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Superior Foes of Spider-Man #12 – Review

By: Nick Spencer (Writer), Steve Lieber (Artist), Rachelle Rosenberg (Color Artist), VC’s Clayton Cowles (Letterer), Ron Wimberly (Cover Artist)

The Story:
“I guess it was kinda like the last time after all” (Boomerang, page 17).

The Review:
When the first lines of the story begins “doesn’t it feel like we’ve been standing here a long time?” I find myself with mixed feelings. One, I have to laugh in spite of myself, because it is a very metatextual self-deprecating joke. On the other hand, it’s upsetting that such a joke has to be made in the first place. It takes some time to remember what exactly the storyline was four months ago, from which this scene picks up.

In some ways, however, the exact storyline isn’t really important. This series really shines when there’s a focus on one man, Boomerang, and the rest of the team, indeed even the rest of the villains in the Marvel comics universe as well as the overall plot, are all basically in service to exploring Boomerang as a character. In this issue, Boomerang has to face his teammates and bluff his way back into their good graces, face the Owl and convince him to bankroll a new job, and pretty much pull off the same job from the beginning of the series. This allows Boomerang to engage in some truly humorous dialogue, of that “squirmy, awkward” variety. (Hmm. “Squawkward?”) One of my favorites was when the reader is given opportunity to see inside Boomerang’s head when he catches himself from misspeaking; it results in a virtual stream of consciousness as sentences cascade behind his silhouette in free association.

But you know? In some other ways, the exact storyline really is important. Characterization aside, this is a heist story, and such stories rely on very specific details. It’s awesome that some of these details are left for the artist, with comics being a visual medium of course– in particular, the double-page spread of the target lair is funny. But is it really informative? Again, it actually tell us more about Boomerang, since this is a visualization of his point-of-view and narrative, and less about the actual plot, since the things pictured must be exaggerated, metaphorical, or just made up.
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Superior Foes of Spider-Man #9 – Review

by Nick Spencer (Writer), Steve Lieber, Rich Ellis (Artists), Rachelle Rosenberg (Colorist)

The Story: It’s Boomerang versus Bullseye. Who will emerge victorious?

The Review
: There is a certain trend that has been going around for a good number of years in the comic market, one that has changed the very way books are written and sold. For a good period of times, arcs and long saga were varying in their lengths, with creators having a certain control over the whole thing. Cue the arrival of the trade paperbacks, hardcover’s and the overall collection of storylines. With them came the popular expression ”written for the trade”, indicating a story that has been created specifically to be collected in one single book, leading to decompression sometimes and a general presentation that creators had to recreate as to get work. Long gone was the approach that made such epics like Walter Simonson’s Thor and other such work.

However, with a more open approach nowadays for creators, there is a certain resurgence of complete stories in a single issue, more stream-lined stories and experimentation more akin to the past of the market. One of the books that is clearly part of the new wave is Superior Foes of Spider-Man, with Nick Spencer and Steve Lieber simply making the story progress with each issue, the book being an evolving arc instead of a series of stories leading to a massive progression made step by step.

This issue, in itself, is a wonderful example of why that is a good thing, with plenty of the plot threads moving forward, yet without sacrificing what makes the title fun to begin with. Continuing the adventures of Boomerang, a loser super-villain, and the rest of his crew, the title entertain not only through its vision of what it means to be a lower-class villain in the Marvel universe, but also through its emphasis on showing them as people and not just as antagonists.
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Secret Avengers #16 – Review

by Nick Spencer, Ales Kot (Writers), Luke Ross (Artist), Matthew Wilson (Colorist)

The Story: Mockingbird gets her revenge as the weights of all the secrets may be too much for some S.H.I.E.L.D. agents.

The Review: Everyone have some preconceptions when it comes to finales. Whenever something conclude, many people hope to see a closure on the important themes, that each threads will get resolved and that there will be big moments that leave fans satisfied of the whole ride. Some books do deliver, some exceed expectations, yet some unfortunately comes short of greatness, which is always a tad regrettable for those who followed the whole thing.

This finale is, in its own ways, a strange beast as it manages to be all of those things, providing a certain sense of closure to the war against Andrew Forson, yet also goes out of its way to provide for some ending to other aspects that don’t all work.

One of the weirdest, yet strangely moving part is the one with Mentallo, one of the ministers of A.I.M. who was particularly depressed in this arc. While the few pages he received earlier never did seem especially important or relevant to the overall conflict shown, it was a certain showcase of a man hit by depression, by a cage of his own design and that wanted out. In this issue, both Kot and Spencer gives him a finale that is bizarre, but also utterly touching, with him doing plenty to help the only actual friend he had as well as setting himself free in a fashion that is creative, yet also true to the character.

