It’s currently one of the most interesting times to be a Marvel reader. Thanks to the success of Matt Fraction and David Aja’s Hawkeye, Marvel seems to be allowing its creative teams to get far more experimental with their company-owned characters. At the moment, books like Charles Soule’s She-Hulk, G. Willow Wilson’s Ms. Marvel, Al Ewing’s Loki: Agent of Asgard, and Ales Kot’s Secret Avengers are reading far more like indie creator-owned books than what we’ve come to see as the “Marvel style.” And the amazing thing is that it works… and that success is perhaps most apparent in Nick Spencer’s The Superior Foes of Spider-Man.
When it was first announced, it seemed very much like a chance to cash in on Dan Slott’s wildly popular Superior Spider-Man that had been running at the time, featuring Doc Ock running around in Peter Parker’s body, acting as an increasingly morally ambiguous Spider-Man. When a comic book is successful, it’s very likely you’ll see attempts to tie new books into that success, all with varying quality. With Superior Foes, that couldn’t be less the case. Spidey doesn’t show much in the book at all, and the narrative is instead focused on the comedy of a group of five ne’er-do-wells – Boomerang, Shocker, Overdrive, Speed Demon, and Beetle – attempting to become the new Sinister Six.
This comic has everything you’d expect from a book led by villains. You’ve got heists, fights, attempts to take out heroes, and deceit from within the group. That’s not what makes this book though – you see, the appeal isn’t how cool the villains are… but rather, how human and even lame they can be. What we never see in comics is a group of supervillains meeting amongst each other and taking votes on who is in charge, talking about how hot Beetle is, dealing with the court system, and all the stuff that we’d be privy to by reading about the life of… say, Peter Parker. I think villains aren’t often shown in their most human and small moments because it would take away the threat – and Superior Foes completely does take away the threat of these guys… and that’s kind of the point. They’re humanized in a way that doesn’t make them sympathetic at all, but in a way that adds a bizarre level of comedy to their interactions. Do we come to care about these characters in the way that someone might care about the cast of Gail Simone’s Secret Six, for instance? Probably not. But when the Punisher pops into this series (kinda) with the intention of blowing these villains to bits, it keeps me laughing as the baddies figure out a way to avoid certain death.
Half-Fraction/Aja Hawkeye, half-Pineapple Express, fans of Spidey’s villains should check this out. Instead of repeating what we’ve seen time and time again in the inevitable villain-focused series, Superior Foes offers something wholly original, fun, and…
PAT SHAND is a writer and editor for Zenescope Comics. You can find him at local comic book conventions, catching con crud on a monthly basis! Cough cough sneeze.