The plot has thickened for Norman Osborn as he now finds himself locked away in a super secret prison known as the S.C.C., which happens to be located at the bottom of the ocean. Transferred in an underhanded manner from the Raft to the S.C.C., Norman's new location is the product of a plot engineered by a Senator named Bill Morrison. Morrison, along with some Green Goblin tattoo-bearing co-conspirators, have manipulated Osborn's escape from the prison all the while framing Senator Sondra Muffoletto as the mastermind behind plot.
The means for Osborn's escape from the S.C.C. came in the form of a staged prison riot, in which Osborn suddenly found himself a champion of the people. As Osborn rallied the morales of the inmates, Norah Winters was observing Osborn's latest ascension into power. Winters had been brought to the prison by an anonymous source whilst she was following a lead into Osborn's disappearance from the Raft. Suddenly, Osborn ordered fellow inmate Ai Apaec to raid the lookout which housed Norah and soon Ai returned to Osborn with the perfect captive...an investigative reporter.
As Norah stared into Norman's eyes, she had a stunning realization...there must be a God! She reasoned that since nature has a 'fondness for balance', then there must be a benevolent deity somewhere to even up for the evil that stood before her! Norman immediately questioned his captive as to how she arrived at the S.C.C. and after she explained that she was following a lead, he had a wonderful idea. Osborn handed her a pad and pen (not sure where he got them from) and told her that he will give her the story of the century, he then focused his attention on the inmates. Borrowing a bit from Mark Antony in Julius Caesar, Norman addressed the crowd as 'Friends, Countrymen, Reprobates' and explained to them that they have all been unlawfully detained. He goes on to say that he will not stand for the injustice they have received and that he will burn the prison to the ground. The prisoners cheer madly in his support.
Osborn was ready to prepare a strategy for his escape, but something did not sit right with him as far as Norah's arrival at the prison, more specifically her anonymous escort who seemingly disappeared just as Ai Apaec snatched her. Norman pointed out that a whistle-blower would have a lot to gain by exposing the S.C.C., yet this source clearly did not want a public connection made between he and the prison. Norah quickly interjected and stated that she had been approached only after she looked into Norman's last visitor (Sondra Muffoletto) at the Raft. "Visitors", Norman stated as he corrected Norah and suddenly Norman put it all the pieces together. He realized that Muffoletto was being set up and he knew she was the key to his escape.
Norah scoffed at Norman's plan to expose the S.C.C. to the world, she believed that no one would care once they realized who was locked away in there. But Osborn played the patriot card and contended that if these prisoners were born on American soil, than they had rights and they deserved a trial. Father Coulmier interrupted their soap-box bickering and informed them there was a code that could be used to telephone the surface, within seconds Osborn had Muffoletto on the line. Norman reminded the Senator that she was being set up (a fact she realized at the conclusion of Osborn #3) so he bargained for a legal escort out of the prison, a transfer back to the Raft, and a trial. In exchange, he would help the Senator bury this story and Norah would return to NYC as if nothing had happened. Muffoletto took Osborn's offer and told him where the escape pod in the S.C.C. was located. Immediately after getting off of the phone, Muffoletto contacted the Pentagon.
Coulmier was surprised to see Muffoletto provide Osborn with such an obvious opportunity to double-cross her and simply make a run for freedom. Norman was suspicious as well and decided to dig a little deeper into the motivations of his priestly associate. After Osborn questioned the nature of Coulmier's 'grand plan', the priest responded that it was simply to free him from incarceration. Coulmier went on to say that despite being aware that Osborn's freedom was also the intention of others, he was not privy to their motives. After hearing the priest describe him as 'a man of lawlessness and a man whose ascension is a herald...', Osborn decided to test the Coulmier's convictions. He sent the priest on a suicide mission.
As the group (which included Norah, June Covington, Pryor Cashman, Ai Apaec, and Norman) made their way to the escape pod, Norah's anonymous source appeared before them, one Carney Rives! Rives, a phasable entity, was originally a prisoner in the Third Wing but he was removed just prior to Osborn's arrival in Osborn #1. Norman piloted the escape pod, with six passengers packed in, as Coulmier began opening hatch doors in an attempt to implode the prison. But Coulmier's suicide mission was a futile attempt, because two men (who appeared to be US military but that was not confirmed) fired missiles at the S.C.C., annihilating the prison just as Osborn and the others made their getaway!
