Norman Osborn used to be on top of the world, now he is at the bottom of it…literally. Being held in a super-secret prison known as the Special Containment Center (S.C.C.) located miles beneath the ocean, Norman faces a life of imprisonment without ever being charged. However, Norman’s situation has improved as a group of Green Goblin tattoo-bearing loyalists have seemingly engineered his escape from the S.C.C. Having arranged Norman’s transfer to the S.C.C. from the Raft, Senator Morrison and Father Coulmier (a man posing as a priest inside the prison) have also been able to stage a riot in the S.C.C.’s general population sect, aka the Second Wing. The ensuing ruckus allowed Norman and a handful of inmates from the infamous Third Wing to make their escape and parade freely through the S.C.C.
Norah Winters, a reporter who was integral in derailing Norman’s American Son project, recently uncovered Norman’s secret transfer from the Raft. Her reward for discovering this fact was a visit from a mysterious man who takes her, via submarine, to the S.C.C. to observe the goings-on at the detention center.
In keeping with the first two installments of this mini series, the opening scene pays homage to a member of the animal kingdom, this time it’s the instinctive habits of the leader in a pride of lions. However, instead of Osborn issuing the praise, it's Senator Sondra Muffoletto discussing politics and sharing a meal with her staff in Washington D.C. The senator explains to her people that all human beings are animals and that there are certain essentials (food, water, shelter, community, and protection) that all animals require. In order to secure these essentials, whether it’s a group of humans or a pride of lions, strong leadership is required. Muffoletto delineates the four things a leader must do well.
1. Distribute resources
2. Enforce the rules
3. Protect the group
4. Play the part (ie, inspire confidence and trust by your actions) and don’t flinch!
The fourth characteristic is the tricky one and the Senator explains that it cannot be taught, an animal is born with the necessary trait…
This bit of foreshadowing transitions the story back to the S.C.C., where Norman Osborn leads a group of recently freed prisoners through the halls of the detention center. His following includes June Covington, Pryor Cashman, Ai Apaec, and the man posing as a priest, Father Coulmier. Norman leads them to the Second Wing (which houses the prison’s general population) where all hell has broken loose and a prisoner uprising is in full swing. It’s clear Norman plans to seize control over the entire S.C.C. otherwise he would have stayed far away from the Second Wing and focused on his escape. Instead, Norman takes them into the heart of the melee.
Upon entering the Second Wing, Norman spouts some latin to inspire his small group of followers, “pax pro eo optimus arma (peace through superior force)”. The Second Wing is in complete disarray as security guards are being torn limb from limb and the bloody riot spares no one. Norman instructs his fellow members of the Third Wing to find 'the biggest, ugliest creature on the floor and make him your…’. But before Norman could finish his sentence the biggest, ugliest, creature on the floor found him and tried to make him his…, well, you get the picture. Osborn finds himself getting pummeled by a 10-foot tall inmate (who looks like a member of biker gang) while the rest of the general population watches in enjoyment.
One of the spectators to Norman’s beat down is Norah Winters, who is ‘safely’ watching the ruckus from the Second Wing’s observation deck alongside her mysterious companion. Norah immediately recognizes Norman. Meanwhile, back at the offices of the Daily Bugle, staff member Sarah Saulsby struggles to contact Senator Muffoletto and her people in regards to both Norah’s disappearance and Norman Osborn’s recent ‘off-radar’ status. Sarah had found a lead from Norah’s notes that suggested 'Pier 84' was of importance and she wanted to find out from the senator what the significance of that pier may be. The message eventually reaches Senator Muffoletto.
Returning to the S.C.C., Norman’s entire group is now under attack from the prisoners in the Second Wing. However, they seem to be holding their own quite well against the other inmates. June Covington takes on a Blob-like inmate, who thinks he has her beaten, but June reveals some interesting facts about herself. June has altered her own biology in numerous ways. She has bones that soften to diffuse impact, glands that distribute relaxin to allow her joints to easily dislocate, and she’s increased her pain threshold. All of this makes her a formidable foe, but she saves the best for last, a neurotoxin in her blood that induces paralysis in her victims. She easily defeats the poor man’s Blob.
Amidst the chaos, Norman is still being battered around by the giant biker-like inmate, and despite the cheers from the crowd for the ‘old man to stay down’, Norman keeps coming back for more. But ol’ Norman soon turns the tables on the inmate and with one powerful blow he knocks him clean off of his feet. After taking control of the fight Norman exclaims, “Your turn! Come out and play with Uncle Norman!”…classic line. Norman’s victim issues a sheepish look as he and the rest of the inmates soon realize who this man is, the great Norman Osborn! Soon, cheers of ‘Osborn! Osborn! Osborn!’ ring throughout the prison and the inmates flash their Goblin tattoos. Norman relishes the moment.
