The last two issues of Superior Foes of Spider-Man are textbook examples of what not to do if you’re a publisher of a cult favorite series that is reportedly on the brink of cancellation in a few months – especially when threats of cancellation are explicitly tied to sales.
Superior Foes #11 is the worst kind of déjà vu. It is another issue of this series without the core creative team of Nick Spencer and Steve Lieber. The comic also features a break from the title’s traditional caper format (with Boomerang’s narration) in favor of short little vignettes about other “foes” of the Marvel Universe. This was a cute little gimmick that I wasn’t totally sold on when Marvel published Superior Foes #10 a month ago. Now after getting it for the second month in a row – and this time with far fewer jokes and some other questionable editorial decisions about the narrative – I can’t help but feel that Marvel is taking advantage of this title’s loyal fanbase by making us wade through some subpar material in hopes of eventually getting to the big “finish” penned by Spencer and Lieber.
There’s just a whole lot of head scratchiness to Superior Foes #11 that makes it easily the worst in the series thus far. Whereas last time around we got some fun, albeit superfluous stories about the other members of the (not) Sinister Six (Overdrive, Lady Beetle and Speed Demon), Superior Foes #11 randomly shines a light on Grizzly and Looter. Granted, both are very lame Spider-Man villains from yesteryear, but neither has figured into the arc of this series thus far, and it just seems like a total cheat for the creative team to switch up the format like this at this stage of the game.
Additionally, for the first time since the inaugural issue of this series, the Superior Spider-Man plays a role in this comic’s story. Both the Grizzly and Looter short stories feature the villains discussing how much nastier and ruthless Spider-Man has become in recent months. Theoretically, I don’t have a problem with Superior Foes being used to thematically advance the “main” Spider-Man book, but in the previous 10 issues, Spider Ock has been such a non-factor. Plus, with the main Superior book on the verge of ending in another week, the timing of Superior Foes #11 is all the more curious. Why waste an entire issue marketing a status quo that will be irrelevant by the time the next issue of Superior Foes is published?
Simply put, Marvel had to do better by this series and its fanbase. If Lieber’s assumptions are true and Superior Foes is slated to end at issue #15, then Marvel is not even giving the series a puncher’s chance to reverse course by pumping out issues that are bland and inconsequential like Superior Foes #11. Meanwhile, Marvel also risks alienating those of us who regularly pull Superior Foes by giving us back-to-back issues that have no real identity within the series as a whole.
I joked in my write-up of Superior Foes #10 that I needed to find a way so that Spencer and Lieber never take another issue off, but in all seriousness, if Marvel tries to pull the wool over our eyes for the third time in a row in May, I’m going to have serious reservations about reading this series going forward. I like to think I don’t have very many demands as a reader, but the few that I do have, I’m very passionate and adamant about. In this case, I want a comic book series that is consistent and doesn’t come across as non-essential fluff.
All images from Superior Foes of Spider-Man #11: Tom Peyer, Carmen Carnero, Terry Pallot, Elliott Kalan & Nuno Plati