What's worse than Norman Osborn and Peter Parker in an elevator together? How about both of them trapped, as well as little Normie and Betty Brant, and the only way out is by Peter exposing his true identity? Don't believe me? Well, read on!
The PPSM crew takes a break from the juicy Jill Stacy storyline to deliver what I regard to be the best story out of this title in a LOOOOONNNNNGGGGG time (okay, so maybe I'm going out of order, but what the hey?).
First, let me get the background stuff out of the way. The mayor is creacking down on the guns trade, and Spidey's more than happy to help by wrapping up a nameless strongarm villain making off with a crate of automatics. We see a brief glimpse of the Kingpin and the 'who-the-heck-is-this-guy' Ox, ruminating over the Kingpin's plans to regain his throne of crime. Mary Jane and Peter are not doing well financially, but that doesn't mean they'll take Norman's filthy wad of cash he tried to stick in their faces.
Now to the good stuff. Peter and Betty are working on a case in the city room, and they're headed down to the lobby. They notice a strange-looking man loitering around the elevators. The doors open, and who else but Norman Osborn and his grandson are in there. 'We'll wait for the next one', Betty says. Peter's spider-sense goes off, and the stranger turns around, revealing himself to be Nitro, the Living Bomb! Peter quickly shoves Betty inside the elevator as Nitro releases his power, causing a huge explosion and senind the elevator plummeting down the shaft! Debris falls through the roof of the elevator, and Peter throws himself at little Normie and Betty, getting them out of harm's way. Norman, however, watches out for himself.
When the car comes to rest, the only two conscious ones are Norman and Peter. Both are trapped by the debris. Norman taunts Peter endlessly, pointing out that the security cameras might still be functioning, and that saving Betty and little Normie could reveal his secret to the world. Norman, however, doesn't dare use his goblin strength, regardless of the peril his grandson is in. The two enemies talk, Norman torturing Peter with painful memories, and talking about Peter letting everyone down, from Gwen Stacy, to Harry Osborn, to Peter's child. Peter, however, remarks back about Norman's derision of his only son.
Peter finally uses his great strength to free himself from the debris, and opens the elevator doors. As he's lifting little Normie and Betty out, the youngest Osborn wonders if Peter will free his grandpa. Always the hero, Peter tries to free Norman from the wreckage, but Norman has to help with his own super strength.
Peter wakes up in the hospital, where Norman strides in, telling J. Jonah to insure Peter get the best treatment. As Norman drives off in his limo, he calls for the 'Gathering of the Five'. We see a quick view of Hammerhead, ducking as an explosion rocks his apartment, and even the TV news wants to know "... who is running all criminal activity in the tri-state area tonight?"
I don't care what any of you think, I LOVED THIS ISSUE!!! It had everything going in it's favor, both as a stand-alone issue and a piece to the greater spider-puzzle. John Romita Jr.'s art is great in this issue, especially his facial expressions. You can really feel what the characters are feeling, and I like that. The shading and atmosphere created in this book really sold me.
I don't know who Howard Mackie's been taking lessons from, but his story-telling ability has really improved lately. Maybe he's been reading Avengers. Keep studying Howard!
For those of you who were patient enough to read last month's PPP thought might've caught my article on Norman Osborn, and his evil ways, and this issue only enforces that. Screw the Green Goblin! Norman Osborn is a much better villain than his pointy-eared counterpart, and this book is at its best when he's at his worst. He doesn't need super-powers to be super-bad (although the enhanced strength and regenration factor don't hurt).
Bring on Byrne. Bring on Volume 2. Bring on the sweeping changes that's got everyone all in a dither. As long as stories like this keep coming, you've got my attention (and all my cash). But you'd better be prepared to keep this kind of quality up!!!
Did you think I'd go through all that trouble and not give it the coveted five webs? This is the reason I read comics, for stories just like this. This restores my faith in Marvel's intentions for Spider-Man... for now. I have to go now, I'm tearing up.