I admit it – I wasn’t going to pick up this book. Being someone heavily involved in a Spider-Man website and podcast I’m as interested in anything involving Spidey as the next fan, but with money being tight and the Spidey line swelling to pretty massive proportions, I couldn’t really justify getting ALL the books. But I like having two books to review every month, and with Morbius ending soon I asked Brad to let me know if there was anything else he’d want me to review, and he asked if I wanted this one. So I’ve just bought and read the first issue late (with #2 coming in just 2 days), and it looks like I’ll be around for the long haul. So, what have I gotten myself into? Read below to find out!
Artist: Steve Liber
Color Art: Rachelle Rosenberg
Letterer: VC’s Joe Caramagna
Cover Artist: Marcos Martin
Young Variant: Skottie Young
Villain Variant: Shane Davis and Morry Hollowell
8-Bit Variant: Matthew Waite
Editor: Tom Brennan
Senior Editor: Stephen Wacker
THE STORY: Boomerang briefly retells his story (he is our narrator) up to his currently being in prison thanks to a routine webbing-to-a-pole by Spider-Man. Boomerang sends his pals Shocker and Speed Demon to get birdseed so his bird can be fed while he’s locked up, but when they get to Boomerang’s apartment they find Hammerhead waiting for diamonds that are hidden in the seed. Boomerang tells the two that this is just part of a bigger job that he’ll let them (and the other two members of this Sinister Six, Beetle and Overdrive) in on, but they need to bail him out. Before that happens, Boomerang meets with the Chameleon in the prison, and it’s revealed that there is no big job. Hammerhead was actually the Chameleon, the diamonds were fake, and Boomerang and his crew are working for Chameleon, free of charge. The Sinister Five-to-Six, having pulled a robbery, bail Boomerang out and are none the wiser.
MY THOUGHTS: Overall this was a surprisingly good issue. I say surprising not because I expect less of the creators involved (I usually enjoy Nick Spencer’s writing and Steve Lieber has done an issue of Hawkeye, which artists aren’t allowed near unless they can do a GREAT job), but because this seemed like such a damn hard concept to make a good book out of. Let’s face it – when your stars are Boomerang, Shocker, Speed Demon, Beetle, and Overdrive, you are fighting an uphill battle in the comics market, period. I don’t care WHAT adjective is attached to the beginning of the title. But this issue looks good, it has an entertaining plot, and it crackles with good dialogue and narration throughout.
Let’s talk first about that narration. Choosing Boomerang as the lead character whose voice guides us through the story may not have seemed like the obvious choice to some fans considering Shocker is the only character here that I would say is even as high as the B-list. I will freely admit the only times I remember seeing Boomerang, even though he’s been around for decades, are the couple issues of Superior Spider-Man he’s shown up in (it’s not only possible but probable that I’ve seen him before that, just not in anything that was memorable). But Nick Spencer quickly establishes Fred Myers as someone with a strong voice to follow that is self-deprecating at the same time as often feeling like he’s the smartest guy in the room. He’s something of an everyman, but not in the inspiring way Peter Parker is – more in the way that you hope you’re not. Make no mistake, though – the intention here doesn’t seem to really be to make Boomerang and the rest of these guys “relatable” so much as it is to make them entertaining. And for my part so far, it’s working.
Now I know the problem a lot of people are having with this issue is the portrayal of Shocker as “the coward.” So I’ll just tell you up front – I don’t really care. Look, I know the guy has fans, but there’s a reason he’s been the butt of many jokes. He’s a many-time con who wears a quilt and vibrates things, and his name is the Shocker. If he went a slightly different way he might have been called the Vibrator, and you start to get a picture of the way people tend to see him. So yes, if you’re a big fan of the character I can see why you would not enjoy his portrayal in this series. But ya know what, every character has a fan somewhere and they can’t all be portrayed as badass all the time – because not all of them are. And who knows, maybe he’s being built down so he can surprise you later. Could happen.
And for anyone that thinks Spencer has no respect or appreciation for history, I think the character structure here is pretty interesting. Boomerang, Shocker, and Speed Demon are clearly the leads with Overdrive and Beetle playing supporting roles. So that’s the 3 characters who were created in the 60s leading with the 2 characters created within the past decade supporting. I’d say that’s a pretty good indication that Spencer does care about the history.
Personally, though, I would like to see more of the Beetle, because we don’t know much about her for her to be one of our leads. According to the internet she debuted in Captain America #606-608, but I read those issues and that barely rings a bell. Not surprising, though, since she didn’t even get a first name until Superior Spider-Man #1 (she still doesn’t have a last name), and those 4 issues are her only appearances before this one. So Spencer has a fairly blank slate to work with, and it would be nice to see him fill in some of the blanks for us. I like her general attitude and presence in this issue, but eventually I’m going to need more.
But for the record – I don’t need more Overdrive. I’ve never liked him in any of his Spider-Man appearances and he’s got just the right amount of lines in this issue for me – one. Keep it there and I’ll be perfectly happy.
Speaking of Hawkeye, I think Lieber brought a little of the visual fun with him to this book. There’s some fairly standard things like a black “censored” bar over Shocker’s middle finger, but the one that stands out to me is when Boomerang flips off another inmate, his finger is covered by the “Approved by the Comics Code Authority” badge that used to adorn the comics. That’s the kind of pretty hysterical stuff that gives a book real flare and fun (and would probably quickly become an internet meme if this book had more fans). There’s also a nice touch when Hammerhead first steps out of the bathroom in Boomerang’s apartment, there’s a big box that just says, “*HEY KIDS, IT’S HAMMERHEAD!” If you’ve gotta call it out, may as well have fun with it!
And that’s the word I’ve got to best describe this issue – fun. This isn’t a deep comic book and these aren’t characters we’re going to see ourselves in and cry along with. But Spencer and Lieber know how to have the right amount of fun with the concept, with scenes like Shocker and Speed Demon’s pet store heist and subsequent long climb of the stairs to Boomerang’s apartment. Reading this one was a good time, and I can’t think of something better to be able to say about a book like this. As I said, it’s a tough concept to make work, but I’m thinking it’s in the right hands. It’s sadly doubtful it’ll last very long in this market, but I’m pleased to say I feel like we’re in for a worthwhile ride while it does.
GRADE: A This is a really solid debut issue, and one that I think will really surprise people who give it a chance. There was very little way this book could’ve worked out well, but clearly in the hands of the right creators there really is potential to be mined.