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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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Secret Avengers #14 – Review

by Nick Spencer, Ales Kot (Writers), Butch Guice, Joe Rubinstein (Artists), Matthew Wilson (Colorist)

The Story: Mockingbird ”learns” a bit more about herself as the rest of the team are brought to their destination after being captured.

The Review
: It’s always rather sad to see something that you can personally admit that it’s smartly made, yet cannot really enjoy to its fullest. You may see the quality behind the work, yet some elements present are in the way of your personal enjoyment. It may be the characters, it may be the style, perhaps even the general tone of the whole thing, yet something doesn’t connect to allow you to make the most of the book.

It is unfortunately what this issue of Secret Avengers amounts to for me, on a personal level. I can certainly see what’s good about the issue, yet there is something that simply doesn’t make this issue as good as some of the previous ones for me.

Something that I can see that is rather ingenious is the way in which Ales Kot and Nick Spencer manage to mix a certain exploration of Andrew Forson through the brainwashing scenes with Mockingbird. Pushing forth the philosophy of the character through the learning process of the manipulated agent, the nihilistic views of Forson becomes rather intriguing, as some of the previous events and some of A.I.M.’s plans becomes that much more threatening in prospect.
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Avengers World #1 – Review

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

The Story: Problems arise in a lot of areas on Earth, as the collaboration between S.H.I.E.L.D. and the Avengers start now.

The Review: I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect when I first opened this issue. With this being a clear spin-off of the larger Avengers narrative of Jonathan Hickman, it’s a bit unclear what makes this book different. While it is detached from the structure that Hickman developed and it does try to connect with some of the A.I.M. threads that Nick Spencer has installed with his Secret Avengers run so far, there is a certain problem that doesn’t make the book what it could very well be.

That problem is a lack of a certain angle. It’s not particularly humorous, it’s not something that displays more character work or even something that tries to implement big new ideas. It might seem like a boring book, but it isn’t at all, despite this particular flaw.

One of the actual strength here is the use of the large roster, with both Spencer and Hickman using many characters aptly as the story is divided in multiple areas in the book. While Captain America and Bruce Banner are on a S.H.I.E.L.D. helicarrier, many teams with characters like Hyperion, Smasher, Cannonball, Hawkeye and plenty more are put on display, with most of them actually contributing through their voice or action for the story. It’s not the entire team, but it is a bit different from the regular title in the respect that not all of them are window-dressing, which is nice.
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Superior Foes of Spider-Man #7 – Review

by Nick Spencer (Writer), Rich Ellis (Artist), Lee Loughridge (Colorist)

The Story: How does one become a super villain? Beetle sure seems to know the answer as we see her secret origin.

The Review: In ensemble books, there will always be characters delegated to the background, some that will receive less spotlight than others. It’s something that is fairly common, with books like Hickman’s Avengers and even some issues of Morrison’s JLA run being culprits when it comes to putting a certain focus on certain characters over others. Writers can usually overcome this by either pushing forth with some stories or a single issues featuring them heavily, to balance things out for readers who might start to question the reason behind the inclusion of one of the cast members.

In this month’s issue, Nick Spencer does this by putting the spotlight on the new Beetle, who had been some kind of mystery in the issue of Superior Spider-Man in which she was first introduced. Mostly there to add some tension and to provide humor, we didn’t know much about her, as she shared the same fate as Overdrive in mostly being there without being particularly active, with being reactive being mostly the case as far as character work goes. She wasn’t absent so much as merely there most of the time.

This issue changes this sad status, however, as the rather big reveal of the last issue is not only fleshed out, but it also acts as a character piece revealing just how Beetle grew up to become a member of the Sinister Six. This is told via the relationship between father and daughter, as a very different Tombstone is shown here, presented as a loving and rather doting paternal figure instead of a relentless mob boss. The way both Janice and Tombstone interacts is rather fascinating, with the certain cruelty he is known for mixing with his attitude toward someone he genuinely cares about. It is both funny and rather cute to read at the same time.
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Secret Avengers #13 – Review

by Nick Spencer, Ales Kot (Writers), Butch Guice, Joe Rubinstein, Tom Palmer (Artists), Matthew Wilson (Colorist)

The Story: As things gets a bit more chaotic at A.I.M., Maria Hill and M.O.D.O.K. have a little chat.

