Welcome back to Kabooooom’s comics review round-up! It’s another all Marcus edition as he continues our coverage of DC Comics’ Trinity War with the latest Phantom Stranger, and gives us a breather from the continuity shattering conflict with the refreshing and comical Superior Foes of Spider-Man.
Review by MARCUS HAMMOND
J.M. Dematteis attempts to continue the flawless character development and transitioning that Geoff Johns, Jeff Lemire, and Ray Fawkes have maintained in the other Trinity War titles. While Dematteis superbly develops the Phantom Stranger, a character he’s more familiar with, the development of Batman, Deadman, and Katana seems superficial and forced. Due to this, Phantom Stranger #11 may be a slight disappointment to readers who have enjoyed the intensity of Dematteis’s non-Trinity War issues.
Though the Phantom Stranger is an enigma in the DC Universe due to his limited origin story, Dematteis does an excellent job building a unique emotional intensity into the character. After struggling with his curse and the loss of his family, the Phantom Stranger’s cold, uncaring demeanor returns as an exterior defense against Batman’s pleas for help in finding the soul of Dr. Light. Batman unwittingly plays on the Stranger’s emotional weakness for familial love as he points to the consequences Dr. Light’s murder has on his daughters and wife.
Dematteis transitions into the afterlife as Batman and Katana deal with the individual-tailored serenity that Heaven provides each soul. Katana is pulled into a fantasy with her dead husband Maseo, while Batman lives in a Christmas Eve that never occurred. These soul-baring moments draw the reader deeper into the emotional state of both characters. Somewhat predictable, Katana’s one-dimensional, violent response to the Stranger reawakening her to reality seems slightly useless to development. On the other hand, Batman’s heaven draws connections to the Phantom Stranger’s own emotional development and shows that while both characters wear brutally cold exterior masks, adoration and compassion hide underneath.
Fernando Blanco’s ethereal art continues to provide a unique atmosphere for the book. He does an excellent job of creating shadow and murky detail as the band of heroes navigate Heaven. These details clearly contrast the sharp detail involved in creating the angel Zauriel towards the end of the book. Brad Anderson’s colors also excel at advancing the otherworldly atmosphere of Heaven as each character has a clear opacity in Heaven and a more tangible color when in reality.
The excellent artwork and color blended with Dematteis’s portrayal of the Phantom Stranger’s emotional depth make this an enjoyable issue. It is unfortunate that the secondary character development of the Trinity War cast doesn’t compare with what is found in the main titles, but that shouldn’t stop the reader from enjoying this issue.
Review by MARCUS HAMMOND
If one were to avoid The Superior Foes of Spider-Man because they hold a negative opinion of the main Spider-Man title, they would need to think again. The Superior Foes of Spider-Man #2 provides a humorous look at the inner workings of the newly reformed Sinister Six as well as the intrigue Boomerang trying to plan a crime that may be bigger than the B and C-list villains can handle. By focusing on these two aspects, Spencer creates a surprisingly entertaining comic that needs to be read.
The strength of this issue is not found in any action-packed, smash and bash plot that one might expect out of a villain-centric comic. Spencer instead concentrates on the polarizing personalities of Boomerang, Shocker, Speed Demon, Overdrive, and the Beetle. Each character has quirks and motivations that when combined create laugh-out-loud dialogue. One hilarious scene involves an argument involving the team’s name. Boomerang has dubbed the team the Sinister Six after the classic super-villain team from Spider-Man’s rogues gallery, yet no one understands the team name because there are only five members. It is this type of ordinary and juvenile banter that makes this issue memorable.
Spencer does an amazing job of combining comedy and intrigue throughout the issue. As Boomerang battles the personalities of his teammates, he also has to deal with his need for sustenance. With no desire to work, Boomerang’s options fall to what he knows best—crime. Spencer nibbles at action as Boomerang establishes small heists to appease his power hungry associates. By providing these small heists, the reader gets some expected villainous mischief, but the bumbling, comical nature ingrained in the team remains the focus.
The plot also generates intrigue with action as Boomerang’s personal desire to be something more than a C-list super villain becomes clear. While juggling his team, Boomerang tries to establish a heist that will provide a greater payoff. He goes behind his associates’ backs to set up a job. In doing this, Boomerang is placed on a pedestal as a mastermind villain that he may or may not be able to handle.
Lieber does an excellent job of portraying the characters in and out of costume with elegant, simple details that convey personality. He also provides key images to highlight the comedy aspect of the story when he portrays the inner thoughts of Boomerang in a crude, one-dimensional style.
Spider-Man has nothing to do with this issue. The focus on the personalities of villains who are not normally used as central figures in conflict allow Spencer and Lieber to develop the story how they see fit without any continuity worries. This creative freedom makes The Superior Foes of Spider-Man #2 a comical and fascinating issue that needs to be read.