Though I’ve attempted dozens of times, I’ve never won anything in one of those lousy crane games. Whether it was due to my lack of dexterity, bad aiming skills, beginner’s learning curve or the anemic gripping power of the crane claw, I’ve lost countless quarters and never walked away with a prize. It’s always felt rigged.
That’s a metaphor for The Superior Foes of Spider-Man #9 if I’ve ever heard one. Will Boomerang be the elusive prize that slips through Leland (The Owl) Owlsley’s rat-scented fingers? Is Steve Lieber’s crane game cover art an analogy for the wealth and success that persistently evades Fred Myers? Is this all just a game for Boomerang?
Game or not, Boomerang is a betting man and I’ll wager he’ll come out of this with his skin intact. Right off the bat, we find Fred and his girlfriend running for their lives from, Apex villain-for-hire, Bullseye. Word on the street is that Boomerang’s been talking smack about him and Bullseye’s not happy about it. Bullseye’s got Fred in his sights and the outlook is not encouraging. Fred had better do some fast talking if he’s not to become dinner for the Owl’s rats.
Maintaining his signature comicality, writer Nick Spencer expertly weaves a classic confidence game into this adventure. The con itself comes close to being lost in all the normal zingers and obscure reference gags that we’ve come to expect, but the pay-off is worth it. I don’t feel right spoiling how Fred gets out of this, but Boomerang’s escape and Chameleon’s reversal of fortune is something to behold.
What I love about Spencer’s Boomerang is his ability to surprise us. Just when we suspect he’s developing a conscience, he stabs us in the back. When we think he’s totally inept as a man, he saves his woman by deflecting a sniper bullet in the most impressive way. When we finally believe he’s a hopeless romantic, he turns his girlfriend into a human shield. Though, tied up and seemingly helpless, as long as his lips are moving, he’s still well-armed.
The art team differed only slightly in this issue. Steve Lieber and Rachelle Rosenberg had some assistance from fellow artist Rich Ellis in what I assume were inking duties. Ellis also did Yeoman duty on colors along with Redmond. Maybe it’s just my perception, but the artwork as of late has had a more finished look about it when you consider the depth of colors, the cleaner inking techniques and simple panel layouts. The colors in particular provided an appealing atmosphere and improved the otherwise excellent pencils and inks.
I’d like to criticize something in this issue, but fortunately, it’s become boringly excellent. The art is only getting better issue to issue and the writing is as sharp and quick-witted as ever. Not to mention character-developing side-stories involving the head of Silvermane, the Shocker and, special guest villain from the past, Hydro! In my eyes, Superior Foes is undeniably the sleeper hit of the last year. What a shame that Superior Foes is reportedly on the chopping block after issue #15, but I assume, with its loyal fan following, it will soon return under a new name and with a new number 1 issue if Marvel has anything to say about it.