Last time, Boomerang has managed to pull off the caper of his career with the theft of the world's most valuable oil painting—a self-portrait of Doctor Doom without his signature iron mask. Granted, he manipulated his own team, the so-called Sinister Six (now four...or is it one?), into thinking they were actually stealing the head of Silvermane and, as the recap page tells us, left them for dead, but hey! where does it say that super-villains must loyal to one another, aside from “honor among thieves?” Of course, Boomerang isn't on easy street yet. He still has to deal with the Chameleon, his new parole officer and former partner, Mach VII, and his first date in who knows how long. Not to mention Shocker, who he also believed to have killed, and who actually has the fabled head of Silvermane. So lets see what our “Superior Foes” are up to, shall we?
We open with Boomerang, as Fred Myers, on his first date with the bartender girl from Superior Foes of Spider-Man #4 at a baseball game. Fred is wearing a pair of Grucho Marx glasses, and when the bartender girl asks if Fred is allowed to even be at a ballpark given his lifetime ban from the game. Fred explains he's both wearing the glasses because “chicks dig a guy with a sense of humor” and to not be recognized by the “autograph-seekers” and “paparazzi” which would “ruin the mood” and make him “smoke a few batters.” When the bartender girl suggests Fred get them a beer, Fred tells her the prices are too high, and instead pulls a can of beer out from under his pants. He also suggestively claims to have smuggled in a hot dog and nachos, the later of which the bartender girl doesn't want to know what that's code for. Fred then jokes that she just doesn't want to get caught on the kiss cam stuffing her face before they make out, and we then get a fantasy sequence of just that (complete with a meter judging it's likelihood) which concludes with the bartender girl repeatedly hitting Fred in the face.
After the game, Fred walks the bartender girl back to her place and they continue to talk about Pendak. When they get to her place, the bartender girl asks Fred if he misses baseball, and Fred says no. The bartender girl then tells Fred goodnight, but Fred immediately begins to confess that he does, that if closes his eyes he can still hear the crowd, feel the dirt under his cleats, and breathe in the air of the ballpark, that he wishes everyday he could go back instead of being a washed-up (as he claims to be) “insurance salesman.” The bartender girl then gives Fred a kiss on the check, and tells him goodnight again. Fred incredulously asks if that's it, having figured that his “emotional vulnerability” and “honesty” would be enough to get him invited upstairs. After the bartender girl tells Fred goodnight again, Fred tells her that he'll call her later, then saunters off, satisfied over how well his date went.
Fred then returns to his apartment and to the painting “The True Face of Victor Von Doom” he stole from the Owl last issue, which according to Fred has an estimated value of $300 million. Fred then narrates the origin of the painting, and that the artist was a rising-star in the art world named Broudaire. Doctor Doom, having heard of Broudaire's reputation, decided to hire the artist to “draw Doom like one of your French girls” (although Fred admits that he doesn't know if a “tasteful nude” of Doom was ever actually discussed). Broudaire suggested that Doctor Doom remove his mask, and Doom, having drunk too much wine beforehand, agreed. And because he was finally “exposed” after so long, Doom became so emotional that the artist was able to capture a single tear running down his cheek. The next day, however, a hungover Doom got a look at the finished painting and, horrified over what he has allowed to be done, vaporizes Broudaire with a death ray (thus also increasing the value of the artists paintings). However, Doom can't bear himself to destroy his self-portrait, so he hides away in one of his dungeons...that is until Kristoff has taken over Latveria and the painting is smuggled out of the country, changing hands numerous times until finally winding up in the Owl's possession. And because so few have actually seen the painting and that no one knows its whereabouts, its legend and value have only grown, to which Boomerang plans to sell at full price.
Boomerang then goes on to clarify to the readers that Silvermane's head isn't real (except we, of course, know it's very real since it's now in the Shocker's possession) and that he made the whole thing up just to appease the Chameleon. Since he didn't have anything to actually offer, Boomerang figured that the idea of something that would put Chameleon in charge of the underworld would be to his liking. Also, he needed to convince the rest of the Sinister Six to go along with his raid of the Owl's headquarters. As to why he didn't actually tell them about the painting, Fred says “What's better than being in the Sinister Six but not splitting the money with anyone else!” Fred, having left the Sinister Six behind, believes they are dead, and proclaims himself the member a new gang--”The Sinister Singular Individual.”
We see in the next scene, however, that Speed Demon, Beetle, and Overdrive are still alive, held captive by the Owl, having been caught while trying to escape. While Owl knows Speed Demon (and says that he's of “very little worth”) he doesn't know about the other two. Overdrive immediately apologizes and starts ratting out Boomerang, but Beetle is defiant, telling the Owl he'd better untie them and let them go. Owl, however, politely tells them that they need to pay the price for stealing what is “rightfully his” and, after cleaning his hands with some Purell moisturizer, proceeds to dig into a toolbox and removes a hacksaw. He then says that he's willing to look past this and let them all live in exchange for information about Boomerang's whereabouts, “sans legs, of course.” Overdrive is all too willing to agree and Speed Demon is thinking of Inspector the dog, but Beetle suggests a counter-offer—that the Owl should let them go and “count [his] loses” and they won't spread the word of how easily they tore through his security and stole his stuff, thus saving him the embarrassment. At this, the Owl order one of his men to shoot Beetle in the head, but she again tells them that he really shouldn't. Owl, curious and amused by Beetle's bravado, tells her if she really think Boomerang is going to come and save them. Beetle however tells the Owl “Trust me, old man...Boomerang is the last person you need to worry about” and we see that she's secretly dialing a number on her smart phone.
