Superior Foes of Spider-Man #8

Posted by Mike McNulty, a.k.a. Stillanerd 08 February 2014

So after a issue-long flashback of the new Beetle's origin, we're back to our regularly scheduled story of the misadventures of the (not so) Sinister (not quite) Six, in which Boomerang received an unwelcome visit from the Chameleon, Beetle's dad came to rescue his daughter and her partners from the Owl, and Shocker was on the run with the head of Silvermane. Also, Steve Lieber returns as the artist and Nick Spencer's co-storyteller, so this issue is bound to be even better. So lets see how our hapless bunch of down-and-out villains are faring this month, shall we? 

THE STORY
We begin with Boomerang as Fred Myers swimming under the ocean and finding a treasure chest. Scooping up the loot, he swims up to the surface which is actually a swimming pool, where the bartender he's been dating waits for him on an inflatable raft. Fred throws up the treasure, declaring that he and the bartender are rich, and offers her a large diamond. When the bartender tells Fred to put it back, saying because it's pirate treasure, nothing good will ever come of it. Fred thinks the bartender is mad because he didn't get stuck with the Galactus antlers, to which she—now suddenly having Galactus antlers—reminds Fred this is his dream. This, as well as saying he had talked to Flounder from The Little Mermaid earlier, makes Fred realize he is, in fact, dreaming and that the treasure is worthless. He then sarcastically thanks President Barack Obama, who is at the pool side, barbecuing along with figures in radiation suits and Dormandu. Then Fred gets an idea and imagines the bartender without her bikini. Furious that she's become naked, the bartender forces Fred under water, telling him to wake up... 

Which Fred does--to himself being shoved into his bathroom toilet by the Chameleon's stooge from Superior Foes of Spider-Man #6. The Chameleon, having heard of Fred's attack on the Owl's compound, forces Fred's face to floor with his foot and demands the whereabouts of Silvermane's head, believing, of course, this is what Fred stole.

Of course, Fred doesn't have Silvermane's head as it's still in possession of the Shocker and, more specifically, at Shocker's apartment. After Shocker removes duct tape from Silvermane's mouth, the cyborg demands something to eat, complaining that he's missing “lasagna night” back at the junkyard where he lived. As Shocker checks his refrigerator, Silvermane is in disbelief the Shocker actually lives here, as he assumed Shocker merely killed the owner and was using it as a safe-house. He then asks who the Shocker is supposed to be, calling him “Quilt-Man” and “Pillow Man.” When Shocker says who is he is, pointing out he's also Spider-Man's arch-enemy, Silvermane just snickers at him, insults him some more, and demands Shocker order him a pizza. Shocker says that he's in charge, to which Silvermane says he's the head of the Maggia crime family and isn't taking orders from a “two-bit costumed nobody.” To which Shocker points out that at least he has a body. This angers Silvermane even more, and he leaps on Shocker's face, biting his nose, and tackling him to the floor.

Meanwhile, at the Owl's hideout, Tombstone waves good-bye to his daughter, the Beetle, saying they'll talk about her being a super-villain later at dinner. Both Overdrive and Speed Demon are both shocked that Beetle never told them Tombstone was her dad (especially Speed Demon as he admits he's been trying to get Beetle to sleep with him), but she tells them it was any of their business to know. They point out that Tombstone is a killer who was likely to “slaughter [them] for getting his little girl into trouble,” but Beetle dismisses this, saying her dad is really a “big softie” who only kills for money, and that if it wasn't for her calling him, they would now be “Owl-Meat.” In any event, having realized that Boomerang has double-crossed them, Beetle orders the three of them split-up and search the city, and that they will not stop until they find him.
 
