Superior Foes of Spider-Man #4: Jerk Brigade


This is the era of unlikable characters you kind of like anyway in the Spider-Man universe. Not only is our wall-crawler inhabited by the spirit of Dr. Octopus (and as a result is much more entertaining than we could ever have expected), but now we’ve got a brand new Sinister Six that is only four members strong in Superior Foes of Spider-Man – and, to be fair, we’re not sure if ‘strong’ is the operative word there. These guys are the furthest thing from “superior.”

Supervillainy in the Marvel Universe can be a world-shattering power game, but it can also be a lot of low-rent chicanery amongst the rabble, and that’s what’s happened with the group of small-timers trying to fashion themselves into premiere players. Shocker, Speed Demon, Overdrive and Beetle have just kicked team organizer Boomerang out of their new- school Sinister Six, and are trying to pull off a huge job – stealing the head of Silvermane from the possession of the Owl. However, Boomerang is one skullduggerous guy, and he’s sold out his former team to the Heroes for Hire in order to teach them a lesson. Meanwhile, he’s also trying to B.S. the Chameleon into giving him more time to pull off the Silvermane job, and he’s not budging – and since the Chameleon is the first villain Spider-Man ever faced, the weight of his threat is legit.

In Superior Foes of Spider-Man #4, we also see Boomer deciding to give his civilian identity of Fred Myers a chance to get established, by making as close to nice as he can with a new bartender in his favorite watering hole, which mean it’s adversarial at best, since she’s from Philly and he used to pitch for the Mets. And when Shocker reveals he knows the secret about the Chameleon, Fred talks a good game about this being a business of relationships – enough to convince the Shocker to continue to play ball… but as we see at the end, Fred may just be a complete sociopath.

Nick Spencer has proven that he’s top-notch at crafting dirty-pool stories of intrigue and betrayal. With stuff like T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents and Secret Avengers, he’s done it on a grand, intense scale, and he’s showing us in this issue that he can bring it down to street level and weave it into some entertaining banter and shenanigans. Spencer’s tone isn’t far from Marvel’s critical-darling book Hawkeye, so it makes sense that artist Steve Lieber looks to be going for his version of that style – he’s not quite David Aja, of course, but you can’t blame a guy for taking some inspiration from one of the best books going, and he does capture that general sensibility.

Superior Foes of Spider-Man is perhaps a bad name for this book, making it seem like a cheap tie-in to the Superior Spider-Man gravy train and maybe mandating that it can’t go any longer than that does without some kind of new nomenclature, but the book itself is a nice look into the everyday lives of the colorful criminals of Marvel’s New York. We tend to love these guys as concepts, but Spencer is showing us who they are as people… and even though they’re fun to watch, they’re not all that likable.