A side that is also well played, yet in a way that feels a bit more true to the roots of the book is the one with the team and Maria Hill, with the secrets and the way the game is played being too much for many present in the heli-carrier. Opening with M.O.D.O.K and finishing with a term very familiar to fans of the series, those few pages encapsulate a lot of what Spencer and then Kot made work in this series. It’s a fitting ending to the current iteration of this team, with finishes on a panel focusing on Maria Hill, one of the better character of this series.
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Avengers World #3 – Review

by Jonathan Hickman, Nick Spencer (Writers), Stefano Caselli (Artist), Frank Martin, Antonio Fabela, Edgar Delgado (Colorists)

The Story: It’s Shang-Chi versus Gorgon atop a flying dragon. How much more kung-fu can you get?

The Review
: I love martial arts. To be a bit more precise, I love martial arts as depicted in fiction, with their choreography, their effects, the slow-motions and all the hyperbole related to the genre. It might be unrealistic, it might even be a bit of an insult to true masters of physical prowess and perfection, but there’s no denying the fact that as far as visuals go, it can be very entertaining.

Few comics these days actually try to represent the genre at its very core. Even some titles published years before like The Immortal Iron Fist did not solely focus on this particular element, yet shone when they did present it at its best. However, this issue seems like a homage to older Bruce Lee movies, yet one that possess a definite super heroic vibe that makes things even bigger. However, does all this kung-fu action manage to make this issue enjoyable or does it end up only as a mess?

For what it tries to bring to readers, this issue is definitely one of the more enjoyable in the short tenure of this series. Focusing solely on Shang-Chi and his battle against Gorgon, the leader of the Hand and its many deadly ninjas, this issue brings a boatload of action in the best of ways. There is an inherent exaggeration of some regular tropes, yet played in a very serious light that makes this definitely entertaining as far as depiction of violence is done.
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Secret Avengers #15 – Review

by Nick Spencer, Ales Kot (Writers), Luke Ross (Artist), Matthew Wilson (Colorist)

The Story: Contracts are signed, extractions are done and the secrets in the pile of mysteries are revealed.

The Review: Everyone has its limits when it comes to patience. While not always the most impatient of man, I can sometime get anxious for things to actually reach their culminating point. In story, in cooking and in a lot of areas where anticipation is key, there is a fine line in the sand when it comes to getting the awaited results.

This is how my general appreciation of this series could be summarized, with plenty of things going on, situations being built yet the climax never came with each issues. To be able to set up a threat and build it to make it interesting takes skill, yet there is slow build and then there’s teasing, which this series has been on the verge of doing in this particular arc.

It seems, however, that it had been a stratagem on the part of Ales Kot and Nick Spencer, who goes all the way in this issue to deliver not only an exciting issue, but also plenty of twists and surprise to amplify the espionage and intrigue part of the series without sacrificing the action and particular identity of the book.
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Superior Foes of Spider-Man #8 – Review

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.
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Avengers World #2 – Review

by Jonathan Hickman, Nick Spencer (Writers), Stefano Caselli (Artist), Frank Martin (Colorist)

The Story: Smasher gets a lesson in what the world will soon turn into, courtesy of A.I.M.

The Review: Beware what you desire, for you may get it.

I am pretty sure I am quoting this incorrectly, but the message behind this is abundantly clear, as expectations and desires should always be kept balanced and in check. One of the main problem I had with Avengers by Hickman was that I though there could be a better emphasis on characters instead of just big concepts and ideas, which made the title a bit frustrating at times. With Avengers World being released with Nick Spencer at the helm, I had high hope that this title could reverse the trend and give readers a title which could focus a bit more on the characters instead of the general huge ideas that Jonathan is rather good at writing.

It seems that this is what both Spencer and Hickman delivered with this issue, with a certain emphasis on Smasher, the new character created by Hickman during his first issues on the franchise, combining certain elements of the whole Marvel universe for his team. With an issue explaining a bit the character and giving us an insight on her philosophy and approach, there is unfortunately a certain oversight that makes this generally less enjoyable that it could be. Simply put, there is close to no progress to this story that is exciting and enticing enough to provide plenty for readers to latch unto.

For sure, the manner in which Spencer and Hickman are able to connect some of A.I.M.’s manifesto to Smasher to her vision and her past with her grandfather makes for some rather touching moment, as the philosophy of her beloved elder and how he says the world is does help in setting the character more for readers potentially interested in who she is and what she does. The manner in which the tale of Captain Terror and how she does her stuff in the Avengers makes for a good exploration of the character, which is something that extrapolate in the issue that focused on her in Avengers.
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