This was an interesting penultimate issue of this mini series, but I'm not quite sold on its value as a story just yet...the success of this series, in my opinion, will come down to how well it wraps up in next month's installment. As of right now, there's a lot that needs explaining.
For instance, the Goblin Cult made its debut in the pages of Amazing Spider-Man when Vin Gonzalez confronted Harry Osborn after Harry's going away party. Gonzalez's connection to Osborn seemed very personal during that scene, yet it appears right now as if Vin is just another face in the crowd that blindly supports Osborn. I'd like to see Vin's subplot followed up a bit in the final issue, but I'm not sure we'll see that happen.
My concern with the Vin subplot leads right into my concern with the Father Coulmier subplot, specifically, his motivations within the Goblin Cult. To me, the most fascinating thing about this Goblin Cult (and this mini series in general) is why would anyone join? Really, why? Especially in light of Osborn's humiliating defeat during his siege on Asgard and how utterly crazy he appeared as the TV networks filmed every second of his breakdown. Don't get me wrong, I think that it is entirely possible for people to find Osborn worship-able, but I'd imagine the reason for doing so would be different for each individual. The story characterizes Coulmier as a die-hard loyalist and the only explanation is a flimsy rationale that he simply wanted Osborn freed to usher in some new era. What's wrong with the current era, Coulmier? Give me something to chew on here, otherwise Coulmier's character is too boring and flat, in my opinion. Basically, I'd like to see some character development (or background or whatever) on Coulmier that would explain why he identifies with Osborn so much. Why he is willing to sacrifice his life for Osborn's benefit? Because right now he just comes off as a religious zealot who may or may not be totally insane!
My concern with Coulmier's motivations takes me into my next concern, that is, Senator Bill Morrison, one of the high-level manipulators pulling strings for Osborn. I'm not quite sure what he's blackmailing Muffoletto with, because there were witnesses (Senator Kohut being the one of significance here) to the decision to move Osborn to the S.C.C. (back in Osborn #1). So it should be rather difficult for Morrison to completely cover his tracks, otherwise I'm not sure how Muffoletto could be framed. This needs to be fleshed out a lot more. I've been very leery on conspiracy-based plot-lines ever since The X-files fell flat on its face, so I wasn't thrilled to see that this is where this arc was headed. Hopefully this mini does not fall victim to a conspiracy theory plot that gets too convoluted or too ridiculous that this story suffers.
I have to give the creative team some credit for utilizing Carny Rives as the anonymous informant. I honestly did not see that coming and it was set up nicely in the first issue with what seemed to be his dramatic exit from the Third Wing. Now the trouble becomes that this must be explained further, clearly Morrison and Coulmier engineered his removal from the S.C.C. so that he could go public (or encourage someone else to go public) in regards to the secret prison. How did he know where to go? Who aided him in finding Norah and why? How did Morrison know they could trust him and how does it tie into Morrison's plot with the Goblin Cult? Again, I think these questions are critical in determining the value of this mini series.
Moreover, who ordered the destruction of the S.C.C.? Was that part of Morrison's cover up or Muffoletto's contacting of the Pentagon? Either way, that is another thing I will be awaiting the explanation for.
One last observation, without Loki tinkering around inside Norman's psyche, we witnessed Osborn's ability to exude intangible leadership qualities and foster the morale of the inmates. It looked as though he was going to be in a straight-jacket for the rest of his life after his siege on Asgard, but now he seems to have gotten it all together again...good for him!
Suffice it to say that I'm anxiously awaiting the final installment of this mini series, so...mission nearly-accomplished DeConnick and Rios!
For reasons mentioned above, I can't rate this too high until its finale next month. This issue was pretty much a set up issue for what should prove to be an interesting conclusion, but there is a lot of threads still dangling that need more clarification. I'll reserve my rating for the whole mini series at the conclusion of next issue.