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Comics: In the Superior Foes of Spider-man, five goofy villains believe they’re more than the sum of their parts


spider-man

The Spider-titles were proliferating around my house. I figured I needed to squish a few.

First, I had started buying my son Ultimate Spider-Man. Then, I added The Amazing Spider-Man. Soon enough, I was also buying Scarlet Spider. And then The Amazing Spider-Man became The Superior Spider-Man (and suddenly and shockingly Peter Parker was apparently absent from both the Ultimate universe and the standard Marvel continuity), and that meant spinoff titles. I let Superior Spider-Man Team-Up slide, but ended up with The Superior Foes of Spider-Man.

I considered dropping Superior Foes from my pull list. My son couldn’t possibly keep up with all these titles, and with Scarlet Spider coming to an end, I figured we’d get back to basics with just Ultimate and Superior. But the fellows at Daydreams Comics encouraged me to give Superior Foes a look. They went so far as to suggest it was the best Spider-Man title going, even though Spider-Man himself rarely made an appearance.

Intrigued, I gathered up my son’s issues and dove in. Since I haven’t been reading the other Spider-titles, I can’t confirm that Superior Foes is the best of them, but I can say that it’s a fairly solid book with a lot of potential. Which is why it’s unfortunate that it appears to be coming to an end.

The Superior Foes of Spider-Man is, by and large, a comedy, a fact signaled early on when we discover that the gang calling itself the Sinister Six only has five members. The leader is Boomerang, also known as Fred Myers, a largely inept villain trying to lead—but also double-cross—a crew of second-stringers. Shocker, Overdrive, Speed Demon and a new incarnation of Beetle round out the team.

Speaking of teams, the creative team for the book includes writer Nick Spencer, artist Steve Lieber, colorist Rachelle Rosenberg and letterer Joe Caramagna. Spencer does a particularly good job bringing Boomerang to life, aided in large part by the fact that the villain provides the book’s narration. Boomerang is a striver, frustrated by his inability to best Spider-Man or make a true name for himself. As he tells his tale, letting us in bit by bit on his feints and follies, we come to like him more and more—in much the same way the potential romantic interest in the story warms to him over time.

The other members of the Sinister Six don’t come into nearly as sharp of focus in the early issues. One of Lieber’s strengths is the physical portrayal of characters, and he particularly excels at transmitting Shocker’s full range of emotions despite the fact that his face is entirely covered by his mask. But while Spencer writes some witty dialogue for the rest of team, I had a hard time remembering their names and powers for quite a while. It is, of course, hard to give everyone in a multi-character story equal time when you’re trying to keep your plot moving.

This problem is addressed in fits and starts. The seventh issue, with Rich Ellis subbing for Lieber and Lee Loughridge subbing for Rosenberg, provides a backstory for Beetle. The tenth issue, crafted by a full fill-in team of writers and artists, gives us more insight into Overdrive, Beetle and Speed Demon as they recount their biggest (but spurious) victories over major league heroes. But the book loses much of its energy when Boomerang isn’t at the fore, and that may have become a long-term issue for the title.

I say “may have” because it seems clear that Superior Foes is drawing to a close. The Superior Spider-Man is swinging back to The Amazing Spider-Man (to coincide with the movie The Amazing Spider-Man 2), and this would suggest that the Superior spinoffs are likely to be cut. There are other signs, too. The eleventh issue, like the tenth, was handled by a fill-in team—and oddly didn’t feature the Foes at all (though Spidey was all over it). The second collected edition is scheduled to include issues 7-15, which is more issues than you generally find in a collection, suggesting that it may be the end of the line. It’s too bad these guys won’t have the opportunity to fully come into their own.

Marvel released the first six issues in The Superior Foes of Spider-Man Vol. 1: Getting the Band Back Together. The story arc is strong, with an engaging, often humorous storyline and good art. While some storylines are left open at the end of the arc, the subsequent issues have been uneven. I’m hopeful that things will come to a satisfying end over what may be the final four issues, but if you want to give the series a look, you might make a superior decision by focusing on the initial six issues featuring the inaccurately named Sinister Six.

Born colorblind and therefore convinced he’d never enjoy graphic forms of storytelling, Rob Cline was first bitten by the comics bug in college. The resulting virus lay dormant for many years before it was activated by the inscrutable work of Grant Morrison. Now Cline seeks out the good and bad across the comics landscape as the Colorblind Comics Critic.

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