Just as quickly as Norman Osborn was tossed into the Special Containment Center (S.C.C.), he'd found a way out!
Transferred in an underhanded manner from the Raft to the S.C.C., Norman's new home was the product of a plot engineered by a Senator named Bill Morrison. Morrison, along with some Green Goblin tattoo-bearing co-conspirators, had manipulated Osborn's escape from the underwater prison all the while framing Senator Sondra Muffoletto as the mastermind behind it.
The means for Osborn's escape from the S.C.C. came in the form of a staged prison riot, in which Osborn suddenly found himself a champion of the people. As Norman rallied the morale of the inmates, Norah Winters was observing his latest ascension into power. Winters was brought to the prison by an anonymous source (that later turned out to be former S.C.C. inmate Carney Rives) but soon found herself Osborn's captive.
Realizing that Muffoletto was being framed, Norman seized the opportunity to strike a deal with the desperate senator. Osborn requested a transfer back to the Raft followed by a trial and in exchange he would make all of Muffoletto's problems (ie. her involvement in a conspiracy to illegally transfer prisoners) go away.
The Senator accepted Norman's terms but quickly double-crossed him and ordered the Navy to kill Osborn (by blowing up the prison). But Osborn had his own plans for the fate of the S.C.C. and after Father Coulmier had pledged his loyalty to him, Norman sent his servant on one final mission. He had instructed Coulmier to release the pressure valves within the prison, which would cause it to implode. The priest was carrying out his mission just as the Navy launched its attack on Osborn. However, the Navy's missiles were too late, as Norman, alongside his fellow inmates and Norah, safely made his way to the surface in an escape pod.
Wow that's a lot of background, it's all relevant though...
The opening scene for the final installment of this mini series immediately followed the events of the previous issue as Norman and his crew navigated their escape pod to safety at the surface of the ocean. Ai Apaec created a cocoon to protect the pod and Osborn, as well as his fellow inmates, was now officially a free man.
The story then transitioned to a time three weeks after Norman's escape from the S.C.C. as Norah Winters and Senator Muffoletto were called to a Senate investigative hearing on Osborn's disappearance. Chairing the hearing was none other than the Green Goblin Cult co-cospirator Senator Bill Morrison himself! Morrison ripped into Norah's story (which she published in the Daily Bugle) on Norman's disappearance and the S.C.C. as a secret prison. He cited that there very little corroborative evidence backing her story up. Unfortunately for Norah while she was Norman's captive she was drugged and brainwashed in order to muddy the waters of her memory (this was part of Norman's deal with Muffoletto as he attempted to bury this story for her), making her an unreliable source of factual information.
Fed up with Morrison's facade, Muffoletto interjected into Norah's interrogation and confessed her involvement in Norman's illegal transfer to the S.C.C. as well as his escape. She threw herself at the mercy of the committee as she claimed that she was convinced the country was not safe with Norman in the system. Whilst Norah and Sondra were defending themselves at the Senate hearing, Norman was out and about in Manhattan at the First Bank of New York. He accessed a lock box and appeared to make a withdrawal, shortly after doing so he was sharing cocktails with the lovely (but deadly) June Covington. The two shared a romantic dinner after which Norman called for his 'ride'...he was turning himself in to the authorities! Meanwhile, June headed off for a job interview.
The word of Norman's surrender spread like wild fire and it did not take long to reach Senator Bill Morrison who became infuriated with the news. He quickly sent his subordinate to find out more information on Osborn's status, as Morrison was now in full panic mode. Later, at the Federal Courthouse in New York City, Osborn (dressed in his prison garb) addressed the media. He claimed to be proud to live in a country that guaranteed him a day in court and that he was also proud to have a role in keeping it that way. Norah made her way to the courthouse and confronted Osborn for what he did to her while she was captive. After briefly antagonizing her (and not answering her questions), Osborn was carted off by the authorities back to the Raft.
Norman's journey ended exactly where it began, in a lonely spider-web-filled prison cell at the Raft. Soon after returning to the Raft, he was graced by the presence of a visitor, Senator Muffoletto. The humbled senator wanted some closure on this whole debacle as she questioned Norman's motives throughout his escape. Muffoletto asked Osborn why he arranged to have all the prisoners killed and, in short, Osborn described it as a mercy killing. Osborn pointed out that he promised them all justice and that their dignity had been robbed the moment they were imprisoned there, so the only logical thing to do was kill them all (d'uh!).
Muffoletto then left after asking for God's mercy on both Norman and herself, Norman then reminded the Senator that he may still save the world someday (I guess we'll wait and see on that one). As Muffoletto walked away, Norman's new doctor arrived with his meds...the new doctor was none other than June Covington! Norman was already planting the seeds for yet another escape from incarceration...
I laid out my numerous concerns for this mini series in my review for Osborn #4, and I have to say that essentially none of my concerns were addressed. Yet for some odd reason I really enjoyed this ending even though I feel like I should not be as satisfied.
