconscious level and contributes to the Cooper subplot.
Overall probably the best that could be done in terms of service to a long-term
story with Ock as Peter.

Grade B+.  There is a lot more good than bad here, and
even more promising is seeds are being set to let the concept grow and improve
in the future.

 

 

 

 

Waiting for the Trade – Spider-man 700

Waiting for the Trade

by Bill Miller

 

Amazing Spider-man:
Dying Wish

By Dan Slott, Humberto
Ramos and Richard Elson

Collects Amazing
Spider-man 698-700.

 

Why I bought this: I
love Spidey in general and this is the biggest Spidey story in years, possibly
decades so I frickin’ preordered this on Amazon to get as soon as it hit trade.

 

The Plot: Doc Ock
manages to switch brains with Spider-man putting Pete in Ock’s body just as Ock
is at death’s door.

 

Heavy spoilers ahead:

 

Chapter 1 – In prison we see Ock doesn’t have long to live. We
then see a fairly typical day in the life with Pete being in an upbeat mood as
he stops crimes, does some science stuff at Horizon Labs and socializes with MJ
and Aunt May. The Avengers page Spidey saying Ock is asking for him and doesn’t
have long to live. Spidey agrees to visit him and in private we learn that Ock
has switched their brains though each has access to all of the other’s
memories. Peter-Ock then goes into cardiac arrest.

Chapter 2 – Doctors revive Peter-Ock but they feel he has less
than 24 hours left to live. Peter imagines all the damage Ock can do in his
body including killing his loved ones or using his Avengers security codes to
take down the team. He then accesses Ock’s memories to realize how Ock did this
and it dates back to issue 600 when Pete used a mental control helmet to
override Ock’s Octobots which then gave Ock a copy of Pete’s brainwaves. Pete
then uses Ock’s memories to activate one of his escape plans to hire a new
Sinister Six to bust him out of jail although he only ends up with three:
Scorpion, Hydroman and Trapster. Peter-Ock then offers the villains millions to
bring him Spider-man alive.

Chapter 3 – Octo-Peter is taking MJ on a date when he
discovers “Doc Ock” has escaped from prison on the news. Ock then goes to the
airport to book a flight to Belgium
and not return until Peter dies. Meanwhile in Ock’s undersea lab Ock’s body
goes into cardiac arrest again, Peter goes to heaven and chats with Uncle Ben
and every other major dead cast member and Ben tells him to get up and fight
one more time. Back in the world Peter-Ock is recovers and orders the villains
to go to the police. Mayor Jameson gets on TV and calls Ock a loser, which
angers Octo-Peter enough that he decides to stay in New York to prove to himself that he can
beat Spider-man in a fight. At the police station Peter-Ock runs into Carlisle
Cooper and tells her about the brain-swap but she doesn’t believe him. When she
fires on him the arms react instinctively and injure her. Pete feels bad but
with time running out he takes what he came for from the police impound–the
brainwave helmet that set this in motion 100 issues ago—and leaves. Octo-Spidey
gathers Pete’s loved ones in Avengers
Tower to protect them
from Ock, while showing them Peter’s plane ticket to explain Peter’s absence.
He says they are being targeted by Ock because of the revelation that Peter
builds Spidey’s tech at Horizon. Ock tries to self destruct his undersea base
with the villains in it but Peter has already disarmed the device since they
share memories. So Ock-Spidey just calls the police and tells them where Ock’s
base is. Scorpion and Hydroman take out the cops as Pete wonders how far he
will let the villains to get his life back. Back inside Trapster realizes Peter-Ock
has built a new brain-swap helmet and is afraid he is Ock’s intended victim so
Peter-Ock neutralizes him pretty quickly. MJ tells Peter she still loves him
but of course it’s Ock and not Peter in one of those great Spider-man ironies
and they share a kiss. Peter-Ock goes to Avengers Towers
to tell one of the super science guys there what has happened but it is too
late as Ock has activated all of his Octo-bots across the city and the Avengers
are out dealing with them. So finally we get the physical fight between the two
of them with the other villains helping Octo-Peter. Octo-Spidey gets rid of
them by “letting it slip” that Jameson is here among Peter’s loved ones and
Scorpion’s obsession with Jameson takes over so that he and Hydroman abandon the
fight. Max Modell defeats Hydroman as Scorpion threatens Peter’s loved ones.
Scorpion goes too far when he threatens Aunt May (whom Ock was once engaged to)
and Octo-Spidey hits him full strength and dislocates his jaw as Ock realizes
just how strong Peter’s body is.  When
Peter sees this he realizes just how much damage Ock can do as him and realizes
he has to stop him at any cost so he uses the Ock arms to throw them both at
the window. Octo-Spidey saves them both with a web cushion. Peter plays his
final card by having the brain switch robot attack but Ock has protected his
skull and then he hauls off and decks his own dying body. As Peter-Ock is dying
he flashes back to Uncle Ben and Octopus sees the memory too. Peter realizes
the brainwave link partially functions even without the machine and floods Ock
with memories of his entire life and career as Spidey in a series of gorgeous
splash pages. And then Peter dies telling Ock the lesson of With Great Power
and Great Responsibility while getting him to promise to keep his loved ones
safe. As he stands over his own dead body, Octo-Spidey vows to be a Superior Spider-man than Pete was.

