Deadly Foes of Spider-Man #4

Background

The "Deadly Foes of Spider-Man" are Boomerang, Beetle, Speed Demon, Rhino, and Hydro-Man. Also in the mix is Leila Davis, former wife of the Ringer. The Kingpin is in there too, and so is Spidey. Now everybody is ready to battle pretty much everybody else.

Story 'While the City Screams!'

Time for the final conflict. Or, near-to the final. Beetle, Speed Demon, and Hydro-Man battle Rhino, Boomerang, and Leila Davis. According to the blurb... "each side wants the other dead." The fight takes place in the midst of midtown rush-hour traffic, and the battle ultimately goes to Leila's forces. As the cops approach the scene, Leila finally gets her chance to face Abner Jenkins, the Beetle. Her plan is to slip one of the Ringer's rings over his neck, and watch him choke to death, but the tide of battle turns, and she misses her chance... for now.

Meanwhile, the Kingpin (uncharacteristically) gloats at the chaos, and Spider-Man (characteristically) decides he needs to do something to help. The wall-crawler joins the fray, and arriving just in time to stop Leila from blowing the (now flightless) Beetle's brains out with a revolver. In fact, he then saves the Beetle again, by breaking a constricting neck-ring, amidst various other acts of interference with the now-divided Syndicate's plan for mayhem.

In the midst of this widespread confusion, a rather perculiar happening... happens. A figure in police uniform walks confidently into the police station, enters a secure vault, and helps himself to some data disks. Something is clearly going on, and instinct points to the Kingpin's steady hand.

As Spider-Man hands the Beetle (tightly wrapped in constricting but non-lethal rings) and Leila over to the police, all the others have slipped away. Including, strangely, the Rhino, who isn't exactly the type to vanish into the crowd. All is revealed when the Rhino is shown to have been in cahoots with the Kingpin. Kingpin used the cover caused by the various super-hero fights he "arranged" to mask his theft of various data files which gave information on under-cover officers. Sneaky!

In return for Rhino's help, Kingpin has arranged for somebody to remove the Rhino's skin. But wait, Fingeroth isn't the kind of guy to go for a simple plot twist, when he can gild the lily with a half-dozen of them! Twist two, Kingpin has arranged for the doctors to "fail" to help the Rhino, so that he will dance to Fisk's tune for a while longer. Twist three, Rhino overhears the doctors talking, and figures out he's been double-crossed, and kidnaps the Doc's family. Twist four, Rhino gets his skin off, and then ya think he's gonna kill the doc. But twist five, Rhino drops Spidey a line and gets him to release the family. But twist six, Kingpin sends the (now de-skinned) Rhino a smoke bomb, telling him that he knew all along what was going on. Twist seven, Rhino decides to get back his skin, 'cos he enjoys all the excitement, so he gets Justin Hammer to make him a new one.

All that happened in the last few pages, making a big twisty-turny thing bolted onto the end of the story.

General Comments

So what's good? Well, there's plenty of complexity in the story. Bringing back the Synister Syndicate is a fun idea. Bringing back the Ringer's wife is a funky idea too, even though it's never completely convincing how when person A kills person B, it's always person C that gets blamed, i.e. Leila develops a mad-on for the Beetle, not for Scourge, who actually pulled the trigger!

But that's about where the good stuff ends. To start somewhere, the art is a disappointment. Firstly, it's brightly-colored and totally unrealistic. It lacks the hand-crafted charm of earlier comics, and hasn't yet acquired the computer-layered detail and shading of later books. Instead, it has a hastily-produced feeling which is far from endearing - something it shares with many comics of the early 90's.

Secondly, the plot contains far too many trite co-indicidences, and is overly layered with conveniently-manufactured twists and turns. The result is a story which is rich in unconvincing detail. Like eating two whole bags of potato-chips, it leaves you feeling bloated, but unfilled in a strange way. Fingeroth manipulates the characters hastily, with little feeling of sympathy for them. Spider-Man's involvement feels like a long series of contrived cameos, which by themselves would seem innocuous, but combined are nothing short of irritating.

Overall Rating

We dribble down to pretty near rock bottom by the time we're done. I'd give it a lower rating than this, except I need to save the really crappy web-counts for the sequel - Lethal Foes of Spider-Man. So one and a half webs is the limit here.