3 Jul 2013

Cover To Cover: THE SUPERIOR FOES OF SPIDER-MAN #1

THE SUPERIOR FOES OF SPIDER-MAN #1
Writer: Nick Spencer
Art: Steve Lieber & Rachelle Rosenberg
Marvel $2.99


Stewart R: Now that Dan Slott’s Superior Spider-Man seems to have won the crowd’s support and approval, and Chris Yost’s Avenging Spider-Man (soon to be rebadged as Superior Team Up) is going from strength to strength since Otto Octavius possessed the body of one Peter Parker, it looks like Marvel are keen to expand their horizons once more and test the waters with a book focussing on the most recent iteration of the Sinister Six. The newly transformed Superior Spider-Man brutally defeated the group of C and D-list villains, pinching one of their number for his own butlery purposes and winding Boomerang, the self appointed brains of the gang, in jail.

It’s from here that Nick Spencer puts his creative keys into his comic book’s ignition and my goodness, for a spur of the moment gamble at my local comic book store, does this engine ever purr! Thanks to Slott’s original decision to use washed up criminal has-beens and young upstarts never likely to make ‘the big time’ Spencer has an instantly flexible, and importantly comedic quintet of dupes, idiots and sneaks to play around with. From the very outset, he treats this as a bizarre supervillain comedy noir as we learn a little more about Fred Myers’ troubled past, the events that led to him becoming Boomerang and just how that career path has gone for him to this point.

There’s a great low-key feel to the story as Myers tries to convince his teammates to run errands for him while he’s inside, with the shenanigans that arise from this and small twist after small twist providing some great fun. Spencer’s got a brilliant line in sassy dialogue and thanks to his down to earth depictions of guys trying to make an unethical buck, the story sucks you in and has you - somewhat begrudgingly - warming to these nefarious types. Certainly thanks to the legacy that was the Thunderbolts/Dark Avengers comic (now sadly departed) and the work of various writers, most notably Jeff Parker, we’ve come to realise that the bad guys are not all evildoers who seek out destruction, but rather a complex bunch who can occasionally find themselves on the right side of the fight despite their previous leanings. It’s now okay to like and enjoy the villains thanks to the various shades of grey that they bring with them. I’m not suggesting that this title is going to be anything close to a hero book, but the prospect of reading a story told entirely from the perspective of criminal elements has never been more appealing.

The grass roots crime vibe and the noirish edge are helped considerably by top notch work from Steve Lieber who manages to cross that accepted Spider-Man comic book feel with the edgier, everyday look that we’ve been witness to in the likes of Hawkeye recently and it helps to sell the normality or second-rate nature of the bit players involved. Rachelle Rosenberg deserves praise for her colour work which helps to bring attention to the relatively absurd premise of costumed villains in a world that, on the ground and in the main, functions much like our own reality. When the likes of Shocker and Speed Demon are walking around town, harassing their way through life, their garish duds really stand out amongst the earthier tones of everyday people. 

As Spencer wraps up the first issue he leaves things wonderfully poised with the suggestion that we could be in for some brilliantly doomed heist magic with a bunch of people who take regualr beatings and still can’t give up the game. Despite mentioning the webbed wonder in the title it is unclear as to how often he might play a part in this story, but on the evidence here I don't believe it matters a great deal. The banter-fuelled camaraderie between Boomerang, Shocker and Speed Demon alone would have me coming back for more next month, but with the anticipation of Overdrive and Beetle being fleshed out further in chapters to come and the various individuals who will no doubt be gunning for this team from all sides, there’s even more to look forward to. The promise that this could turn out to be a truly great underdog story is clearly evident and from the way in which the creative team have handled this debut, nailing the cheap chuckles and biting wit on the first attempt, I’d say that The Superior Foes Of Spider-Man #1 is a Marvel spinoff worthy of your attention. 9/10

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