Comics : Amazing Spider-Man (Vol. 4) #27

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This story is part of an Arc: "The Osborn Identity"
     Part 1 / Part 2 / Part 3 / Part 4

This review was first published on: 13 May 2017.

Background...

Norman Osborn and Peter Parker are back at it again. The original Green Goblin, with help from Countess Katarina Karkov, has converted Symkaria into a weapons manufacturing hub (at the expense of the residents of Symkaria). This has earned him the ire of Spider-Man and Silver Sable who have vowed to end this slavery-like treatment of the Symkarian people. Spidey is so convinced that this endeavor is worthwhile that he's using all of his Parker Industries resources to execute an invasion into Symkaria.

Peter's decision has not come without a cost, S.H.I.E.L.D. commander Nick Fury is furious at his decision to ignore international war policies and now Fury is sending his forces after Spider-Man. Bobbi Morse, aka Mockingbird, is caught in the middle of all this since she is a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent but also a close ally of Spider-Man.

The latest installment in the Osborn/Parker personal war continues in part 3 of The Osborn Identity!

In Detail...

"A Private War"
Amazing Spider-Man (Vol. 4) #27
Jul 2017 : SM Title
Arc: Part 3 of "The Osborn Identity"
Writer:  Dan Slott
Pencils:  Stuart Immonen
Inker:  Wade von Grawbadger
Cover Art:  Alex Ross
Lettering:  VC's Joe Caramagna
Colorist:  Marte Gracia
Editor In Chief:  Axel Alonso
Editor:  Nick Lowe
Associate Editor:  Devin Lewis
Assistant Editor:  Allison Stock
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Review

The story opens with Doctor Dragovic unraveling the medical gaws wrapped around Norman Osborn’s face, he had just undergone another face-altering procedure. The doctor reminds Norman that he was against performing this procedure so soon, and that the face muscles were not meant to be altered so frequently and so drastically. Osborn ignores the doctor’s advice as he recalls Spider-Man’s taunts that Norman would not show his face in public or confront Spidey face to face (which happened last issue). Unfortunately for Norman, Dragovic was right and when Osborn’s face is revealed it looks like a melted, grotesque version of his real (original) face.

Osborn then tells Dragovic that he no longer has use for him so he gases the doctor with a new version of the Goblin Formula. Dragovic collapses to the ground as Osborn reminds him that he (Osborn) is immune to the Goblin Serum and that he is no longer insane. Norman then joins Countess Karkov and she is completely unphased by his horrific appearance, in fact she compliments him on how “he looks like a man who has brought new life to [her] country.” The two then walk to the balcony of Castle Karkov and look down upon “their kingdom” as they enjoy the sweet success that Norman’s “ingenious inventions and revolutionary ideas” have brought to the people Symkaria….converting it to the largest weapons manufacturer in the world.

The story then shifts over to Spider-Man and Silver Sable, sitting alone in the cargo hold of one of his Parker Industries planes. They’re sitting amongst various Spider-Mobiles and since they have time before they land in Symkaria, Spidey asks Sable to explain how she evaded death. She tells him that whilst Rhino held her underwater she activated her stealth suit (similar to the one we saw at the beginning of this arc). Rhino thought she had vanished, which gave her the upper hand and she was able to kill him and escape. With the world believing she was dead, Sable was able to take out her enemies one by one, but her absence also allowed Karkov to run Symkaria in to the ground. She wants to return her people to freedom.

Back at a S.H.I.E.L.D. holding facility in Hong Kong, Fury interrogates Aunt May and Harry Osborn since he is convinced they are aware of Peter’s plans to attack Symkaria. He receives no useful information from the pair, nevertheless he readies his forces (led by Mockingbird) to infiltrate the Parker Industries plane once it lands. When the S.H.I.E.L.D. agents board the plane, they find it empty and Morse nowhere to be found. Mockingbird had double-crossed Fury as she worked with Spider-Man and Silver Sable to land a different plane far from the S.H.I.E.L.D. agents. Infuriated, Fury calls Mockingbird and she officially resigns from S.H.I.E.L.D. and joins Spider-Man, Silver Sable and the new Wild Pack as they prepare to storm Symkaria.

