Splash Page Spotlight: Bring on the Bad Guys!

uploaded by Robot Hammer (@robot_hammer) via Skynet

Welcome back to the Splash Page Spotlight. I want to thank everyone who read and shared the first edition of this feature, where I focused on the horror comics of Steve Niles. Hopefully someone out there found a comic or two that they wanted to read. After all, that’s the Spotlight’s goal. Now, enough with the jibber jabber and let’s dive into some comics.

This time, I’m focusing on the super villains. Villain centric comics can be a nice change of pace from the standard superhero fare. The bad guys have fewer, if any, rules to follow than the good guys do, and that frees up the creative teams to follow new storylines with new consequences. Let’s start with one of Marvel’s most popular and fearsome villains, who’s book just so happens to have a 100% approval rating with the Splash Page Blog’s staff.

Well, there's just Billy and myself so far, but we both really like this book.
Well, there’s just Billy and myself so far, but we both really like this book.

MAGNETO

Magneto_1_Cover

Story: Cullen Bunn

Art: Gabriel Hernendez Walta , Javier Fernandez, Roland Boschi

Marvel Comics

On Comixology: https://www.comixology.com/Magneto-2014/comics-series/15031

It seems crazy that it took this long to get Magneto in his own ongoing book. The Master of Magnetism has always been one of the X-Men’s most interesting and complex adversaries, and the creative team takes full advantage of the character’s rich history. The book focuses on Magneto’s solo exploits away from Cyclops’ branch of the X-Men. Despite, or perhaps in spite of, his diminished powers over magnetism, Magneto searches out and destroys threats to mutantkind, both large and small. Along the way, he encounters Briar Raleigh, a young woman who’s life has been influenced by Magneto in the past, who now aids him in his mission by supplying key information and resources.
magnet 009
Damn right it is, brother.

Sometimes, when villains are the focus of a story, they tend to become watered down versions of themselves. Magneto avoids that trap. He’s as ruthless here as he’s ever been, wreaking havoc and leaving all those who cross his path in the rubble. Whether he’s dealing with Sentinels or scientists seeking to segregate humanity away from mutants entirely, Magneto is still every bit the villain the Marvel Universe has come to love and fear. He’s still the guy who does the wrong things for the right reasons, dispensing his brand of justice and protecting his people with little thought given to the cost of his soul. Despite his mercilessness, Cullen Bunn continues to give Magneto the tarnished nobility that fans have come to identify with. His Magneto isn’t a butcher. He’s a surgeon, cutting away the threats to his kind. Magneto’s narration plays a key part in keeping the character grounded, while adding to the book’s film noir like feel.

One of my favorite things about this title is it’s accessibility. Personally, I sometimes avoid X-Men titles and spin offs, because I know that huge X-crossovers are almost always around the corner and my comics budget doesn’t have room for five titles I’m not particularly interested in, yet need to buy for three months, so I can keep up with the ones I am interested in. Thankfully, this is another trap that Magneto avoids. Despite not reading his appearances in Uncanny X-Men, or even the AXis event mini-series and it’s tie ins, I never feel lost. There’s enough references within the story itself to keep me caught up with anything important I may have missed in another title.  If you’re a reader who’s not well versed with Magneto’s fifty year history, Bunn and crew use ample flashbacks to fill in new readers on relevant bits of the character’s past, and refresh the memories of the older readers too. So far, the book has twelve issues under it’s belt, and as good as it’s been so far (and it’s been really, really good) I feel like it’s just starting to really pick up steam. I’m really curious to see where Magneto goes after the end of his AXis issues, and can’t wait to see what Briar Raleigh has to gain by helping him out. If you’re looking for the further adventures of the X-Men’s preeminent villain, this book is a great place to start. And if you enjoy Cullen Bunn’s take on Magneto, he’s also writing Sinestro for DC Comics, another villain headlining his own title.

