After several competent “filler” issues highlighting baddies like Grizzly and Porcupine, Superior Foes of Spider-Man gets back to the fantastic main story arc. Issue 12 literally picks up exactly where it left off several months ago and it is worth the wait.
The 1960’s spy-style cover immediately sets the campy tone of the book. Like the genre the cover evokes, the story is filled with plot twists and intrigue. It seems Freddie Myers just can’t help but to play every side against the other in his pursuit for a little scratch.
Overall the issue is excellent. The writing by Nick Spencer gets higher marks than Steve Lieber’s artwork, but both are top notch. I realize the following statement is not anything earth-shattering: Absolutely EVERYONE loves this series. Normally when a piece of pop-culture is universally adored it persuades an individual to like it as well. I’m a little weird and usually when everyone loves something I am very skeptical of it, so I have read this a dozen times and taken a magnifying glass to every panel to try to hate it, but I can’t. It really is that good. And now that they have gotten back to the main characters, this title is seriously one of the best comics to read right now. No joke. Go check it out.
The writing in this issue is excellent. It is sharp enough to keep things lively and further the progress of the story, but Spencer isn’t so serious that he can’t poke fun at the title’s long hiatus right off the bat. There is an amusing yet contentious back-and-forth between Beetle and Boomerang throughout the issue and a guest star steps in to keep Beetle from blowing Freddie’s head off. The descent down the rabbit hole of random villains and an assault on Chameleon’s compound is deftly guided with dialog that serves to further build the character of our featured protagonists. Just the instant you start to empathize with Boomerang he goes and betrays someone else, Overdrive is a somewhat lovable loser, and Beetle seems as though she should be the real leader of the team.
We also get to check in with Shocker who, oddly enough, is probably the most legitimate of any of the villains in Superior Foes. Yet, for most of this run he is the one with the most severe crisis in confidence. This month we may have seen a defining moment for Shocker, which would be fantastic as the series (apparently) will be wrapping up over the next three issues. Hydro gives Shocker a nice pep talk and just when Shocker might be ready to pull back the curtain of his depression, he gets the rug pulled out from underneath him. Piling on top of Shocker’s humiliation, Silvermane offers his typical cutting remarks and some cynical advice that might actually be some tough love for Shocker. Without giving too much away, Schulz seems to have circled the wagons and we may have a VERY interesting showdown between him and Hammerhead/the Maggia. Shocker closes the issue with a very tantalizing quote that makes you think the old, dangerous Shocker of the past is back and ready to scrap.
The artwork is excellent, but does provide perhaps the only weak point in the series. The main characters in each panel are usually given decent detail, but if there is any background depicted it is usually given short shrift. This is going to sound cliché, but I grew up with Todd McFarlane and Jim Lee so when artists leave a jaw line slightly fuzzy or use just a few black lines to depict a wall, it slightly irritates me. Look, let me be clear, I am REALLY trying to find fault with Superior Foes!
Overall, this is a fantastic issue. I strongly encourage you to pick it up, if not for the great writing, story, and artwork, then at the very least to catch the cameo by Obnoxio the Clown as a member of the Sinister Six(teen)!