Comics : Amazing Spider-Man (Vol. 4) #25
This review was first published on: 18 Mar 2017.
Norman Osborn has been lurking in the shadows, propping up warlords around the globe by selling weapons and munitions to the highest bidder. His last confrontation with Spidey during Goblin Nation revealed that Osborn has been using face-altering technology to hide his identity. But after the Kingpin handed over critical intel on Osborn's location directly to Spidey, the original Green Goblin's days underground appear to be numbered...
Spidey's world had been turned upside down during the events of The Clone Conspiracy. He found out that the mastermind was his clone and close friend Ben Reilly, he witnessed Gwen Stacy die for a second time and even considered resurrecting his deceased Uncle Ben. And with Parker Industries "Webware" now globally unpopular, Peter finds himself in relatively vulnerable position...the perfect time for the original Green Goblin to return to the Spider-verse...
Amazing Spider-Man (Vol. 4) #25
May 2017 : SM Title
Arc: Part 1 of "The Osborn Identity"
The story opens in a shady alley of Las Colinas Rojas, the drug capital of Delvadia. There's a sting operation underway and Spider-Man is leading the charge. However, unbeknownst to our webslinger there is another vigilante on site, but she's using some type of cloaking device so she's essentially invisible.
After a few Spider-pods clear the riff-raff at streetlevel, Spider-Man, Mockingbird and two Delvadia-native super heroes (Tarantula and the Devil Spider) come crashing on to the scene ready to infiltrate Osborn's supposed hideout. As they make their way in to the compound they're greeted by some machine gun-toting Goblin soldiers...more proof that Spider-Man and his team are on the right path. Remember that Spider-Man was given Osborn's location from the intel that the Kingpin had provided in Dead No More: Clone Conspiracy Omega #1.
Meanwhile, back at surface level our invisible female vigilante is preparing to blow up the underground hideout, but first she has to clear innocent bystanders. Back inside the bunker Spidey's frantic search to catch his old foe is summarized by the three words he screams out, "I want Osborn!"
Spidey's intel has him searching for El Facoquero, Delvadia's foremost drug dealer/gun-runner. But Spidey believes Osborn and El Facoquero are one and the same. Suddenly, there's a tremendous explosion, perpetrated by the invisible vigilante who appears to recognize Spidey and who also seems to not care that she just left him for dead beneath the streets of Las Colinas Rojas.
Despite the ceiling crashing down, Spider-Man and Mockingbird continue after El Facoquero who was attempting to flee. Spidey catches the drug runner then cleverly explodes a pack of pumpkin bombs beneath a pool allowing he, Mockingbird and the captured El Facoquero to evade the collapse through the sewage system. That was the good news, the bad news was that once they arrived back at S.H.I.E.L.D. HQ, the blood tests confirm that this is not Norman Osborn...Spider-Man smashes a table to pieces in anger at the results!
The real Norman Osborn is hunkered down in his own hideout, watching these events unfold via his many TV screens. He is indeed wearing the 'face' of El Facoquero, which he announces to be useless now that the real Facoquero is in custody. Osborn is accompanied by a mysterious woman who refers to Norman as "darling." Osborn confides in his lady friend that he does not have the training and skills of the Chameleon but he does have an "iron will" that enables him to endure the pain of each facial transformation. Which is a good thing because at the conclusion of Goblin Nation Osborn's body had been rid of the Goblin Formula, his super-strength and healing factor are presumed gone. Doctor Dragovic is also introduced in this sequence as the henchmen who performs these new facial transformations. Osborn readies himself for another transformation as he contemplates which face is next...
The story shifts back over to Peter Parker aboard his private jet, plotting his next attempt to find Norman. Peter and Bobbi Morse (aka Mockingbird) decide to head to Hong Kong next because there had been El Facoquero sightings there and Peter's Uncle Ben Foundation would be hosting an event in the same city. Before heading to Hong Kong, Peter returns Uncle Ben to his original burial plot whilst contemplating the events of The Clone Conspiracy. As a quick aside, Peter insinuates that Gwen Stacy was his "greatest love"...what about Mary Jane?!
Peter visits with Aunt May, Harry Osborn and Betty Brant (who were all together) just before leaving for Hong Kong. Betty mentions an odd phone call that she received from Ned Leeds, most likely made by the resurrected Ned during The Clone Conspiracy. The phone call led Betty to seek out a spiritual advisor.