THE SUPERIOR FOES OF SPIDER-MAN
Superior_Foes_of_Spider-Man_-1

Writer: Nick Spencer (1-9, 12-17) James Asmus (10) Tom Peyer/Elliot Kalan (11)

Artist: Steve Lieber (1-9, 12-17) Various (10-11)

Marvel Comics

On Comixology: https://www.comixology.com/The-Superior-Foes-of-Spider-Man/comics-series/10663

Superior Foes of Spider-Man focuses on Fred Myers, also known as Boomerang, as he tries to hit the big time as a major player in the criminal underworld. He assembles a new crew to do most of the work for him: The Shocker, Overdrive, Speed Demon, and Beetle. Together, they’re the latest gang to call themselves the Sinister Six….wait a minute…
sinister 5
Yeah, Beetle’s right. How can they call themselves Sinister Six if there’s only five of them? It’s all a part of Boomerang’s plan.

Boomerang leads his crew on heist after heist, promising them fame and fortune each time, and for some reason they believe him. They chase after underworld urban legends, cross paths with the Owl and the Chameleon, and swap hard luck stories along the way. Superior Foes was one of Marvel’s most entertaining and engaging books for it’s entire run.  Like Magneto, this book is very accessible to new readers. There’s references to Spider-Man and the Marvel Universe at large, but this book stands on it’s own.  If you’re unfamiliar with crooks this deep into Spider-Man’s rogues gallery, that’s a-ok. Spencer and Lieber breathe new life and direction into each character, and after just the first issue, each character is clearly defined. Overdrive is the getaway driver and the quiet guy in the group. Beetle is new to the supervillain game and the one who tries to emphasize the ‘organized’ part of organized crime. Shocker is the resident coward and pushover. Speed Demon is the sleazy goofball and the one who’s most likely to buy into whatever Boomerang’s selling out of pure greed. And then there’s Boomerang..

This guy, right?
This guy, right?

Boomerang never met a lie he wouldn’t tell. He’s a treacherous, underhanded crook with no real redeeming qualities. He’s always one step away from pulling his next double cross. He’s also the perfect guy to steal the spotlight in this book. Despite all his many faults, it’s hard to keep yourself from wanting Boomerang to win, because he’s so openly terrible. It’s easy to see why his crew believes his lies when we get to see just how much Boomerang wants to succeed. He lies to the point that I think even he believes what’s saying, all the way until he sees a chance to change his mind and try to make a better deal.

Superior Foes Of Spider-Man ran for seventeen issues, with the last issue coming out in November. I’m disappointed to see it go, but incredibly glad to see it last long enough to tell it’s story. Like I said earlier, it was one of Marvel’s most entertaining books and one I’d recommend to anyone looking for a book that stands out from the rest of the comics on the spinner racks. It was a book filled with humor, pop culture references, and a cast of characters that you wind up liking despite their villainous ways. Nick Spencer and Steve Lieber were a magical team together, and I know I’ll be buying “The Fix,” their upcoming Image book they’ve recently announced.
This isn’t Nick Spencer’s only villainous title. He wrote eleven issues of Bedlam from Image Comics. Fillmore Press was once known as Madder Red, an insane, homicidal super criminal who terrorized Bedlam city. Now, Fillmore is trying to adjust to civilian life ten years after, as he describes it, ‘getting better.’ Superior Foes of Spider-Man narrowly edged Bedlam out of the spotlight, but I highly recommend both books.
bedlam

Comixology has a free preview of issue 1. You can’t beat free comics. (https://www.comixology.com/Bedlam-1-Preview/digital-comic/32179?ref=c2VyaWVzL3ZpZXcvZGVza3RvcC9saXN0L0lzc3Vlcw )

