I promised myself I’d swear off writing one of these on account of them taking so much of my headspace for weeks at a time but I just had to write it down because I dug the idea so much. One of the best things I’ve read in the past 5 years was Nick Spencer‘s Superior Foes of Spider-Man, a screwball spin-off featuring the Seinfeld version of the Sinister Six. The comic saw several D-list villains come together to try tried to make it as a supervillain team all the while dealing with each other’s bullshit. The comic’s unique tone reminded me of the works of the Coen Brothers and shows like Better Call Saul. How it deftly bridged the wacky irreverence of characters, the despicability of their actions, and the absurdity of the situations they get themselves in. So it was only natural for me to imagine this show as a dark comedy, in the vein of the shows I mentioned above, should it ever make it to the MCU. And yeah, I went the extra mile and tried to plot an entire season.
Ever wondered what it was like to live in the 5 years when half of the universe disappeared? I have, which is why this Superior Foes story is set in that timeframe, approximately a year before Scott Lang escapes the Quantum Realm. That time gap is so ripe for interesting stories and themes. The main thing I wanted to figure out was what the quality of living was like in a world that essentially nosedived into chaos and oblivion. Does it feel post-apocalyptic? Does the world look like an episode of The Walking Dead? With half of the world gone, imagine how crippled law enforcement would be and how remaining criminal organizations would fill the void left by their rivals. How does one make a living in a period like this? It already sets up an immensely intriguing arc. This story tries to address those ideas while staying true to the spirit and irreverence of Nick Spencer‘s comic.
Mind you, this iteration of the team is a reimagined one with none of the characters from the comics with the exception of Beetle. Because the comic was super Spidey-centric, I wanted a team made of up villains that didn’t necessarily belong to one particular rogue’s gallery. Also given how finicky the live-action rights of Spidey characters are, I figured to just try to keep most of the characters within the legal rights of Marvel Studios. However, l think what made the comic so good was the type of characters it included; Overdrive and Boomerang are legit D-listers that added a fun irreverence to the story. The characters that show up in this story are in that vein and are some of the most ridiculous characters in Marvel’s history.
Prologue: Paladin’s origins
Arms dealer and crime syndicate boss Sonny Burch gets word that a highly dangerous, “world-changing” piece of hardware is stashed in an abandoned AIM base in Arizona. Fearing the hardware falling into the hands of rival organizations, he commissions washed-up mercenary Paladin to form an extraction team of his own. Paladin brings his partner-in-crime Jeb into the fold along with four down-on-their-luck schmucks – Stilt-Man, Paste Pote-Pete, Jester, and Beetle. Jester is quickly kicked out of the team for being an asshole. Expecting some resistance from rival factions, Sonny Burch contacts former Stark employee William Riva to arm the team. The team heads to the hidden AIM base in Montana where they encounter a rival faction led by Grizzly. The two groups engage in a piss-poor firefight with Paladin’s team escaping with the hardware. The group takes shelter in one of Nick Fury’s hidden bases in the state. They open the hardware and see that it’s the severed head of Ultron. It awakens instantly and becomes sentient.
Prologue: Paste-Pot Pete origin story
The robot’s awakening sends the entire team into a panic. They angrily debate on whether to surrender Ultron to Burch, who they think is planning to use the robot to take over the world. Fearing another world-ending catastrophe just after the snap, conscience strikes the team and they all agree to betray Burch and come up with a new plan: bring the head to the Avengers HQ and get compensated handsomely. The team departs Fury’s hidden base and soon after that, Burch gets an anonymous message informing them of their plans.
Prologue: Stilt-Man origin story
Tensions rise between the team as they make their way to Roswell, New Mexico, where Jeb has set up a rendezvous with a contact, a former Hammer Industries agent codenamed K, to get them to New York as soon as possible. Paladin and Beetle grow distrustful of one another, believing each other to have their own agendas while Stilt-Man and Paste-Pot Pete take a liking to Ultron, who is now an active participant in the team’s discussions, helping them navigate through the trip. They also meet Gary the Cameraman, last seen in Iron Man 3, who they befriend. The team makes an effort to keep Ultron a secret from K to stay out of trouble but is futile as K manages to see Ultron. Learning the full extent of their situation, K agrees to take them to New York. As they prepare to depart for New York, the team is ambushed by Jester and Grizzly’s crew, who are now working for Burch. The fight goes poorly once again and much to everyone’s dismay, Beetle escapes with Ultron in the middle of the fight.
