The Superior Foes Of Spiderman #1

It might seem a tad redundant to headline a new ongoing series with a team of villains when the very opponent they battle is only a few parts removed from villainy himself. But THE SUPERIOR FOES OF SPIDER-MAN #1 has stepped up to the challenge nevertheless. What’s it like for the Sinister Six Minus One on their everyday operation? Can these assuredly evil people make it in a world that has very good reason to hate and fear them? Can they do any of this without killing each other?

In the first issue of Superior Spiderman, the newly superiorized Ottoman cut his teeth at the superhero business by absolutely wiping the floor with the new Sinister Six. He even stole their sixth member, the Living Brain, and turned it into his robotic servant. He then promptly moved on the more pressing matters, like trying to make it with Mary Jane (and deciding it really wasn’t worth it).

Apparently Marvel decided this version of the Sinister Six was popular enough to make an entire spin-off series. In comes THE SUPERIOR FOES OF SPIDER-MAN #1.

Our story is narrated by Boomerang, cheap Captain Boomerang knockoff and Superior Spiderman’s punching bag. But this presumably takes place in a period before Superior Spiderman, because after his beating Boomerang spent quite a bit of time on The Raft, and then got turned into a cyborg and blown up again. All of which limits where this series can go, there being a hard deadline in continuity where the Sinister Six must get fed humble pie and knuckle sandwiches and subsequently captured.

Also they need to pick up the robot.

Anyway, this book has a plot, but it’s not a bunch of dudes pulling off a heist or anything. It’s Boomerang giving his origin story, and then ending up in regular prison. Two of his partners in crime, the Shocker and Speed Demon – the latter I prefer to call the Whizzer because you don’t get to live that down – have to run errands for him and then get bail money to get him out. It’s a bit more complicated, but this isn’t a plot-centric issue anyway. THE SUPERIOR FOES OF SPIDER-MAN #1 chiefly concerns itself with acclimating readers to these characters. We learn what they are about and what their distinct personalities are. Except Overdrive, the group’s get-away driver, who gets little direct characterization aside from a few symbols in text bubbles reaffirming his love of fast cars.

In fact, I rather liked the few times when the comic would use symbols instead of words to get simple concepts across. Included in this is at least one instance where Boomerang gives the bird to a fellow prison inmate, which is blocked by the symbol for the old Comics Code Authority. That was brilliant.

A lot of the humor was excellent, often utilizing the blasé attitude these characters have towards both their criminal activities and the insanity of the Marvel universe to great comedic effect. There’s even a scene where the Beetle, the sole female member of the group, has to hold up a comic book store to get salable goods to cover Boomerang’s bail. Putting aside the question of what comics one reads in the world filled with real superheroes (westerns? Romance?), there’s just the absurd situation of a “professional” career criminal resorting to stealing from nerds. And the fact that said nerds are so jaded by their situation that they’re more interested in talking about which of their comics would be worth the most (and whether they’re actually good products aside) than in the dangerous woman pointing a gun at them.

This kind of thing happens all the time in this issue, by the way.

On the one hand, I really liked THE SUPERIOR FOES OF SPIDER-MAN #1. Very amusing, and told a complete story in the time it would take many series to just introduce the main conflict. And for those familiar with the Marvel universe, it’s tongue-in-cheek like no one’s business. I find myself comparing it most to The Rogues, the Flash’s villains over at DC. On the other hand, it’s difficult to maintain a series where the protagonists are unrepentant bad guys. Although it helps that, like the Rogues, these guys are mostly larcenists. Their crimes deal mainly in property, and even their more petty actions – such as stealing a puppy from a small child – are played more for laughs than anything. Outside of the purely comedic, villain-centric books have the inherent flaw of being potentially reader alienating. The best books that followed villains required either a story of moral redemption (relatively speaking), or one where the villain protagonist’s charisma was such that readers need to see how they rise and fall.

And in the latter case, a fall is necessary. Luckily, the Sinister Six Minus One don’t have entirely smooth operations. They suffer for their loot.

Would I recommend THE SUPERIOR FOES OF SPIDER-MAN? Yes, though it helps to know the Marvel universe. Thankfully the book presents characters well enough that prior knowledge of their (criminal) history is not essential. If you enjoy a good laugh and don’t mind humor a bit on the crude side, and if you can stomach villain-centrality, I say go for it. Personally I might give the book a pass from here out, if only because I’m trying to cut out series like crazy and I don’t need even more on my plate.

You know what else this reminds me of? Secret Six, a DC title that ran for a while before the 2011 reboot and starred a cast of c-list villains. Very excellent, though it straddled the line more between whether they were truly doing evil things. This has some of that flavor, but makes no excuses for its stars’ moral failings.

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