Review: Superior Foes of Spider-Man #1 – Nick Spencer and Steve Lieber

The-Superior-Foes-of-Spider-Man-1Another double header review from Sean and Shawn – enjoy! – Ed.

Sean Robinson’s Take

Superior Spider-Month kicks off over at Marvel Comics on an interesting note. Superior Foes of Spider-Man #1, is actually anything but Superior – in a good way. Taking a leaf out of Hawkeye‘s book, this story of the new Sinister Six (minus one) focuses less on an overarching threat, or a long form tale involving the team’s titular nemesis, and instead on the day to day lives of this band of C-listers. While it doesn’t seem to come out swinging of the gate quite as well as Hawkeye did, it still manages to be a good time.

Nick Spencer decides to focus on Boomerang AKA Fred Myers for the first issue, and if you have no idea who that is don’t worry. Spencer sets out to tell everyone who Boomerang is, and in turn makes him that little bit more human. It’s an important, and easily overlooked concept that if handled badly could make this book about villains hard to get into. Granted, by focusing on Boomerang it then overlooks the other members of the team which doesn’t necessarily sell the issue as a team based book, but it doesn’t hurt it here.

The story at hand, with Boomerang trying to get his team a job, is fairly straightforward. It does give a bit of an insight into the team dynamic, and positioning the team as a matter of necessity rather than a close knit group of friends does set up for some fun banter, and the dialogue elsewhere, especially in the flashback, makes for some truly funny moments. It even gives the story a Lucky-esque dog character that I hope has more play in future issues.

Lieber’s art is also pretty good too. His use of symbols in the speech bubbles, for background noise  or the animals is a particularly neat design choice, and he manages to express characters well. His art style is well suited for a mainstream superhero-comedy title, realistic but exaggerated enough to portray humour. While not as visually impressive as other titles out there it does serve it’s purpose.

Superior Foes of Spider-Man #1 gives the reader – aside from the long-winded title – a fun comic. While I have been throwing that word around a lot, especially in regards to Hawkeye or FF, it manages to get up there in being a title that doesn’t take itself too seriously, which is something that Marvel has been doing a lot lately. But while this issue does manage to channel the right emotions – it doesn’t quite reach those two in quality. Hopefully when the team dynamic gets underway will we see another truly great title from Marvel.

Shawn Warner’s Take

Another Marvel team book is not so news worthy in these “Uncanny” days but when that team consists solely of villains, that can generate some interest. Throw in the fact that these villains are all enemies of The Superior Spider-Man and Marvel just might have another hit on their hands. Not since Norman Osborn headed up Thunderbolts and Dark Avengers has there been a true villain-centric title at Marvel. In fact, Jeff Parker recently wrapped up Dark Avengers and the current Thunderbolts though made up of characters like Deadpool, Punisher and Venom cannot truly be called a team of villains. The success of Secret Six at DC is indicative that there is a fan base for a book like this. The only question I have is what took so long?

Superior Foes of Spider-Man is a bit of a misnomer; these guys are only superior in their ineptitude. They are Marvel’s answer to the cast of Seinfeld – they are a team of D-listers and that is where this disarmingly charming book comes into its own. Boomerang is a down and out ex-baseball player cum swindler who from his current locale behind bars, runs a team of equally bumbling miscreants. They have dubbed themselves the New Sinister Six despite the fact that there are only five of them as yet. Speed Demon and Shocker shoulder much of the comedic load and they do so with the savvy of a seasoned Vaudeville duo. Beetle is more concerned with social media than what’s going on during “team meetings” and Overdrive is the consummate wheelman. These two team up to knock off a comic book store in one of the books funniest scenes full of Nick Spencer’s razor-sharp dialog.

Oddly enough for a Spider-Book debuting during Superior Spider-Month, there is not a single panel featuring Spider-Man, Superior or otherwise. This did not present a problem for me. I thoroughly enjoyed this book much in the same way I enjoy Hawkeye. Now before I get crucified for blasphemy against Hawkguy, let me explain. Both books are very stylish in design – Steve Lieber’s artwork is slick and his old school page layouts have a retro sensibility not dissimilar from Aja’s work on Hawkeye. As for the writing, Nick Spencer and Matt Fraction have taken characters otherwise overlooked by most comic book readers and thrust them into the spotlight. The stories are full of excellent dialog and quirky characterizations written at a snappy pace, with lots of action to boot.

This is only the first issue, but there is so much potential and so many unmined plot gems to be discovered in these vastly unexplored characters – Nick Spencer has his work cut out for him. The team dynamic for a group of cutthroat backstabbers is going to be a joy to develop I’m sure. Then there are the countless solo mis-adventures for each of these characters. I look forward to Shocker and Speed Demon crossing paths with just about any Marvel hero but Deadpool immediately comes to mind. The quips, one-liners and obscure pop culture references boggle the mind. Then of course there are the inevitable run-ins with Superior Spider-Man himself, who just happens to be the former head of the Sinister Six.

I have become a big fan of Nick Spencer, his work on Secret Avengers is something I look forward to every month, so I am extremely happy that Marvel has given him another ongoing monthly series. This book is fun and full of all the things that make comic books thrilling and engrossing. Spencer has the unique opportunity to move these characters from obscurity to centre stage in the 616. Although the events do take place in continuity, this book is not bogged down by that fact. It exists alongside the world of big events – Infinity is even referred to when the Origin Bomb is mentioned.

Steve Lieber is a perfect choice for this book. His style is polished and very hip. He has an eccentricity that comes through in the way he renders a scene right down to the posing and anatomy of the characters within a panel.

I found The Superior Foes of Spider-man to be wildly humorous and absolutely enjoyable. Visually and textually relevant, I whole-heartedly recommend it to anyone who likes some criminal hijinks and first-rate writing and artwork with their laughs.

So until next week, see you at the comic book store.