Osborn and Karkov’s romantic dinner is interrupted as the Spidey-led siege on Karkov Castle begins. Spider-Man attempts to goad Osborn into fighting, but Norman doesn’t take the bait. Instead he unleashes his army of Goblins (on gliders) and tanks to confront the web-slinger. Sable convinces the civilians that they are the good guys and that they (the civilians) need to evacuate Symkaria immediately. An all-out brawl then breaks out between the Goblin Army and Spidey’s allies.

Osborn and Karkov, watching the battle from their war-room tower, decide to unleash their ‘big-ticket item’ since Spider-Man and his forces have made inroads to the castle. Karkov then reaches out to the civilians (over city-wide speakers) and tells them to “seek shelter” and “lock themselves” in their homes. No doubt it was an eerie and ominous message from the Countess.

Meanwhile, Spider-Man, knee-deep in a Goblin brawl, notices that the Goblin Soldiers quite resilient as they bounce back up immediately after taking some serious shots. Their strength surprises him and after removing the Goblin mask from one of them he finds that they have Goblin faces as well!

The story concludes with Osborn reveling in his greatest achievement, the refinement of the Goblin Formula! Accompanied by the Goblinized-Dragovic, Osborn prepares a missile (presumably loaded with this new Goblin Serum) that he plans to detonate in Symkaria. This would turn every civilian in Symkaria into a member of Osborn’s invincible Goblin Army!

In General...

This issue was part 3 of a 4 part series and I get the feeling that the conclusion of this story arc (next issue) is either going to be really good or really bad. But we're not there yet so let's discuss the penultimate chapter of this arc.

I want to spend some time talking about Osborn and this Goblin Formula plot point, so I'll get my key Spider-Man points out of the way first. It certainly looks like there will be some trouble for Parker Industries because of this attack on Symkaria. I've made it clear in my prior reviews that Peter's attack on Norman is a little too hollow and random for my liking. "Spider-Man needs a win"...that's been the rhetoric but my concern has shifted to the cost for this much needed win.

Point being, if Peter loses control of (or bankrupts) Parker Industries because of this attack then he's made a grave mistake. Think of all the good he can do for people (via charities or even just jobs for employees) with a billion dollar company. And he's going to throw all of that away just to nab Osborn?? Norman...a guy who never stays in jail long and whom Peter will never kill (so Osborn will always be a threat some how some way). Obviously Osborn isn't acting like an angel (he's dealing crazy weapons), but he can't be that much of a threat to the world if Nick Fury and S.H.I.E.L.D. are more interested in arresting Peter Parker than Norman Osborn.

I know its too early to judge something that hasn't occurred yet, so let's be patient and see what happens. It just concerns me that this seems like a really risky venture coupled to a marginal return on investment. In other words, it seems a little selfish on Peter's part.

Moving on, I really enjoyed Mockingbird's loyalty to Peter, it fit nicely and you can see that there's some romance on the way. Just keep that attractive blonde girl away from Osborn, otherwise you know how that story ends...

Let's move on to this face-changing, Goblin Formula-immune Norman Osborn. I'm a little confused on what Slott is trying to do here because something is not adding up.

Since the conclusion of The Goblin Nation story arc, Osborn has been devoid of the Goblin Formula. Slott has made numerous references since then that suggest Norman is 'no longer insane' and that has freed him up to make more deliberate attacks on Spider-Man. I have a few problems with this rationale. For one, the traditional narrative on the origin of the Green Goblin is that once he was exposed to Stromm's formula he actually got smarter! Don't believe me? Check out the panels below from Amazing Spider-Man #40.

This enhanced intelligence and strength is what made him a more dangerous threat to Spider-Man...moreso than Osborn would have been without the formula. It was the formula that enabled Osborn's ingenuity to create the entire Goblin arsenal (from bombs to gliders). And Slott knows this, he wrote New Ways to Die in which Osborn cleverly uncovers Spidey's tracking-signal camera and devises an anti-Anti-Venom serum derived from the Freak. The Goblin Formula makes Osborn a formidable foe. Stromm was the real brains behind Osborn Industries (until Norman got him arrested for embezzlement) before Norman was Goblin-ized.

