SPOILER WARNING: The following contains spoilers for "Amazing Spider-Man" #597, on sale now.
When it was first erected, Avengers Tower was a symbol of hope to many, being the home to Earth's Mightiest Heroes. Now that Norman Osborn's Dark Reign is in effect, the Tower is still a scared place to the citizens of the Marvel Universe, but to the heroes that know better, Avengers Tower is now a symbol of corruption, being home to Osborn's twisted Dark Avengers.
In the "American Son" arc of "Amazing Spider-Man," the Tower is a place of extreme intrigue, as Spidey, Norman and his son Harry Osborn all prowl the premises with secret and competing agendas. With "Amazing" #597 - the third chapter of the five-part story --is in stores now, CBR News spoke with writer Joe Kelly about all its shocking and surprising developments.
Spider-Man is nothing if not direct, but to infiltrate Avengers Tower, the Wall Crawler engaged in something he's not usually known for: subterfuge. With the help of his friends Reed and Sue Richards of the Fantastic Four, the Spidey captured the Dark Avenger, Venom, and assumed his identity.
"I love exploring the different dimensions of Spidey that we know are there. It's like every so often when someone goes, 'Oh yeah! He's a scientist. We can do stuff with that,'" Kelly told CBR News. "So he figures this is a way to infiltrate the building and get closer to Norman and figure out what he wants with Harry. And because he's got the FF as buddies, he's able to do it."
As it turns out, Norman - also known as the Iron Patriot -- wants Harry to become part of the family business, which is currently patriotic themed superheroics, and assume the identity of a new hero he's designed called American Son. "Norman has this never-ending need to control Harry. I wouldn't even say it's a subconscious need because he openly admits that he's trying to direct the life line of his son," Kelly explained. "So I think one of Norman's motivations is to forge Harry into a proper heir. Harry is his only child and an heir is something he believes he needs in his role as would-be emperor of the world. He wants to build Harry into something he's not.
"In terms of why he wants Harry for this particular role, his rationale is that the Iron Patriot represents the strength of America in the most literally iron-fisted 'don't mess with us or we'll kick your butt' sort of way. That role is working great for him but he realizes there's another aspect that needs to be addressed, which is the heart, and looking at the Avengers he dismantled he sees the balance between Captain America and Iron Man. Without Cap, the Avengers are kind of cold, but he knows he's certainly not going to be able to recruit the current Cap. And Captain America is so loaded anyway that he doesn't want to bring that icon back. So he's manufactured the American Son identity to represent the heart of the country. I think in a very cold and calculating fashion he believes his own son should be that heart because of how it would endear him to the American public."
Peter Parker isn't the only one who's gone undercover to gain access to Avengers Tower. Norah Winters, his colleague at the newspaper "Front Line," secretly took a job as a building page in order to uncover what Osborn is doing there. In "Amazing Spider-Man" #597, readers learned Norah was gaining information by flirting with some of the building's less savory security staff, which may have put Norah in danger. "That's what we're going to find out in this story. She wants to be a hardcore reporter and has grabbed onto this potential lead with both hands," Kelly said. "She's taken this initiative to bust into Avengers Tower herself and I do think she just might be in over her head."
Having decidedly powerful connections, Harry Osborn didn't need to go undercover to enter Avengers Tower, he just waltzed right in. However, in "Amazing" #597, Harry secretly searched for his ex-fiancee Lilly Hollister, the supervillain Menace, who's pregnant with his child. In navigating the building, Harry showed that he's both clever and very resourceful. "I think Harry was one of those kids who was embarrassed to do well in school even though that's all his parents wanted," Kelly said. "Obviously Norman was constantly pushing him and I'm sure Harry was torn between wanting to please and rebel against his father, so I think he erred on the side of being a goofball. He's not on level with Peter, but I think Harry is a smart guy. He was the Goblin for a while, so he's got the serum pumping through his body, which does increase the intellect a little and gives him a certain level of strength even though it was a long time ago and theoretically he's over it. I think there's a lingering effect though. So when he wants to be, Harry is a very resourceful guy."
While Harry, Norah and Spidey were skulking around Avengers Tower, mysterious octopus-like robots were seen in various places around New York City. "Those are a seed for 'Amazing Spider-Man' #600," Kelly confirmed. "One of the great things about writing Spidey is the chance to keep those sub-plots banging around. I actually didn't have as much room as I'd like to have had in 'American Son' because the story takes place over a short amount of time. Once you go from part one to two, things go really quickly. It's barely two days. So it's kind of hard to do cutaways when you're dealing with things like that, but this was one we could fit in."
