Suddenly everything is happening at once! Mac Gargan is back in a Scorpion suit while his Venom symbiote recovers from its injuries - and his stinger is laced with a poison virulent enough to kill Anti-Venom. Norman Osborn has donned his Green Goblin costume in an ostentatious display of insanity. As he waits at the Oscorp building for news of Spider-Man's demise, he has an expected visitor: his son, Harry.
Harry and Lily arrive at the Oscorp Building. Harry is still furious with his father and doesn't want Lily to come in with him. As it is, the heavily armed guards on the door will only grant Harry access. Harry confronts a cool and relaxed Norman Osborn, who is utterly in control and unrepentant. He dismisses any danger that Lily was placed in. Girlfriends are "replaceable". He dismisses the destruction of the Coffee Bean. Harry's destiny lies down a different path. He should join with Norman. Together they could rule the universe as father and son! (or something like that).
Meanwhile Spider-Man and Anti-Venom are nearing Oscorp. They are forced to split up as Spidey's powers still go on the fritz when Anti-Venom is close. Anti-Venom can sense the presence of the Venom symbiote and quickly pursues it. Disguising himself as Spider-Man he is able to quickly overpower Chen and Songbird. However, he soon finds himself in a life and death struggle with the New (new) Scorpion!
Messages come in to an increasingly flabbergasted Osborn that Spider-Man isn't dead, and that he is probably in the building somewhere. As Osborn is thinking on this next move, Spider-Man strikes and the battle is joined. As they battle, Harry remonstrates with both parties. He is sick of their constant battles and sick of always being in the middle.
His last statement is somewhat apt as Spidey has to push him out of the way of the Goblin Glider that Norman has summoned. Harry's life is saved by a whisker. Norman doesn't seem to care too much, telling Harry that all of this could be avoided if simply he embrace his Osborn birthright. Osborn knows how close Harry is to that birthright. Harry has become ruthless, he has taken the first steps to make Norman proud of him! But why all the secrecy? Why the secret meetings and the secret experiments? Why can't Harry be open in his infamy?
What is Norman talking about? Spidey would like to know. From the look on Harry's face it is obvious that Norman has touched a nerve. Suddenly, Spidey springs onto Norman and propels the glider and the goblin through a succession of interior walls, cracking each one open with Norman's skull. Spidey is angry, overcome with outrage and seems on the verge of being quite murderous.
But the pair's journey ends abruptly in a medical laboratory. Dozens of immigrants are strapped down and wired up to various machines. They are similar to the people who turned up at the FEAST shelter earlier in the arc. Spider-Man demands to know what Osborn has been doing with these people, but this isn't Norman's doing: it is Harry's! These are the Promethean Trials. Norman is finally proud of his son.
A beaten Norman Osborn activates a self-destruct sequence that will destroy the building. What does Spidey do, bring in the "beloved" Norman Osborn, or save the innocent people? No contest really. Spidey needs help get everyone out, and he swings off to liberate Chen and Songbird from the white goo that Anti-Venom used to encase them. The heroes leave Scorpion and Anti-Venom to their protracted fight, and join Harry Osborn who currently trying to usher all the guinea-pigs to safety.
But maybe they should have stayed and helped Brock. Gargan manages to sting his foe, causing the Anti-Venom costume to dissolve. Eddie is left weak and helpless lying in a pile of white goo. The Venom symbiote has repaired itself, and Gargan bursts from the Scorpion suit, destroying it. But he cannot bring himself to kill Eddie. Even after everything that has happened, the suit still loves Eddie and it stays his hand.
Outside Oscorp, the police and the fire crews have arrived - as has Ben Urich and Sally Floyd. Ben is dismayed that any evidence linking Oscorp to the diseased immigrants has been buried with the collapsing building. Nearby Lily begins to the fear the worst, but Harry arrives having safely made it out of the building. Spidey, Chen and Songbird are out too as are the ex lab-rats. Showing that she's a reasonable person and all-round good egg, Songbird lets Spider-Man go without a fight. He's not the villain here. She's come a long way since her Screaming Mimi days.
A few day later Norman Osborn is holding a press conference. You didn't think he was killed in the collapsing building did you? He affirms that he Tracer Killer is dead, crushed by the building. He knows that this isn't true, but Norman doesn't care about Crowne's reputation. By the time the next killing takes place, Norman will be long gone. Urich tries to press Osborn about the question of illegal medical experimentation, but Osborn's reply is to 'ask his son'. As for Osborn's own pet project - well, I think it should be obvious that Freak would have survived the collapse.
Meanwhile Peter, Harry and Lily are searching the ruins of Oscorp. Harry is searching for a file that will "clear his name". Peter and Lily don't know what he's talking about. Peter comes within an inch of pulling down he book that opens the door to Norman's secret lab when he is distracted. When Harry leaves the room, Lily makes a rather unsubtle pass pulling him into an embrace. Peter backs off just before Harry returns.
Harry says that he has found the file. He doesn't say why he wanted he wanted it. Harry says that he will need Peter's help soon - after all, Peter is the one guy that he can trust implicitly, right? Harry and Lily leave. Lily throws Peter a backward glance. In Harry's bag is a canister marked "Prometheus X- 90". That was what Harry wanted all along.