I'll start with the main man Norman Osborn and let's be honest here, from the moment Marvel released the news of this mini series last summer, the smart money was on the fact that Norman was not going to be escaping anytime soon. After all, it was a major Marvel event that landed him in prison after his siege on Asgard and those type of events are not easily erased from existence (*cough* Civil War *cough*). It wouldn't make sense to go through all this trouble to land him in jail, only to break him out immediately after doing so (*cough* Marvel Knights: Spider-Man #10 *cough*). I jokingly point out the similarities to the events of Marvel Knights Spider-Man #1-12 because I would have been the first person throwing a fit if DeConnick had duplicated Millar's tale. Thankfully that didn't occur and even though it would seem Norman netted no major change in his status quo from this mini series (in the Raft at the beginning of Osborn #1 and he was right back there at the end), the reality is that his status quo drastically changed. For one, Norman began the process of winning back the support of the general public (those that are not already members of his latest Goblin Cult) by turning himself in and becoming a champion of the American judicial system. Secondly, he manipulated a series of events that landed his cohort (and potential love interest, see my review for Osborn #3) Ms. June Covington as his personal prison psychiatrist and doctor! So Norman secretly pushed his own personal agenda all the while convincing the public that he is a man of principle...now that is the Norman Osborn that I know and love.
As for the heart of this mini series, the Green Goblin Cult, there's a lot left to be desired. First, I have to make a claim that I think this Cult is having an identity crisis. Let's take a look back, in Amazing Spider-Man #649 Norah Winters investigates into the Green Goblin Cult and finds herself knee-deep in a biker gang ready to tear her limb from limb. Another Cult member is the zealot Father Coulmier (although he did admit that he isn't even a Catholic) who was ready to give his life to aid Norman's escape, a man blindly devoted to Osborn. And then there's one of the key masterminds behind the whole thing, Senator Bill Morrison, for whom all we know is that he wanted Osborn to be free man. Was it simply to displace Muffoletto from power? Clearly not because after Muffoletto was deposed, Morrison was still furious that Osborn was back in jail. What does a biker gang, a fake priest, and a U.S. Senator have in common? Well, they all worship the Green Goblin but for the most part I have no clue why they feel that way. That's a disappointment in my opinion, the apocalyptic messiah that Osborn was vaguely painted to be was a bit too lazy and unambitious. Especially since no one character was explored beyond their superficial interactions with Osborn.
I also want to reiterate some of my concerns about this super secret prison that houses the baddest of the bad, the S.C.C. I believe the premise itself is flawed, that is, the super heros of this universe have fought pretty much any villain imaginable, its hard to believe that a prison that is housed with this many secret powerful beings could exist. But let's play along with the concept, if these prisoners are as bad as the creative team is trying to sell, is it at all possible that some of the prisoners could have survived the explosion that destroyed the S.C.C.? If so, that would be a great cliff hanger as the series ended. However, the story is presented in such a way that the S.C.C. was cleanly wiped from the map, that strikes me more as a lazy plot device rather than cohesive story theme.
I want to briefly nit-pick at a few facets to this mini series. First, the cover to this final installment featured Spider-Man. I'm not a strict cover purist (that is, what's on the cover must be in the book), but if you're going to toss Spidey on the cover of a Norman Osborn book I think he deserves a few panels inside the book itself. Otherwise, it almost disrespects the long-standing rivalry between these two heavy weights.
Also, DeConnick's voice for Norman was a little over-the-top with the crafty, cunning, slick talking bad guy that infiltrates everyone's psyche with ease. Despite being a nice throwback to the Osborn from late-nineties whilst he was terrorizing Peter Parker's life as he ran the Daily Bugle, it seemed forced here. The problem is that after a while it gets a little tired and I think Norman works best when parts of his fallible human side crop up. This series had none of that and Osborn's plans worked flawlessly...sadly, that's a bit atypical for Norman.
I also want to take exception to the story's introduction that explicitly states that Norman was 'too shrewd to be played for a pawn'. I guess the creators must have missed pretty much all of Dark Reign and Siege where Norman was used as a pawn by multiple people, but mostly by Loki and Dr. Doom. Not to mention that he was Stark's pawn throughout the entire Superhuman Civil War. Norman could have changed his middle name from Virgil to pawn during Dark Reign, so I cannot buy the fact that he is impervious to manipulation...although the mastermind persona seen here was more in line with the post-Clone Saga Norman Osborn.
The last thing that I want to discuss is the array of characters throughout this mini series. Aside from June Covington, every character introduced herein was as forgettable as an amnesiac's pin number. Such a shame since there was potential with some of these characters, but the potential was squandered due to a lack of character development.
3 webs for this issue and for the series in general, not terrible, not perfect. DeConnick did some things in the final installment that saved this from being a terribly rated series, but overall the Green Goblin Cult was not explored well enough for me to give my full blessing on this one.