The Review
: Not to sound too paranoid, but I think Marvel actually knew I was getting a bit bored with this series. The themes were presented well and some of the ideas were really nice, yet there never seemed to be a character I could follow in a way that made me anticipate the next issue. I like Maria Hill, sure, but characters like Marcus Johnson and Phil Coulson weren’t exactly the most interesting people to follow to begin with.

Then came in M.O.D.O.K., the character too crazy to actually exist, yet too awesome to not to be invented. While the character had been revitalized completely by Jeff Parker in his Red Hulk story in a manner that made him an actual threat, but also an interesting utilitarian figure as well. To say I really loved the character would be an understatement, but is his inclusion enough? Does the addition of this character to the general storyline actually adds anything to the book in terms of quality?

This issue, in ways, both works and doesn’t for a good number of reasons, making the issue a bit uneven in its quality. There are several great ideas at work here, but some of them aren’t focused on enough to make the issue better than it should be.

One of the bigger problems is the constant switch between scenes, which does not leave enough room to build up situations. In this issue, the spotlight jumps from M.O.D.O.K. and Maria Hill, to Taskmaster, Mockingbird, Mentallo and Marcus Johnson, with most of them not getting nearly enough panel time to have an actual impact on the readers. Their scenes do get the point across rather effectively, but a lot of these short spurts aren’t quite enough to provide greater emphasis on their roles or anything else.
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Superior Foes of Spider-Man #6 – Review

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

The Story: Boomerang goes on a date and in more trouble as the other Sinister Six are the captive of the Owl.

The Review: Identity is something impossibly important for a book. In a market where there is a severe load of stories in similar settings, a title needs a hook, a style or something else in order to differentiate itself. There are plenty of zombie, super hero and post apocalyptic stories, yet there is a huge difference between title like Hawkeye and Swamp Thing, like there are differences between Sheltered and Wasteland. Some people may like a specific genre, yet there must be something different between each titles or else the interest of readers would soon become naught. Thankfully, some titles goes out of their way to be different, which may work or not depending on the angle.

Superior Foes of Spider-Man is a title that simply works very well, as its identity, style and angle of presentation are close to unique, with a specific insight on one side of the meta-human equation that doesn’t always get presented as much as it should. However, how does the adventures of a bunch of super hero losers tend to work so well in terms of entertainment?
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Secret Avengers #12 – Review

by Nick Spencer, Ales Kot (Writers), Butch Guice (Artist), Matthew Wilson (Colorist)

The Story
: As Mockingbird tries to fake her way through a presentation, some faction within A.I.M. wishes to make a deal with S.H.I.E.L.D.

The Review: I have to admit something right now: I don’t know how to feel about co-writers. Not only do I never really know who came up with which ideas, but it always seem to me that even though it might not show which pages or concepts were thrown by which. There were instances where it was a bit obvious, like with Brubaker and Fraction on Immortal Iron Fist or the extravaganza of talents that was 52, but in a title that plays to both writers strengths, it plays as a bit of a mystery. It makes it a bit hard to see where the strengths and weaknesses comes from which sources.

With the return to the main cast and the real storyline of the book, Nick Spencer brings along Ales Kot with him to write this issue, as the scribe of Zero (best known for his short stint on Suicide Squad) collaborates with him. Does the return to the conflict against A.I.M and the new co-writer makes this comic enjoyable, though?

It’s a case of hit and miss, really, as some of the best aspects of this run are on display here, with some new high and lows showing to spice things up.
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Superior Foes of Spider-Man #5 – Review

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

The Story: After a few twists and turns, the Sinister Six are finally ready to go ahead and retrieve the head of Silvermane. How can things go right?

The Review: I’ll call it, this issue is Nick Spencer now hitting his stride with this series. Previous issues have been rather fun, some of them great, yet there were always one or two things that was in the way for this title to be the true force of laughter and foolhardiness that it could very well be. There were always a lack of focus on other characters, or one small aspect that kept getting in the way of its potential.

