He's making a list, and he's checking it twice...
Dark Reign The List is a series of 8 one-shots featuring characters across the Marvel Universe that Norman Osborn, aka the Iron Patriot, has deemed dangerous and thus should be dealt with accordingly. The series culminates in Dark Reign The List: The Amazing Spider-Man, Norman has saved the best for last. The last time Spider-Man confronted Osborn was during the American Son arc, in which Spidey failed to take down Norman but Norman also failed to convert Harry into becoming one of his Avengers under the costumed identity, the American Son.
The story begins with Spider-Man swinging through the city, dumbfounded by both Osborn's meteoric rise to power and the general public's outpouring of love and support for him as the Iron Patriot. Fed up with the current status quo, Peter turns to his colleagues at the Front Line to generate a plan for taking down Norman once and for all. The group includes Ben Urich, Joe Robertson, and Norah Winters, and they all agree that attacking Norman's public persona is going to be a tall order considering that Osborn was given a clean slate with his newfound position. Not to mention that all the 'dirt' Norah had uncovered while undercover in Avengers Tower (back during the American Son arc) was intercepted by Osborn, thus never reaching the public. However, she was able to attain secret blueprints to Oscorp's Manhattan offices, which may contain secret laboratories/experiments that Norman may wish to remain that way.
Meanwhile, at the aforementioned Oscorp Manhattan offices, Norman discusses some of his research projects with his assistant, Ms. Victoria Hand. He informs her that he has a particular project set up specifically for dealing with an 'elusive pest problem' and that the #8 item on his list is to kill the Amazing Spider-Man. However, when Norman opens the door to that laboratory he finds the wall-crawler in there downloading security tape footage of Osborn experimenting on human beings. Busted, Spidey makes a break for it, jumping out through the window of the Oscorp building. The Iron Patriot, however, is immediately in pursuit and the two have at it in the skies above the NYC streets. Spider-Man doesn't make it far before Norman hits him with a uni-beam blast from his star-shaped symbol on his chest. This knocks the vulnerable Spider-Man to the ground.
Despite saving innocent civilians from the falling debris caused by the Iron Patriot's laser blasts, the NYC citizens actually gang up on Spidey and help Osborn in corralling the wall-crawler. While Norman is gloating from his apparent victory over Spider-Man, Peter makes one last ditch effort for an escape. He kicks Osborn directly on his star-shaped chest symbol and this causes the Iron Patriot suit to over-heat and release large amounts of smoke. The smoke screen allows Peter to shed his costume and escape. Left only with Spidey's costume, Norman quickly concludes that Spider-Man must've went straight into the nearby Cyber Cafe to pass on the stolen video footage. When Osborn enters the cafe he immediately spots Peter Parker, but the celebrity status of the Iron Patriot causes swarms of fans to get between he and Peter. This allows Peter to upload the stolen security tape footage unto the web, passing it on to various members of the media. Osborn informs the crowd that it is doctored footage and when he does come face to face with Peter, Peter is able to turn the tables on Osborn. Peter tempts Osborn to shoot him in front of everyone in the crowd, an act that would make the Iron Patriot a hypocrit, since he is a supposed protector of the American people.
In the end, Peter feels a sense of accomplishment as he has finally put a nice chink in the armor of the Iron Patriot. Meanwhile, Norman goes on damage control, trying to pull the security tape footage from the web.
I have very mixed feelings about this issue, and I'm not going to beat a dead-horse and blame Brand New Day's impact (ie, the mind wipe) for lowering the potential quality of this one-shot. But I have to admit that watching the Iron Patriot enter the Cyber Cafe and find Peter Parker, yet not know that he is Spider-Man as well, gave me a very unsettling feeling down to my core. It may as well have been some unknown villain underneath the Iron Patriot armor as far as I was concerned.
Also, I'll quote the very last line of the story: "The day Peter Parker stepped up and became the number one reason for the fall of Norman's empire". This line is disappointing on so many levels. Number one, with the hindsight of the Dark Reign/Siege conclusion, we know that this is complete and utter bs. The security tape footage had no impact on Osborn's reign, nor did it have anything to do with his eventual downfall. Nor was it even mentioned again in any Spider-Man or Dark Reign title that followed. Not to mention that outside of this plan, Spider-Man had very little to do with Norman's downfall during Siege. The major gripe I had with Dark Reign was not how foolish the citizens of the Marvel universe seem to be, but rather how apathetic Peter Parker was toward Norman Osborn being America's top-cop. How could Clint Barton have more a of an emotional (knee-jerk) reaction to Osborn's success than Spider-Man? The fact that Peter was satisfied with this security tape caper as a victory against Osborn leaves a lot to be desired. After all, Norman killed his first love and is responsible for the 'death' of his child with MJ, and this is all he had to show for it? C'mon Peter, man up.
Any silver lining at all? A few things. Spider-Man appears in so many comic books nowadays, and it seems like his role is usually limited to comic relief. It pains me to see the science nerd Peter Parker becoming Bozo the Clown in titles like New Avengers/etc. Having Spider-Man exploit the symbol on the Iron Patriot's chest (a star has more surface area than a circle, and thus would have different heat-dissipation qualities) was a wonderful aspect to this story. I love to see Spider-Man outsmart Norman on his way to taking him down, so it was nice to see Slott using that. I was also pleased that Slott at least addressed the almost inexcusable forgetfulness on the part of the Marvel civilians who seem to have forgotten the very public (and murderous) downfall of Norman Osborn. At the onset of the story Spider-Man ponders how that could have happened, his solution: Stupid Pills. I'd agree with Spidey in that regard, and I'm glad Slott brought it up. Finally, we all know that Norman's hatred of Peter Parker was a gradual thing, at that it began with Norman's hatred of Spider-Man. Even though in the grander sense it is a regression in Norman's character to not know Spider-Man's ID, his retention of his hatred of Spider-Man brings us back to the early Ditko/Lee days. It's nice to see BND didn't take that away at least.
I knew going in that this story was not going to be the climactic end to Dark Reign and as a one-shot its reasonably entertaining. Kubert's pencils were excellent and Slott does the best he can within the BND paradigm.
But the issue is forgettable unfortunately, since we know it contributed nothing to Norman's eventual downfall as the finale for the Dark Reign The List series went out with a whimper. This story reflects the sad state of the current Parker/Osborn dynamic as Norman is slowly moving out of the Spiderverse and on to bigger and better things. That's a tragedy, imo, since Norman is arguably the sole villain who absolutely belongs to and should remain in the Spiderverse.
Norman says it best in this story, so I'll let him do the talking, "The bug doesn't even factor into my greater plans." Ouch, remember you guys used to hate each other on a personal level? So between the current BND status quo and uselessness of this plot, 2.5 webs.