So much background, so little space...
Norman Osborn and Peter Parker have been sparring partners in a personal war that began when Peter was only a teenager. Lives have been lost on both sides of the war, fueling further attacks by their respective alter egos. But boy have times changed.
Prior to the mind-wipe that occurred between the events of One More Day and Brand New Day, Norman Osborn was on a short list of villains who were aware that Peter Parker was Spider-Man. The mindwipe removed that fact from Norman's memory, as well as everyone else on Earth who saw Peter unmask during the Superhero Civil War.
But things have improved for our favorite Green Goblin. After the kill-shot that he fired on the Skrull Queen Veranke in Secret Invasion #8, Norman was given control over all things superhuman by the President of the United States. After dissolving S.H.I.E.L.D. and creating his own task force called H.A.M.M.E.R., Norman soon named Victoria Hand as his Deputy Director. Ms. Hand, a former S.H.I.E.L.D. business affairs operative, works as Norman's right hand (pun intended) helping him keep the H.A.M.M.E.R. ship steering straight. Curiosity soon gets the best of her though as she digs deeper into Norman's Goblin past and his confrontations with that cursed interloper, Spider-Man.
Through her contact with Harry Osborn, Victoria Hand was able to get in touch with Peter Parker and arrange to meet him for coffee. Peter is a person of interest to Ms. Hand because she knows Peter has had a 'number of run-ins' with the Green Goblin (we assume these 'run-ins' are from Peter being both Harry's friend and a photographer for the Daily Bugle, not because he's Spider-Man). Specifically, she wants to know how Peter felt after finding out that Norman Osborn was in fact the villainous Green Goblin.
Peter's responds by saying that he was very surprised and that he took the news personally. Victoria goes on to tell Peter that since Norman had recently confirmed to the public that he was indeed the Green Goblin (back in Dark Avengers #5), she's taken it upon herself to see if there are any other 'shadows from his past that could prove troublesome'. She asks Peter to tell her everything he knows about Norman Osborn. Peter basically warns her that Norman is ruthless and self-serving and will stop at nothing and will turn on anyone in order to get what he wants. Peter then gets up to leave, claiming he has nothing more to say on the topic when Victoria grabs his arm for last question. She asks, before you found out he was the Green Goblin, did you ever have an inkling that he was that dangerous and out of control. Peter's responds that the had no idea of Norman's duplicity, and that it would've been just as believable to claim that Peter Parker was Spider-Man.
Later that evening Victoria is working alone in her office at Avengers Tower, trying to connect the dots surrounding the Norman's clouded past. Norman soon sneaks up on her, catching her off guard and removing the Green Goblin file folder from her hands. As Norman thumbs through her notes, he questions her motives and reminds her that if she wants to know where the bodies are buried, she could simply ask him. He then takes her file folder and throws it into the waste bin, then lights it on fire. The fire in the waste bin suddenly triggers shadowed memories in Norman's brain (there's a brief flashback to Amazing Spider-Man #40). Norman struggles to recall if it was a dream or a memory and he soon resolves that if it was important, it will come back to him.
My review focused on the 6 pages of new content that were spread throughout this one-shot. The remaining pages of this 64-page one shot were taken up with two reprints (Amazing Spider-Man #39 and Amazing Spider-Man #40), a saga-style recap of the Green Goblin, and character profiles for both Norman and Harry Osborn. Personally, I would have preferred more of the short story and less from the redundant Marvel reprint machine, but who wouldn't? However, despite being only 6 pages long, this short story was information-rich and there's much to comment upon.
Let's start with Victoria Hand. She has the audacity to go behind Norman's back and further explore his Green Goblin past, despite Norman telling her he's 'handled it' already. Seems bold, but not very smart knowing Norman's past with the female gender. A deeper look into her actions here begin to set the stages for the redemption of her character. Although working for Osborn, she clearly doesn't trust him nor does she feel she's been given the full story on his Goblin past. So you have to respect her bravery (and curiosity!) to continue her investigation. We know that after the events of Siege #4, Victoria is endorsed by the one and only Steve Rogers himself. That endorsement becomes a bit more acceptable knowing that Victoria was not simply a blind lackey of Osborn's while working for H.A.M.M.E.R. However, she does lose points for not suspecting that Peter could also be Spider-Man given all the circumstantial evidence, but hey, we don't know how that 'mind-wipe' operates so it may not be her fault.
Moving on to Peter Parker, I had to give my favorite quote of the story. When Ms. Hand asks him about how he felt when he found out Norman was the Goblin he says, "Like someone had beat me, tied me up, and then dragged me halfway across town." That was gold and a terrific shot-out to the classic Amazing Spider-Man #39, I had to laugh after reading that. However, Peter's grave warnings to Ms. Hand concerning Norman's character should've raised a red-flag regarding Peter's involvement with Norman's Goblin escapades. Again though, fault the mind-wipe.
Last but certainly not least, Mr. Norman Osborn and a couple of throw-back moments. First, his catching Ms. Hand off-guard in Avengers Tower was eerily similar to the scene from Spectacular Spider-Man #249 where he frightens Betty Brant who was quietly working at her desk in the Daily Bugle. That was during his first 'Dark Reign' when he published his book Survivor of the Big Lie, how come nobody brings that book up anymore? I wonder if Ms. Hand read that during her investigation? Second, we all remember the 'electo-chemical charge' and the ensuing fire from Amazing Spider-Man #40 that led to Norman's first amnesia spell. As Norman burns Ms. Hand's file folder on the Green Goblin he has a flashback to that day. It's a clever parallel to link the waste bin fire (and the amnesia brought on by Spidey's Brand New Day mindwipe) to the warehouse fire that led to Norman's first spell of amnesia that caused him to originally forget Spidey's ID. It certainly begs the question that if Norman's memories returned to him once already, will he be able to overcome the mind-wipe amnesia and recall Spidey's ID yet again? I sure hope so.
At the end of the day though, the mind-wipe brought on by Brand New Day hurts this story because it was Peter's unmasking that essentially catalyzed the events that led to Norman's rise to power. In theory because of the mind-wipe, Norman should have no idea how he got to be in this position of ultimate power and control. And for a villain as thorough as Norman Osborn, it's hard to believe that he's fine with that hole in his memory.
A solid story but a little too short and a little to screwy because of the Brand New Day mind-wipe, I can't go higher than 3.5 webs.
Certainly not a 'must-have' for Spiderfans at its original cover price, but if it was in the dollar bin I'd recommend picking it up.