With this issue focusing on the heist, not only is Nick Spencer able to put on display all of his characters, but he is also showcasing all of the title strengths all the while. The humor, the crazy way the Marvel universe’s underworld function, how it is to live as a low-rent super-villain as well as the dysfunctional Sinister Six.

One of the stronger aspect, of course, is the humor as it uses the incompetence of the protagonists as well as the juxtaposition of credible elements with the more surreal ones to inject some ludicrous moments in the story. The fact that the Owl, a psychopathic man who eats rats, seems to love his Prius for some reason, or how the arrogance of Boomerang actually does him a disservice more than anything are only some of the aspects that adds hilarity to the whole that is this issue. The mix between absurd details along with a certain addition of common sense makes a lot of the moments here rather memorable, to say the least.

The way Spencer also use the narration and the perspective of Boomerang adds another level to this issue, making some elements not quite as they seem firsthand. It adds a note of unreliability to the character and to the issue that really add to the theme of scumbags and criminals that this series is good at portraying. The way he never seems to work well around his crew by either belittling their abilities or mistrusting them is solid gold.
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Superior Foes Of Spider-Man #4 – Review

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

The Story: The Sinister Six gets in even more trouble as Boomerang manipulate the others and himself into bigger problems.

The Review: There are times in everyone’s life when we screw up. We might try to make the situation better, only for it to be even worse. It’s a fact of life that can happen in every situations: employment, love, money, friendship and so on. It’s never pleasant when it happens, whether it’s our own person or our friends.

Where it’s fun, though, is when it happens to the characters of Superior Foes of Spider-Man, as the misery and the constant struggles for success of these low-tier super-villains manages to reverse the trend. With their problems being our entertainment, Spencer understand that while they certainly aren’t heroes by any mean, it doesn’t mean that we can’t get attached to them. Written as some kind of hyper-dysfunctional family, the Sinister Six works in a way that allow for their vile nature to not only be very fun to read, but readers may find themselves anticipating what kind of figurative backstabbing will happen next.

With the collective misery of those characters being the main source of comedy for the series, potent examples of success need to be shown in order to draw a comparison, which makes the scenes with Luke Cage and Iron Fist particularly great. Even when they are getting beat down and they try to fight back, their very nature are being sent to the forefront to the readers amusement and to see exactly who they are, like when Overdrive has a fan moment with Luke Cage or when Shocker really do try his very best at fighting back. Not every writers are able to really mix humor, plot progression and character defining moments so naturally in their story, yet Spencer truly does in quite a few ways.
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Secret Avengers #9 – Review

by Nick Spencer (Writer), Butch Guice (Artist), Matthew Wilson (Colorist)

The Story: Daisy Johnson deals with the fact that she is no longer the director of S.H.I.E.L.D. , with some help from her friends.

The Review: Real-world politics is hard to do right in a super hero universe. In a setting where some people can bench-press Manhattan or fly to the moon, it can be difficult for a writer to make the shadowy and downright secret aspects of international terrorism and secret agencies count for something interesting and relevant. It’s certainly not an impossible task, mind you, but it does mean there is supposed to be a balance between the surrealistic and normalcy.

So far, Nick Spencer did a pretty good job at incorporating the super heroic to the conflict between S.H.I.E.L.D. and A.I.M. with the inclusion of several staples of the Marvel universe. However, this issue deals a bit more with the regular folks with a tale that is starring Daisy Johnson, the recently demoted director of the world’s premiere spy agency. With a focus less on the fantastical and on a character that hasn’t been seen very much since the beginning of the series, does this issue continue the quality streak established?

Curiously, it’s a bit of a hit-and-miss, as there are some particularly strong moments in this issue, yet there doesn’t seem to be much accomplished or any piece moving in a direction that seems particularly exciting for this issue alone.* It uses some of the previous concepts established in other titles smartly and it provides a lot of materials for future issues, yet on its own it’s not that exciting.
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Superior Foes of Spider-Man #3 – Review

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

The Story: Boomerang has to deal with Mach VII trying to reform him as he tries to make sure the job he is about to pull can get done.