Back at the FEAST centre, Ben Urich asks the recovered immigrants if any of them will testify against Oscorp. But they're all in the country illegally, so none of them will. Betty is on her way out. Bennett isn't letting her cover the Oscorp angle, and it seems the reports of miracles at the FEAST centre have been greatly exaggerated. Everyone is getting sick again.
Also sick is Martin Li. He is bent over and coughing badly. Aunt May takes pity on him and helps him to his office. She offers to tend to him, but Li snaps at her and demands to be left alone. His demeanour is much changed. Some might say it is quite the opposite of his normal personality. The janitor tells May that Li gets like that from time to time and to think nothing of it.
Finally, our attention turns to Eddie Brock. He survived the collapsing building, and Anti-Venom is recovering inside him. Brock knows that his recent actions have made him a fugitive, but he refuses to step into the shadows. After so long terrorising people as Venom, he is determined to do some good as Anti-Venom.
"Did I ever tell you why my Dad built this branch off the palisades? So he'd have a clear view of the George Washington Bridge." Not a particularly auspicious start to the issue. Back in Amazing Spider-Man (Vol. 1) #121 Gwen Stacy died when she plunged from a famous New York bridge. The text of the issue said it was the George Washington Bridge, but the art clearly spelled out that it was the Brooklyn Bridge. Over the years, it's been established that the art was right and that Gwen perished when she fell from the Brooklyn Bridge. So although the charitable amongst might understand why Slott and Wacker made this mistake, it's still a mistake. You'd think that the Spider Office would know how to handle a Retcon...
However, after this initial blip the issue steps up a gear. Slott and Romita Jr. deliver a enjoyable story that largely redeems the meandering middle of this arc. As with most of the tales presented since the reboot it asks more questions than it answers. However, the answers do seem to be coming. Some of the mystery surrounding Jackpot was revealed in the recent annual, and Marvel's solicitations promise the truth about Harry's clandestine activities in January 2009. This is a good sign.
Regarding Harry Osborn - I'm really not sure where this is going. Are the writers just teasing with the idea of Harry going over to the dark side? What was the purpose of all those medical experiments? And if Harry was conducting the experiments, then why was he also feeding information about them to Ben Urich? Is this just a complicated scheme to discredit Crowne? Harry is a Hollister supporter after all. And if Harry had all these experiments running in Oscorp, then why didn't he know that Freak was in the basement? Or did he know? Was Freak kidnapped under the Harry's orders? Frankly, I'm confused. But I'm glad I can't work out what's going on just yet.
It was a shame that Gargan couldn't keep the new Scorpion suit, but I guess he's a Thunderbolts property now, and therefore any great changes will have to take place in that title. In truth, I'm surprised that Gargan has held onto the symbiote for this long. Marvel are showing uncharacteristic restraint with this storyline. The interplay between Gargan and the symbiote, and Gargan's anger that the symbiote will only ever think of him as second best, was very well done in this arc. New Ways to Die leaves Venom, Eddie and Gargan in a much more interesting place than when it started. I still think that Anti- Venom is very silly and largely unnecessary, but this is certainly a move in the right direction.
There have been many fights between Spider-Man and the Green Goblin over the years. It's nice to see one where Spider-Man has the upper hand. Perhaps Norman's grown soft sitting behind that big desk of his at Thunderbolts mountain. I would like to see more of Norman Osborn in this title. As enjoyable as Thunderbolts is, the home of the Green Goblin is here in Amazing Spider-Man. Norman has an agenda here, let's hope it's not too long before he's back.
There is still a sense with some plots (Lily making a pass at Peter, another collapsing building) that the writers are simply working to a mathematical formula of what made a great Spider-Man story thirty years ago. However, there are promising signs that the story could go in unexpected directions. I am anxious to be surprised.
An entertaining and solid conclusion of the arc. Norman Osborn holding a "World's Greatest Dad" mug? Priceless. Four webs.
Don't believe me about the whole bridge thing? It was first corrected in the Official Marvel Index to The Amazing Spider-Man published in 1985. A revised reprint of the story was then published in Marvel Tales #192. Amazing Spider-Man (Vol 1.) #149, Spectacular Spider-Man (Vol. 1) #183 and Marvel Knights: Spider-Man #12 also reveal the true story. If fact, we have done a Rave on this very subject:
Who says this isn't the Marvel age of thorough citations?
One final thing I would like to point out to you is a recent interview given by Dan Slott over on Comic Book Resources.
In my previous reviews I lampooned the utter inability of both Norman Osborn and Eddie Brock to see what was in front of their face - namely that Peter Parker is Spider-Man. Well, in the above interview Slott indicates that this is all intended. He says that there's a very good reason why these characters (and Anna Kravinoff from the Kraven's First Hunt Arc) couldn't work out the truth. Obviously he doesn't say what it is.
Regardless of whether you believe this is more evidence of clever plotting, or a writer trying to cover up gaping holes of credibility in his plot, it's still an interesting article. Check it out if you haven't already read it.