Superior Foes of Spider-Man #1

Posted by Mike McNulty, a.k.a. Stillanerd 08 September 2013

Boomerang? The Shocker? Speed Demon? A female Beetle? Overdrive?! These guys are the so-called Superior Foes of Spider-Man? Didn't Otto Octavious pretty much already defeat them? And why are they still calling themselves the "Sinister Six" when they only have five members?  This has all the making of being...the dark horse hit of Marvel NOW!

Yes, you read that last sentence correctly. And to find out why, you'll have to read on and see what these low-level super-villains truly as "superior" as the title claims them to be.
 
THE STORY 
We begin with Fred Myers, aka Boomerang, narrating how Spider-Man is the only guy anyone ever talks about, yet no one ever asks “What about Boomerang?” or what he's like or his escapades as a costumed super-villain. Fred then recounts his origin, that he was once a professional baseball pitcher who, in order to keep up various vices, accepted bribes to intentionally lose games. Unfortunately for Fred, he got caught, and the scandal ended his career. Just as he was contemplating suicide, members of the Secret Empire showed up at his apartment and recruited him. Because of Fred's pitching skills--and his claim he was born in Australia--the Secret Empire dubbed him “Boomerang.” This, Fred explains, is also why everyone hates Australia, as it's "an entire nation boiled down to what you can remember from that time you got high and watched Crocodile Dundee," and he's thankful that he didn't up being called "The Kangaroo." 

However, someone (and Boomerang insists it wasn't him) ratted the Secret Empire out to SHIELD. Fred managed to keep his gear and, after years of tangling with the likes Spider-Man, saved up enough money to get himself a new costume and his own crew, who readers of Superior Spider-Man know to be the new Sinister Six—Overdrive (who Boomerang describes a “pretty boy”), the new female Beetle (the “pretty one” and a text-messaging addict), Speed Demon (the “advance guy” who is also a foul-mouthed, cocky jerk) and the Shocker (who Boomerang labels a “coward,” and who also has a crush on the new Beetle).  And yes, Boomerang is well aware they have only five members.
 
Yet, in spite of things starting “to look up for old Fred,” Boomerang still winds up being caught by Spider-Man. Thus, our story proper begins with Speed Demon and Shocker, in their civilian identities, visiting Boomerang in jail. Boomerang has asked them to get some birdseed for his pet parakeet, which doesn't appeal to them at all because his apartment is way out in Queens and way too creepy for even “smart hookers” to enter. Speed Demon asks if Boomerang having a parrot means if he's going to adopt a pirate-themed gimmick. Boomerang says no, much to Speed Demon's relief as, having once called himself “the Whizzer,” knows from personal experience that costume-changes so late in one's criminal career “hurts the brand.” Boomerang then tells them that they don't even have to feed his bird—all they have to do is pick up the bird seed at the pet store and give it to the landlady looking after his place while he's away.

The next scene has Speed Demon and Shocker in costume, (but also wearing fedoras and trench coats over them as a disguise) at the pet store. There, a little girl and her mom are buying a dog, which prompts Speed Demon to say he once had a dog named “Skippy,” but that his mom sold it to buy more drugs. (Shocker reacts with “Dude?!” to which Speed Demon goes “What? Too dark?”) When Speed Demon then asks the girl what she's going to name her dog, she says she's going to call him "Inspector." Speed Demon thinks that's a stupid name, which makes the girl say “you're stupid,” prompting Speed Demon to say “No, you are” and so forth. Angry, Speed Demon tears off his “disguise” reveal his costume and declares he and Shocker are robbing the pet store. The Shocker politely requests the special bird seed from the owner, and Speed Demon also steals the little girl's dog out of spite.

The two super-villains then head back to Boomerang's apartment, which is rather exhausting for both because Speed Demon is having a hard time settling Inspector down, while Shocker has to carry the bulky bag of bird seed while wearing his insulated costume. Shocker asks why Speed Demon doesn't just take the bird seed up at super-speed to which Speed Demon says, "Do things get lighter for you when you run up the stairs while your holding them? Yeah, me neither!" When they finally get to Boomerang's front door, they realize that neither of them have the keys. This forces Speed Demon—who would rather just leave the birdseed outside the door than run through traffic—having to go all the way to Manhattan and back just to get them. However, once he returns, Shocker finds the door of the apartment already unlocked.

Once they get inside and call out if anyone is home, they accidentally find Hammerhead in the bathroom sitting on the toilet and reading the Daily Bugle. Turns out he was the "landlady" (and apparently he's so evil he doesn't even flush) and the bag of birdseed Speed Demon and Shocker were delivering was being used to smuggle diamonds—meaning their robbery of the pet store was utterly pointless. And if that weren't bad enough, Hammerhead, upon inspecting the diamonds (while Inspector eat the birdseed) wants to know where "the rest" of the diamonds are.  Speed Demon takes this as his cue to high tail it out of there, leaving behind a very scared Shocker.