The Review
: We all love the big noble characters. Those that go on saving lives, fighting evil and trying to be decent people altogether. Thos beams of optimism might not be our favourite characters, yet there is something absolutely endearing about those optimistic do-gooders that can warm the heart of a lot of people and bring in readers.

However, this is not a series about them, as Superior Foes of Spider-Man instead deals with the scumbags, those that are traitorous, egoistical and just plain unsavoury. The characters here cannot really achieve redemption and don’t want to even grasp the concept for themselves as they manipulate, cheat and besmirch each other. It is, without a doubt, inncredibly fun to read as the tale of Boomerang, the villain who bites off more than he can chew, continue trying to manipulate the failures of his life into victories.

Nick Spencer gives us an insight into how the small-time crooks of the Marvel universe see and deal with things, providing the readers with a point-of-view given by Boomerang. Not only are some of the concepts interesting on their own, the way they are delivered on the page is simply hilarious, as the writer balance the serious with a certain dose of realism that manage to make the world of costumed criminals rather silly, or at least as silly as it’s supposed to be. The narration given by Boomerang is simply great, as the character really has a voice that manage to be endearing, funny, yet also show the readers how he thinks. It really brings out some quality entertainment to the forefront of the issue.
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Secret Avengers #8 – Review

by Nick Spencer (Writer), Luke Ross (Artist), Matthew Wilson (Colorist)

The Story: As Mockingbird tries to assess her situation, the A.I.M organization and its minister continues their operations after the attempt on their leader by S.H.I.E.L.D.

The Review: While many read superhero to follow their favourite characters and how their heroic combat for justice and their life are going, there is no denying that many do the same for certain villains as well. A book is as strong as its lead, of course, but any protagonist need a good antagonist as well or else the conflict thrown in its way would feel a bit pointless or derivative.

It seems that Nick Spencer understands this quite well, as the focus of this issue is set largely on the A.I.M organization, with some of it on Mockingbird also. The writer had shown pieces here and there to show how the antagonistic organisation worked, yet it was always with Andrew Forson being the face of the whole thing. Here, the other ministers are covered as well, showing what they do, how they react and how they see themselves and their roles in A.I.M.

The mixing of general workplace environment vibe to the craziness of super-science and the Marvel universe makes for a rather fun read here, despite the focus on the more villainous aspects of the script. It is in fact the whole focus on the madder aspect, like Taskmaster training his soldiers only to go play table tennis with Mentallo only to be followed by much darker scenes featuring Andrew Forson, Yelena Belova, Graviton and others that make for a weird balance. Showing the readers that even the antagonists have the same problem, like in-office fighting, politics and the ambitions of the persons in power that the protagonists have to deal with.
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Secret Avengers #7 – Review

Nick Spencer (Writer), Butch Guice, Steve Epting, Brian Theis, Rick Magyar (Artists), Matthew Wilson (Colorist)

The Story: Maria Hill needs to take control of an operation that has gone too far, one that had been ordained by Daisy Johnson herself.

The Review: Back in the days, I only had a single thought when it came to S.H.I.E.L.D. as an agency in the Marvel universe: pity. When an antagonist needed to be shown as a big menace, S.H.I.E.L.D. was always there to provide token ”good guys” being beaten badly in order to set up a scope for the story itself. Rarely had I seen a series that took that agency as being particularly effective or being the actual source that is able to solve a problem.* Secret Invasion, Civil War, Marvel Boy, Captain America by Brubaker and so forth all portray S.H.I.E.L.D. as either being antagonistic or just plain ineffectual, which does not bode well for an organisation that is supposed to be the prime spy agency and the thing that binds the metahuman community together.

It’s a good thing then that some authors like Jonathan Hickman, Mark Waid and Nick Spencer came along to go a bit further in showing the prime spy agency as being actually useful or at least active in several parts. While the discovery of S.H.I.E.L.D. thanks to the marvel cinematic universe has been a boon to the credibility of the agency, in the comics format, Secret Avengers has been another huge bonus thanks to its direction mixing espionage, politics and super heroics.

