Friday, 28 March 2014

The Superior Foes of Spider-Man, Volume 1: Getting the Band Back Together Review (Nick Spencer, Steve Lieber)

I blame cynical marketing for making cynics of us all (or at least me)! 

Superior Spider-Man has been a huge bestseller for Marvel and spinoff titles were inevitable. So when I saw the multiple Superior titles appearing – Team-Up, Foes, and Carnage – I stayed away thinking they’d be derivative knock-offs. And it’s that attitude that kept me away from one of Marvel’s hidden gems from the last year: Nick Spencer and Steve Lieber’s Superior Foes of Spider-Man (a series which actually has nothing whatsoever to do with Superior Spider-Man). 

Boomerang, Shocker, Speed Demon, Overdrive and Beetle are the new Sinister Six (and yes they’re aware they’re only 5!) who’re tired of being beaten by Spidey and winding up in jail. But of course they didn’t get to where they are today without failing to learn from their mistakes so they jump right into another criminal plot! During his latest stint in jail, Boomerang comes up with one big heist to put the new Sinister Six back on the map and in the money: steal the head of Silvio Silvermane (a cyborg gangster) from the Owl! 

Foes follows in the footsteps of Matt Fraction’s Hawkeye and FF and Mark Waid’s Daredevil, in that it’s a strongly character-driven series with innovative art, jokes aplenty, and a minimum of traditional superhero shenanigans. Boomerang is a dude who throws boomerangs and wears a boomerang on his head but he becomes more than a gimmicky D-list villain in this book and turns into a real character that you actually care about. 

Care about or at least laugh at. Foes looks at the life of a loser villain who: hangs out in crummy basements while planning heists with his equally loser villain colleagues; has a former friend as his parole officer, Abner Jenkins the original Beetle now Mach VII (a cheap War Machine knockoff); falls for a baseball-loving bartender; attends supervillains anonymous (Wreck It Ralph had a similar scene); and gets fleeced by his sleazy lawyer. 

Spencer’s script is filled with great scenes and jokes that work. When Beetle tries to rob a comic book store, she leaves exasperated when faced with the nerdiness of it all: “which variant covers did you want? Bags and boards?” etc. At the supervillains anonymous meeting, Boomerang hugs a giant hippo character in a scene parodying the Ed Norton/Meat Loaf scene from Fight Club when Norton’s face gets smooshed into Meat Loaf’s moobs – Lieber even positions the characters in exactly the same pose! 

Lieber’s art matches Spencer’s comedic script perfectly. Taking its cue from David Aja’s approach in Hawkeye, creative and different styles get thrown into the mix alongside solid artwork. Symbols replace banal dialogue so when girls flock to Mach VII for a photograph, you just see a symbol rather than the words “can we have a picture with you?”. There’s an awesome four panel dream sequence using near-stick figures when Boomerang’s with his lawyer, Partridge, and imagining decapitating him with a boomerang. Also, the layout of the Owl’s lair is simplistically portrayed in a child-like two-dimensional way to mirror Boomerang’s simplistic plan to storm the place head on. 

Superior Foes Vol 1 has turned me into a Steve Lieber fan and made me do a 180 on my opinion of Nick Spencer’s writing. It’s a funny, inventive and really entertaining comic which I would never have thought could be done with characters like Boomerang and Overdrive – that Spencer’s pulled it off is a helluva feat! If you like comics like Hawkeye and Daredevil, check out Superior Foes of Spider-Man for an awesome read.

The Superior Foes of Spider-Man Volume 1: Getting the Band Back Together

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