Comics : Amazing Spider-Man (Vol. 1) #572

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This story is part of an Arc: "New Ways to Die"
     Part 1 / Part 2 / Part 3 / Part 4 / Part 5 / Part 6

This review was first published on: 2008.

Background...

Spider-Man has escaped the Thunderbolts, but Norman Osborn has found a camera at the scene of their latest fracas, and he has made a discovery. The camera homes in on a tracking device built into Spider-Man's costume, allowing perfect shots of the wall-crawler in action. Osborn can use this device to find Spider-Man! Meanwhile, Eddie Brock has manifested the powers of Anti- Venom and almost destroyed his old symbiote (that is currently bonded to Mac Gargan). He has currently infiltrated the Thunderbolts to finish the job. Meanwhile, the faux-goblin Menace continues in his attempts to influence New York's mayoral election. He has tussled with Norman Osborn, and he's put Bill Hollister in hospital.

In Detail...

"Easy Targets"
Amazing Spider-Man (Vol. 1) #572
Nov 2008 : SM Title
Arc: Part 5 of "New Ways to Die"
Editor:  Stephen Wacker
Writer:  Dan Slott
Pencils:  John Romita, Jr.
Inker:  Klaus Janson
Cover Art:  John Romita, Jr.
Staff Only
Issue
Review
Articles: Freak, Green Goblin I (Norman Osborn), Green Goblin II (Harry Osborn), Menace, Mr. Negative

It's a couple of days later. Peter is laying low, helping to repair the damage to the FEAST shelter. Meanwhile the Chinese immigrants we saw at the end of the last issue have found a home in the shelter. Mr Li is questioning them about the peculiar lesions on their faces. The dispossessed admit to being used for secretive medical trials by a company called Oscorp.

This is of particular interest to the reporters in the room: Ben Urich and Sally Floyd of the Front Line and Betty Brant of the DB!. Betty's editor tells her to drop the story (no surprise there), but Ben and Sally already have a lead. The files that Harry Osborn gave to them spoke of a connection between Crowne, Osborn and medical experimentation. Peter is shocked to learn that Harry has been feeding the Front Line information. Ben tells Peter that the source has run dry, and asks Peter to see if Harry will open up to him.

Meanwhile, Norman Osborn is giving a briefing to his Thunderbolts and gun- toting stooges. He has reverse-engineered the technology he found in Spider- Man's camera and incorporated it into the weapons his soldiers are using. All they have to do is point in Spider-Man's general direction. The bullets will home in on the target. Bullseye sneers at the entire thing. He'll be able to hit Spider-Man regardless.

Osborn then takes the Radioactive Man and Songbird to his Oscorp headquarters. He wants them to guard Venom and keep Gargan safe from harm. He also has an idea of how he can "help" restore Venom. As the named characters leave the scene, Eddie Brock (who has been using his Anti-Venom powers to disguise himself as one of the Thunderbolt soldiers) takes the camera from where Osborn left it.

At Oscorp, Norman has the Radioactive Man pump radiation into the restrained Gargan. This apparently isolates the "anti-venom" residue in Gargan's system. Osborn takes a vial of this and, leaving his associates behind, descends into the bowels of Oscorp. There he meets with the current experiment: Freak.

Freak was bundled into an Oscorp van back in Amazing Spider-Man (Vol. 1) #558. Scientists have been using Freak's abilities to regrow his body to become immune to external threats as a means to synthesise cures to virulent diseases. In an image that would be gruesome if it were not so cartoony, Freak is strapped to the wall, his skin removed and his rib-cage opened connected to numerous tubes and wires. His vital organs are displayed in separate cases.

Osborn ignores Freak's pleas to die, and torments Freak with the knowledge that he is now immune to illegal narcotics. Osborn injects Freak with the anti- venom antibodies. Freak's body processes it and what comes out is the most virulent poison know to man. The only thing that can kill Anti-Venom. The scientists are shocked but this is what Osborn planned all along.

He retires to his old office, and then through a secret door into a long abandoned Green Goblin lair. Someone has been there recently and rifled through his things. Could it have been Harry? If so, Osborn is impressed. Norman starts to work on a special little project, but then realises he isn't properly dressed. You didn't think we'd get through this arc without Norman donning his Green Goblin outfit did you?

Meanwhile on the roof of the Coffee Bean, Peter is consoling Lily and Harry. Peter knows that he can't talk to Harry about passing information to Ben Urich while Lily is present so he keeps his mount shut on that subject. Suddenly, Harry gets a call from Norman Osborn who chides him for breaking into his lair. Harry can tell that his father is wearing the Goblin mask.

While Harry is having this conversation, Lily is getting very close to Peter. One could almost say that she is on the verge of making a pass at him. Harry notices this, and it does little to calm his volatile mood. Fortunately, it's the spider sense to rescue as Peter detects danger. The danger is in the form of Bullseye and a bunch of heavily armed men standing on the rooftop opposite.

