Comics : Amazing Spider-Man (Vol. 4) #28

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This story is part of an Arc: "The Osborn Identity"
     Part 1 / Part 2 / Part 3 / Part 4

This review was first published on: 18 Jun 2017.

Background...

Norman Osborn has raised the stakes against Spider-Man as the web-slinger prepares to free the people of Symkaria. The original Green Goblin, alongside Countess Karkov, has launched a bomb full of the Goblin Formula with the intent of converting every Symkarian citizen into a member of his Goblin army!

Spider-Man has decided to use all of his Parker Industries technology to thwart Osborn's latest offensive. Will there be time for Spidey to save Symkaria, catch Osborn and restore his shaky relationship with Nick Fury and S.H.I.E.L.D.? Only time will tell...

In Detail...

"One-on-one"
Amazing Spider-Man (Vol. 4) #28
Aug 2017 : SM Title
Arc: Part 4 of "The Osborn Identity"
Writer:  Dan Slott
Pencils:  Stuart Immonen
Inker:  Wade von Grawbadger
Cover Art:  Alex Ross
Lettering:  VC's Joe Caramagna
Colorist:  Andres Mossa, Marte Gracia
Editor In Chief:  Axel Alonso
Editor:  Nick Lowe
Associate Editor:  Devin Lewis
Assistant Editor:  Allison Stock
Staff Only
Issue
Review
Articles: Green Goblin I (Norman Osborn)

As Spider-Man and his allies (Mockingbird, Silver Sable and her new Wild Pack) prepare to storm Castle Karkov, Norman Osborn launches a missile chock full of Goblin Serum at the Symkarian civilians. At the conclusion of the previous issue Osborn had ominously stated that he was going to create an invincible Goblin Army with this bomb. Spider-Man had deduced Osborn’s plan after he had unmasked a Goblin Soldier and realized that they were full-on Goblins underneath their masks.

Spidey recognizes there’s no time to waste, he sends Mockingbird to dismantle the bomb mid-flight (she can fly…and she’s really smart!). Sable sends the Wild Pack to fight the Goblin Soldiers whilst she and Spider-Man take the fight to Castle Karkov. Mockingbird makes her way to the missile but soon realizes that she’ll need the help of S.H.I.E.L.D. if she wants to ensure the safety of the civilians. She contacts Fury, who was none-too-pleased to hear from her, but nevertheless decides to aid his former agent since innocent lives are at stake.

Once inside the castle, Sable finds Countess Katrina Karkov and the two women decide to settle their beef the only way Symkarians know how…with a sword fight! Spidey leaves so they can duel and he heads off to find Osborn. He uses his Spider-Sense in reverse (ie, by heading toward danger) in order to track Osborn within the castle and soon enough the two are face to…melted face.

Osborn takes the upper hand at first, letting Spidey know that he’s holding the trigger for the missile and he will detonate it if the web-slinger gets any closer to him. This gives Norman the opportunity to run and to have Spidey chase him right into a trap. Even though the web-slinger sees the trap coming a mile away, he has no choice but to chase Osborn through the castle. En route to Osborn, Spidey is exposed to gas that he immediately recognizes because it’s the classic Goblin weapon that dampens his Spider-Sense.

As Spider-Man continues to chase Osborn he’s exposed to a second and third gas each of which remove one of his Spider-powers. The second gas removed his Spider-based speed and the third his ability to stick to walls. As Spidey comes crashing to the ground, Osborn sets off an EMP (electromagnetic pulse) that fries all the tech associated with his suit (eg, his voice-activated web shooters, the lenses on his eyes, etc). With Spider-Man reeling from the attack he just endured, Osborn decides to antagonize him a bit further. Reminding the web-head that he (Spider-Man) is “the one who wanted to make this personal…[Osborn was] minding his own business…what has [Osborn] ever done to [Spider-Man]?”

Spidey immediately recalls the death of Gwen Stacy and an enraged web-slinger tackles Osborn through a window in the castle and the two fall multiples stories to the ground outside on the snowy-mountains below.

Meanwhile, Mockingbird disables the bomb and tasks the Wild Pack, who were flying the Spider-planes, to “do something Spidery!”. They do, in fact, they catch the bomb with a web net that is a few-miles across. The civilians in Symkaria were saved! Back within the castle, Silver Sable and Countess Karkov continue their battle as Sable takes the upper hand in their duel. Eventually Karkov is forced to surrender.

On the mountain slopes outside the castle, the powerless Osborn and the newly-powerless Spider-Man continue to duke it out mano y mano. Spidey questions why Osborn didn’t simply kill him after the gases removed his Spider-powers. In typical Norman fashion he retorts, “I wanted to make sure you knew that you were nothing compared to me. Just some dumb kid. That I can break you whenever I want. With my own two hands!” He goes on to say that he never planned to kill him that he wanted Spider-Man and all the people of Symkaria turned into his “loyal Goblin slaves” and that that would be the ultimate revenge on Spider-Man.