Back at Fred's apartment, the Chameleon is torturing Fred via a pair of tazer clamps attached to his nostrils. These are attached to a wire leading into a Jack-in-the-box being operated by the Chameleon's stooge, and every time the Jack-in-the-box pops open, it gives Fred an electric shock. Chameleon again demands Fred to tell him where the head of Silvermane is, only Fred keeps telling him it's just an urban myth. The Chameleon points out that Fred told him he saw Silvermane's head, and Fred feigns that he doesn't remember, saying this is why he shouldn't hit people in the head when interrogating them. Fred gets shocked again, then claims that because Owl redecorated his hideout, he and the Sinister Six couldn't find it. The Chameleon says he knows Fred is lying, ridicules Fred for believing that “a man of [Fred's] limited abilities [could] delude himself into thinking he was something more,” and says he will find Silvermane's head, even if they have to tear apart Fred's apartment to do it. After Fred makes a wisecrack about the magazines under his bed were already there when he moved in and asking if he should delete his internet history, Chameleon's flunky punches Fred in the face, knocking him out again.

Fred has another dream, this time playing poker with the bartender (now wearing a parka and earmuffs) at the bottom of the pool now filled with sand. Fred complains he's lost again, to which the bartender says this is what always happens whenever he gets too greedy. Fred states how women in his dreams are usually much nicer than she is, to which the bartender replies maybe she's really Fred's subconscious. Fred then asks where Jesse Pinkman and Walter White from Breaking Bad are, and the bartender says they left once the pirate ship showed up. The ship, which apparently has the crew from The Pirates of the Caribbean, give chase to Fred. When Fred says how much this sucks, the bartender, now on a riding lawnmower, points out Fred always wanted to be a pirate when he was a little boy, and as she says this, Fred suddenly has an eye-patch and a wooden leg. Fred protests, saying he always wanted to be a baseball player. The bartender changes into giant parrot, squaks that Fred is “such a disappointment” and Dormandu, sunbathing in a deck chair adds, “She got that right.” 

When Fred wakes up, he sees the Chameleon has left him a note, saying that while what he did find Silvermane's head, Fred's “alternative means of payment” has resolved him of all debt. Sure enough, Fred sees that his poster of The Ugly Truth is ripped in half and that the painting of “The True Face of Victor Von Doom” which he hid behind it is gone. Then there's a knock on the door, and Fred, thinking the Chameleon has returns, grabs one of his boomerangs from under his couch cushion and opens the door, ready to throw his weapon. Only it's actually the bartender, and she instinctively attacks and disables Fred with ease. Fred asks where she learned to do what she just did, and she replies that being from Philadelphia, she naturally took self-defense classes. She then helps Fred up, and when what she's doing at his place, she reminds him that he was the one who asked her out for another date. Fred, who is not wearing any pants, asks if what she really means is he if should go put some on before they head out, "or the opposite of that." Annoyed, the bartender tells Fred "you're buying [the drinks]."  

At their date, the bartender asks why Fred tried to attack her with a “toy.” Fred tells her he thought she was someone else, and when she presses him further, Fred says, “What if I told you I was a superhero?” The bartender is incredulous at first, then figures it makes sense given New York has a lot of them and how Fred told her he's trying to atone for his being kicked out of baseball, and she states she finds this to be a “definite turn-on.” To which Fred then says, “Great, now what if I told you I was a super-villain?” Naturally, this has the opposite effect, and Fred tries to explain its not like he's a member of the Masters of Evil (even though, as he reminds the reader, he used to be) and that he's more like George Clooney from Ocean's Eleven, only more “badass” because he wears a boomerang on his forehead. When the bartender asks if Fred has killed anyone, he says “does it count if it was for money?” This makes her about to leave, but Fred explains he's only killed bad guys and doesn't do “civilians” (“mostly” as he tells the reader). Then he tells her he gets why she's upset, and that he won't think less of her if she's looking for something a little safer than him. However, the bartender, although still upset, does say that Fred being a super-villain isn't “entirely a turn-off.”

Fred explains to her everything that has transpired over the course of the series, as we check in on the various other characters. Shocker, with a bandaged nose, is feeding pizza to Silvermane. Speed Demon and Inspector the dog are at Fred's trashed apartment. The Chameleon hangs up “The True Face of Victor Von Doom,” and Beetle and Overdrive continue their search for Fred.

