This new collection from Marvel Comics collects two mini-series from the very early-nineties, Deadly Foes of Spider-Man and Lethal Foes of Spider-Man. What’s unique about these collections and separates them from all of the other mini-series set in Spider-Man’s world over the years is that they really zeroed in on the villains in a way that no other series had, or has since. The main focus wasn’t on Spider-Man at all – in fact, at times he almost felt like an afterthought – because the focus was on what made some of Spider-Man’s enemies tick. Although some of the character work didn’t extend to their later appearances, this was still an opportunity Fingeroth used to explore the inner workings of some of Spider-Man’s villains who were more interested in financial gain than power per se.
The first mini-series, Deadly Foes, is a fun portrayal of the Sinister Syndicate, as the Beetle tries to lead the group to financial success while also dealing with a wheelwoman with a secret agenda, a Rhino who only wants to get enough money to be able to be removed from his suit, a self-involved Speed Demon, and a Boomerang who quickly becomes arrested and later is at the center of the Syndicate’s actions. It’s actually a surprisingly readable series, too, considering it was written during a period that isn’t all that well known for spinning out well-written yarns. The dialogue and exposition can be a bit heavy at times, but for the most part, this is a fun glimpse into how the Sinister Syndicate operated, as they weren’t focusing on Spider-Man’s demise, like the Sinister Six, but instead on profit, and the benefits of being part of a team dynamic. The artwork on the series by Milgrom is very enjoyable, with some fairly clean linework, and clear, concise storytelling.
The second series collected here, Lethal Foes of Spider-Man, is a far cry from the first one, as it feels very gimmicky, less interested in telling a grounded story, and lacks the strong leads and well-developed characterizations that made the first series so compelling. Fingeroth isn’t at his best here, with some odd new characters making their debut, Stegron coming back, despite no-one having missed him, and a few new characters whose characterization is barely touched upon. The artwork in the latter series is all over the place, with no consistency in the visuals thanks to a bevy of pencillers having to work on the book to ensure its regular shipping. You do get to see some VERY early Scott McDaniel artwork, but I’d trade it away for some artistic consistency throughout the series.
It’s hard not to get some comic reading whiplash when reading through this trade, given the steep drop-off in quality, but I’d argue that the first mini-series is reason enough to buy this book, with the rest being there for completion’s sake.