Superior Foes of Spider-Man #2

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

So in the debut issue of the Superior Foes of Spider-Man, the leader of the new Sinister Six, Boomerang, orchestrated a "brilliant" scheme to trick his own teammates into bailing him out of prison.  Yes, there is the minor inconvenience of him now having to work for the Chameleon, and he managed to get beat up by another parole that he insulted, but I'm sure everything going to work out okay for Fred Myers from now on.  So what evil, diabolical plan does Boomerang and the rest of the four members of the Sinister Six have in store for the unsuspecting city of New York?  Well read on and tremble with fear as the Superior Foes of Spider-Man strike once again!   

Fred begins his narration by explaining how the Punisher is "one of the worst things about being a costumed criminal super-villain," saying how unlike other the other "hero vigilante types," the Punisher is more likely to kill you than merely beating you up. However, the Punisher is apparently NOT the worst thing about being a super-villain. The worst part, according to Boomerang, "are all the stupid meetings." And we cut to one of these very meetings, where the new Sinister Six has just approved a measure by 4 to 1 that the bathroom at their secret hideout will stay unisex.

Overdrive then asks what they're going to do about the empty chair, i.e. the spot at the table reserved for their sixth member. This prompts Shocker to say that he misses their former teammate, the Living Brain, and Beetle to point out that they can't call themselves "the Sinister Six" if they only have five members. Boomerang states that calling themselves the "Sinister Six" is a "better deal," with the added benefit of being able to split the money five ways instead of six. Speed Demon, who is getting increasingly drunk, also adds that having six employees gets "tricky" because of Obamacare. When Beetle points out people will be confused, Boomerang reminds them about the "air of mystery" angle they have, that others will wonder who the sixth member is and realize it could be anybody--even Dormanuu--and that this is "way cooler" than having an actual sixth member. Beetle says that this "is the stupidest thing [she's] ever heard a real person say." Shocker then suggests they can call themselves "The Sinister Syndicate," which Boomerang and Speed Demon adamantly tell him "No," with Speed Demon adding that the Sinister Syndicate were a bunch of losers. Overdrive however points out that Boomerang, Shocker, and Speed Demon were in the Sinister Syndicate, to which Boomerang says yes they were, but they're the Sinister Six now, and can't believe how none of them understand this. 
Boomerang then narrates how hard it is to be an "executive" and then says that meetings are actually not the worst part about being a super-villain. The worst part is actually having to deal with lawyers. We're then introduced to Boomerang's defense attorney, Partridge, and see that Fred is at Partridge’s office. Partridge also introduces Fred to his attractive young secretary, Janice, who is also his wife (even though Partridge points out that she can still technically sue him for sexual harassment regardless). When Partridge asks what he can do for him, Fred gets furious, saying that he's out on bail, which shouldn't have happened as Partridge had reassured him on the night of his arrest he'd have him out by morning.  And then Partridge stopped returning his calls. Partridge explains he couldn't return them because he was on vacation in Cancun, and when Fred tells him that he paid Partride in advance, Partridge says, "How do you think I was able to afford to go to Cancun on such short notice like that?"  Partridge, however, claims he can still fix everything. He tells Fred that the good news is the district attorney's office is willing to drop most of the charges against him. The bad news, however, is that when Fred was last arrested, he was already out on bail and thus violated the terms of his parole. Because of this, Fred has to "play nice" for his upcoming parole board meeting and must "keep his nose clean" for here on out.

However, we next see that Fred as Boomerang has planned a new caper with the Sinister Six. This one involves a high-class restaurant that the Zagat guidebook calls "the ultimate in absurdly decadent Manhattan dining." However, it opened right across the street from another high-class restaurant that was already there, and the older restaurant has now lost all its customers to the new restaurant Thus the chef of the old restaurant has hired the Sinister Six to rob his place and rough him up in order to get the restaurant shut down just long enough to be considered "old news." And as payment, the Sinister Six, in addition to their usual cut, can have whatever they want from the kitchen for free.

So while, Boomerang treats himself some expensive wine as he trashes the kitchen, the rest of the Sinister Six, save Overdrive, order from the menu. Speed Demon tells the waitress to bring him "the most expensive meat thing" they have, only to later chew her out because it's not cooked medium. The waitress tries to explain they're understaffed and that Boomerang broke the chef's arm, but Speed Demon still forces her to send his dinner back. Beetle says they should let Overdrive in on the meal, but Speed Demon says that because Overdrive is the Lookout, he has to stay outside, even though Beetle states she's pretty sure the coast is clear. Speed Demon then attempts to hit on her, asking what does she needs a "weird leather guy" like Overdrive for and he's got super-speed. He also suggests that, to make a proper name for herself, they make a sex-tape together in the restaurant--only for him to immediately back off and say they can just be friends when she charges up her hand blaster and points it directly at his head.

Shocker gets up from the table to ask Overdrive whether he'd like to dine with them, only to see him take off in his car at high speed. It's then that Shocker sees why--the Punisher is right outside. The Punisher then opens fire on the restaurant, and Beetle, Shocker, and Speed Demon (who almost forgets his doggy bag) escape, only to leave an intoxicated Boomerang behind. When Boomerang comes out from the kitchen to see what's going on and sees the Punisher, he immediately falls to his knees in fear of his life. The Punisher then tells Boomerang that worst part of his job is hearing a criminal's last words, "not because they make me feel anything...just the **** repetition of it." When he then asks if Boomerang wants to "say anything he's heard before," Boomerang takes off his mask, saying he doesn't want to die with boomerang on his head. The Punisher says that a new one and turns into the Chameleon.