Soon after, Peter's aboard a plane with Bobbi en route to Hong Kong. Peter wakes Bobbi from her nap and asks her if she's ever considered dating him. Before Bobbi could answer, Aunt May pops in to their conversation and announces that she's coming to Hong Kong as well (Peter wanted all his friends to stay behind since he knew it would get dangerous whilst tracking Norman). It was not obvious to me how Peter would have noticed Aunt Many being onboard prior to that, but I digress. And Aunt May was not the only stowaway onboard, Harry Osborn was making the trip as well.
Once they touch down in Hong Kong, Peter and Bobbi immediately switch to their alter egos and start knocking heads in order to shake down information on Norman's whereabouts. What followed was an odd scene where Spidey and Mockingbird feel "weird" beating up "asian people" so they decide to go to a place where the people wear masks and thus you wouldn't know that they're asian. I'm not making this up, read the book if you don't believe me, that whole sequence of events was just...weird.
Eventually they beat up enough people to uncover that Osborn is meeting with all the "big players" using another event calle "Oobie Yeff" as a cover. Peter realizes that "Oobie Yeff" is really U.B.F. (Uncle Ben Foundation), which is where Aunt May and Harry Osborn are (bet you saw that coming!)...
Spidey and Mockingbird make a mad dash to the U.B.F. event, but its too late Osborn is already there...in disguise of course! Osborn is perusing the crowd and he spots Aunt May, he decides he can't pass up the opportunity to talk to Aunt May with a face "she'd never recognize." Before Norman can make his way to her, some impeccable timing and awkward dialogue contribute to Norman overhearing Harry telling a waitress that his name is Harry Lyman and not Harry Osborn. This, as you would expect, enrages Osborn to hear his son refuting the Osborn Legacy. Just then, the invisible vigilante is poised with a rifle ready to snipe out someone from the U.B.F.!
Spidey swoops in, takes out the shooter and uses his electrified web coils to short circuit her invisible suit. To Spidey's surprise the sniper is revealed to be none other than Silver Sable! After Spidey exclaims "you're supposed to be dead, what's going on?!", the former mercenary's response is simply, "What's going on....is that you just saved Norman Osborn!"
I hate to say this but...The Osborn Identity stumbled out of the gate and the problem for me centered around Spider-Man. And trust me…I really want to enjoy this arc.
I’ll start with Spidey’s temperament throughout the story…he’s all over the place, borderline schizophrenic (and that’s supposed to be Norman’s bag!). The story opens with him leading a raid into a supposed Osborn hideout whilst arrogantly ignoring the advice of his cohorts Tarantula and Devil Spider. After failing to catch Osborn, he has a fit of rage and destroys Fury’s table at the S.H.I.E.L.D. headquarters. A few hours later he's solemnly talking to Uncle Ben’s grave as he recounts the events of Clone Conspiracy. Later, appearing to be in cheerful spirits, on a plane with Bobbi Morse he decides that the two of them should start dating. Wow that's a wide range of emotions in a few short hours, what gives? Was this display of seemingly every possible emotion an intentional move by Slott? If so, I’m trying to understand why, where is this headed? Regardless, Spidey’s emotional state is tough to pin down and the story suffers because there’s a lack of a cohesive tone/mood to this story due strictly to Spidey!
My other sticking point was Spidey’s rationale for targeting Osborn…”he needs a win.” Seriously?! First off, if you’re looking for an easy win, is Osborn the one you should target? He did kill your first true love, kidnap your unborn child, and let’s not even mention what he’s done to Aunt May. Point being, if I’m Spidey and I’m in need of a win…I’m staying as far away from Osborn as possible.
But ok, let’s put that point aside for a moment. Spidey’s palpable rage toward Osborn rings a bit disingenuous considering he’s been aware of the Goblin Army and their connection to arms dealing since Amazing Spider-Man (Vol. 4) #4 and he’s done nothing to address it. So, now, because the Kingpin gives him Osborn’s information he’s enraged by Osborn’s actions as a gun dealer? Considering the shared history between Norman and Peter, I feel like Slott came up a little small in regards to his rationale for starting this latest conflict between the two. Moreover, I’m struggling with the whole “he needs a win” logic, mostly because I didn’t see The Clone Conspiracy as being a “loss” for him in the first place. He did stave off the spread of the carrion virus, managed to save millions of lives in the process and he even got to say a final goodbye to Gwen Stacy. And considering some of the 'losses' Spidey's experienced throughout the years, The Clone Conspiracy was not really that much of a 'loss'. This whole he “needs a win” rationale was flimsy at best and it gets this story off to a questionable start. Slott has some work to do to right this ship.