Don't get me wrong, Osborn was no dolt prior to his exposure to the Goblin Formula, but he got to the next level of thinking because of it. That enhanced strength and intelligence came with a cost though, because the formula pushed him to the edge (some would say over the edge) mentally. Creating the Green Goblin persona was certainly not the act of the world's most balanced individual.

But to be fair, Norman hadn’t been playing with a full deck for basically his entire life. He was the product of horrific child abuse and that abuse had a direct impact on his vicious temperament that drove him to restore his family name to prominence. In fact, Emily Osborn (Norman’s wife) was such an integral part of his story because she was the one person who made Norman ‘balanced’ (according to the Revenge of the Green Goblin mini series).

But ok, I'll play along with the notion that Norman is now back to his pre-Goblin Formula state and although he is not as smart or strong as he was when he had the formula at least he's not 'crazy'. The ‘crazy’ is no longer clouding his mind. Let's make the assumption he's now a more level-headed, crafty villain. But that logic starts to break down as well...

Here's why its difficult to buy that Norman is sane without the formula. For one, his face is so droopy and grotesque, it looks like it's melting away...he's literally turning into a Goblin (oddly reminiscent of his Earth X depiction)! Yet he's completely cool with it, he's walking around like that's a normal look. He always had a sense of vanity about him, think of all the Osborn portraits that have been depicted on walls over the years. Now he and the Countess are bouncing compliments off one another like two mental patients at an insane asylum. Is that not crazy??

Furthermore, his whole villain-strategy these days is the ability to change his face and hide in plain sight. But he's ruined his ability to do that now (according to Dr. Dragovic) because he's done it too often. He can't hide anywhere now because his face sticks out like a sore thumb (his face literally looks like a sore thumb!). His most recent face-change was done simply because Spider-Man taunted him. All this planning and covert operating over the last few years in the shadows is essentially wasted now because Spidey got under his skin with one comment. Sounds to me like Osborn made another one of his patented crazy, rash decisions again! Is that not crazy??

Lastly, and perhaps most convincingly, is that his master plan is to drop a green and purple (the Goblin colors!) bomb on a city so that it turns them all into soldiers of his Goblin Army. Does that sound like the plan of a pensive, fully-grounded individual or does that sound like something a crazy person would do?? And if this plan of his sounds familiar that's because it is eerily similar to Osborn's evil plan during the infamous Gathering of Five story arc. Back then he created a DNA bomb that would reduce everyone to their component DNA so that he could remold them to do his bidding. And do you know what gift Osborn had received from the Gathering of Five...insanity!!

What I'm trying to get at is that it's entirely possible that Slott is intentionally showing that Osborn is still insane even without the serum. Which would make this a clever story, hitting us over the head with the sanity talk all the while having Osborn do crazy things. Incidentally, this insane drive to change his face because Spider-Man called him out actually restores that uncanny personal connection that these two share. In a way, it's brought in that personal element that I've been complaining about as missing from this story arc thus far. So I like where this is going...I think. But, again, we'll have to wait and see how Slott wraps this up.

I'll add one note that may seem like it's a continuity violation but instead fits quite well. This new Goblin Formula that Norman has cooked up turns the subjects into literal Goblins. Aside from Menace (Lily Hollister) and Monster (Carlie Cooper), one other Goblin Formula recipient also turned into a Goblin after exposure to the serum. In fact, it was one of the earliest subjects, Nels Van Adder...the Protogoblin!

So Osborn's new Goblin-converting formula is perfectly aligned with continuity. Although Norman's claim that the Goblin Serum was his greatest creation is not true...that creation belonged to Mendel Stromm!!

I'll stop there. Hopefully my rantings on this subject don't suggest I too have been exposed to Goblin Formula, because I haven't...not yet!

Overall Rating...

This was certainly not a top notch story but there's enough left to play out that I can't slam this issue for being horrible. A middle of the road grade...let's see how The Osborn Identity wraps up next issue.