The four-part limited series, "Deadly Foes of Spider-Man" re-unites Boomerang, Beetle, Speed Demon, Rhino, and Hydro-Man. These guys first came together under the name "The Sinister Syndicate", in Amazing Spider-Man #280. At that time, their aim was to eliminate Silver Sable, who had co-incidentally just employed Spider-Man to assist her. Thanks to Sandman coming to the aid of the White Hats, the Syndicate was defeated on that first meeting.
Perhaps things will be different this time?
The cover boldly claims: "Alone they were defeated... but now they've joined forces!" Of course this omits one key point, that in fact the last time they joined forces they were also defeated! But let's not quibble over marketing details. Instead, let's flip open the cover and check the splash page.
Ooops... this doesn't look good for starters. The writer is Danny Fingeroth, who already starred in a "Worst of the Worst" feature for his "Spider-Man: Friends and Enemies" limited series. Even more disturbing, the Editor is Terry Kavanagh! So I really don't think we can expect too much positive editorial influence from the guy who is often considered to be the worst Spider-Man writer ever!
But let's not pre-judge. Instead, let's have a look and see what's happening. First up, we have Herman Schultz, AKA "The Shocker". Seems like The Punisher has him cornered, and is gonna shoot him. But then "Scourge of Crime" turns up. Hmm... I thought he was called the "Scourge of the Underworld". But anyhow, both Punny and Scourge wanna kill Schultz. Fair enough. But then Spidey turns up, and wants to kill him too! Yep, Spidey, with a big green demonic tongue! Oh, heck, it's just a dream!
Yeah, the first five pages of story say "The Shocker is having a nightmare". In fact, counting ads, we're on page eight before he wakes up. Herman is in "The Tombs Prison" which seems to be an inner-city tower-block prison, smack in the heart of New York. I didn't know they had those, but hey, I'm not from those parts, so maybe they do.
Schultz talks about Abner Jenkins (The Beetle, natch) being released on parole, and being expected to go back to his life of crime. But Schultz is terrified of Punisher, Scourge, Spidey, and all those good guys, and can't face heading back to the super-villain schtick. Career crisis, I guess.
Meanwhile, Kingpin knows Abner is being let out, and plans to offer him the choice of working for Fisk Corp, or being dead. Not much choice, really. It seems that the Kingpin had a little hand in Jenkins being released on parole after only a couple of months of his sentence. But now Jenkins owes Kingpin, and thanks to a new Beetle suit created by the Tinkerer, he's ready to start the payback!
For posterity, let's mention that the Kingpin's right-hand man is a guy named Pembroke, whom I don't recall seeing before. He turned up again in Daredevil #291, and Spectacular Annual #11, then dropped out of sight. I guess life working for a brutal criminal overlord can be like that.
But now, let's skip forward a few days, and invite ourselves to a meeting of the Sinister Syndicate! The whole gang is here... Beetle, Rhino, Boomerang, Hydro-Man, and Speed Demon. Also, Boomerang has dragged his girlfriend along to drive their getaway van. She's a honey, and her name is Leila Davis. Hmm... Davis, does that name ring a bell?
But anyhow, after they've gotten past the obligatory "scrapping over who's gonna lead this outfit" routine, and Beetle is clearly nominated as the head honcho, they head out in the van for their first crime, passing via Chelsea, which of course means that they nearly run over Peter Parker, on a mission to grab Chinese takeaways for dinner, since MJ is out of town on a photo shoot.
But what bad luck! In spite of Peter not seeing the van until his Spidey-Sense gives him a last-minute warning to leap into the air, and in spite of it being dark in a dimly-lit part of town, the quick flying glimpse Parker gets is enough to convince him he saw Boomerang and Speed Demon in the rapidly departing van. So naturally, when the bad guys turn up at the Federal Reserve, and the Rhino and Boomerang do the heavy break-in work, Spidey is there on the scene to help the security guards try and stop the Quiminal Quintet from heisting all the gold in the vault.
Quite reasonably, the five heavy-weights manage to drop Spidey without too much trouble. But as the Beetle and Hydro-Man move in to permanently put out Spidey's lights, the Rhino speaks out against killing him. Rhino reckons that he just wants money to get his hide removed, and he doesn't want a murder rap pinned on him. Well, that's a new twist by me, but I guess it's not too unreasonable. So Rhino manages to convince the guys not to knock Spidey off, and instead they all just grab the loot and scarper.
Well, all except Boomerang, who sneaks back and tries to finish the wall-crawler off for good. But Spidey is recovered enough by then to turn the tables, and instead when the police turn up, they find Spidey safe and sound, and Fred Myers, AKA Boomerang, all wrapped up. Remember, of course, that it's Boomy's girlfriend who is the getaway driver, and she seems all broken up about her man being stuck in the can, so to speak. While Speed Demon starts hitting on Leila, trying to score some nooky on the rebound, Jenkins contacts his hotshot lawyer, Steve Partridge. Instead of going for the break-in that the cops are probably expecting, they decide to try the legal route. Of course, since the guy was caught red-handed breaking into the local branch of the Federal Reserve (do they really have local branches?), then it's a little hard to see how even a crooked judge is gonna get him out of this one. But hey, I guess the Kingpin has ways and means.
Speaking of the Kingpin, there's a bit of a shock in store for the Syndicate when Pembroke turns up and claims all the gold. Seems that was the deal, that in return for springing Jenkins, he gets the loot from their first job. Jenkins also points out that the Kingpin handed over all the schematics and plans for the bank, although given that they just walked up to the front door and charged it down, then blew open the vault with a well-placed boomerang, it's hard to see exactly how having the bank blueprints really made much of a difference!
Naturally, the rest of the boys are pretty peeved with Jenkins, for not telling them that they wouldn't get any of the loot. They reluctantly agree to hand over the gold, but they point out that they're not gonna trust Jenkins blindly any more, and put him on probation... which is to say, they stop short of actually killing the guy!
But what about Spidey? Well, he's checking out "The Tombs", the prison where Boomerang is being held. He also runs into Herman Schultz, and says "Hi" through the barred window, completely freaking poor Schultz. But then... wow, another piece of bad luck for the Syndicate! Spidey spots the blue van, which is doing a cruise-by to check out where their captured team-mate is being held. Spidey swings down, right into the blast of the Beetle's hand-held sonic cannon! "SVAKOOM!" and Spidey is out for the count. One more blast, and Spider-Man will be dead! Looks like it was bad luck for Spidey instead!