Later, Fred and the bartender walk back to her place, and she asks Fred about how he plans to get the painting of Doctor Doom back. Fred says he can't, as he doesn't have a gang anymore, to which the bartender says he can hire himself a new one. Fred, at first, thinks this is a great idea, but then gets discouraged, saying no one will ever want to work with him after what has happened. The bartender then says “there's the loser I thought you were,” as she can't believe Fred would just give up so easily. Then, much to her reluctance, she says that if Fred really wants to be a super-villain, then he should try to be the best super-villain. This encourages Fred, as he thinks of the all the things he did do right as Boomerang, and he decides he's not going to let one little setback get him down. Then he moves towards the bartender and the two of them start to kiss. Unbeknownst to Fred, however, he's being tracked by a sniper's targeting scope, and that the sniper is...Bullseye?! 

THOUGHTS
If comics, like television shows, were capable of closing out their issues with a song, then I imagine the one for Superior Foes of Spider-Man #8 would be “You Can't Always Get What You Want” by the Rolling Stones. After all, even though Fred no longer has the Sinister Six or the painting of Doctor Doom, he still does wind up “getting the girl.” (Although based on the cliffhanger, just how long is that going to last?) Also, his holding up to the Chameleon's torture and his subsequent confession to the bartender girl about being a super-villain makes this issue the most sympathetic portrayal of Boomerang in the series thus far. Its perfectly in keeping with Nick Spencer's re-imagining of Boomerang as the Peter Parker of super-villains, on top of also giving him a significant amount of character development. Also, I just enjoy the dialogue between Fred and his would-be girlfriend, both in his dream and in the real world. These two have genuine chemistry together, although I find it strange that we still do not know who the bartender's name is. Wouldn't surprise me if this is part of some big twist involving this character, especially given how quickly she was able to take out Fred.

Another character who gets a little development in this issue is the Beetle, although certainly not as much as she got in the last issue. Naturally, she was going to step up as the leader again given how the team knows Boomerang has been using them, but I also find it telling that Janice is only starting to be respected and taken seriously by her teammates because she's Tombstone's daughter and less so for her leadership capabilities. Then again, Janice has tried to make a name for herself as a super-villain by co-opting a previously used costumed identity and not her own, so her using her father's reputation to boost her street-cred also fits and underscores her being an opportunist. In any case, it's going be quite interesting to see a potential head-to-head match-up between Boomerang and Beetle and just where the loyalties of the Sinister Six will ultimately lie. 

What really steals this issue, however, is the scene between Shocker and Silvermane. I realize that some readers have a problem with the way Herman Schultz has been portrayed in Superior Foes, that he's a far more experienced and formidable than how he's actually being treated. Yet that's the gag; as the Shocker himself implies, he has gone toe-to-toe with Spider-Man often and given him a real run for his money, yet no one gives him any respect—least of all the disembodied cybernetic head of a geriatric, over-bearing, and washed-up mafia boss—simply because his outfit makes him look silly and his own inferiority complex. And if you think about it, the real irony is that Shocker has actually been more successful than any of the other characters, since he actually has the very thing sought after by criminals everywhere and which Boomerang has dismissed as a mere “urban legend.” Besides, seeing Silvermane's head attacking Shocker's to be one of the most hilarious moments I've seen in the series to date.

Finally, it's great to see Steve Lieber once again back on regular duties as the illustrator, as his collaboration with Spencer is what really makes the series shine. The dream sequences alone are fantastic and full of the sight gags that have become a trademark of the comic, such as the miniature Silver Surfer orbiting the bartender's “Galactus Antlers.” His depiction of Fred being electrocuted with a Jack-in-the-box is both darkly comic as it is surreal, complete with the musical notes and lyrics of “Pop Goes the Weasel.” Or that Overdrive uses his powers to transform a car into a smaller version of the Big Wheel. And I equally liked how the Chameleon's letter to Fred has a crossed-out misspelling of “business.” Little touches such as this is what gives the series added charm, as well as encourage readers to go back and look through all the things they might have missed the first time around.

One minor and potential contention for readers, however, would be when exactly is this series taking place? Those who have read recent issues of Daredevil know that Bullseye is not only paralyzed inside an iron lung, he's also become blind. Did he get better somehow? Is this series somehow a flashback? Or is this even the real Bullseye? And why would he be targeting Fred? Or is really after the bartender? I guess we're going to have find out in the next issue, that's for sure.

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