The tables quickly turn for Osborn though, because he soon realizes that his missile had been deactivated. Spidey then catches Osborn off-guard and bashes his head with a rock whilst reminding him that he was not some “dumb kid”, he was a great student. And although Norman contends it was Spidey’s luck that led to his consistent victories over the Goblin, Spider-Man argues that it was due to the fact that he never gives up.

Soon after, S.H.I.E.L.D. agents arrive and Osborn escapes, Spidey is too weak to chase him and the web-head takes a face-plant right into the snow. When he wakes up Osborn is long-gone and he’s accompanied by Mockingbird, Sable and Fury. The S.H.I.E.L.D. director informs Peter that they are severing all ties with Parker Industries because of this unauthorized incursion on foreign soil. That's obviously not good news for Peter but the Uncle Ben Foundation (including Aunt May and Harry Osborn) is in Symkaria handing out food and provisions to the war-tormented civilians.

Harry shares a quick moment with Spider-Man and the hero reminds the young Osborn that he is not responsible for Norman and that Harry should go home and be with his two sons.

The story ends with Norman Osborn returning to the shadows as he plots his next move. He realizes that the only way to defeat Spider-Man is to “let his demons out” and that there is only one true Osborn Identity...and thus Norman concludes, “The Green Goblin must live again!”

In General...

I’m not going to mince words, The Osborn Identity story arc was a disappointment on many levels, but ultimately because it felt like a filler story to bridge the gap between The Clone Conspiracy and the upcoming Secret Empire crossover event. I know its easy to sit here and criticize someone else’s work, so I’m going make a case as to why I feel the way I do, perhaps you’ll agree.

Slott and the rest of the creative team have been building to this story for a while now; going all the way back to early 2016 with Amazing Spider-Man (Vol. 4) #4…so one would have to believe that they’ve been thinking about this plot for a significant period of time. But there seems to be, at least from my perspective, some glaring flaws in the story’s main premise. That premise being that without the Goblin Formula, Norman Osborn is a new man, one without the liabilities (ie, the craziness) that the infamous formula bestowed upon him. They’ve been hammering us over the head with the following notion: that this is a cold, calculating Norman Osborn…not that crazy guy from the past who always fails to defeat Spider-Man. This version of Osborn should be feared, because he has no liabilities associated with the Goblin. Yet, in the end, this Osborn was arguably defeated easier than any instance in the past as the Green Goblin.

Norman’s plan to defeat Spider-Man was to ‘depower’ him by removing his tech and his Spider-powers. Osborn employs a series of gases that remove his ability to stick to walls, his Spider-sense and his Spider-speed. Here’s problem #1, he did those exact same things when he was the Green Goblin (quite effectively I might add)! So how does that demonstrate a measurable difference between this Osborn and the Goblin-Osborn??

After depowering Spider-Man, Osborn passes up on the opportunity to simply kill Spidey, instead he opts for the classic Osborn tactic of letting him live so that he can suffer watching innocent people (including Spidey) be converted into Goblins. Wait…what?? This deGoblinized Osborn sacrifices a tactical advantage just to prove an (unprovable) point. Where is the supposed rational, cold, calculating Norman Osborn? There’s nothing deliberate about that approach by Osborn, in fact it’s the same thing every crazy, irrational villain has ever done (that is, opt out of killing the hero because you have a fate far worse for him…which ultimately never occurs).

This leads to my main frustration, the only conclusion you can draw from that sequence of events is that the incessant reminder that Osborn is now cold and calculating was simply a misdirection…a ruse to make us think something different might actually occur at the conclusion of this story arc. That’s unfortunate because there’s zero subtlety or nuance to that approach, just a complete fake-out to distract the reader. When, at the end of the day, the creative team had no intention of demonstrating a different behavior out of Osborn. He basically did the same thing he had always done as the Green Goblin, behave irrationally until Spidey eventually finds a way to stop him. The only difference this time was that he wasn’t wearing a Green Goblin costume.

I’m not suggesting that Slott should have had Osborn kill Spider-Man, we know he can’t do that (at least we hope!), but I’d prefer that he not continually reinforce a notion that he has no plan of adhering to. And given the conclusion of this story, it’s unlikely we’ll ever see this type of Osborn again (because he planned to re-expose himself to the Goblin Formula). So there wasn’t any significant commitment to this version of Osborn, he’s headed right back to the way he was prior to Goblin Nation (that is, under the influence of the Goblin Formula).