This issue, in many ways, is a great example of just why this series can work, even though it has still some rough spots here and there. One of the best aspect, though, is the fact that they show how ”the spying game” is played, which makes for a pretty effective comparison to other superheroes book on the market and those made by Marvel itself. It’s a fun thing to see that despite the high action, the jokes, the big hero moments and all, there are other scenes which shows that they clearly cannot remain the supposed ”good guys” in the eyes of the world if they go en masse and attack a whole island without any backing from the U.N of the government. It was a very neat way that allow the readers to differentiates just how an agency like S.H.I.E.L.D. needs to work if they can get several important backing and so forth.
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Avengers #17 – Review

Jonathan Hickman, Nick Spencer (Writers), Stefano Caselli, Marco Rudy, Marco Checchetto (Artists), Frank Martin (Colorist)

*Spoilers alert*

The Story: The Avengers realize that they have to get even bigger and soon as they make concessions for the greater good.

The Review: Payoffs are nice. Readers crave them, cherishing the situations that escalates to a climax as a resolution or conclusion to a particular problem arrive and lead the story or a character to new areas ripe for development or surprises. Payoffs are what nourish the whole industry and pretty much every stories since the beginning of carefully-written fiction.

Well, it seems like both Hickman and Spencer have a rather tenuous grasp on the concept, as this story does not do much in term of satisfying conclusion to an arc or as a prelude to the upcoming event.* In many ways, the story does use a lot of what has been introduced in the multiple stories by Hickman, yet it does not feel particularly satisfying after what has been basically 17 issues of teasing and hinting at bigger things.

The recruitment of Ex Nihilo and Abyss, two characters that are genuinely interesting and full of potential for further storylines and moral conundrums for the team, it feels a bit hollow in terms of payoff. It makes sense if it’s seen as a series of slow development, yet as far as building up to Infinity and as the conclusion to a good chunk of teasing concerning the fact that the team will have to get bigger and that the universe is still broken. The addition of Starbrand and Nightmask also seems logical and build up naturally to their new role, yet there’s no surprise or twist that makes it fun or merely entertaining. It just happens.

What is perhaps infuriating, or at least annoying down the line, is the fact that despite the fact that several plot points have been handled in this issue, close to none are close to an actual resolution. Worse, Hickman and Spencer continues seeding new subplots and giving us hints that things are coming, something that comes as just annoying now considering that it’s what the title solely did since the beginning of the new volume.
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Superior Foes Of Spider-Man #2 – Review

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

The Story: Boomerang is a manipulative scumbag who bites more than he can chew as he tries to keep his partners happy, the deals he have in check and the law off his back.

The Review: I love villains. While this does not mean that I enjoy evil things being done altogether and that am unable to find satisfaction while reading the good guys, there’s something really entertaining about reading those who are usually antagonist in most stories. Titles like Secret Six and Thunderbolts understood that scumbags and unsavoury characters makes for a fun read, allowing for their rather non-civil traits to dominate their beings as they went into trouble.

The Superior Foes Of Spider-Man begin to show a better handle on what makes villains so interesting. While the debut issue was pretty okay, this issue really start to show what it can do in order to interest us readers in the tales of the Sinister Six and their misadventures.

The first of many improvement start with the characters themselves and their interaction, as we get a bit more from all of them. The way each characters have their defining traits and how they are used in the story makes for a rather likable bunch, amplifying on the fact that they are C or D-lister, taking the likeable loser aspect to a certain magnitude. With Shocker being the naive, yet kind one, Overdrive being the self-obsessed and Beetle being the smart but reserved member, everyone gets a bit more focus on them as it makes the team appear more cohesive in their lack of team-spirit and collaboration.
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Avengers #16 – Review

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

The Story: A big robot comes crashing down on the Avengers as we see some development on Starbrand and Nightmask.

The Review: It must be really hard to write a proper team book. Having to juggle with different characters, different personalities that can clash together as they face bigger threats that the members might not be able to overcome all on their own. We can all name some team books that are or were more successful than others, yet what made them so memorable for us? Was it the fact that each characters were important and distinct enough so that we got to see enough of them in order to grow to like them? Was it the numerous large or innovative problems they had to solve? Was it simply the action, seeing the characters display their fighting abilities and powers in ways that were impressive?

