Comics : American Son #3

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This review was first published on: Aug 2010.

Background...

Harry Osborn has been trying to carry on with a normal life after the events of Amazing Spider-Man #595-59, in which be became the superhero American Son, and the recent events of Siege which has seen his father, Norman Osborn, imprisoned for his actions and stripped of his powerful role as head of HAMMER. Unfortunately it’s not going very well…

Harry has been shot by Gabriel Stacy! He was saved by American Son but no-one is sure who American Son actually is…

In an attempt to find out, Harry visits Norman, with Front Line reporter Norah Winters. He learns that Gabriel is his half-brother and then outs him to the press.

Meanwhile, Gabriel, who is in possession of the American Son armour, seems to be losing it…

In Detail...

"Side Effects"
American Son #3
Sep 2010 : SM Guest
Summary: Spider-Man vs. American Son/Gabriel Stacy
Editor:  Tom Brennan
Writer:  Brian Reed
Pencils:  Phillipe Briones
Cover Art:  Marko Djurdjevic
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Articles: Gabriel Stacy, Green Goblin I (Norman Osborn) (FB), Green Goblin II (Harry Osborn), Winters, Norah

Years ago: a young Gabriel Stacy listens to his father, Norman Osborn, talk and talk about his other son Harry.

Now: Harry arrives to volunteer at FEAST as usual, but Aunt May questions whether he should be there. He says that he wants to do good, to have a positive effect.

In his warehouse lair, Gabriel Stacy yells at the American Son armour! He gets so furious that he smashes it and boxes it up! He leaves… to finish what he started!

Peter Parker, swinging as Spider-Man to find Harry, gets a call from Aunt May. She asks him to head over to FEAST as Harry has been spending the night there and is now being interviewed by FBI Agents.

Peter arrives to find Harry and Agent Owen discussing Harry’s protection and reviewing the security footage from The Coffee Bean. They watch as Gabriel shoots Harry then, four minutes later, American Son arrives. This is clearly different from the actual events (see #1) but Agent Owen surmises that Gabriel and American Son are the same person. They quickly realise that Harry might not be the only one in danger…

Norah Winters is about to get in a cab when American Son crashes down and flies off with her, taking her somewhere safe for her own protection. When they arrive at the warehouse, something changes in American Son. The armour comes off and we find Gabriel inside it… but he suddenly becomes violent towards Norah, punching her and tying her up! In a fury, Gabriel talks to the American Son helmet about control and the helmet talks back, saying that he is the part of Gabriel who has been telling him to stop his attacks on Harry! A mental battle begins between his two split personalities: Gabriel Stacy vs. American Son!

The police, Harry and Spider-Man all arrive at the same time! Spidey swings in and immediately begins to fight American Son who yells at him to stop as he’s got Gabriel under control!

As this happens, Harry sneaks in via the back way, accessing the building through an old Osborn code.

Spidey doesn’t trust what he hears and succeeds in smashing the American Son helmet but this kills the American Son personality and gives Gabriel full power over the suit! He launches Spider-Man through a window! Rising from a hatch behind him… Harry Osborn!

In General...

As Brian Reed sets up the conclusion to this story, there’s a little more to like this issue but also a lot more to talk about.

Comparing the security tape from this issue and the actual events (where American Son tussled with Gabriel) from #1, Reed’s Who Is American Son? plot is not yet over. Whilst I’m still not compelled to solve this, my intrigue levels have heightened at the smell of another protagonist getting involved. The final scene of Gabriel’s mental breakdown and then release, is another thing to praise. The action is good, the pencils relay the full madness of Gabriel’s state of mind and Phillipe Briones delivers excellent pace and drama on the penultimate page. You really start to see the Osborn in Gabriel!

However, even with more Spider-Man, this remains a detached set of characters. Harry’s backbone needs to be more prominent and mysterious, I can see why Reed involved Norah here but it’s a little “cameo” and Gabriel’s split personality wasn’t totally convincing. I actually had to re-read to check the American Son armour wasn’t being remotely controlled or something.

Briones art is strong throughout. The montage of American Son in Gabriel’s head is superb and captures the assembly of the armour, the panic and madness of Gabriel and the internal conflict. There are lots of other examples of where Briones tells the story well and I continue to believe he’s one to watch. The thing that lets most of his art down is the colouring job. Whilst I know FEAST isn’t that inspiring as a setting, Jeromy Cox leaves a lad taste in my mouth with all the greys, browns and beiges.

Overall Rating...

This sets up a reasonable conclusion but there has not been enough character investment in the pervious two issues to make this as involving as it could be.

Great art from Briones, looking forward to seeing more action sequences from him next issue.