EDISON REX

IMG_0855

Writer: Chris Roberson

Artist: Dennis Culver

On Comixology: https://www.comixology.com/Edison-Rex/comics-series/8520

Monkeybrain Comics

Edison Rex is the world’s smartest man, and it’s greatest supervillain as well. With his keen intellect, cutting edge technology, and M’alizz, hisextraterrestrial bodyguard, Rex has one goal: to prove that the world’s greatest superhero, The Valiant, is the true threat to the planet Earth. Unfortunately, Rex was right, but he wasn’t prepared for what happens when The Valiant leaves the world in Rex’s hands.
Artist Dennis Culver nailed the close up effect for these three panels perfectly, adding a heightened sense of drama to Rex's face turn.
Artist Dennis Culver nailed the close up effect for these three panels perfectly, adding a heightened sense of drama to Rex’s face turn.

When Rex realizes that it’s up to him to protect the earth now, the fun kicks in, and this book is a blast. Edison Rex is a supervillian who won, and then has to learn to adapt to his new found responsibilities as a hero. The best part about Rex’s change of heart is that he’s not playing the role of the reluctant hero. Rex wants to do the right thing, embraces his new job wholeheartedly,and can’t believe that The Valiant’steammates in the Peacemakers doubt him when he says he’s a good guy now.

This comic has some of the best supporting characters, heroes and villains alike, that I’ve seen in years. Roberson and Culver play off of our expectations for superheroes, giving us new characters with new twists on old ideas. The heroes are named after different comic companies, and I hate to admit that it took me a few issues to catch on to the joke. All of the supporting characters are great, but one of the one off villains is a personal favorite of mine: HILLBILLY FRANKENSTEIN!
Any comic featuring a character named Hillbilly Frankenstein is a must buy in my book.
Any comic featuring a character named Hillbilly Frankenstein is a must buy in my book.

Edison Rex is a comic book that celebrates being a comic book, all the while delivering an amazing story. Chris Roberson and Dennis Culver created the comic I didn’t know I always wanted, but I absolutely did. This book is pure fun. It has an old school feel to it that I’ve missed in modern comics. Each digital issue is available for 99¢ on Comixology, and 1-12 being available in two print volumes. Edison Rex has sixteen issues so far, with the last one being put on Comixology back in July. Hopefully, we’ll get issue 17 soon, and see how Rex further adapts to his role the Earth’s newest protector.

There we go, three very different books starring supervillains. You’ve got Magneto and his quest for his own brand of justice and revenge in the name of mutantkind, The Superior Foes of Spider-Man and their search to get rich quick, and Edison Rex and his attempt to accept his new found responsibilities. But when it comes to villains, that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Marvel has years worth of the Thunderbolts and Carnage has had numerous miniseries. There’s also that Deadpool guy, you might’ve heard of him. DC has the John Ostrander run of the Suicide Squad, that I wanted to showcase here, but I think that run deserves an article to itself, whether it’s here in the Spotlight or in another future feature. I loved Paul Cornell’s run on Action Comics, from 890 to 900, stars Lex Luthor as he tries to harness the power of the Black Lantern Rings for his own purposes. There’s also this hidden gem:
joker

The Joker’s 1975 run was weird and wonderful, and it’s sneaking it’s way into the article because it’s only 99¢ an issue on Comixology and that’s crazy. So, buy that if you love wacky Seventies comics, pally.

https://www.comixology.com/The-Joker-1975-1976/comics-series/8027

I’ve posted the links to buy these comics digitally, but if you prefer to buy you comics in print, that works too. Try your local comic shop. Find the comic shop nearest to you usinghttp://www.comicshoplocator.com/storelocator orhttp://www.comicbookresources.com/?page=csl.

Thanks for joining me in the darker edges of the Splash Page Spotlight. Supervillain books aren’t as numerous as their heroic counterparts, but when they get to center stage, it can lead readers to new and exciting places. Hopefully, you’ve seen something here that you’ll want to give a shot. If nothing else, you got to see Hillbilly Frankenstein, so I’m calling this one a win. I’ll be back next time with three more books, and a new theme. Until then, have fun with comics.

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