Back in Fred's apartment, Boomerang wakes from a dream he was having about the bartender girl, Misty Knight, Moonstone, and Madame Viper by a loud, repeated banging on the door and a voice demanding him to open up or else. Fred, stalling for time, quickly hides the painting of Doctor Doom with a movie poster, then opens the door to find its Mach VII. Mach VII reminds Fred that he didn't report in as part of his condition for parole; he also got a call from a buddy at the NYPD who said that a few minutes after they picked up the Sinister Six based off of Fred's tip, they were then busted out by “a guy with explosive boomerangs.” Fred professes his innocence by claiming that this must mean “there's a new Boomerang out there” and offers to help catch him. Of course, Mach VII doesn't believe him. Then, Mach VII sees the poster Fred has used to cover up the painting—the romantic comedy The Ugly Truth starring Katherine Heigl and Gerard Butler—which only rouses Mach VII's suspicions even more. Mach VII then heads to the window, warning Fred that he's done with the “nice guy approach” and that he'll “get to the bottom” of whatever Fred is up to. However, before Mach VII can finish his speech and dramatically fly out the window, he gets stuck in the sill, the wings on his jetpack being too wide for him to leave. Thus, after repeated attempts to leave by the window, Mach VII walks out and exits through the door instead. Fred asks what Mach VII's exit line was going to be and, after some prodding, Mach VII says it was “A Boomerang isn't the only thing that can come back around on you.” Fred compliments him and then, as Mach VII leaves, yells out that he will call him later.
Just as Fred settles back on his couch, there's another knock at the door. Fred, thinking that Mach VII has come back, opens the door only to find that it's the Chameleon along with two bodyguards. The Chameleon tells Fred that it's “time to settle [their] accounts,” and one of the guards punches Fred in the face and knocks him unconscious.
Back at the Owl's hideout, Beetle has a gun pointed to her head just as her smart-phone buzzes. The gunman retrieves her phone and hands it to the Owl, saying there's a text message on it which reads “Just outside.” Again, the Beetle taunts the Owl, and he, frustrated over what he thinks is just a bluff, demands to know where his painting is. Naturally, Beetle has no idea what the Owl is talking about when, suddenly, the wall behind the Owl explodes. There's a brief shoot-out and the Owl, helped by one of his men, escapes. As a group of armed men secure the room, their boss enters the room, demanding to know who sent him the text message. Beetle then removes her mask and says to the visibly surprised stranger, “Hi daddy.” It's then revealed that the Beetle's real name is Janice Lincoln, and that her father is none other than...Tombstone!
The Superior Foes of Spider-Man is a challenging series to review; not because it is bad, but because it is just so damn good and only keeps getting better and better with every issue. Just like Fred Myers being in love with the bartender girl (whose name he still doesn't actually know, by the way), I am in love with this comic. There are, of course, many reasons why, but there are two in particular, both of which are perfectly demonstrated in this issue.
The first is how Nick Spencer and Steve Leiber are not afraid to gently poke fun at even the more serious of Marvel's staple of characters. For instance, the story behind Doctor Doom's self-portrait is hilarious because, given Boomerang is the one telling it, Doom behaves so uncharacteristically (seriously, Doom is shown wearing Fantastic Four boxer shorts for crying out loud) and yet simultaneously seems completely in-character that you'd actually would buy someone as arrogant and vain as Doom could have made this mistake while intoxicated. Same goes for Mach VII's costume preventing him from making a dramatic exit out of Fred's window; yes, it's an easy gag, but it's one that not only subverts and acknowledges a commonly used comic book cliché, but also humanizes these characters for us.
And speaking of characters, this is the second thing I love about this series which this issue also perfectly demonstrates. Boomerang, being the protagonist and unreliable narrator of the series, gets a lot of attention, as usual, but also some development, specifically his confession about his missing baseball to the bartender girl. Yes, it's another attempt at manipulation on his part, but it also reveals a lot about what actually drives Boomerang to do what he does. It's not so much baseball that Fred misses, but the riches and recognition that came with it that he achieved through his own skills and pitching. But since he's banned from baseball, the only alternative he can see to earn back what he once had is through crime. He just doesn't realize that the very thing preventing him getting to the top is himself and his tendency to be too clever-by-half.
Another character that gets the spotlight and much-needed development this time around is, of course, the new Beetle. The revelation that she is actually the daughter of Tombstone isn't just an unexpected and welcome surprise, it too helps to show what motives her as a character. It's no wonder she has such a big chip on her shoulder, sees herself as a better leader, and doesn't take crap from anyone when she's got the toughest, most dangerous mafia hitman in the city and crime boss in his own right as her dad. Although given his reaction, I can imagine Tombstone is not going to be particularly thrilled with the fact that his daughter is now trying to make a living as a fellow super-villain.
I know some of you folks are probably still a bit hesitant about this series, particularly since it is a humorous take on costumed criminals and the focus is on B and C list characters. Don't let that dissuade you, however, because, as I've said in past reviews, The Superior Foes of Spider-Man is, without question, on of the best comics Marvel is publishing right now, and if you genuinely want something that is offbeat, funny, and very, very good, you owe it to yourself to pick this up. Who knows? Maybe you too will fall in love with this series just as much as I have.