At the conclusion of the Final Chapter story arc in Peter Parker Spider-Man #98, Norman Osborn was carted off to Bellevue where he was unmasked by a group of guards and doctors. Norman was a babbling incoherent mess because he had received the ‘gift of madness’ from the Gathering of Five ritual. Fortunately for him though, Norman’s secret ID as the Green Goblin remained intact due to a small group of loyal Scriers who attacked and killed the Bellevue attendants. The insane Norman Osborn was now back in the care of the Scrier cabal, allowing the super villain to regain his sanity privately. It would not be long before the Green Goblin was ready to plot revenge against his arch nemesis Spider-Man.
Osborn’s battle with the ‘gift of madness’ as well as his return to the Spiderverse are both featured in a five part story arc that weaves through the mini-series Revenge of the Green Goblin and the two main titles Amazing Spider-Man and Peter Parker Spider-Man.
|Inker:||George Roderick, Jr., Pat Olliffe|
|Reprinted In:||Spider-Man: Revenge of The Green Goblin (TPB)|
The story opens with Norman reviewing the video footage of his latest battle with Spider-Man (events which took place in Peter Parker Spider-Man #98). Due to Osborn’s ‘insanity’ his recollection of the events that day and the actual occurrences are at odds with each other as he struggles to discern fact from fiction. Donald Menken, a long time employee of Osborn Industries and personal confidante of Osborn, is by Norman's side at the safe house. Norman is dependent upon a cocktail of drugs, formulated by his private physician Dr. Albert Bendix, to maintain his shaky grip on reality. During a flashback sequence, we find that Menken was one of the Scriers that 'rescued' Norman from Bellevue back in Peter Parker Spider-Man #98. Menken recalls how violently insane Norman was after the Gathering of Five ritual and that Dr. Bendix’s efforts have brought Norman back a long way.
Dr. Bendix’s efforts to restore Norman’s sanity are supported by a Swedish nurse named Kolina Frederickson. As the weeks go by, Norman becomes smitten with Kolina as she reminds him of his deceased wife Emily. But that reminder brings along sad memories from Norman’s past as he recalls Emily’s death less than one year after Harry was born. During Norman’s introspections he says that Emily brought ‘balance’ to his life and that losing her and gaining an heir was not a ‘fair trade’. Norman feels that his new nurse seems to care for him in the same way that Emily did. So Norman does not hesitate to enlist Kolina as his ‘private-duty’ nurse once he returns to his estate. Kolina graciously accepts his request and soon after a courtship begins.
As time goes by (probably a month or so), Norman's mental health begins to show significant signs of improvement and he continues to keep tabs on Spider-Man through the Daily Bugle. When MJ "dies" in a plane crash, Norman realizes that the time for his revenge on Peter is approaching. Despite the romance with Kolina, Norman continues to plot against Parker as he prepares to meddle in his life once again.
Meanwhile, Peter is still struggling to cope with the loss of MJ. Billboards and magazines featuring her serve as a constant reminder to Peter that his wife is gone. But Peter, no stranger to the loss of a loved one, forges on. The story concludes with Peter returning to his apartment, stopping to grab his mail on the way in. During his walk he is exposed to gaseous compound aimed at dampening his Spider-sense. Peter is completely unaware of this exposure as he continues toward his apartment and greets his mailman. But this is not your ordinary mailman, nope, this is Norman Osborn in disguise and Peter is in for a world of hurt. As the mailman, Osborn delivers a ‘free’ sample of toothpaste to Peter, which Peter graciously accepts. But this is not your ordinary toothpaste, nope, the toothpaste is laced with a hallucinogen and specially designed RNA compounds, which Norman plans to use to manipulate Parker.
And so it begins...
In my humble opinion, this is Stern at his best. He imbeds this arc neatly into Spider-continuity, which is something it feels like we do not see enough of nowadays in comics. Stern brings Norman back to his roots as well. Disguising himself as a mailman to deliver the tainted toothpaste to Peter provoked memories of Amazing Spider-Man #38, remember that? Norman threw on a fake mustache and glasses to bribe some gangsters into killing Spider-Man and that was way back in his second (official) appearance in the Spiderverse! It’s clear Norman has a flair for the dramatic, dressing up like a hippie post man sounds ridiculous but I could certainly see Norman doing that. Norman also employed his classic Spider-sense-dampening gas in order to get closer to Peter without him knowing. This is an accomplishment that I think is a bit under appreciated within the Goblin lore. Forget about the ingenuity it would take synthesize such a thing and focus on the fact that Norman figured out Spidey had a Spider-sense to begin with! Norman has never had the luxury of reading the character bios the way we do, so he figured it out by himself, which is not a trivial task. And that was one of the first things Norman did in his war against Spider-Man, and the classic Amazing Spider-Man #39 illustrates his first major use of the dampener and we all know had that ended! I’m glad Stern brought that back in this mini series.
Also, I want to mention one thing that we saw during one of the flashback sequences featured in this story. At the conclusion of Peter Parker Spider-Man #98, the guards removed Norman’s Goblin mask from his head. After doing so, they exclaimed, “his face! He…!”. This certainly added some suspense to the conclusion of that arc and many people speculated on what that could have meant since you can't see his face in those panels. Well, it turns out there was nothing wrong with his face because we see it here. So what could have caused the guards to react in that manner? Perhaps they simply recognized Norman Osborn’s face and were surprised…that’s a little more lame than some of the things I speculated at the time. But hey, I’m glad Stern put that debate to bed.
Kolina Frederickson, a blonde Swedish nurse, need I say more? We know Norman has a history with blondes, his romantic affair with the lovely Gwen Stacy comes to mind. But can Norman really fall in love? I personally don’t think so, he’s far too maniacal and duplicitous to truly feel love the way all of us ‘normal’ people do. I doubt he would ever let himself become vulnerable enough to fall in love, but the x-factor in this story is the medication that he is on. He got the ‘gift’ of insanity and because of that he was on a heavy dosage of meds that targeted his cognitive faculties. I have no doubt that these meds could have tweaked his psyche enough to make him think he ‘loved’ Kolina. But that is as close to true love as beer goggles are to true attraction! At one point in Norman’s life, I’m sure he felt true love (toward Emily and Harry), but after the Goblin formula exploded in his face, his days of experiencing true love vanquished along with his sanity.
Emily’s death is certainly a watershed moment in Norman’s life, but the same goes for Harry as well. In this story Norman explicitly states that gaining an heir was not a ‘fair trade’ for losing Emily. The seeds for Norman's mistreatment and resentment toward Harry were planted when Emily died. I wonder how different Norman’s life would have been if he had had a daughter instead of a son. I think things would have played out very, very differently for good Ol' Norman if that were the case.
As an interesting point and possible contradiction to continuity. In Spectacular Spider-Man #180, Harry flips through a photo album that has pictures of his mother/father/himself when he was a child. Harry looks older than a 1 year old in that photo album and Emily looks very different from her depiction in this series. Stern may have missed that one.
I can always find something to criticize though, and in this case I’d say that a little more information regarding Emily would have been appreciated. We basically got just her name since we knew she had died when Harry was very young from Amazing Spider-Man#40. How did she die exactly? Was Harry’s birth the cause? If so, why did it take almost a year after Harry was born for her to pass? These questions are not necessarily integral to this story, but if you’re gonna explore Norman’s past with Emily, I’d like to see the answers to those questions.
5 webs...a great start to a great arc. nuff said!