Back in D.C., Senator Muffoletto receives word about Sarah’s 'Pier 84' inquiry and she immediately phones Senator Morrison. She requests to meet Morrison in person, but he declines, stating they have nothing to talk about. Remember that their initial committee meeting was off-the-record and Morrison appears to be covering his tracks all the while framing Muffoletto for his deeds. Muffoletto realizes this and drops her teapot after she reaches the unfortunate conclusion…she flinched! See, there’s a reason I included that whole lion leadership bit from the story’s beginning…
The story concludes with Osborn addressing his newfound followers, who are all cheering him on. Before Norman could issue out a speech, Father Coulmier directs Norman’s attention to the observation deck. Unfortunately for Norah, she could not phone anyone for help before she is abducted by Ai Apaec upon Norman’s command. Norman now has a prisoner of his own, a lady he has a small amount of history with, Miss Norah Winters…poor gal.
After reading this issue (and rereading the first two installments), I came to a rather favorable conclusion about how this story is being paced. In my opinion, nowadays it seems that too often a mini-series is written for the sole purpose of being compiled into a trade paperback. The result is that cliff-hangers and key plot points usually suffer (ie, the cliff-hangers suck and relevant information needed in the 1st issue isn’t provided until the 4rth issue). But DeConnick is not falling into that trap, each issue has ended with an unexpected cliff-hanger that has kept me coming back for more, good work! That being said, I probably just jinxed the final two chapters of this mini by issuing that kind of positive remark.
Norman’s entry into the Second Wing and the subsequent beat-down he received were the highlights of this particular chapter. But they were a little bittersweet given Norman’s recent escapades, more specifically his fizzling out at the conclusion of Siege crossover event. Here’s a guy that has gone toe-to-toe with Spider-Man for years, yet at the pinnacle of his siege on Asgard he couldn’t even muster up a punch to be thrown at Spidey or Cap or Iron Man. I don’t want to cloud my review of this book by down-talking Siege, rather, I’d like thank DeConnick for having Osborn show us a little muscle, a little fight, and of course, a little crazy. Norman taking control of the prison by whooping some butt is not only fathomable, but completely in line with his power set (something Siege ignored and don’t give me that ‘he was too crazy at the conclusion Siege to be able to put up a fight’ bit, because the crazier Osborn is, the stronger he can be). Point being, as a huge Green Gobin fan who has read the entirety of Norman’s Dark Reign and found it filled with more misses than hits, it was nice to see Norman throw his weight around (successfully) once again.
Of course I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention some of the ‘odd’ things that this story featured. First, you’d think a prison that is housing this amount/level of dangerous prisoners would also have some sort of self-destruction mode that could be activated in the case of a complete security meltdown. I know it sounds like a terrible thing to suggest, but still, if the riot ever reached the surface, the country would be in for a world of hurt. To preempt that, you’d think a nice self-implosion device could be utilized to prevent a massive security breach…just a suggestion. Second, Norman’s ensemble included some high-powered members (June Covington and Ai Apaec come to mind) as he entered the Second Wing. But Father Coulmier should not have any power-set at all (at least as it is seen thus far), yet he was able to hold his own against prison riot that should have left him decapitated or something worse! How is that possible? I’ll need an explanation for that at some point.
Couple more things to think about and I’ll start with June Covington. A blonde, with regenerative capabilities, and a high-level scientific acumen…I smell a love connection for Mr. Norman Osborn. And although the cover suggests a connection between the two, the story has not reinforced that at all…yet…so keep an eye on that. Also, I wouldn’t fret for Norah’s fate, I’m sure she’ll be fine, here’s why. Remember that she arrived at the S.C.C. with a mysterious companion and he was in the observation deck with her when Ai Apaec broke in. After she was abducted, he had to have remained in the observation deck. And since he's certainly a key figure in the Green Goblin Cult, he’ll most likely be able to reason with Norman to keep her alive. After all, he brought her to the prison, so Norah is probably important in whatever agenda this mysterious man is pushing, so he may not want her dead...yet...so keep an eye on that.
This mini series is off to a really solid start, I can’t wait to see where it ends up. I’m not art connoisseur, which is why I’m usually hesitant to be very critical of the artwork when I review. But I should say that Rios’ work is growing on me, at first I thought it was not very clear (as to depicting some of the action sequences), but now I’m starting to think that it actually works for this story. She certainly has some panels that are breathtaking and others that are lacking a bit, but overall, it’s a pleasing visual experience. I’m going to stay with 3.5 webs just because I’m still unsure as to where this is headed and the Goblin Cult's agenda is still a little too mysterious at this point for my liking.