Monday, May 21, 2012

DEADLY FOES OF SPIDER-MAN by Danny Fingeroth et al.

Deadly Foes of Spider-Man (1993) collects the eponymous four-issue 1991 Marvel miniseries. It was written by Danny Fingeroth and penciled by Al Milgrom and Kerry Gammill. Here, the Beetle re-forms the Sinister Syndicate, which includes Hydro-Man, the Rhino, Speed Demon, Boomerang, and Boomerang’s ambitious girlfriend, to pull off a series of robberies (the Shocker pops up, too). They run into trouble with Spider-Man, the Kingpin, and each other.

What sets this volume apart from pretty much every other Spider-Man comic is that it’s written almost entirely from the villains’ perspectives, and it includes some very good character development. It’s a refreshing change of pace, and it goes a long way toward this comic’s readability.

The story itself, alas, isn’t so hot. The plot, which would otherwise be okay, turns on an inexcusably staggering number of blatant contrivances and convenient coincidences (yes, even for a comic book), and this includes most of Spider-Man’s appearances. Their frequency is damaging to the story, as are a couple of particularly egregious and unforgivable ones. It just isn’t good writing.

The art here is not impressive. The diverse and distinguishable faces are a highlight, but the figures are stiff and attempts to show depth on people are often poor. I’m at a loss to explain it – both Milgrom and Gammill have done much better work than this on their own. The inks definitely don’t help, though. There are also quite a few cases of miscoloring.

There are a couple of other little problems here that aren’t Fingeroth’s fault, as they’re endemic to the Spider-verse at large. It’s hard to believe that many of these villains aren’t more competent – especially Speed Demon, who’s practically the Flash. One expects better from the Beetle, too. And the Rhino’s been trapped in his suit for “all these years” in the same pair of boxers (still white) and, apparently, no way to use the restroom? Okay then. Bringing this to the reader’s awareness is the violation of a cardinal comic book “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy.

Deadly Foes of Spider-Man is a neat idea (and one that would later be revisited to better effect in the short-lived Spider-Man’s Tangled Web series), but it just doesn’t have enough going for it to recommend it.