I’ll use that as my segue into Osborn’s role thus far. Although he only had a few panels in this opening round, numerous questions come to mind regarding the ol’ Goblin. For one, he’s side-by-side with yet another love interest…who is this woman? Has he officially moved on from Kolina Frederickson and June Covington (they had a thing after he was locked up post-Siege)? Hopefully we found out the backstory of the Norman's lovely lady soon enough..
Speaking of Osborn and ladies, what was the deal with him wanting to talk to Aunt May with a face "she'd never recognize"? Osborn does not know Peter is Spider-Man (thank you Brand New Day!), so why would he care about Aunt May. I know he has a history with Peter and that Peter is Harry's friend, but without the lens of knowing Peter's secret as Spider-Man, I don't quite get why Osborn would want to mess with Aunt May other than he's just a total creep and that's what total creeps do...
At the conclusion of Goblin Nation we found out that Norman’s new power-set is basically the Chameleon’s…it was nice to see Norman acknowledge that in this issue. He even acknowledges that he is not as skilled nor does he have technology on par with the Chameleon. But here’s where the rubber meets the road, how could he not have better tech than the Chameleon, he’s the freaking Green Goblin, industrial magnate and former leader of H.A.M.M.E.R.?? Chameleon is a Kraven family lackey (ok that may be a bit too harsh for the Chameleon fans out there) and Kraven (at times) has been an Osborn lackey. So Chameleon is like a lackey’s lackey, there’s no reason for Norman to not have better tech than the Chameleon…just saying. Also, I’ll make one Game of Thrones reference, Norman’s hideout looks like the temple of The Many-Faced God…I’ll stop there.
What about the event that got this whole arc kick-started…Kingpin handing over Osborn’s info to Spidey. This one I actually buy and is continuity-adherent! Recall back in Spider-Man: Made Men and Peter Parker Spider-Man #95 that Norman Osborn and the Kingpin’s uneasy truce ended when the Kingpin sent Nitro to kill Osborn. Nitro failed (obviously) but there’s been no love lost between the two since then. So to have Kingpin sell out Osborn is completely in character. Well done!
At the end of the day, what concerns me about this new confrontation between Spider-Man and Norman Osborn is that there really isn’t any ‘meat on the bone.’ Osborn was focused on arms-dealing and not concerned with Spidey at all (until Spidey came knocking on his door step) and Spidey’s only after him because he “needs a win.” I’m sorry but I need more emotional investment between these two if I’m going to buy this…right now, we’re not there.
Here’s the interesting part and probably the silver lining (pun intended); Silver Sable is alive and well. The most intriguing part of the story was the reveal that Silver Sable is alive and, more interestingly, she seems to have a vendetta against Spider-Man. Granted she was out to kill Osborn, but she did blow up El Facoquero's hideout knowing that Spidey was down there and she was willing to let him die as collateral damage. Finding out what she’s after and how she managed to survive is by far the most interesting thing going on thus far, I’m looking forward to see where that goes.
We all know that you can’t judge a book by its cover, because if we did, this book would have gotten 5 webs. It’s worth mentioning that Alex Ross’s homage to Romita’s classic Spectacular Spider-Man Magazine #2 cover is brilliant. He blends the modern take on Osborn (the arms dealer) with his classic glider-riding pose in a seamless manner.
I picked up one of the variants as well (shown below) and I have to say that I’m a fan of this particular variant. I’ve maintained that Peter and Norman are two sides of the same coin and their personal war is one of the main engines driving the Spider-verse. Anytime you blend the Goblin persona in to Spidey’s, you’ve got my support.
Now this isn't exactly a new concept, Frenz did it way back in Spider-Man: Revenge of the Green Goblin #3 as well as Deodato in Dark Avengers #11…but there is always room for more. I’m not a supporter of the unending variant train Marvel has been riding lately, but I made the exception here.
And as far as a rating goes...Part 1 of The Osborn Identity was an average story at best. I expect more from a book with a $9.99 cover price and if I scored it relative to its price it would be lower than 3 webs...but I won't do that. So 3 webs it is.
Let's see where this goes.