We then cut over to a hospital, where Speed Demon is on his cellphone talking to Boomerang while Shocker, having been beaten-up by Hammerhead and in traction, grumbles incoherently in his bed. Speed Demon tells Boomerang how pissed Shocker is having been “sold out,” but Boomerang tells them they wouldn't have gone to his apartment otherwise. He also says that he needed to pay Hammerhead his cut for being on his turf and to stay in the loop on an upcoming heist at the docks. Apparently, there's an even bigger shipment of smuggled jewels coming in which got delayed by the “Origin Bomb” story from the first arc in Marvel NOW Avengers, and that this is their big chance for the new Sinister Six to get in on the action. But first, Boomerang says they have help pay his bail, claiming that he's the only one who can talk to the “ship rat” who can let them in on the heist. Plus, he's not making many “friends” behind bars, and we see that one them is making throat-slashing gestures (and something else off panel which makes Boomerang go “that's code for two different things.”) 
 
We see the new Beetle talking to Speed Demon on her wrist-communicator, who wonders why they should help out a "prick" like Boomerang. Speed Demon, however, convinces her it's all worthwhile because of the upcoming big job Boomerang has planned. We then see that the Beetle, in order to get the bail money, is robbing a comic book shop, and she demands from the two guys working the counter their most rare and valuable issues. (And to her frustration, the bags and boards are "impenetrable.") When she isn't sure which ones to select in spite of counter guys many suggestions, she tells them to throw them all in a box. She then escapes with Overdrive, who's been waiting outside in his getaway car, who can't believe comic books are still being printed.

Boomerang's bail is posted, and on the day of his release, a guard tells him that a prisoner wishes to see him before he leaves. At first, the prisoner appears to be Hammerhead...then changes into Kraven the Hunter...until finally revealing himself to be The Chameleon.  It turns out that Boomerang had hired the Chameleon to pose as Hammerhead, that the diamonds hidden in the bag of birdseed were fake, and that there is no big shipment of jewels being smuggled into the docks--it was all an elaborate con-job Boomerang cooked up to trick the Sinister Six into paying his bail money.  However, in return for Chameleon's services, Boomerang has agreed that he and the new Sinister Six will now secretly work for the Chameleon “without charge.” The Chameleon, however, expresses "concern" over just how long Boomerang can live up to his end of the bargain, especially once the Sinister Six find out they've been duped.

As Boomerang leaves, he flips the bird to the inmate who threatened him, then is given back his boomerangs, which are now unloaded. He's then picked up by the rest of the Sinister Six dressed in their civilian identities, and they all go out to celebrate his parole at a bar. Boomerang concludes his narration by addressing how someone like him keep doing what he does. It's because he "knows" that one day, he will defeat Spider-Man once and for all, beat the wrap, and then become the new Kingpin of New York. Only it sure isn't going to happen any time soon, as the issue ends with the very same inmate Boomerang flipped-off, having also gotten an early parole, showing up at the same bar, who then knocks Boomerang out with one punch.

THOUGHTS

I'm sure when we all saw the new Sinister Six in Superior Spider-Man #1, the last thing we ever expected to happen was that this group would wind up with their own monthly series. After all, these guys are on the B and C list of Spider-Man's rogues gallery and nowhere near the same level of the original Sinister Six. And that's exactly what makes Nick Spencer and Steve Lieber's first issue so funny—because in spite of their colorful costumes, gadgets, and super-powers, the new Sinister Six are really nothing more than a group of small-time crooks whose ambitions far exceed their actual talents. This is particularly the case with the team's leader, Boomerang, who even though he's definitely the smartest, he isn't nearly the criminal mastermind he believes himself to be. After all, tricking his own teammates to bail him out of prison isn't exactly on par with the schemes of Doctor Octopus by any stretch.

Yet even though the characters are thieves with no respect for any one—or even each other—Nick Spencer, through his witty and sharp dialogue, manages to portray this new Sinister Six as a surprisingly charismatic group. It recalls the Chili Palmer novels of Elmore Leonard, the films of Quentin Tarantino, and Guy Ritchie's film, Snatch—stories which also portrayed the lives of criminals in humorous, tongue-in-cheek manner. In fact, reading Boomerang's narration, I actually imagined him having the voice of Jason Statham. Speed Demon and the Shocker's misadventure involving the bird seed was terrific, and their conflicting personalities make them to be quite the comedic pair. Less effective, although still pretty funny, was the new Beetle and Overdrive's robbery of the comic book shop, partly due to the fact these two characters are still relatively new to the Marvel Universe. It just goes to show what great writing can do for characters you wouldn't think you'd have much interest in or even empathize with.

The illustrations by Steve Lieber is also a perfect fit given the tone of the series, using a seemingly simplistic style that conveys both light-hardheartedness and a bit of a rougher edge. It helped to enhance and work in tandem with the Spencer's writing rather than distract from it, and that while minimalistic in detail, it also was clear and concise. A particularly clever touch was the use of word balloons containing symbols and images as a means of expressing the characters emotions or what they were really thinking. It's a perfect example of just how much in synch both Spencer and Lieber truly are. 
 
This is a fantastic debut, one which I was pleasantly surprised and very glad to read. If you're in the mood for an offbeat, fun title with a different take on the other-side of the superhero tracks, you definitely need to give this one the chance it deserves.
 

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