Friday, January 6, 2012

Amazing Spider-Man Presents: American Son #1-#4

** (two of five stars)

Favorite Quote:  "When I have time later, I'm going to freak out about this."  -- Spidey, as he contemplates rescuing a pilot from a falling helicopter 

A hooded figure buys the American Son suit from a guy who stole it from Avengers Tower after the events of "Siege."  Later, American Son helps the police take down a guy with some sort of laser canon who took a bus full of people hostage.  At "Front Line," Norah notes that Norman built the suit for Harry, but agrees with Robbie Robertson when he comments that it seems odd Harry would don the suit and use it to fight crime after Norman lost his power.  Norah tries to interview Harry, but he's not feeling well; it's revealed that he's popping "oxycodone."  MJ calls Peter telling him that Harry has been acting oddly, and Peter agrees to talk to him.  An FBI agent approaches Harry about his connection to American Son, revealing that $300,000 worth of diamonds went missing after American Son prevented an attack on an armored truck.  Harry tells the FBI guy to come back with a warrant, only to continue his bad day by running into Spidey, who tells him he's worried about him.  Harry then serves a mysterious customer who claims to be his brother, Gabriel Stacy, and who shoots Harry.  Before Gabriel can finish off Harry, American Son appears to save him, taking him to the hospital.  In recovery, Harry's visited by the FBI agent again, who apologizes for thinking he was American Son.  Norah, posing as a nurse, appears as Harry decides to leave the hospital, and he takes her with him (despite the FBI and a doctor telling him he's not safe to leave).  They go to the Raft to visit Norman (where Norah notices Harry's "oxycodone" pills as he's going through security).  Harry taunts Norman to reveal that Gabriel is his son; Norah runs the story in "Front Line."  Spidey is searching for Harry and finds him when Aunt May calls Peter to alert him that the FBI has arrived at the F.E.A.S.T. Center, where Harry's volunteering, to "protect" him.  The FBI agent reveals that American Son and Gabriel Stacy are the same person, and he, Harry, and Peter realize Gabriel will go after Harry's friends if he can't find Harry.  On cue, we see American Son nab Norah to "hide" her from Gabriel at one of Norman's former headquarters, only to revert to Gabriel.  Gabriel wrestles with American Son, who reveals he's the good side of Gabriel's personality, and Spidey appears to save Norah.  Harry arrives, but American Son is distracted by the FBI, who attempt to assassinate him.  Spidey saves the FBI agents from American Son while Harry activates the self-destruct switch and uses his command over the suit Norman programmed for him to disable it.  The building burns while Harry instructs the FBI to leave the suit so it, too, can burn.  Later, Norah confronts Harry about his drug use, and he tells her he's in rehab (though we see in a subsequent scene, he's not).  In the end, it's revealed that Norman has had one of his agents retrieve the uniform and send it to Gabriel in the psychiatric ward where he's being held.

The Review
I ended this series with a favorable view of it, given that it was pretty well paced and had a lot of great action sequences.  But, the more I thought about the plot, the more questions I had.  Overall, despite not giving us a lot of background on who Gabriel Stacy is, I thought Reed definitely sold the story.  I mean, it's not THAT hard to sell a crazy Osborn family member story, but Reed gives us a pretty compelling case why Gabriel lost it.  I just wish he hadn't left so many loose ends dangling.

The Good
1) The action is well paced, both in the issues themselves and in the series overall.  Reed builds the tension in the first issue, giving us a pretty damn surprising ending.  The next two issues keep us going at full throttle, and the fourth one is pretty exciting, with the tension between Gabriel and Harry exploding and Spidey just trying to keep everyone alive.

2) I'm glad to see the weird sub-plot involving Aunt May being possessed by Mr. Negative at least being addressed in a positive way, with Harry telling May that her evicting him from her house served as a real wake-up call for him.  That said, I'm still glad that sub-plot was ended, because, man, it was bizarre.

The Bad
1) I wasn't reading comics when the whole "Norman Osborn had twins with Gwen Stacy's clone" storyline happened.  (If I had been, I probably would've stopped there.)  So, although I was aware it had happened, I wasn't really aware of the details.  For example, how come Gabriel appears to be Harry's age, given that only ten or so years in comic time have passed since Gwen died, let alone was cloned, let alone had twins with Norman?  Where has Gabriel been all this time?  He appears here to have been living with Norman when Norman was hiding in Europe, but what happened after Norman left and returned "from the dead?"  I'm sure a trip to Wikipedia will reveal all those details for me, but it's weird that the story itself didn't give some sort of recap.  In fact, the Gwen Stacy clone is never even mentioned.

2) It's not exactly pet peeve #2 but it's odd that Reed gives away the "surprise twist" of the story in the intro to issue #3.  At the end of issue #2, we see Stacy yelling at American Son, but it's not until issue #3 that it's revealed that he's actually just yelling at the uniform, since he is, in fact, American Son.  But, the intro page to issue #3 actually gives us this information.  It's a bad example of "tell rather than show."

3) Avengers Tower was left SO undefended that a guy could just waltz into the building and steal the American Son uniform.  Really?

4) Peter goes to Harry in his Spider-Man costume to tell him he's worried about him, despite knowing that Harry hates Spider-Man AND it making no sense that Spidey would know enough about Harry's life to be worried about him?

5) I'm not entirely sure why American Son was acting like a hero at all.  Stacy had pretty much returned just to kill Harry, as I understand it, to get Norman's attention.  Also, why did he steal the American Son armor in the first place?  Couldn't he have just shot Harry?  Was he trying to impress Norman?  Was it the "good side" of his split personality that drove him to do it, or did the good side just happen to inhabit the stolen armor when the opportunity presented itself?  This question didn't really dawn on me the first time I read the series, but, in retrospect, it seemed like a big gaping hole that Reed failed to address.

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