Superior Foes of Spider-Man #3

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

So just how did Silvermane lose his head anyway?  And just how does someone like Boomerang even know about a missing head to begin with?  And why would Chameleon, or anyone for that matter, even want the head of Silvermane?  Plus, how is Boomerang going to cope with having his ex-partner and the original Beetle, Mach VII, as a parole officer?  Well get ready, folks, because these questions will be (somewhat) answered in another tale of lies, betrayal, and Machiavellian schemes of in the third issue of The Superior Foes of Spider-Man.  

Boomerang begins the issue by explaining the legend behind the head of Silvermane. He explains that Silvermane was an Sicilian mafia boss named Silvio Manfredi, who was nicknamed "Silvermane" for obvious reasons. He was also the head of the Maggia crime family whose power rivaled that of the Kingpin. Unfortunately for Silvermane, he was also getting old, so to prolong his life, he attempted to make himself younger with an anti-aging serum (as seen the classic Amazing Spider-Man "Tablet of Time" story) and when that failed, he turned himself into a cyborg. However, during a meeting with rival crime boss, the Owl, at a junkyard, a fight ensued and, in spite of the best efforts of his right-hand man, Hammerhead, Silvermane was caught by a giant crane magnet and dumped into a trash compactor where it was assumed he was crushed to death.
However, the legend goes that, unbeknownst to the gangsters, Silvermane survived by clawing his way out of the compactor, only for his head popped off his body due to the pressure of the compactor's lid closing. None of the other gangsters noticed what had happened, and because Silvermane's main battery and life-support systems were contained in his head, he was able to stay alive. This means that Silvermane is (literally) still the head of the Maggia crime family, and whoever possesses the head also controls the Maggia. According to the rest of the legend, the head was found by the son of the woman who owned the junkyard while looking for parts to build his own robot. He then took the head home with him, making sure to hide it from his mom. Silvermane tried to escape and even attempted to kill the boy, but over time, Silvermane and the boy became friends. Eventually, the boy showed the head of Silvermane to his mom when she was threatened by local gangsters, and Silvermane was able to scare them off. And in return, the boy made Silvermane a new body out of an RC car, and Silvermane learned how to live a life in which he wasn't feared, but loved and was part of real family. And Boomerang reveals that none of the story involving the boy is true, saying that "hopefully you learned something about how stupid the kind of people I work with are."

What really happened was that while the compactor did indeed pop Silvermane's head off his body, it was found by the Owl and his gang. The Owl imprisoned the head in a secret location only known by the Owl's most "trustworthy lieutenants"--which Boomerang (in spite of not being trustworthy by his own admission) used to be one. As for why the Owl decided to keep the head instead of just killing Silvermane? It's because the Owl enjoyed subjecting the head to torture and humiliation. Boomerang then adds that Silvermane wasn't some "great, magnanimous don that commanded respect" but a "mean, demented old geriatric" who was "weirdly racist" and who kept putting hits out on the wrong guy because he was becoming so senile. It was only after Silvermane died that anyone stopped hating him.

We then see Fred meeting up with newly assigned parole officer, Abner Jenkins, aka Mach VII, for breakfast at a pancake house. Abner tells Fred that he wants them to be friends again like they once were in the Sinister Syndicate, but Fred still holds a grudge over Abner having sold him out. Abner, however, says that's all in the past. He explains that when the new pilot program was announced, Abner didn't think it was for him because he didn't want to play the part of the typical "hard-ass" parole officer. It's only when he found out that Fred would be the first defendant of the new program that Abner decided it was his chance to help Fred out. Fred can barely contain his frustration as he drowns his pancakes in syrup.

Fred then narrates how Abner used to be the original Beetle and was his partner in the Sinister Syndicate. Abner would also double-cross Fred on a regular basis, although Fred claims he could respect since "a crook is a crook." Then Beetle became part of the original Thunderbolts, which was actually a "long con" orchestrated by Baron Zemo, in which the Masters of Evil would get themselves new costumed identities and pretend to be superheroes to lull an unsuspecting public into a false sense of security. Only it backfired because the Thunderbolts wound up becoming superheroes for real. Abner went even further, becoming a born-again Christian and turned-in state's evidence against other super-villains, including Boomerang. And while Fred claims he can somewhat understand what Fred did, the one thing he and other super-villains cannot forgive is the fact that Abner and the other Thunderbolts became super-heroes themselves. For that, Fred will always see Abner as "a traitorous, back-stabbing, turncoat ******!"

After their breakfast, Abner asks what happened to the other criminals who became the Beetle, and Fred says that one is in prison and the other was killed. Abner states that maybe what happened to them is a sign that Fred should retire from a life of crime and suggests that Fred come with him to met some people. When Fred sarcastically asks if it's the Avengers then reminds Abner how he didn't make the cut, Abner explains that it's really just "an informal get-together" with similar experiences to Fred. He then hands Fred his business card for him to call him any time and then flies off, saying he knows Fred can be a hero because he's been one before. Fred then explains via narration that he, himself, also used to be a member of the Thunderbolts, only it was "different" because he the government hired him and that he only signed up because he was looking at "twenty years in the Raft."