The bad guys have tracked Spider-Man through the signal. Bullseye can't see him, but reports to Osborn none the less. Knowing full well that his son is on the scene, the Green Goblin gives the order to attack. Bullets and tear gas rain down on the Coffee Bean. Peter manages to get Lily and Harry to the safety of the street outside, although Harry seems might possessive of Lily all of a sudden.

When Peter heads back inside the building, Harry once again assumes the worst of Peter's paparazzo tendencies. But Harry is angrier at his father. He knew that Harry was there and he still attacked! Harry knows where Norman is, and he strides off down the street to have things out with his father once and for all?

Inside the Coffee Bean, Spider-Man is dealing with the Thunderbolt goon squad (so is Anti-Venom, although Spidey doesn't know that yet). The soldiers take aim at Spider-Man and are fire. Spidey dodges the bullets, but they turn in mid air and he is shot! Spidey doesn't know what to think. His spider-sense is working, why couldn't he dodge the bullets?

Anti-Venom eventually fights his way to Spider-Man and drops the camera in Spidey's lap. Spider-Man immediately realises what is going on. He rips the tracker from his costume and bundles it in a ball of sticky webbing that he throws at Bullseye. The next time the goons fire, it is Bullseye they take down. The fight doesn't last long after that.

Anti-Venom finds it ironic that all the anger he reserved for Peter Parker over the years was misplaced. All this time, Spidey was taking his own pictures. However, even though Spidey is used to be working alone Anti-Venom needs his help. He knows where Osborn has the Venom symbiote and it is time to finish it off.

Norman Osborn returns to Oscorp in full Green Goblin regalia. Chen and Songbird are horrified, although Mac Gargan is some what buoyed up by the sight. The Goblin produces a syringe containing the deadly poison he derived from Freak. He administers it to Gargan and it is powerful enough to eradicate all hint of Anti-Venom's work. The Venom symbiote will now regenerate, although that will take time. While that happens, Norman has a present for Gargan.

He unveils a new Scorpion battle armour and commands a fearful Gargan to put it on. The stinger is laced with the some poison - a poison that will be deadly to Anti-Venom and indeed to all human life. Now all the pieces are arranged for a final confrontation, just as the Green Goblin wanted.

In General...

Every once in a while the creators of behind Brand New Day produce an issue that skilfully weaves the disparate threads of half a dozen story arcs together, provides us with a sense of forward motion, and succeeds in placing Spidey at the heart of an ongoing saga. This is a much better issue than the three that have preceded it. The plot threads from New Ways to Die and preceding arcs are coming together; there is a greater sense of urgency in the writing. I'm very pleased with this.

It is good to see that Freak has not been forgotten, and that he has his place in a larger story. Ben Urich's investigation into Crowne and Oscorp's medical experimentation, shows Freak's abduction in its true context. Suddenly things start making sense. This is Brand New Day's great strength: an agreed narrative drive, and an absolute understanding of the order in which events happen. There have been tapestries of interconnected plots in Spidey-Man books before, but never has there been a greater sense that the writers know where they're going.

Now, I still think that some of the pacing is too slow. Some plots (the spider- tracer killer) have dragged on too long with too little attention. I still have a feeling that this arc could have been a four or five parter rather than six, but in light of how much I enjoyed reading this issue, these are small potatoes. New Ways to Die is certainly heading in the right direction now, and we're in for a hell of a ride.

Of course, the issue isn't perfect. The rather cavalier way that Spidey turned Bullseye into the target for his allies' weapons rather bugged me. Bullseye isn't superhuman; Spider-Man knows this. Is he really going to put anyone as fragile as Bullseye in the line of fire like that? Spider-Man is no killer.

Anti-Venom's failure to consider that Spidey and Peter might be the same person didn't irk me as much as Osborn last issue. However, I was annoyed by the pair's conversation, in as far as it reminded me that more parts of Spider- Man's rich history have been mercilessly ret-conned behind my back. I don't think that feeling is ever going to go away, and I won't let it affect my rating of the issue.

What will affect the rating is Slott's bizarre use of the camera and the tracker in Spidey's costume. He lavishes an issue and a half setting up Osborn's advantage, then Spidey discovers the problem and overcomes it in three pages? That's a bit of an anticlimax don't you think?

But, I have to say that seeing Mac Gargan back in a Scorpion suit more than makes up for it.

Overall Rating...

A solid and entertaining issue, that raises the drama an extra notch and makes me impatient for next week. What, the next issue is three weeks away? Damn you, Wacker! Four webs.

Footnote...

Harry Osborn is on his way to Oscorp to settle things with his father "once and for all". Spidey and Anti-Venom are on their way to Oscorp to take care of the Venom symbiote. Waiting at Oscorp are the remaining Thunderbolts, Mac Gargan in a new Scorpion suit and the Green Goblin. Yes. I'm looking forward to next issue.