Superior Foes of Spider-Man #7
Written by Nick Spencer
Art by Rich Ellis and Lee Loughridge
Lettering by Joe Carmagna
Published by Marvel Comics
Review by David Pepose
'Rama Rating: 10 out of 10
We interrupt your regularly scheduled program for what might be the best issue of Superior Foes of Spider-Man yet.
Even with last month's cliffhanger, Nick Spencer breaks all the rules with his latest issue of Superior Foes, putting a pause on the narrative to tell the secret origin of the all-new Beetle. The results are both endearing and full of dark comedy, as we witness a pitch-perfect story of bad guy girl power.
For the previous six issues of Superior Foes, Nick Spencer has focused on the smarts ringleader of the Sinister Six, Boomerang, with the rest of his crew acting as snarky foils. But with this issue, Spencer completely overturns the apple cart, delivering an unlikely daddy's girl story — namely, Janice Lincoln, who happens to be the daughter of the albino gangster Tombstone.
What's so great about this comic is that Spencer imbues a lot of heart to even the slimiest of crime lords, suddenly turning Tombstone from a stone-cold killer into a rough but loving dad. It's a twisted family dynamic, as Janice just wants to be a supervillain, too, and during her quest to make something of herself (and to overcome the sexism of the business — in itself a devilish poke at the comics industry as a whole), you can't help but admire her smarts, her ambition and her guts.
Despite Steve Lieber's name on the cover, Rich Ellis handles the art duties for this book, along with colors by Lee Loughridge. That said, the transition from Lieber to Ellis is nigh-near seamless, as they both share that expressive, scratchy style that has made Superior Foes such an underrated read. To be honest, Ellis might even be more skilled with showing emotion than Lieber himself, almost reminding me of a souped-up Tom Grummett. (In particular, there's a really heartwarming beat when Janice starts tearing up, as her father recalls the anniversary of her first con job.)
What's perhaps most surprising about this comic is that while Spencer completely short-circuits the momentum for his ongoing story, you can't be mad — this interlude is purely character-driven, and winds up creating one of the more compelling new characters I've seen in a Big Two comic in quite some time. Superior Foes of Spider-Man has it all — it's funny, it's smart, it's got a heart of gold underneath all that screwed-up supervillain bluster. If you haven't been reading this book, this is the perfect time to jump on board — the origin of the Beetle is one story you don't want to bug out on.
The Flash #26
Written by Christos Gage
Art by Neil Googe and Wil Quintana
Lettering by Sal Cipriano
Published by DC Comics
Review by David Pepose
'Rama Rating: 6 out of 10
Filling in for Brian Buccellato and company, Christos Gage and Neil Googe deliver a solid, if unremarkable, fill-in issue of The Flash. For new readers, this comic is actually a strong concept — what happens when the Fastest Man Alive takes the to sky, with no surface to run on? — but people with more than a passing knowledge of the Flash might see this issue as a little slow.
Gage starts this done-in-one comic off with action, as the Flash winds up losing ground to a high-flying crook known as Spitfire, but things start to stumble quickly after that. Part of the problem is the same problem Barry Allen has had since the get-go — namely, he's not that interesting of a protagonist. Gage tries to give him a motivation with the death of an old professor, but it feels tacked-on.
The other issue is that a lot of this story feels just a little bit convenient — Gage gets a nice physics-based moment near the end of this comic, leading the Flash to literally run on air, but getting him there feels a bit like writer fiat. While the action sequences are well-paced and well-constructed, by the end of the comic, you don't feel much tension. You know Barry is going to pull out a win, and the way Gage choreographs it isn't quite revolutionary enough to stick with you.
That said, artist Neil Googe is a good find for DC. He reminds me of a much cleaner Freddie Williams II with a hint of Karl Kerschl. Googe's layouts are occasionally a little wonky — an off-kilter panel here or there, and more than a few pages lacking backgrounds — but for an unknown quantity, he acquits himself very well, particularly showing how fluid the Flash looks when he's in motion. If Googe can continue to work with kinetic characters like Barry, he may be one of DC's next up-and-coming artists.
With some surprisingly strong art for a fill-in, The Flash #26 isn't a bad book, just one that doesn't really add much to the mix. Longtime readers of the Fastest Man Alive have already seen him handle falling out of the sky, but new Flash fans will find this done-in-one comic to be an entertaining respite.