We then see Fred at the hideout of the Sinister Six, where the other members tell him that, because he's now being shadowed by Mach VII, they've unanimously decided to vote him off the team. Fred protests that they can't vote him off because he's the leader, and insists that Mach VII won't be a problem. The other members say it's still too risky, to which Fred points out they can't be the Sinister Six if there's only four members. Speed Demon (who has kept Inspector, the dog from issue #1) suggests Fred can always go back to being henchman, but Fred wants none of that. Fred then singles out Beetle and Overdrive, saying that he has been pulling jobs long before they came along, and reminds them that he survived an attack from the Punisher. Shocker, who really knows that the "Punisher" who attacked Fred was really the Chameleon in disguise, almost reveals this, but stays silent, especially when Beetle squeezes his shoulder. She tells Fred that while they respect him, they can't have any "distractions" when they steal the head of Silvermane from the Owl. Fred points out that he's the one who came up with the idea, and that they don't know where the head of Silvermane is. Beetle, however, points out that Fred told them exactly where the head was being kept. She also pulls out a map of the Owl's hideout in which Fred had marked the head's exact location with large red "X."

Having now been kicked off his own team, Fred sits alone in a bar. He decides to call up Mach VII and go to his "little get-together" after all. Turns out the "get together" is at church and that's it's a 12-step program called "Super-Villains Anonymous" which is comprised of some of the d-list supervillains of the Marvel Universe, including the Hippo. When the Hppo asks Fred if he wants any coffee, Fred takes the Hippo's own mug and spikes it with whiskey, as his getting liquored-up is "the only way he can get through this."

The meeting starts off with Mirage, whose real name is Desmond, explaining how he became a super-villain. He was once in love with a girl named Amy, and that had "a real good thing going"... that is until Fing Fang Foom attacked the city during the St. Patrick's Day parade and abducted her and she was saved by Iron Man.  And to add insult the injury, Iron Man told Desmond to “Keep an eye on her for me next time, yeah pal?” This resulted in Amy no longer finding Desmond attractive and developing a crush on Iron Man.  And when she asked Desmond to wear a helmet while in bed together, that was when Desmond knew it was over.  However Desmond, figuring that "chicks dig bad boys" decided to become a super-villain. As the Mirage, he started off his career by robbing the wedding of Betty Brant and Ned Leeds, only for Spider-Man to show up. Then, he and some other villains ended up getting killed by the Scourge of the Underworld, and that Captain America wore his costume in order to trap the Scourge. Then Mirage was brought back to life by the Hood along with other super-villains, only to be killed again this time by the Punisher. However, Mirage somehow managed to survive and was in a coma for the next three months. When Desmond finally woke, the doctor told him how this was his "big second chance." Desmond realized that it didn't matter if this was technically his "third big chance"--no one even knew or cared that he was still alive. This results in everyone in the group, save Fred, breaking into tears and having a group hug. The Hippo then asks Fred to join them, and Fred finds himself being reminded of that in scene Fight Club where Edward Norton is hugged by Meat Loaf, only in this case he's being smothered by "big, sweaty, hippo manboobs."

After the SVA meeting, Mach VII takes Fred up to top of the Brooklyn Bridge. Abner thinks that even though Fred didn't speak, he's made real progress, and Fred claims that some of what was said hit home. He then tells Abner about a job the new Sinister Six is planning, claiming they tried pressure him into joining them but that Fred wanted to "stay clean." Mach VII then asks where their hideout is, getting ready to fly over at arrest them himself, when Fred points out that since Abner is his parole officer, the Sinister Six will know he was the one who snitched on them. Instead, he suggests Abner can get in touch with the Avengers to take care of it because "someone needs to" and that "people could get hurt." Cue the last page in Luke Cage and Iron Fist bust into the Sinister Six's hideout.

Now I thought the first two issues were funny, but this? This issue was absolutely hysterical. Just seeing the image of Silvermane's disembodied head on a remote control car, and also the entirely of “Super-Villain's Anonymous” meeting, makes it worth getting this issue for those moments alone. Once again, Nick Spencer's dialogue is brilliant, from Boomerang's innuendo-laced dig at how Mach VII's “new costume makes him look like something your wife says she doesn't own,” to Speed Demon's “Did [Mach VII] just skip six?” to Overdrive's being upset at having Mad Men spoiled. It's just clever and sharp writing all around.

Steve Lieber once again offers some excellent artwork. He knows how to visually convey humor, as the scenes showing Silvermane's head are appropriately absurd. Yet, he also knows how to show character emotion as well, even though such things as the drowning pancakes with syrup, or a simple squeeze on a shoulder, or sitting alone in a bar. You may not find any overly-dramatic or epic fight scenes one would expect to find in a superhero (or in this case super-villain) comic, but it's has genuine comedy and drama that most other titles would kill for.
Some maybe wonder what the point was in Boomerang's anecdote about what criminals believed happened to Silvermane's head vs what actually happened, or Mirage's recounting his rather sad life story as a super-villain...aside from the fact that they're both incredibly funny. But if you couple this with Fred's account of how Abner went from being the original Beetle to the hero, Mach VII, then it offers a revealing insight into how Boomerang views personal redemption. And yet as cynical and above-it-all as Fred appears, it clear that his own life as a costumed criminal is nowhere near as glamorous as he would like it to be. Also, it's clear from his double-standard about villains turning hero, along with the art accompanying his narration, and we that Fred is a pretty lonely guy. Of course, it's a loneliness brought about by his willingness to sell out his own partners while hypocritically chastising them for doing the same thing to him. And yet, you still manage not to hate the guy. Who would've thought someone like Boomerang had the makings for a interesting protagonist for a series?

Obviously, Boomerang somehow has to get his crew out of jail and convince them he didn't rat them out to the other heroes. After all, he still has to pull off the heist of Silvermane's head for the Chameleon, who will no doubt be none to happy with this little setback of Fred's own making. One thing is for certain—hilarity will ensue. 


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