After several years with the world believing him to be dead, Harry Osborn has returned to the home of his estranged wife, Liz Allan, and the son, Normie to make amends. Peter Parker has tagged along because he's Harry's friend and likes putting himself in difficult situations. In this case he didn't know how difficult. Liz's step-brother (aka the Molten Man) has a dangerous degenerative condition and lives in a special secure room in Liz's suburban home. Raxton hates Harry, and when he turned up, Raxton escaped and all hell broke loose.
Raxton confronts Harry and Liz as the house continues to burn around them. Raxton wants Harry dead (again) for everything he has put Liz and Normie through. Harry doesn't seem to want to defend himself against Raxton. He wants to help, he says that he can explain.
Peter plucks Liz from harm's way and carries her out of the house. On the way out he drop kicks a handy wall, burying Raxton and nonchalantly saving Harry from being burned alive. Dropping Liz and Normie on the lawn, Peter tells them he knows Spider-Man is close by, and that he should be able to go and get him before things get even uglier.
As the neighbours frantically phone for the fire brigade, the police and the army, Harry clambers out of a window of the burning building and heads for his car. Raxton reaches him before he can open the vehicle. But again, Harry pleads with Raxton. He wasn't trying to get away, he wants to help Raxton. He has something that might be able to reverse his condition. At which point Spidey swings into the fray, making any chance of a peaceful resolution impossible.
As Spidey tussles with the Molten Man, Harry berates him for turning up at all. Why is Spider-Man in New Jersey after all? Is he stalking Harry? He jumps to the conclusion that Peter must have phoned him from the gas station they stopped at in the previous issue. Harry now urges Spider-Man to keep the enraged Molten Man busy. Harry has what it takes to deal with him permanently. He pops the trunk of his car and removes a canister marked Prometheus X-90.
Liz runs across the road to her neighbours who are already packing the car and preparing to flee. She hands them Normie to look after, and then turns around to see Harry pointing a futuristic gun at Raxton. Liz runs back and tries to wrestle the gun out of Harry's hand.
Meanwhile Spidey and the Molten Man continue to fight. Spidey goads Raxton onto the street, where the heat from the Molten Man's body begins to melt the tarmac. As they continue to fight, Raxton becomes increasingly covered in the stuff.
Harry says that he isn't trying to kill Raxton, that he has a plan. Ever since he revealed his 'resurrection' to Liz, and Liz told him that she didn't want him back, Harry has been thinking of a way to balance the scales between them. All he had ever give her was a terrible marriage, he wanted to do something for her. When he learned of Raxton's deteriorating condition he decided to do something positive. As head of Oscorp he pushed significant money into R&D and developed a serum that would purge all the molten material out of Raxton. The question is, does Liz trust him enough to try?
This is when Spider-Man turns up, and manages to convince Liz to let Harry take his shot. Much to Harry's annoyance, Spidey liberates the X-90 from him and uses his customary agility and dazzling repartee to deliver it. Suffice to say that Harry's work seems to have been a complete success.
By dusk, an ambulance has arrived to take the now human Mark Raxton to hospital. Raxton tells his sister that he thinks Harry has really changed. Maybe he deserves a second chance. Liz tells Harry that he's made up for all the pain he's caused her in the past. And she returns her wedding ring to him. "I hope it brings you better luck this time," she says.
While they're waiting to be questioned by the police Harry and Peter sit and talk. Harry says that the Promethean Trials were solely to find a cure for the Molten Man. He knew it would work because he experimented on one human subject: Charlie Weiderman. It was from Charlie that Harry found out that Aunt May's house had been destroyed, which is how Harry knew to rebuild it.
Before that revelation has the chance to sink in, we flash to an unrelated epilogue. The Bookie is standing proudly in front of a map of the city with the location of all the spider-tracer killings marked. He is looking very smug, because he has worked out who the Spider-Tracer killer is! However, his smug look soon evaporates when the killer smashes his way into the room and murders the Bookie.
This is an extremely competent and entertaining conclusion to Slott's two parter. It was billed as a story that would reveal the secrets lurking behind Harry Osborn and, for once, Marvel has delivered on their advertising hype. This is definitely the best over-all story that Dan Slott has written for Amazing Spider-Man. Yes, I liked this one a great deal.
Prometheus X-90 was first introduced in Amazing Spider-Man (Vol. 1) #573, at the end of the New Ways to Die arc. That story seemed to set the scene for a darker Harry Osborn: one who was experimenting on human test subjects for unknown ends, who seemed set to take up the mantle of the Green Goblin once again. Of course none of this was true; the writers having pulled a successful bait and switch with us. I for one am happy to have been fooled.
Bringing Harry back from the dead was always going to be a hard sell with Spidey fans, but Slott has offered all the right explanations. Resurrections in comics are hardly ever desirable, and only seek to cheapen what has gone before. On the whole they should be avoided. However, when I finished reading the issue I was of a mind that the explanations we have been given are as good as we could have realistically hoped for. That may sound like faint praise but, given the amazing wall of negativity that Slott had to climb to convince me of anything, it's something of an accomplishment.
The method of Harry's resurrection was happily divorced from the OMD fiasco, and is certainly no worse (or no better) that Norman's resurrection in the 90s. Every other revelation is an organic extension of the story. We now know what Harry was up to, what happened to Liz and Normie and why Aunt May's house was rebuilt, and all of it seems reasonable and natural. Bravo.
The emotional core of this issue was the relationship between Harry and Liz, which is (obviously) something the comics haven't touch on in decades. It was good to see the two of them together again, and better to see them part amicably. I really hope that we see Harry and Liz go on to become significant supporting players in their own right. I hope we don't see them thrown back together again, just because the invisible status quo demands it. Let's see the ramifications of one failed marriage in this title at least.
Slott writes a good Spidey, and nowhere was this better evidenced than during the fight scene with Raxton. Spidey veered from painful puns to genuinely insightful comments into Raxton's situation. Of course, Mike McKone's pencils definitely helped here. There's a fantastic energy to the art. The characters look as though they're really moving. Excellent stuff.
I'll conclude this review with a few words of wisdom from Normie Osborn:""Why are you all like this? Dad's like a zombie! Uncle Pete knows that creep, Spider-Man! And Uncle Mark's all weird... why can't you all be normal?" You've got to say the kid has a point.
Excellent script, inspired plotting and accomplished art. Brand New Day doesn't get any better than this. Yet. Four and a half webs.
The second molten man, Charlie Weiderman, was the feature villain in Joe Straczynski's memorable Skin Deep arc that began in Amazing Spider- Man (Vol. 1) #515. Charlie burned down Aunt May's house in Amazing Spider- Man (Vol. 1) #518.