Monday, September 12, 2011

Amazing Spider-Man #581-#582: "Mind on Fire"

**** (four of five stars) 

Favorite Quote:  "He did.  I was close enough.  I heard him."  "Well, he can't always be on."  "Chillax?  If it was two years ago, maybe.  Two hours ago?  No."  -- Harry/Peter conversation about Spidey saying "...just chillax" to Molten Man upon injecting him with the Prometheus X-90 serum 

Spidey falls into the "Tracer Killer's" trap by going to a body just as the killer activated the Spider-Tracer...and right when the police arrived on the scene.  He escapes and returns home to Harry calling asking him if he wants to accompany him to visit Liz and Normie in Jersey.  (They live!)  Pete asks out Carlie, who shoots him down.  On the trip to Jersey, Harry reveals to Pete that he was the Green Goblin, which Pete acknowledges he knew from Spider-Man.  Harry discloses that Norman took his body and had Mysterio fake another corpse.  He was then essentially incarcerated by psychiatrists in Europe who convinced him the Green Goblin era was a hallucination, something he realized was untrue when he saw his father in his Goblin uniform.  Upon arriving at Liz's, Harry and she fight, an argument overheard by Liz's step-brother, the Molten Man, for whom she's caring.  He attacks Harry, furious at him for everything he's done to Liz over the years.  Harry uses the Prometheus X-90 formula seen in "New Ways to Die!" to cure him of his condition, revealing later to Peter that the only human test subject was the second Molten Man, who volunteered to do it.  Meanwhile, the Bookie declares that he's figured out who the "Tracer Killer" is...just in time for said killer to kill him. 

The Review
I came close to giving this arc five stars, just because I was so over-joyed that, despite all odds, the Spidey Brain Trust managed to eliminate most of my confusion after "New Ways to Die!"  It confirms the hint from "New Ways to Die!" that the events of "Spectacular Spider-Man" #200 did, in fact, happen:  Harry was the Goblin and he died fighting Peter.  We now know how he survived and how he was smuggled to Europe.  We've still got some questions (see below) but, for the most part, I think most of the lingering Harry-related "One More Day" questions were resolved.  On top of that, it's an emotional story that really represents the full return of Harry Osborn.  I'm still vaguely annoyed by some of the remaining "New Ways to Die!"-related questions, but, all in all, this storyline was excellent. 

The Good
1) This arc was everything I hoped it would be.  After the clusterfuck that was the last issue of "New Ways to Die!" I had no idea how they were going to salvage the Harry plot line, but they did.  Some things still don't make sense, but, overall, they really managed to explain it in a way that I buy.  Also, I'll give them credit for not putting together the story on the fly.  It's pretty clear they knew exactly what they were doing from the moment "Brand New Day" began.

2) Harry and Peter's conversation on the last page is possible the best one I've ever seen them have.  Harry implies he knows Peter is Spider-Man and Peter doesn't exactly deny it.  Harry covers it up nicely by implying Peter's dating Spider-Man (saying it would explain Peter's "girl troubles"), but I wonder where we've left the issue of whether or not Harry knows and, if he does know, how it's going to affect Peter in the future.  Harry, as evidenced in this arc, swears he's a good guy now, so, in theory, it shouldn't have any implications.  But, if Harry returns to his nefarious ways (like his father wants him to do), then obviously it's a whole other story.  At any rate, it was good to see Harry and Peter have a moment.  The one real drawback of "Brand New Day" is that it's featured so many new characters that we haven't really seen a lot of emotional depth, the kind of depth we see with Peter engaging with any of his old friends.  I hadn't noticed it until I read this scene.  I was a little skeptical when Harry returned, but I'm glad he's back and I hope, for once, maybe the writers will give him the chance to be almost happy.  Plus, Pete could use a friend.  Seriously.

3) The art's pretty great.  Peter looks, um, amazing.  Also, the change in Harry's expression in the side-by-side panels from when he's trying to negotiate with the Molten Mad and then (unseen to us) sees Spider-Man is really well done. 

The Unsure
1) It's interesting that Harry, in theory, didn't know he was the Green Goblin until he saw his dad in action.  I don't know if I buy that, but I don't know if I'm supposed to buy it.  I can't tell if it was the one weak point of the plot or if Harry's not exactly telling the truth.

2) Harry says that the only human involved in testing the Prometheus X-90 serum was the second Molten Man.  Re-reading the page from "New Ways to Die!" where the second room with human subjects is revealed, it now seems that someone in Oscorp (possibly Norman) either knew of Harry's trials and was (without Harry's knowledge) conducting them on more humans or was engaged in some other type of human testing that Harry may have vaguely known was happening.  It's unclear to me the applicability the Prometheus serum would have on any other person other than the Molten Man, so I'm guessing the latter.  As such, I'm assuming, at some point, we'll discover the purpose of the human testing.  At any rate, one of my questions during "New Ways to Die!" was why Harry thought he could clear his name with the books from Oscorp when, in fact, he was engaged in human testing.  Now, we have the answer. 

The Bad
1) Other than the human-testing question mentioned above, I think my only lingering question is when exactly was Harry running Oscorp and if he's still running it.  I mean, is he running a large multinational company and, you know, the "Coffee Bean?"  I can barely handle the one job I have.

2) I'm confused (really confused) by the Carlie scene.  First, she says that she was raised with Lily ("we may have grown up in the same house together..."), whereas I thought she was just a childhood friend.  Second, she turns down Pete asking her on a date for a reason I don't quite comprehend, though seems to imply it's because she thinks Pete likes Lily...despite, you know, him asking out Carlie in front of Lily.  Weird.

3) I'm still a little confused (notice a pattern) by Harry's return.  Mysterio faked a body and Norman sold Harry's death.  So, clearly, at some point, it was revealed Harry was alive.  We know he survived thanks to the Goblin serum, but I wonder what the public story is.

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