Norman Osborn, Spider-Man’s arc-nemesis The Green Goblin, ended up in charge of HAMMER after the events of Secret Invasion. During his time in charge, he enrolled his son Harry as a superhero and created the American Son armour for him. In an emotional encounter, also involving Spider-Man and Menace (Lily Hollister – who was Harry’s girlfriend but ended up pregnant with Norman’s baby!), Harry defeated his father and walked away from the Osborn Empire. See Amazing Spider-Man #595-599 for more details.
Harry positively turned his attention to The Coffee Bean (his own business) and negatively… to prescription painkillers…
During Siege, Norman was brought to justice and imprisoned for his actions.
A man steals the American Son armour from the locked down Avengers Tower.
After the fall of Norman Osborn during Siege, his son Harry tries to continue running The Coffee Bean, ignoring the hounding from the press outside.
Across town, an armed crook holds up a bus full of people. The superhero American Son flies in and takes him out!
Norah Winters, journalist for Front Line, decides to investigate who American Son is and goes to see Harry. She rules him out as he looks pasty and sickly. Harry serves her coffee and then excuses himself. He goes in the back and pops some prescription pills…
Later, when Harry returns home to Mary Jane’s apartment (where he is living at the moment), she asks if he is ok. He brushes her off and goes to bed. MJ calls Peter and asks if he can talk to Harry about what’s wrong. She thinks he is taking drugs again. In his room, Harry proves her right by taking more of his pills.
The following day, Special Agent Owen visits Harry at work. Agent Owen is investigating the disappearance of his partner, Agent Ryan, who was working undercover at Avengers Tower under Norman Osborn’s rule. Osborn caught Ryan snooping and experimented on him, turning him into a monster! American Son killed this monster a few days ago (Age Of Heroes #2)! Agent Owen explains that the American Son armour can only be operated by an Osborn, so he demands to know what Harry is doing. Harry throws it back at him: even if he is American Son, he has a superhero license. When Agent Owen also accuses him of stealing diamonds from an armoured truck, Harry has had enough and storms out the back… where he runs into Spider-Man! Having not spoken to him since he defeated and left his own father, Harry punches him in anger, screaming that he daren’t lecture him on rights and wrongs!
Later, Harry is back at work. A man comes in and introduces himself as his brother… Gabriel Stacy! Gabriel, who is the warped offspring of Norman Osborn and Peter Parker’s love, Gwen Stacy, pulls out a gun… and shoots Harry in the chest!
Is the return of Gabriel Stacy and American Son interesting? I’m undecided, but the way Brian Reed delivers Gabriel into this story is a little tiring. Granted he shoots Harry but, to me, that’s a little cheap way of making an impact.
What I’m more interested in is Harry’s current character. Reed uses this issue to establish this, which is fair for an opening, and introduces a subplot of Agent Ryan’s death. As far as Harry descending into drugs again, I can’t say this is neither fresh ground nor ground that requires revisiting. Do something new please.
The best piece of art by far in this issue is Marko Djuerdjevic’s cover. The style, design and messages within the cover are utterly capturing. I completely love it as a piece of art and it delivers on the impact front.
The clean sketchy style of Phillipe Briones is also very good though. He balances the ink well, allowing the pencils and perspective to pop off the page and not get caught in the thin-lined, light feel of his pencils. I’m particularly impressed with the composition of his characters. There isn’t one panel where the likeness and realism of his characters slip and I think he’d be an artist to keep an eye on and learn from.
A fair start with good art but the lack of emotional involvement, so far, hurts the story. Harry, Gabriel, Norah and American Son are characters that could hold their own series if written with creative freedom, depth and development. Whether they will, I don’t know.