Tuesday, June 11, 2013

The Deadly Foes of Spider-Man [COMICS]

The Deadly Foes of Spider-Man

This 1991 limited series was an interesting (though probably unsuccessful) attempt to better develop Spider-Man's second- and third- string super-villains:  the Rhino, Hydro-Man, Shocker, Boomerang, the Beetle, and  Speed Demon (I barely remembered this last guy, despite 25 years of reading Marvel comics off and on; let's call him fourth-string!).  The focus is definitely on the villains and their personalities, though of course they do come into conflict with Spider-Man for at least a few pages every issue; he's the guy selling the book!

In issue # 1, we see how the Beetle, in debt to Kingpin for his early release from prison, organizes the other super-villains (except the Shocker, who is still incarcerated) into forming the Sinister Syndicate to pull a heist.  Spider-Man intervenes, but the group actually manage to defeat him and make off with the loot (except for Boomerang, who is captured).  The Beetle's not particularly popular when the others realize all the proceeds have to be turned over to the Kingpin, but he manages to persuade them to try another job now that the Kingpin has been paid off.

In issue # 2, the Sinister Syndicate try to free Boomerang from the courthouse where he's being tried, but the plan fails.  Boomerang's girlfriend, Leila Davis, is introduced as the planned getaway driver, but it's clear she has mysterious ulterior motives for hanging around the group.  The villains escape the failed rescue attempt, though Rhino decides to leave the group as his only focus is to get his armor removed.

In issue # 3, Spider-Man defuses a bomb set by Beetle and saves the life of a district attorney.  In prison, Herman Schultz (a.k.a., the Shocker) helps Boomerang escape.  Leila's true purpose for infiltrating the group is revealed, and it's a doozy: in a bit of what (I think) is ret-conning, it turns out that the Beetle was responsible for constantly humiliating the costumed super-villain The Ringer, and that this motivated him to stay in the business and be assassinated by the Scourge; Leila was The Ringer's wife, and wants to get revenge on Beetle for her husband's death!  It's a bit of a roundabout way of doing it, but okay.

Issue # 4 involves a battle between what has become two factions of the Sinister Syndicate: Leila, Rhino, and Boomerang versus Beetle, Speed Demon, and Hydro-Man.  Spider-Man, as is his way, intervenes to keep the city from being wrecked.  The battle causes such mayhem and destruction, it leads to rioting and general anarchy.  It turns out, this was all arranged as a clever plan by the Kingpin to cause such a distraction that his operatives could sneak into police headquarters and steal a disk containing the names of all of law enforcement's undercover operatives!  He gets away with it too, which is not something that happens often in comics.  As an epilogue, Rhino finally succeeds in getting his armor removed; but he finds his new, mundane life so boring, that he asks Justin Hammer for a new one!

It was an odd choice to build the central plot of the series around a revenge quest by the wife of a rather obscure, dead super-villain (I actually kinda liked the Ringer after reading about him in the OHTMU: Book of the Dead & even picked up his first appearance, but still).  I do like the idea of developing the personalities and motivations of some of Spidey's less famous villains, and to a degree this was successful: Speed Demon is a would-be ladies' man, Rhino just can't figure out how to live without the excitement of crime, the Shocker is terrified of being murdered by the Scourge, etc.  The more these characters become more than costumes and powers, the better the Marvel Universe becomes.

All in all, an average book that sold well enough to earn a sequel.

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