Many could argue that it takes a bit of all three elements named earlier in order to make a really good superhero team book. When all these things align, we know that we have something that we’ll look forward to each month. However, does Avengers, by the standard of this issue, possess these elements?

Plot wise, I’d have to say that this issue does deliver in a lot of ways, as both Hickman and Spencer advance several elements that can catch the interest of the readers while advancing the main plotline. Here, not only we catch up with what happened in all those early and confusing issues dealing with what happened to the planet, but we also see Nightmask and Starbrand again, two characters that had been teased as being quite important to the future of this title. While both plotline are significant for their own reason, the writers balance them quite well, giving us the burgeoning awareness of Starbrand and his discovery of what he can do and what he has become with the more action-oriented Avengers part. Of course, the issue also delves into other parts as well, as this arc does use what has been built before in order to prepare for Infinity.*
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Secret Avengers #6 – Review

Nick Spencer (Writer), Butch Guice, Rick Magyar (Artists), Matthew Wilson (Colorist)

The Story: James Rhodes gain access to an army, several agents tries to compromise A.I.M as some directorial tension sets in at S.H.I.E.L.D.

The Review: Characters can be everything for a successful comic. If you don’t have some fan-favourites on your title, it can mean an early demise as people might not be interested in the adventures of a C or D-lister. However, having an A-lister on a book can also be some kind of curse, as these characters cannot necessarily evolve in any way, mostly due to the heavy editorial handling they surely have, which can be somewhat problematic for some writers.

Secret Avengers does not seem to have that problem, despite the fact that it possesses big players like Hulk, Hawkeye and Black Widow, due to the fact that it mixes these characters with other fan-favourites like James Rhodes, Taskmaster, Mockingbird among others. With a cast as diverse as this one, Spencer manage to make the most of it by juggling with several plot and sub-plots with ease, thanks to a switching of characters in some issues, with this one more dedicated to Taskmaster, Mockingbird, Maria Hill and James Rhodes.

Right out of the gate, Spencer goes back toward a character he knows very well, using him in a way that is quite smart, yet also feels true to the character: James Rhodes, who is also known as War Machine. Here, the writer makes a smart use of the military and armor-based history of the character to propel him forward in a new role that not only suits the character, but also connect him to the story in a way that feels natural and exciting. He is perhaps one of the most interesting character of the issue, although he is not the only one.

Another character that is genuinely interesting, which always come as a surprise to me on a personal level, is Maria Hill. No doubt, many were like me in my initial dislike of the character when she first appeared in the Marvel universe, being the bossy new kid on the block who seemed like a cold-hearted women ready to do anything in order to be efficient at her job. I hated her for these characteristic, yet much to my dismay, I find myself liking her exactly because of these character traits. The reason for that is mainly due to the fact that due to the espionage and political aspect of the title, the character feels much more at home in such an environment, making use of these traits in order to serve the story, not just to set her as being the bossy woman. Serving as a connection to what happens in most of the issue, it is through the internal situation in S.H.I.E.L.D where she shines the most. There is a scene where she deals with a new addition to the agency with some troubling ideas where she shows how she actually fits in such a context. It is an uneasy, yet very tense scene that this issue shows that Maria Hill will become an even better character through this series.
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Avengers #15 – Review

AVENGERS #15

By: Jonathan Hickman, Nick Spencer (Writers), Stefano Caselli (Artist) Frank Martin, Edgar Delgado (Colorists)

The Story: As the signal is constantly sent from the Perth site in Australia, the Avengers tries to understand what it is as what it does as they try to stop the madness it causes.

The Review: I have to admit, it is refreshing to see this title being written differently in the past few issues. From what we could see, the pattern that had been seen was that we’d get some action, some exposition and a whole lot of teasing and hinting at something larger. Starting with the prelude to Infinity that began with the latest issue, the whole pacing and the presentation has changed, for the better.

Sure, we still get some exposition, teasing and action, yet the amount in which Hickman and Spencer does so varies by a large margin. Instead of showing quick glimpses of action and of the general situation, both writers focus on a single situation and allow it to develop completely as the Avengers tries to deal with it. It is a much more satisfying read as we can see the depth and the gravitas of what they have to solve.
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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.
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