This one-shot is another addition to Marvel's What if? storyline, a series that does just what the title suggests...asking "what if?" events from prior tales had played out differently. This book focuses on the events that took place in both Dark Reign/Siege and 2013's Infinity storyline; both of which were major Marvel crossover events.
In this alternate universe, Norman Osborn gets his hands on the Infinity Gauntlet and let's just say things turned out a little differently than we all remember...
|Editor In Chief:||Axel Alonso|
|Cover Art:||James Flames|
|Lettering:||VC's Travis Lanham|
The story begins in flashback mode as a young Norman Osborn hides in the shadows of his house bracing for another beating from his enraged his father. Suddenly Amberson Osborn is transported into present day Asgard, which is currently under siege (pun-intended) by Norman Osborn and his Dark Avengers. Amberson watches in horror as his son uses the Infinity Gauntlet to kill the Avengers and Asgardians with incredible ease.
As the Dark Avengers walk victoriously through the carnage, Norman reminds them that this was simply a repeat performance from a past event. Osborn snaps his fingers causing the Dark Avengers to disappear and he and his father are alone floating on a rock in outer space
Amberson is in disbelief that this man is his son for multiple reasons but mostly because he cannot believe that his 'scared and weak' son could ever achieve such success. After tearing into his father for never believing in him, Norman takes Amberson to the throne city of his New Osborn Empire (formerly New York City). Goblin insignias adorn the skyscrapers of a city that has replaced the Statue of Liberty with a Statue of Osborn.
As Norman flaunts his kingdom to his father, he explains how he achieved world dominance. In short, used his resources within H.A.M.M.E.R. to research the Infinity Gauntlet then he rallied an army of villains to collect the gems. After he assembled the Gauntlet, it didn't take long for the Goblin King (I'm serious, there's a panel with a Hulked-out Green Goblin slaying the Avengers) to conquer the world.
Amberson is not impressed by his son's accomplishments, in fact it makes him downright angry. Citing the notion that the Osborns have always been a 'family of inventors', Amberson questions what his son could possibly want with all this power. Norman then shows his father just what true success looks like. Suddenly Amberson and his son find themselves atop the Brooklyn Bridge watching Gwen Stacy fall to her death. Norman explains to his father that having his arch-enemy (Spidey of course) continually relive the worst moment of his life is the true pinnacle of success.
Amberson is ashamed by his son's actions and calls him monster. Unable to deal with his father's criticisms, Norman snaps his fingers and his father's demeanor changes immediately. Amberson exclaims, "Son I'm so proud of you!" and he gives Norman a big hug. The two return to Osborn's kingdom only to find that all the Dark Avengers had been killed. Thanos then appears demanding Norman hand back the Infinity Gauntlet to its rightful owner.
Osborn, of course, does not back down as he morphs into the Goblin King. As Thanos and the Goblin King exchange blows, Thanos warns Osborn that it is not simply power that he craves but "the love of someone who will never return it." Norman disagrees (to put it lightly) and roasts Thanos into a charred corpse. After Amberson attempts to console his son, Norman turns his anger toward his father, demanding to know why his father loves him. Unsatisfied with his father's response (which was "because you're my son"), Norman erases his father from existence with Gauntlet.
Unfortunately for Norman, erasing his father from existence "of all time and space" means that he never existed either. Suddenly Norman fades away and the Gauntlet floats off into the ether of space.
Just so we're all on the same page, I really enjoyed 2009's Dark Reign but I really hated the way it ended with Siege. Aside from Tony Stark's ability to stop Norman with the push of a button (what took Stark so long to do that?), Siege's finale also lacked any significant involvement of Spider-Man to stop Osborn. But I don't want to dredge up the past, my point is only that an alternate ending to Dark Reign is a welcomed premise as far as I am concerned...even if it is not considered part of the mythos of the 616 universe. So does that mean this "what if" one-shot was a guaranteed slam dunk? I think the answer is yes and no.
Let's start with why I would say the story did not deliver.
I have my usual nitpicks regarding the story (and being a Green Goblin fan I'm probably a bit more critical). For one, the Goblin King's design looked ridiculous (perhaps it was meant to look comical) but honestly it looked like a World of Warcraft reject. Also, Amberson Osborn's remark that the Osborn's are a family of inventors doesn't jive with established storylines. In fact, the Osborn's have been presented as a family of crooks, owing their fortune to Alton Osborn, a robber baron. Lastly, Norman uses the Infinity Gauntlet to erase his father from existence, leading to he as well being removed from existence. This begs an obvious question, we have a magical glove here that can erase someone from existence but it can't be used to somehow keep Norman in existence? But, again, these are minor quibbles.
My real disappointment lies in the rather cliche story tropes this one-shot employs. For instance, was the creative team's message that there are some things even the Infinity Gauntlet can't get you (in this case, Norman seeking his father's love/approval)? If so, that's a litle corny. Or was the story meant to be yet another lesson that if a 'bad guy' (or any other type of imperfect human) gets his hands on the ultimate weapon, he's doomed for failure? Once again that premise is a little played out and unoriginal. If you distill the story down to those aspects, you come up feeling a little short-changed.
But there were some aspects of this story that, in my opinion, were perfectly executed. The idea that if Norman Osborn had unlimited power and he could do anything imaginable, he would chose to perpetually torment Peter Parker whilst proving himself to his father. I couldn't have drawn it up any better than that! Remember that Norman started out as a poor kid (his father had lost their family fortune) and he became hell-bent on re-establishing the family name to prominence. Of course he'd want to show (ie, rub it in the face of) his father what he'd accomplished. At the very core of Norman's evil is a desire to prove himself to other people, namely Peter Parker. The thing about Norman Osborn stories, or perhaps I should say 'good' Norman Osborn stories, is that they always boil down to a personal vendetta. This story is chock full of personal scores being settled, which is to be expected from a good Norman Osborn story. So if you look at this one-shot as a character piece, a deconstruction of Norman Osborn, you end up fairly satisfied.
I guess my take-home point is that the underlying themes to this Norman Osborn story were spot-on, the plot devices that got us to those themes were a little stale.
I'll close by saying this book had one of the best Green Goblin covers I've seen in a long time, its certainly poster-worthy!
Fairly interesting concept with a couple of nice touches within the story, but fell a little flat at the end.