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The Superior Foes Of Spider-Man #1 – Review

SUPERIOR FOES OF SPIDER-MAN #1

By: Nick Spencer (Writer), Steve Lieber (Artist), Rachelle Rosenberg (Colorist)

The Story: We get introduced to the Sinister Six as they try to bust out Boomerang out of jail.

The Review: Villains books are rather hard to do, from what it seems. It can be difficult to make readers care about protagonists that aren’t exactly angels, but rather criminals, the kind of characters that are beaten up in other books. It can, of course, be done as we have seen in the likes of Thunderbolts and Secret Six, putting the villains in starring roles by making them sympathetic although their motivations, goals and methods aren’t exactly noble.

With that point-of-view, it is kind of hard to see what Nick Spencer was trying to do in this book featuring five D-listers (at best) that usually gets beaten up by pretty much any superhero in the Marvel universe. From what we can see, Spencer tries to have the Daredevil/Hawkeye effect, by putting his rather extraordinary characters throughout more ordinary circumstances, creating a rather sharp contrast between the normal world and these colored super-criminals. In some ways, Spencer does achieve that effect of normality, which does create some humor and some interesting moments on their own, yet he is not completely successful on that front.

The main problem is rather simple: while many of these scenes do introduce some of these characters in ways that varies in terms of success, they do not feel very connected with each other. Sure, it’s funny to see Beetle go into a comic store for a robbery, as Spencer gives us some meta-commentary on the market right now, yet this scene does not really amount to much in introducing the character of Beetle, nor does it really advance the plot in any meaningful way. It does not give us much about the character of Beetle for us to latch onto.

This is a problem that’s also attached to some of the other characters as well, as it can be something that plagues villains books: empathy. It can be hard to sympathize with characters that are basically jerks all the time, without much of any redeeming value for most of these characters. Sure, we can feel a bit for Shocker, the loser of the team or the bad luck that most of these characters usually get, yet as leads, we don’t get much.

As much as I point out the negative points, I do have to say that there’s also a lot to like here, though. The plot itself, with Boomerang manipulating his teammates into doing a job for him in order to get out of jail, is a pretty good premise to really get us into what the series will be about: losers criminals that don’t get enough respect. It is interesting to follow as we get the opinion and life story of Boomerang, an old favourite of mine from Jeff Parker’s Thunderbolts days.

As good as it is to see just how Boomerang fares, I do have to say that some of the characterization, despite being less than sympathetic for us readers, is entertaining. Be it the fact that Speed Demon is a big jerk or the fact that Shocker is an easily manipulated loser, these characters can give us some pretty amusing scenes, like the Hammerhead one in Boomerang’s apartment. If Spencer can play continually play with these characters in these ways, we may have a thoroughly entertaining comic in our hands.

Although we may have something that may be entertaining, we can be pretty sure that we are in good enough hands on the art with Steve Lieber, who does some very emotive faces and poses for his characters, giving us some amusing nods along the way (”Approved by the comic code authority). The way he draws the more standard scene does work well with the script in order to pop up the elements that are more ”out-there”, like Shocker and Speed Demon. A lot of what he draws is much more subtle and nuanced, as he can be seen as the opposite of people like Mcguinness and Madureira who deals in the more bombastic. He is a lot smaller in his approach to details and characters, which works in the advantage of this title that relies on its characters rather than its plot.

Another thing that work really well in the general approach is the coloring, which does exactly like the art and the script: create a contrast with the normal world. The supervillains are flashy in their colors, whereas the normal world is exactly that: normal. It does help us concentrate on the characters and their shenanigans.

The Conclusion: While the approach to these characters and the connectivity between the scenes may need some work, Nick Spencer does give us an entertaining villain and underdog story that is fun to read and good to look at thanks to Steve Lieber and Rachelle Rosenberg.

Grade: B

Hugo Robberts Larivière

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8 Responses

  1. The way DC uses Kindt as a pinch hitter I will be shocked if he is on for more than 2 or 3 issues.

  2. Thanks so much for this review! I feel silly – never made the connection that the Boomerang from the Spiderman/Gambit books was the same Boomerang from Thunderbolts.

    Sounds like this issue was something of a mixed bag. I’ll hold off on jumping on until we get a better sense of what to expect. Although I’d like to read a book about these characters, I am not a fan of Nick Spencer. His Ultimate X-men run was terrible, and the abrupt way he dumped that book (and his first Secret Avengers stint, which had that nice issue with Beast in DC) really rubbed me the wrong way.

    • Nick Spencer is a mixed bag for me too. I initially liked his T.H.U.N.D.E.R Agents, yet found it to be a bore quickly as it went on. Ultimate X-Men was just uninteresting, yet I can say that I am enjoying his current stint on Secret Avengers and that this title might have an interesting future if can make the readers invested in those low-level super criminals.

  3. I picked this up on a last second whim despite the dumb title and ended up liking it a lot,. The world-weary “getting the gang together for a heist” feel was a lot of fun, giving it the atmosphere of a great old French film like Bob le Flambeur. Definitely a completely different vibe from theoretically comparable books like Thunderbolts or Secret Six. If Marvel can keep the team consistent and avoid annoying crossovers (I suppose a Superior Spiderman cross is inevitable), this might be a winner. I hope the market can sustain this book without a big name creator or character. I’m definitely in for at least a few more issues and possibly for the long run.

    I do have a few nits to pick. Spencer’s Boomerang is a great re-envisioning of the character, but Jeff Parker just did a great re-envisioning of the character over the last couple of years in Thunderbolts, and I am not sure the two visions are consistent (Parker’s Boomerang is more … enthusiastic?). Overdrive and the new Beetle need more fleshing out. And the comic book scene was way too on the nose. Also, while I thought Steve Lieber’s artwork was very good and suited the tone, I put it in the same category as Patrick Zircher’s work on Suicide Squad or Nick Dragotta on East of West – very good stuff, but not outstanding enough to attract me to the book independently of the writing and plot (unlike Valerio Schiti on JIM, Kev Walker on Avengers Arena, Becky Cloonan on Killjoys, or Aja on Hawkeye, for example). Don’t get me wrong though, Spencer and Lieber did a great job – these are minor complaints.

    • I was a tad saddened to see a reimagination of Boomerang, but that new voice kind of suited him, so in the end it was okay.

      As for Beetle and Overdrive, I’m sure we’ll get better characterization or a deeper one in the coming issues. This one was much more focused on Boomerang, Shocker and Speed Demon. It made for something entertaining, but I’m really curious to see how they’ll function as a team.

      I’m pretty sure we’ll get more accustomed to Lieber’s artistic take on the book, though I sincerely hope he gets to stay for a good period of time. Something that can kill a book like this quite easily would be a lack of stability on the artistic side of the equation.

      • I’m sure you’re right about Beetle and Overdrive – as I said, minor nits. And I quite like Lieber’s work – I just don’t “love” it like I do Aja’s Cloonan’s, Schiti’s, Allred’s, Walker’s etc., and there is enough good stuff available that I usually shoot to only get books where I love the art. We’ll see, it may grow on me. Like I said, I enjoyed this quite a bit and am on board for the foreseeable future, especially with JIM and Dial H sized-holes in my lineup to replace, and apparently now Suicide Squad as well (Kot gone, I’m gone).

        • For my part, I’ll give Suicide Squad a chance, as Matt Kindt, the replacement for Ales Kot, is actually quite good. I’m not sure if he’ll be able to continue with the same energy, yet it could be worthwhile.

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