Annoyed, Boomerang asks the Chameleon if he gets tired of pulling the same shtick, which results in the Chameleon smacking him across the face with his sub-machine gun. The Chameleon sarcastically says how it's a "shame" that Boomerang's "well-planned heist" has come undone now that his crew has bolted and the cops are surely on their way, reminding Boomerang of their agreement and that he still needs to fulfill his end of the deal. Boomerang says that to pull off the Chameleon's assignment, he needs his crew, and in order to keep his crew, he has to keep them paid with small-time scores such as this. Chameleon however states that this is no concern of his, that's he's been more than patient with him, and that it's time Boomerang gave him what he promised--the head of Silvermane.

We then go back to the bar the Sinister Six frequent, in which Boomerang is finishing his account of how he "survived" his tussle with the Punisher. This, of course, impresses his teammates tremendously, as very few super-villains have gone toe to toe with the Punisher and lived to tell the tale. Boomerang feigns modesty, saying he was lucky because the Punisher's gun jammed and that he used one of his gas'rangs to escape. Boomerang then says that, having come so close to death, made him see that he's "let them down," that as the Sinister Six, they're supposed to be feared and respected, that they should be "running this town" and "thinking big." So he announces that their next caper will "put them on the map" and "[give] them an empire" will be stealing Silvermane's head. The Sinister Six, however, say that Silvermane's head is myth that "gangsters tell their gangster kids" as a bedtime story. Boomerang tells them that not only knows for a fact that is the head of Silvermane real but that he knows where it really is. Once again, the Sinister Six are in awe of their leader and agree to join in on the caper. However, the only hold out is the Shocker, who is getting himself drunk at the bar. Unbeknownst to Boomerang, the Shocker was hidden outside the restaurant and saw the him talking with the Chameleon the whole time. Eventually, Shocker decides to join in with the others, although Boomerang now suspects something is definitely wrong.

The next day, Fred is at his parole board meeting, with a black-eye from the Chameleon and completely hung over. After Partridge offers him his bottle of "freshly-squeezed," which Fred declines, he then reassures Fred that "everything will be a piece of cake" (but not chocolate cake because that's too rich).  All Fred has to do is "play nice" and convince them how much prison has reformed him. As he's before the parole board, Fred launches into his appeal for sympathy, which includes how it all when wrong for him when he was six years old, how he found the love of a good woman, the lessons he's learned from Scientology, how much he's missed his father, and concludes with "at least that's what my therapist thinks." 

The parole board, although not the least bit swayed by his sob-story, inform Fred that they have decided to ignore the violations of the terms of his parole but with one caveat. He will now be part of "pilot program" specifically designed for super-villains such as himself, and has been assigned a new parole officer. When Fred says to agrees, the court reveals that it's none other than his former partner from the Sinister Syndicate and the original Beetle, Abner Jenkins, aka Mach VII of the Thunderbolts. And after Mach VII greets Fred with an enthusiastic hello, Fred, overcome by his hangover, literally throws up in a wastebasket.

For me, this issue had the same feel as the last one, mainly because it resulted in Boomerang once again conning his own teammates thanks to a little help from the Chameleon. Only this time, it appears that Fred's previous actions are starting to come back around when he least expects it just like his chosen super-villain name. Also, Nick Spencer makes it abundantly clear that the reason Boomerang's tendency to manipulate others stems from being a constant victim of being manipulated himself. Not only does he initially fall for the Chameleon's deception just like his other teammates, but he's even taken advantage of my his own lawyer. And speaking of Partridge, while he does come across a bit like the Saul Goodman character from Breaking Bad, the scenes between him and Fred are priceless, what with his over-analyzing of his own metaphors and his horrible puns (how the arrived at saying “You're in the Partridge family!” and “You're my little angel” just cracked me up to no end). It's no wonder super-villains like Boomerang keep getting caught if they have guys Partridge as their legal counsel.

Much of the humor also comes from the comic's own sense of self-awareness. Reading the scene in which the Sinister Six get into a debate over the logistics of their own name given how many are actually in the group comes across like an actual debate among comic book fans, and Speed Demon's horrible flirting with the Beetle can be interpreted as Spencer making a biting critique over how female members of a team are automatically regarded as nothing more than a designated love interest for someone else. This is yet another advantage of having a title consisting of low-tier characters as they be used to effectively satirize what other superhero comics take so seriously.

And again, Steve Lieber's art is used to great effect, particularly in his usage of facial expressions and adding little touches such as the Shocker sniffing whatever he's about to eat during the scene at the fancy restaurant, not to mention his use of visual gags like showing arrows and numbers as the Beetle counts her fingers. And moments like Boomerang fantasy of killing Partridge via stick figure-drawings and the panel arrangement gives a great example of how unique and effective comics can be as a storytelling medium.

Just like Mark Waid and Paulo Riveria's run on Daredevil, and Matt Fraction and David Aja's Hawkeye, Marvel appears to have scored yet again on a series with its own unique sense of style and “indie book” feel. These are definitely the kind of comics worth reading and how, sometimes, getting off the beaten path is sometimes worthwhile.

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