Prologue: Beetle origin story
The fight abruptly ends as everyone races to find Beetle. Both Paladin and Jester’s team make several attempts to outpace one another. Beetle rushes through the streets of Roswell when she is suddenly stopped by K, who reveals himself to be a Skrull named K’ravt. Both teams arrive in the nick of time just as K’ravt is about to steal Ultron from Beetle, much to their shock at the revelation. Nonetheless, they band together and have their own little Endgame moment, a posse of ragtag misfits against one evil alien. That sense of relief quickly goes away when a small Skrull aircraft hovering above them decloaks and beams down three more Skrulls, revealing the Skrull Kill Krew. Jester’s team zooms past everyone leaving Paladin’s team to fight them. Against all odds, the Skrulls are defeated by Paladin’s team but not without repercussions. Stilt-Man and Paladin are wounded in the fight. The aircraft they were supposed to use to fly to New York, which is actually a Skrull ship, has been destroyed. But most important of all, Jeb makes an earth-shattering revelation and reveals himself to be a Skrull.
Prologue: Jeb origin story
With two members injured, having no resource to move on with their plan, Beetle having just betrayed them, and the revelation that Jeb is a Skrull, the team reaches an all-time low. They are helped by Iron Man 3’s Gary the Cameraman, who they meet in Roswell earlier. Gary helps them find shelter in a warehouse outside the city. This episode mostly has the team dealing with their trust issues and coming to terms with how screwed up they are. Paladin gets outed by Beetle for trying to secretly contact Burch throughout their trip. Paladin comes clean with his debt problems with Burch, but claims he didn’t sell the team’s location to him. Jeb is confronted by the team on whether he planned to surrender Ultron to the Skrulls.
Ultron helps them devise a plan on how to deal with their two dilemmas: getting to New York and dealing with Burch chasing them. They decide to have Burch come to them under the pretense of surrendering Ultron. In actuality, they plan to steal Burch’s repurposed Quinjet, who has been seen using it in the first episode. They make the call and set a rendezvous. Burch makes several calls to various mercenaries to help him out but is unsuccessful. With no other option, Burch brings out a mysterious weapon. As Ultron helps the team strategize, we cut to an undisclosed laboratory where we see a kid sitting in front of several huge monitors mimicking and controlling what Ultron is saying through a mouthpiece in real-time. The kid turns out to be Amadeus Cho.
Prologue: Amadeus Cho origin story
The episode opens with 8-year old Amadeus Cho walking around the Avengers compound. He peeks out of a window to see Captain America and Falcon boarding a Quinjet. He walks by Bruce Banner’s office and looks inside to see if his favorite Avenger is in the room. Jump to 3 years later where he, his sister, and his mom, Helen, are living in the city. The snap happens and his sister and mom disappear. Cut to 3 years later, Amadeus is in a makeshift laboratory tinkering with something on his computer. We see him help law enforcement raid an illegal arms cache through remote hacking. Satisfied with the raid, Amadeus continues with studying the schematics of a redacted Ultron file he uncovers. He tracks the file’s origin to Arizona. On his computer, he parses through files of wanted active crime bosses. On the list is Sonny Burch among several others. Amadeus manages to remotely access the head of the Ultron bot and anonymously puts the word out that the head is up for grabs.
We then see various points of the season through Amadeus’ perspective; the heist, talking to the team, manipulating them to go through certain routes and locations, pinging Burch on their whereabouts, the arrival of the Skrulls until we get to the present. The team is now holed up in a bunker in Arizona awaiting Burch’s arrival. Expecting Burch to arrive with a slew of mercenaries, the team prepares a plan to take down Burch’s crew efficiently with Jeb masquerading as Paladin and Paste-Pot Pete planting a slew of traps. Things turn upside quickly when Burch arrives with his secret weapon: the Super Adaptoid. Of course, the fight doesn’t go as well as Burch had hoped as the Adaptoid doesn’t have any formidable abilities to adapt from his enemies.
The tide turns in favor of the team as they gain the upper hand. But just as they’re about to defeat the Super Adaptoid, the fight is interrupted by the intervention of an unexpected challenger: Bruce MF Banner, who is now Smart Hulk. The Adaptoid’s power level increases and the fight becomes a lot harder. But the team manages to come together and help Professor Hulk destroy the Super Adaptoid. Burch tries to make his escape but is stopped by Gary. The destroyed head of Ultron is uncovered in the rubble.
