Norman Osborn is now the leader of HAMMER, the organization that has succeeded SHIELD as an important police force at work in the world. Peter Parker is frustrated by this and the fact that his old boss, J. Jonah Jameson, is now the Mayor of New York, and still as anti-Spidey as ever. J. Jonah Jameson Sr., or Jay, is dating Aunt May. Harry Osborn's ex, Lily, also known as Menace, hasn't been seen since she was taken away by HAMMER.
On a nice day in Central Park, Peter and Harry take in the nice weather. Harry makes Peter get up and start talking to some girls, and thanks to Harry, he scores Peter a phone number. As the two walk away, the arrival of one of Hammer's airships causes a draft to blow away the phone number Peter just received. The two watch as the ship passes, and look up at Avengers Tower.
Later, at the offices of Front Line, Peter tries to get support for an article, any article, to try and bring down Norman Osborn. Norah is very amused, and Ben does his best to tell Peter just why he can't publish a story without some new damning evidence. Peter leaves, irritated at the situation.
Later, Spider-Man and Wolverine talk about Osborn, and how Spider-Man wants to remove him from power, and wants to break into Avengers Tower to do it. Spider- Man is hard on himself, and doesn't know what to say to Wolverine when he asks Spidey if he wants Osborn out of power, or dead. Wolverine tries to give Spider-Man advice, that with Osborn he should just wait it out, because types like him eventually explode all on their own. He also tells Spidey that if a time comes an Osborn slips up, which he's sure he will, and if Spidey DOES find himself in a position to end it... he should end it, permanently. Spidey isn't sure what to say, as Wolverine leaves.
Later, at Gracie Mansion, Peter and Harry arrive for dinner, as Peter has his picture taken next to J. Jonah Jameson. The two men spar verbally, because of the fact that they'll soon be related once May and Jay are married. As the assembled attendees are about to be seated for dinner, one more guest arrives, a special guest- Norman Osborn.
Peter is taken aback, and apologizes to Harry that he didn't know Norman would be there, and May wants to leave, but JJJ isn't a fan of the idea, even as his dad tells him he's leaving. Jay speaks out about Norman's presence, as Norman launches a verbal barb of his own against Jay.
When Harry asks Norman why he's come to the dinner, he reveals it's because he knew Parker would be bringing Harry with him, and as Harry is refusing all of his calls, it was the only way to see him. Norman asks Harry to come with him, work for him, with the Avengers. Harry laughs off the offer, and leaves the mansion.
Later that night, Harry is proud of himself for not letting Norman get to him when Menace shows up in his apartment. Menace tries to keep her composure, as the serum interacts with her system, before turning back into Lily, to show something to Harry.
Later that evening Norman is in his limo on Sixth Avenue when suddenly the roof is ripped off by webbing, and Norman is abducted. Spider-Man, with webbing tied around Norman, takes off from the scene. Spider-Man attacks Norman, brutally using force upon him, and warning him to stay away from Harry. Norman tells Spider-Man that he made Harry, and he can do anything to Harry that he wants. Spider-Man remembers Wolverine's comments to him earlier in the issue, but before anything can happen Norman gets a phone call from Harry. Harry agrees to accept Norman's offer, to work with him and the Avengers. Spider-Man can't believe it, and smashes a chimney while leaving the site, as Norman laughs in triumph.
Meanwhile, it is revealed that Harry has taken the offer to protect and save Lily and his family... as Lily is now pregnant!
In a vacuum, I quite enjoyed this issue of Amazing Spider-Man. However, ultimately I leave the vacuum and my remembers a lot of Spider-Man stories, because I've read a ton of them, and have a great recall of then, and a good sense of comic book history and continuity. And it's when I let in that part of my brain that this issue shows some wear and some cracks.
The essence of the story in this issue, thus far, is really quite good. Peter and Harry are friends, Harry's single but after dealing with his breakdown during the time Peter was gone, he's better than ever, at least on the outside, and so him and Peter hang out together, enjoying themselves. It's nice to see this being shown, because far too often we only get to see Peter Parker ditching his friends, and not actually hanging out and enjoying himself with them. However, the day is overshadowed by the presence of Norman Osborn and his Dark Avengers. As the day progresses, Norman is a constant presence, and Spider- Man has had enough, even as Harry gets an offer that ultimately he can't refuse, in order to protect his own family.
For the first third of the issue, everything here works and clicks quite well. We've got a good exploration, although it's brief, of Peter and Harry as friends, just hanging out as friends do, we've got Spider-Man talking to Wolverine, and stressing out about how now his arch-foe is one of the most powerful men in the country, and then we're at the Frontline offices, and we get to see Peter indignant, and Ben Urich play the part of understanding yet knowledgeable newspaperman.
I really liked how Ben Urich was being portrayed here, and it fits in line extremely well with Urich's history with Norman Osborn, from Spider-Man: Legacy of Evil, to when Norman Osborn returned both in Peter Parker: Spider-Man #75 and a little later in Spectacular Spider-Man #250, and later still how Ben was written with regards to Osborn in Civil War: Frontline. They have an important and textured history, that's for sure, and we get enough hints of how important it is, and the shadow it still casts on Ben, so I really liked that scene.
But when we get to a scene featuring JJJ, JJJ's Dad, May, Harry, Peter, and Norman... that's when characterization goes off the rails for me. Peter has NEVER had this kind of acrimonious relationship with JJJ before. They don't always get along, but ultimately, JJJ has always been a father figure of sorts, and has had a real soft spot for Peter in the past, even paying for his legal defense during "The Trial of Peter Parker" back in the mid-'90s during the infamous Clone Saga. So their portrayal really didn't work for me here, it may have fit if Peter was wearing his Spider-Man costume, but it doesn't work when he's just plain old Peter Parker.
That brings us to the way that May, JJJ and Norman Osborn are all relating to each other, as May just doesn't seem to be acting much in-character. I mean, when Norman first came back she was dead, and she only returned in Spectacular Spider-Man #263, and at that point Osborn was defeated in that storyline, and then when he did finally return again, she didn't see him at all. She doesn't know Peter is Spider-Man, therefore her dislike of Osborn to the point of where it was written here really didn't work for me nor make a lot of sense. Plus, JJJ as written here is cowtoeing and sucking up, and although I understand functionally why he would have to, it doesn't make sense that they make it seem more legitimate than fake, which considering Peter Parker: Spider-Man #75 and other such issues, there's a more acrimonious relationship at play there than portrayed here.
The Spider-Man/Norman Osborn interaction here really didn't work for me, first of all because it's been done, and in my opinion done to better effect and for a better overall storyline reason in Spectacular Spider-Man #250. I mean, the sequence LOOKS fantastic, I'm just not quite sure it was really necessary, and that it actually added much or even anything that was needed.
The artwork in this issue is done by Phil Jimenez, and the artwork is, predictably, fantastic. The detail is exquisite, the characters are really well- built and very attractive looking. The action, when it's here, looks superb, and the facial details, the character details, it all works amazingly well.
A fairly good first start, although I did have, obviously, some concerns and some quibbles with some of the choices that were made in this issue. But the art looks fantastic, and I'm really intrigued to see just how this storyline wraps up in four issues. Highly Recommended!