When I reviewed the prior issue I mentioned that Osborn was behaving like a crazy person throughout this arc (despite the author continually stating the opposite) and I suggested that perhaps that was Slott’s subtle message: That Norman is crazy regardless of how much Goblin Formula is coursing through his veins. Having seen this now come to fruition it still leaves a bad taste in my mouth, which leads me to my second major criticism of this story…that Slott really didn’t add anything new to the Goblin/Spider-Man mythos. Most readers familiar with Norman Osborn are aware that he is/was/always will be deranged in his own way, independent of the Formula. That’s a recurring theme throughout his history (both in retcons and original works). So if that is Slott’s subtle point, its not particularly original.

More to that point, Osborn’s angle that he wanted to make sure that Spider-Man is “nothing compared to [Osborn]” has been stated over and over again throughout the years. In fact, its been the driving force behind many Green Goblin plots, his inherent drive to prove his superiority over Spider-Man. You may be asking yourself, why are you complaining about something that is established dogma? Fair point, I can’t complain about continuity flaws and continuity adherence. However, I want to lobby a criticism that isn’t Slott’s fault. Specifically, the current status quo in which Osborn does not know Spider-Man’s alter ego. Point being, in the past Osborn typically has tried to demonstrate his superiority over Peter Parker (and Spider-Man to some extent). Therefore if you’re going to have a slug-it-out battle at the conclusion of this story and you want us to believe that Osborn is proving himself over his adversary…that adversary better be Peter Parker! So the current status quo made this story less compelling and that blame doesn’t fall solely on Slott.

But it does beg the question: why haven’t we seen an Osborn/Green Goblin story in which the #1 Spider-Man villain is working every possible angle to find out WHO SPIDER-MAN IS?? One could make an argument that Osborn is almost apathetic to the notion of uncovering who’s behind Spider-Man’s mask. And seeing as that is one of his biggest accomplishments as the Green Goblin, its curious that no one has attempted to write another Osborn/Parker unmasking story (seems like its a low hanging fruit!).

I’ve just gone through some of my major complaints about this arc, there were little things as well that bothered me. I'm simply listing them below, hopefully they're self-explanatory, there's no sense to elaborate on them further (this rant/review is long enough already!).

For one, Osborn is supposed to be depowered, yet Spider-Man bashes him in head repeatedly with a rock during their fight. We can suspend our disbelief when these guys are super-powered, but if we're to buy that he doesn't have his powers (and thus he's not crazy) shouldn't he also not be able to absorb multiple blows to his head with a rock??

Which brings me to my next point, Norman Osborn, after being bashed in the head with a rock (without his Goblin strength) is able to once again simply walk off to escape being arrested. What makes that more egregious is that that is exactly what happened at the conclusion of Goblin Nation. So not only was it absurd it was unoriginal.

Silver Sable's fight with Countess Karkov ended so abruptly and nonsensically that I wasn't even sure what was going on. Talk about anti-climatic! I challenge you to reread those panels and explain to me how and why Karkov surrendered.

Harry Osborn's involvement in The Osborn Identity (and in particular this issue) was trivial and seemingly shoe-horned into the last few panels of this book. What a lost opportunity to add a level of personal connection to this Osborn arc. Frankly it would have been better if he was never seen at all.

I don't expect this next one to aggravate everyone, perhaps just us staunch Green Goblin fanatics. Spider-Man mentions that as the Green Goblin, Osborn would never use the same gas twice...because that would be 'boring' (see below).

Well, truth is the original Green Goblin has used the Spider-sense dampening gas a few times on Spider-Man. Aside from the infamous Amazing Spider-Man #39, Norman also used that gas on Peter during Revenge of the Green Goblin #1 (see below).

Some may view that as a nitpick, but to me that was part of Slott's narrative that this version of Norman was somehow different, however, as I have pointed out numerous times in this review...that was just simply not the case.

Last but not least, let's ask ourselves that salient question...did Spider-Man get that 'win' he was after? I believe the answer to that question is no. Osborn is not in custody and S.H.I.E.L.D. has cut ties with Parker Industries. You could argue they liberated Symkaria, fair point, but because of their incursion on that nation Osborn nearly dropped a bomb on the city. Luckily they were able to avoid that outcome. Then again, had the bomb dropped on Symkaria, there is a Goblin Cure (from the Goblin Nation story arc), so they probably could have salvaged the city if the bomb did detonate. Nevertheless, Peter's whole motivation at the onset of this story seemed to be completely and utterly unachieved. But, like I suggested earlier, I'm not a bit surprised.

Overall Rating...

Its good to see the that the original Green Goblin will eventually return, but for the most part this story felt rushed and not particularly well thought out. 2 webs, final offer.