Burch is arrested once more and is shipped off to the Raft. Professor Hulk tracks down Amadeus Cho’s location where they meet in person for the first time. It is revealed that Cho was instrumental in Bruce’s success in merging both his and Hulk’s personalities as he anonymously corresponded with Bruce and sent formulas. Cho admits to taking a liking to Paladin’s crew and asks Hulk what happened to the team. Bruce reveals that he let the team go under the condition they attend Steve Rogers’ group counseling session on a weekly basis. Cut to the team sitting in a circle with Steve Rogers.
Paladin – a former S.H.I.E.L.D. agent who excelled in the boot camp and wowed superiors but failed to be amount to anything on the field. Needless to say, Paladin peaked way too early. His days on the field as a SHIELD agent were a dud as several missions he was involved in were botched due to his incompetence. The collapse of S.H.I.E.L.D. became Paladin’s opportunity to prove himself elsewhere so he turned to private military contracting where he failed as well. Desperate to finally win in life, he sets up an elaborate operation with the help of his friend Sonny Burch’s finances where his team is intended to come out successful. Paladin, once more, takes another L as the snap happens during the mission, leaving him as the only survivor. Paladin becomes in debt to Burch.
Jeb/J’bronii – A shy soft-spoken Skrull who has assimilated on Earth for several years. Jeb was originally sent to Earth alongside countless others to help facilitate the pending Skrull Invasion. His task was to infiltrate Hydra to learn the ins and outs of the organization. However, a misunderstanding leads Jeb to join an industrial company called Hydro. Jeb manages to work his way up the career ladder and is an assistant regional manager when the snap happens. Having not heard from his superiors or allies in years, Jeb starts feeling guilty – thinking the Skrull Empire has somehow failed the invasion of Earth – and starts a journey of self-discovery to reclaim the Skrull in him once more.
Stilt-Man – A henchman whose claim to fame was that he squared off with Captain America in the Lemurian Star, an encounter that left him permanently injured. He befriends Jeb and Paste-Pot Pete after a chance encounter and the three begin hanging out regularly. When he gets the invite to join Paladin’s team, he is given a suit of armor that allows him to extend his height. Neither malicious nor decent, Stilt-Man is a bit of a dummy who thinks hanging out with supervillains would elevate his chances of being a famous superhero one day. Gets along with Ultron and Paste Pot Pete really well.
Paste-Pot Pete – The everyman of the group. Paste Pot Pete began dressing up and fighting crime in his youth inspired by the adventures of Captain America. Unlike his teammates, Paste-Pot Pete has no ambition in power or wealth. Now, he’s a mild-mannered 60-year old man urged his late grandson who perished in the snap to relive his glory days as a cheesy costumed fighter from the 80s. Arguably the nicest member of the group.
Beetle – Daughter of a retired crime boss called the Beetle. The Beetle in his heydey was one of the west coast’s most powerful crime bosses until the 21st century came along, where his traditional organization was left in the wind by the more tech-centric organizations like AIM. The Beetle eventually had to sell off most of his assets to a rival group, leaving him and his family broke. The power struggle left by the snap convinces the now-retired Beetle to urge his daughter to help rebuild his criminal organization. He sends her on a path that leads her to Paladin’s team.
Amadeus Cho – a boy-genius who grew up in close proximity with the Avengers thanks to his mother Helen Cho’s involvement with the team. Cho exhibited breathtaking intellect at a young age, impressing the likes of Bruce Banner. Cho is instrumental in Bruce’s eventual transformation into Professor Hulk, anonymously corresponding with Bruce in every step of the experimental process. With no one left to assist the Avengers after the snap, Cho takes it upon himself to round off the remaining criminal organizations as a vigilante hacker. His masterplan essentially is to put a stop to Burch’s operation so he comes up with an elaborate scheme to entrap Burch.
Sonny Burch – Since getting arrested by Jimmy Woo and the FBI, Burch has managed to slither back into society and is up to no good once more. Since we last saw him in Ant-Man and the Wasp, Burch has gone up the ranks of criminality and is now the top dog in his organization.
Bruce Banner – Avengers: Endgame glossed over the finer details of how Bruce managed to merge his personality with the Hulk so I thought it neat to fill in some of the blanks of his transformation and build Bruce’s world a little bit. An Endgame deleted scene also showed Bruce rescuing a family in a burning building, which would have teased the Hulk actually doing some day-to-day superheroics. I figured what better way to showcase Bruce’s full transformation into a real hero by him going on missions himself to stop bad guys.