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

The Story: As Fred’s problems get bigger, the rest of the Sinister Six begins to understand that their boss might be an absolute crook.

The Review: It’s always fun to see a title that should not work actually managing to do just so. To see a book with a concept that could fail or with characters that aren’t popular enough see success, be it critical or commercial, is something to look forward to. It encourages diversity and it means that some of the less-appreciated stereotypes aren’t always true, as readers can be open to diversity when dealing with capes comics. X-Men Legacy, Hawkeye and, of course, Superior Foes of Spider-Man each does things differently and they are all very good.

However, doing things differently isn’t always a proof of innovation and a certain path to quality, as not every writers can handle everything in the same way. Nick Spencer, for all his worth, can stumble here and there, with even the best of his series getting in a funk once in a while. Is this issue, in a way, the fall in terms of quality for this series?

It would be rather harsh to say that this issue is bad, as it stands far from this approximation in terms of quality, yet it unfortunately isn’t as strong or as funny as previous ones. While this does mean in any way that this is a bad issue, there are certain flaws that makes this issue far less enjoyable.

The first of them is that the pacing in this issue is a bit off. While the continuous misadventures of Fred Myers are always entertaining, there are blackouts and jumps in the timeline introduced in the comic that are handled in a rather bizarre way. Pushing forth two dream sequences, Spencer tries to advocate for the stranger workings of Boomerang’s mind while doing so with humor, yet it does not amount to nothing the readers don’t already know about the character. While the scenes are silly and a tad inventive, it does not amount to much in the grander scheme of things, be it with the themes of the series or with Fred as a character.

There is also the fact that some of the subplots, while not all of them being of importance to a book that play comedy as one of its main strength, does not advance much or at least in satisfactory ways. The Shocker one, while presenting how pathetic the man actually is, presents some setbacks on how Spencer wrote him before, forcing a bit the generally unlucky super-villain as a submissive person rather than the criminal and how he had displayed inventiveness in some previous issues when dealing with problems, such as his fight against Luke Cage. The other thread with the rest of the Sinister Six, while better, does not advance much in any real form as well, which shows that the characters and humor have always been the main strengths of this series in the first place, with the plotting being somewhat awkward once it gets the spotlight.

Still, despite these flaws, there are several tidbits that are still as enjoyable as ever, like the incongruous approach to its inner continuity or the smaller character moments played for laugh. The music in the musical box torture, the fact that Chameleon likes Katherine Heigl as an actress, the normalcy of Shocker’s apartment, the general dialogue of Fred Myers are all little touches that adds to the whole that is this issue, providing humor and a general outlook on the fact that super-villains are indeed a weird bunch in a world that is both crazy and normal at the same time.
Another delightful moment, which comes as a surprising development and one that can make this book work in a whole new way is the romantic relation between Fred and that girl he met in a bar. While those scenes weren’t the funniest or most interesting in previous issues, this specific one changes that in a big way, providing for something unexpected that has potential for jokes, twists and many explorations of what Boomerang is willing to do to make it work.

Of course, another aspect that works in this issue is the art, with Steve Lieber being back on duty. Bringing his excellent panel-to-panel fluidity and his excellent storytelling capacity to the forefront, Lieber makes each and every scene clear for readers, allowing the dialogue to actually add something instead of just explaining what is happening. Collaborating very well with Spencer, the expressions and the smaller touches in the backgrounds and around the characters are pure gold, adding a lot to the cohesive whole. While some of his lines are perhaps a little bit rough here and there, there is no mistake that close to everything is calculated to either look ridiculous or utterly normal, making it so the lines between the two is blurred, which fits the themes of this series quite well.

The colorization of Rachelle Rosenberg is also quite apt, with a penchant for normal colorization and hyperbole that sets some massive contrasts between the world of super-villains and the real world. The dream sequences, done in bright and warm colors, are immediately set apart by the more nuanced and less colorful colors used in Shocker and Fred’s apartment respectively. There is a world of restraint in this book at times which makes all the other outlandish elements stand out even more, like the scenes with the Sinister Six and the actual super-villains in the book. For her part in the collaboration that is this issue, Rosenberg does a good job here.

The Conclusion: While not as strong as some previous issues, the little touches of humor, developments and the art in general makes this an enjoyable one nonetheless. They can’t be all excellent, but being fun is sometime enough.

Grade: B

-Hugo Robberts Larivière