Review: Superior Foes of Spider-Man Vol. 3: Game Over trade paperback (Marvel Comics)

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

[Review by Doug Glassman, who Tumblrs at '80s Marvel Rocks!]

With Superior Foes of Spider-Man Vol. 3: Game Over, the book wraps up its many plotlines while leaving lots of room open for future adventures. Nick Spencer immediately addresses the fill-in issues that ended the second volume, Crime of the Century, with Boomerang feeling like they've been stuck in the same place for a while. That place would be escaping on a school bus converted into a getaway truck by Overdrive with the children still on board. Exactly how that unfolded -- and why the bus is studded with shuriken and other ninja weapons -- is explained a few issues later, but the mystery grabs the reader right at the start. In fact, Game Over is a trade full of mysteries, all leading up to the non-reveal of whom Boomerang has been telling this story to.

Gang warfare between the Owl and the Chameleon dominates the first part of the book as Boomerang plays them off of each other in order to get away with his own crimes. He's able to barely win back the trust of Speed Demon, Overdrive, and Beetle and ends up adding the Owl's own forces to his own to create the Sinister Sixteen. Not since the Sinister Twelve in Mark Millar's Spider-Man has the depth and sheer ridiculousness of Spider-Man's rogues gallery been so evident. Real threats like the Spot, Shriek (sadly bereft of Carnage), and Cyclone (yet another former Thunderbolt) are joined by the Squid, the Kangaroo, and the Human Fly. The most important member ends up being Mirage, notable as one of the most killed and resurrected villains in Marvel history -- a feat repeated here once more.

While this goes on, the Shocker continues to struggle with his own future while being bossed around by the head of Silvermane. This brings Hammerhead back into the picture; Spencer toys with the many retcons about whether or not he still speaks like a '30s movie gangster by having it be something he's seeing a therapist for. (He's actually not seeing a therapist, as a brutally funny series of panels explains what happened to his previous shrinks and why his current shrink is just one of his flunkies.) Hammerhead becomes obsessed with reclaiming Silvermane, and the old Maggia cyborg is not thrilled over the prospect of being turned over to him. The Shocker and Silvermane plot is mostly separate from the rest of the book, but they intertwine again closer to the climax.

Even moreso than the previous trades, Spencer, Steve Lieber, and Rich Ellis go all out on the comedy. Mirroring the Owl's house of traps, the Chameleon has an even more ridiculous and lethal floor plan, including giant nesting dolls full of spiders, mummy clones of Lenin, and even a room dedicated to This Island Earth featuring a Metaluna Mutant. A wordless sequence explains what happened to the dog Speed Demon stole from a little girl; this comes after a fake-out where it looks like the dog might be dead. Overdrive's vehicle transformations get even more creative, turning motorized wheelchairs into construction equipment and bikes into Segways. We find out that the ninja weapons covering the escape bus came from Mister Negative, who gave Overdrive his powers and who is demanding repayment in return. He has -- and this is a sentence I never thought I would type outside of an issue of The Tick -- ninja debt collectors.

The final battle builds after each member of the team betrays Boomerang by promising the head of Silvermane to another villain. It's been mentioned many times that having Silvermane will make you the new leader of the Maggia, but it takes a search on Wikipedia to figure out exactly how that works. (Of course Wikipedia in the Marvel Universe has detailed instructions on how to take over the Maggia.) The Shocker wants to turn the head over to Hammerhead just to get rid of him and to get revenge on his former teammates for burying him alive. The Beetle offers the head to her father, Tombstone. Overdrive uses it to pay off his debt to Mr. Negative. Finally, Speed Demon uses it to get the attention of Madame Masque simply because she's hot and rich.

Naturally, this ends up in a gang war between nearly every minor costumed supervillain in New York. Despite his protests, this was actually Boomerang's plan in order to get away with stealing the painting of the true face of Doctor Doom. This ends up not quite working out due to a last-minute reveal of his girlfriend's secret identity; I won't reveal it here because the twist is just wonderful. Thankfully, Boomerang has another goal, which seems to come out of nowhere until it's tied back into his dream of playing baseball once more. It involves switching places with Mach-VII, who has a tendency to knock things and people over with his wings in some masterfully-drawn physical comedy.

I can't reveal the ending either, except that it involves the Punisher and a long-lost piece of technology from the cheesy '70s kids title Super Spidey Stories. Speed Demon and the Shocker get good endings while Beetle and Overdrive run into Doctor Doom while carrying a fake copy of the painting of his true face. The very end reveals that Boomerang is telling the story to a man in the shadows named "Peter." It's heavily implied to be Spider-Man but Spencer left it open as an homage to the finale of The Sopranos. What intrigues me is that the light outside their window is surprisingly red. Is it just sunrise, or is Boomerang telling Peter all of this because the world is about to end thanks to the Incursion in Secret Wars?

Superior Foes of Spider-Man Vol. 3: Game Over is the end of the series, but even though it will live on in Ant-Man and other Nick Spencer projects, it's a title I'll truly miss. Perhaps there's hope for a revival next year; at the rate that Marvel is announcing great titles, it wouldn't surprise me.
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