Bonus 1 – An old Peter is hanging out with his grandson and
tells him about his life as Spidey, albeit with some memory gaps.

Bonus 2 – Back when Peter was dating the Black Cat she gets
a new apartment and manages to steal things to decorate it behind Peter’s back
while he fights a giant robot.

 

Critical Thoughts:
Simply Fabulous. Issue 700 is every bit as epic as it should be. This is an
instant classic worthy to be included in the pantheon of the greatest
Spider-man stories ever told as Peter and Ock play this intense game of mental
chess anticipating each other moves back and forth and taking advantage of
weapons and alliances available to them in their new identities.

The two set-up issues are also well done, particularly the
narration in chapter 1 which reads like a typical Spider-man picking himself up
for a new day story and then once you know the plot twist the exact same
narration takes on a completely different connotation.

That Slott ties his explanation to how Ock was able to do
this back to issue 600 gives this story an even more epic feel as it looks like
something that has been in the works for 100 issues set between two big
landmark numbers for the character. Issue 600 in general did a lot to make Ock
a much more credible threat, as there was long period where he was clearly no
longer at the same level as the Goblins and symbiotes. Slott has been building
Ock up throughout his run on the title and this is a hell of a payoff.

There are a few quibbles. To me the biggest one is Jonah
suddenly coming around and seeing Spidey as a hero. First of all in a general
sense Spidey saved the life of Jonah, his son and pretty much everyone who
works at the Bugle scores of times and Jonah has never come around so why
should this time be different? In a more specific sense Jonah’s problem with
Spidey has always been his fear that an unknown masked man not accountable to
anyone would cross the line and go out of control one day, (in fact Jonah’s
been shown for years to support Captain America because his identity is subject
to government oversight) so to have him change his mind in a scene where Spidey
brutalizes Scorpion is completely contrary to the entire motivation of the
character. I get Slott is doing it for the irony of ‘Jameson’s finally stops
thinking of Spider-man as a menace only when he actually is a menace–nyuk
nyuk’ factor; but it just does not work if you know the history of Jameson’s
character. That same type of poetic irony works perfectly in the Mary Jane
scene so using irony isn’t always a bad choice, but I don’t think works for
Jameson.

Ditto the use of Ock’s prior history with Aunt May. There’s
a scene when Pete accesses Ock’s memories and it is implied he relives Ock and
May having sex. That’s just icky and unnecessary especially for a story of this
magnitude. Conversely having Ock treat the threat the villains pose to Pete’s
loved ones as a game until Scorpion threatens May is a good use of that same
old continuity between Ock and May.

Finally while I can see the argument that having Pete force
Ock to relive his memories as a way of getting him to embrace being a hero is a
shortcut that is too external to Ock to make him really change; I disagree. I
found the scene to be quite powerful and I loved the flashback collage and
narration. Here Pete is dying and we see the “amazing” life he’s lived and it
inspires Ock to be a hero, making it Pete’s last heroic validating act. That
doesn’t mean Ock is instantly a good person now, it just means he’s going to
try to be a hero which sets up the fun of the Superior title: seeing Ock try to
live up to Pete’s legacy–which this being comics he will almost certainly fail
at so Pete can reclaim his life later in what will hopefully be a story just as
epic as this one.

 

Grade A+. If
you’re going to kill off Spider-man and cancel the flagship title of the Marvel
Universe you better have a damn good story to live up to that. Fortunately
Slott has an excellent one in this trade.

 

PS – As for the bonus stuff, the first one is crap but I
found the Black Cat story to be a fun little throw away but then I like Felicia.