Norman Osborn and the Thunderbolts are in New York hunting Spider-Man, although at the moment Norman is waiting to see if Spider-Man survives his current predicament. By a process as yet unexplained (but it has something to do with Martin Li), Eddie Brock has been cured of cancer and developed a purified version of the venom symbiote called Anti-Venom. Anti-Venom and Spider-Man have just defeated the current Venom, Mac Gargan. Eddie seems to have destroyed all trace of the symbiote and now he has turned his attention to Spidey. You see Eddie wants to help Spidey, he wants to purify him - starting with that horrible radioactive blood. Meanwhile the faux goblin and kingmaker, Menace, has arrived to give Norman Osborn a stern talking to.
Anti-Venom continues to inadvertently drain Spidey of his powers, despite the wallcrawler's protestations to stop. Meanwhile, Menace is giving Osborn an ultimatum: leave town and stop interfering in the politics of New York... or else!
Osborn radios the Thunderbolts, goading Menace to attack him. The new goblin accelerates his glider into Osborn lifting him off the ground. Osborn loses his radio; before he can give the code that will release Bullseye into the arena. Norman regards Menace with contempt. He easily escapes, and then detonates his enemy's glider at range with a muttered destruct command. It's all Osborn's tech, after all.
Down below, the Zeus has landed and Thunderbolt flunkies are trying to drag the unconscious Gargan on board. Anti-Venom takes exception to this and gives chase, finally releasing Spider-Man. Songbird and the Radioactive Man move forward to engage Anti-Venom.
Soon the narrative is treating us to two different fights as the action switches between Venom and Spidey against the Thunderbolts, and Osborn against Menace. Menace is worried that Osborn and the Thunderbolts will inadvertently ruin his plans. He evidently has some complicated scheme, and is manipulating both sides of the political divide. He yells to Norman: "If you or your men capture the spider-tracer killer in Crowne's name it could upset everything."
Of course, Norman doesn't care about Crowne or politics, all he cares about is getting Spider-Man, and he says so. This incenses Menace, who beats Osborn to the ground in a fit of pique and then makes his escape across the roof tops. Osborn finds the encounter "enlightening". He also finds Peter's camera flashing away, taking photos of the fight below.
In that fight, the Radioactive Man cannot stop Anti-Venom, who has none of the weaknesses of the original Venom. Spidey's powers are on the fritz, but he is still able to hold his own against Songbird. As the Thunderbolts begin to pull out, Spidey beats a retreat, leaving Anti-Venom to hitch a lift on the Zeus as it takes off.
Spidey changes back to Peter in an alley and then heads into the homeless shelter to help with the clean up (and to see that Aunt May is okay). Meanwhile, in an alley across the road a group of immigrants with lesions on their faces are staring at the remains of the FEAST centre: their "house of miracles".
At a diner, Ben Urich and Sally Floyd are waiting to meet with Sally's contact; the man who fed her information on Crowne's connection with human trafficking. They don't have to wait long before the contact, Mister Harry Osborn, puts in an appearance. Harry has files from his father's company proving that Crowne Industries and Oscorp have been working together to smuggle immigrants into the United States from China. Ben tells Harry that although his motivations in releasing this information may be pure, he is still a financial backer of Bill Hollister. As such, Urich is going to treat the evidence with suspicion.
After leaving the reporters, Harry hurries to the hospital where Bill Hollister is in intensive care. He meets Vin, who is trying to console Carlie, and goes into Hollister's private room where he finds Lily. He apologises for their argument before. Harry says that he wishes that Bill Hollister was his father, and that he was part of an entirely different family.
At Osborn Manor, Crowne and his goons face off against Norman and his better- armed goons. Crowne is complaining that Osborn is not moving quickly enough. The DB! has reported another spider-tracer murder. Osborn, rather disdainfully, points out that the most recent murder took place before the Thunderbolts arrived in New York. He leaves Crowne under no illusion who is in charge in their little relationship, and that further interference would be most unwelcome.
Osborn now enters a private room with the Radioactive Man, Songbird and Bullseye. He shows them the camera that he found on the roof by the FEAST centre. This is Spider-Man's camera. Evidently, he takes pictures of himself and then uses Peter Parker as a front man. Norman is most pleased to point out an additional discovery.
The camera automatically follows Spider-Man's every move. There is a sensor built into the spider on Spidey's chest that attracts the attention of the camera. With the camera they can trace the signal and arm the Thunderbolt's goon-squad with weapons that home in on Spidey and never miss. Combine that with Bullseye, and surely Spider-Man is as good as dead?
I am underwhelmed to see that the obfuscation of Peter's secret identity post- OMD has had the effect of turning even the most intelligent and conniving super- villain into the sort of cognitive dunce that makes Inspector Lestrade look imaginative. Peter Parker makes money selling photos of Spider-Man. A camera is webbed to a wall automatically taking pictures of Spider-Man. The camera is following a sensor built into Spider-Man's costume. The logical conclusion is that Spidey is taking pictures of himself and using Peter as a front to sell them? It doesn't occur to an intellect as developed as Norman Osborn's that Peter Parker might be Spider-Man?
This is the sort of 'everything new is old again' storytelling that can make Brand New Day a chore to read at times. You can almost feel the editorial mandate pressing down on the stories. The writers may have all the freedom in the world to tell the stories they want to tell, but there's little sense of that freedom.
I'm going to admit my less than encyclopaedic knowledge of Spidey's history when I say I can't remember if the gimmick of a tracking sensor in Spidey's costume has ever come into play before. It may be an invention of Dan Slott, it may not. Whatever its origin it's still a pretty silly idea. Spider-Man goes up against no end of technologically inclined villains on a daily basis. Suddenly he thinks it's a good idea to stick gadget on his chest that continually emits a tracking signal? Why doesn't he just tie his ankles together while he's at it?
This issue sees us pass the mid-point of New Ways to Die and it is now apparent that the story doesn't plan to achieve more than reintroducing Norman Osborn and Eddie Brock into Spidey's immediate circle of problems. This is the third issue of the fight at the FEAST centre which is a little excessive, even interspersed with more interesting scenes. New Ways to Die doesn't feel padded exactly, but it's not the most complicated Spider-Man story that's ever been written. There doesn't seem to be quite enough plot to justify six issues. I wouldn't be surprised to learn that the decision to do a six-parter came before the writers had invented the content. It is a nice excuse to see lots of John Romita Jr's art, though.
The scenes away from the fight are this issue's most compelling. We are treated to a greater incite in Harry's character - he has adopted Bill Hollister as a surrogate father figure and wants to be appreciated by him in a way that his real father never has. Just as Zeb Wells wrote back in #546 - Harry is only dating Lily to get close to her father. But it's not for the reason that Bill Hollister thought.
The battle of the goblins brings out the excited fan-boy in me. I find it quite disconcerting that I was rooting for Norman all the way, and wanted him to give Menace a good pasting. However, reading the scene again I still find the policy of drip-feeding information to the reader somewhat frustrating. Menace reveals that he has a stake in the election and the identity of the spider-tracer killer. Well, didn't we already know that?
Next issue, it's Spider-Man versus Bullseye. The tracking signal at least gives Bullseye half a chance, I suppose. He's somewhat underpowered against a precognitive foe otherwise.
A fair issue. Slott's writing forwarded the plot competently, and the art is very easy on the eye. There's nothing exceptional here though, and some of the necessary plot twists border on the silly. Three webs.