Superior Foes of Spider-Man might be the hardest series for me to write about on Chasing Amazing because it is stunningly consistent in its approach. I have heaped lavish praise on Nick Spencer and Steve Lieber who have done what seemed like the impossible when this series first debuted last summer – make a series starring a bunch of characters that nobody ever really cared about into one of the most reliably funny and entertaining reads every month. But as someone who consistently tries to offer my readers some new perspectives and insights into the comic books they like to read (within the Spider-Man universe, of course!), I find myself more at a loss for new things to say about Superior Foes with every passing issue.
Superior Foes #8 is another home run from Spencer and Lieber. Happy? Should I just end this review now and go back to obsessing over who Dan Slott is setting up as the Green Goblin in Superior Spider-Man, or how disappointing Matt Kindt’s Marvel Knights Spider-Man script turned out to be?
Do you really need me to tell you that Fred Meyers, aka Boomerang, has some of the funniest and absurd dream sequences this side of a Sopranos episode (which Fred even acknowledges in Superior Foes #8)? That showing Fred’s girlfriend with Galactus “antlers” is actually only the second funniest part of his initial dream sequence (Thanks Obama!)?
When Superior Foes is presumably put to bed later this year (though I hope to see it go on forever), I would love to have a lengthy conversation with Spencer and Lieber about their creative process, because the visuals and jokes come in such rapid fire succession and in a fashion that is both scatological and organic (talk about an oxymoron), that I can’t for the life of me figure out how these two manage to get a book out once a month that is so irreverent and comprehensible at the same time.
Regarding Fred’s dream, it’s a testament to just how well Spencer and Lieber have crafted and nurtured this character. He’s a total crook and slimeball, but he’s our crook and slimeball, so we love him for it and root for him in ways I’m not even sure I root for a lot of superheroes. So when he has a dream about his girlfriend wearing Galactus antlers, my response isn’t “WTF?” but instead, “okay, yeah, of course that’s what he’s dreaming about!” When a smiling President Obama shows up working a barbecue, it doesn’t seem the least bit plausible (though, could it be a reference to the Chameleon pretending to be Obama in that Amazing Spider-Man back-up story from 2009, considering our favorite master of disguise is the one actually torturing Fred while he’s out cold?).
Superior Foes is so unwaveringly flawless in its execution, that even character concepts that I’m not entirely a fan of don’t upset me. I think when this series started, a lot of long-time Spider-fans were scratching their heads about how the Shocker was being portrayed as such a gigantic coward, but Spencer and Lieber brushed that criticism aside and pushed forward with the story they wanted to tell. Superior Foes #8 even gives a small shout-out to those fans, as an incredulous Shocker tells the head of Silvermane that he’s one of Spidey’s “arch” foes. Silvermane then gets one of the funniest burns I’ve ever read in a book that’s filled with tons of them, when he calls Shocker “Octopussy” and tells him to go order a pizza (I guess telling him to “go get his shine box” would have been too much of a pop culture reference).
And to top it off, Spencer and Lieber end Superior Foes #8 with a very clever twist on the standard superhero comic formula: Fred admits his alter-ego to his girlfriend, but this isn’t exactly Peter Parker coming clean to Aunt May or Mary Jane. Fred had to admit that he is, in fact, a supervillain. He has to come up with a way to justify who he is and what he does in a way that’s sincere, but also doesn’t come across as a romantic turn off. It’s every superhero unmasking to a significant other we’ve ever seen in a comic book, except completely upside-down.
Spencer and Lieber stick the landing, as Fred is both sympathetic, but still a slimeball during his admission. And from the looks of things, his approach helped him win the girl (who, to boot, gives Fred a bit of a pep talk about getting his portrait of the face of Victor Von Doom back from the Chameleon). So even in their consistency, Spencer and Lieber find ways to surprise me with their twists and reveals.
All images from Superior Foes of Spider-Man #8: Nick Spencer, Steve Lieber & Rachelle Rosenberg