Norman Osborn is the quintessential Spider-Man villain. He is the wall-crawlerís Lex Luthor, his one true nemesis. Once the entire Marvel Universe had the misfortune of falling into the hands of this lunatic with funny looking hair, it was more or less a matter of time until that fact would come to haunt Spider-Man. Parker luck indeed!
That isnít to say that the Oz-man hasnít so far made his presence felt quite well. Since "Brand New Day" hit the Osborn name has been around, either in the shape of Harryís return, Menaceís debut, or storylines like "New Ways to Die" and "Character Assassination." Couple these stories with Normanís ascent in Dark Reign and it all begins to spell danger. Certainly not the kind you need a spider sense to detect. Probably more like something of the magnitude of an asteroid about to hit, at least where Spider-Man is concerned.
All these explosive threads come together in this story and itís handled quite well by Joe Kelly. He gets the fact that Peter Parkerís character is driven by guilt; guilt over the fact that he didnít prevent his Uncle Benís death, guilt over Gwen Stacyís death. It is that sense of failure that motivates him, that transformed him into Spider-Man. And this time around itís that very sense of failure and guilt that motivates the wall-crawler to attempt perhaps the stupidest thing he has ever done, especially given this issues cliffhanger. Taking on Norman is just plain impossible, and Peter realizes that, but his sense of responsibility pushes him ever onward.
Take that boneheaded decision and throw in Harry and his relationship to Lily Hollister, which just got spicier in fashion akin to the best of soap operas, and you have yourself a powder keg about to go off. Consider also the little bits that Joe Kelly throws in, like Norah Jones (who is a wonderful addition to the cast of this book), or Peter masquerading as Venom, and this issue should by all standards be a hit and a great addition to the Osborn Saga.
The only problem is the art. The first thing I noticed when I started reading this issue was that thereís a different artist on it yet again. Marco Chechetto handles the art this time around, and while he does a good job for my taste, he is the third artist on this book in as many issues. Spider-Man has been and continues to be one of the flagship titles of Marvel Comics. As such, a certain quality is expected art-wise. That quality includes stability. In this case that means hopefully having one artist or the same team of artist handling an entire story arc. The fact that it fails in this regard makes this issue less than excellent.
It may sometimes be easy to forget just how important the visual element is in this storytelling medium, especially when we get bogged down in the finer details of intrigue, but the bottom line is that the art is as much responsible for conveying the story as anything. If that canít be done consistently then it hurts the story, plain and simple. So while this issue should have been a four, or better, I gave it three and a half bullets because of this failure.
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