Spider-Man's prowling about Avengers Tower came to an end when he was confronted by Daken, the bloodthirsty, egomaniacal son of Wolverine, who Osborn recruited to impersonate his father in the Dark Avengers. Daken saw through Spidey's disguise and a fight erupted. "They've been playing with Daken for awhile but he's still new to me and I love the way he moves and works in the Wolverine legacy. I find that stuff all really interesting," Kelly stated. "I was looking online and this was one of those match-ups that had people wondering who'd win, so I wanted to play a Spidey versus Daken fight. Also, since I had Wolverine in the first chapter, I wanted to bring his son in during the course of this story. I think it's a pretty cool fight and a character like Daken definitely brings out the worst in people, even Spider-Man."
Daken's power to generate pheromones that alter a person's emotions and sensory perceptions almost gave him a victory over Spidey, but the Webslinger prevailed by blocking out his five senses and concentrating with his sixth -- his danger-detecting spider sense. "We try to stick pretty close to the guideline that it only works when he's in danger. He can't use it to reach out and feel for what he needs but when he's in danger it kicks in," Kelly explained. "So the idea that his spider sense may be as powerful if not more powerful than his other senses struck me as cool. If he blocks out his other senses he can just really concentrate with that. It's not as strong as, say, Daredevil's sonar -- it's not that. It's like when you're driving and looking for a parking space everybody turns down the radio. We don't need to do it but we all do it."
Battling Daken while undercover was risky enough, but ultimately it was Harry Osborn that blew Spider-Man's cover. After he took down Daken, Spider-Man ran into Harry, revealed to him that he was Spider-Man, and promised to help Harry get out of Avengers Tower. Harry responded by ratting Spidey out to his father. "He felt Spider-Man was getting in the way of his plans," Kelly explained. "Harry is a good guy but he's worried about Lily and believes that she's pregnant with his kid. This has really supercharged him and made him very driven. So when Spider-Man suddenly appears and Harry feels he's messing stuff up, Harry is ready to sell the guy out.
"Plus he definitely doesn't like Spider-Man. He's dealt with and tolerates him but there is this interesting triangle between Spider-Man, Harry and Norman and I think Harry feels that Spider-Man has taken away from his father's affection/interest in him. That got supercharged when Harry was the Goblin because his father had gotten so obsessed with killing Spider-Man that he was driven further away. So Harry has got no love for Spidey. I think if he believes he's doing something good and important he'll throw Spidey under a bus."
Despite his painful history with Spider-Man, Harry didn't feel good about selling Spidey out to his father. "He's worked really hard at his sobriety and being a stand up guy, so even though he can rationalize that he did this for a good purpose, he knows he did something pretty messed up," Kelly said.
That feeling of remorse became even greater when Harry saw what his father did to Spider-Man. Osborn had Bullseye of the Dark Avengers immobilize the Webslinger, and then on the final page, Norman took out a pistol and shot his hated foe -- several times. "Instead of it saying, 'To be continued' there, I wanted it just say, 'The End' -- but they wouldn't let me!" Kelly joked. "I knew we were going to do a cliffhanger and my editor Steve Wacker and I were talking about what Norman would do. I honestly don't remember if it was his idea or mine, but we didn't want Norman to just be the normal, 'bring him to my lair so I can interrogate him' bad guy. He should just shoot him in the face and that's what he does!"
"Norman does not mess around and that's what I love about him," Kelly continued. "And why would he mess around? He hates Spider-Man and finally has him exactly where he wants him, so he just shoots him. We'll see if there are any issues after this."
Artist Marco Checchetto brought to life Spider-Man's apparent murder and Kelly thinks his collaborator did a fantastic job. "I really like the reality that's sort of infused into his work. I like that aspect of his art and I just like his style. His rendering is really slick. I really dig the style of anybody who merges realism with just enough expressionism to make things bounce."
In next week's "Amazing Spider-Man" #598, readers will learn whether or not the hero survived his case of lead poisoning. "If Spidey is alive, he's going to be in a lot of pain next issue," Kelly said. "Everything certainly is revealed in chapter four. The tension between Harry, Norman and Peter really boils over as well and people are pushed to their limits. They're forced to look at themselves and decide who they are and what relationships are important. That applies for both Peter and Harry."
Interestingly, Joe Kelly was not immediately enthused with the notion of a Spidey-Norman fight. "I've said in other interviews that when this story first came up as a possibility the other people in the room were like, 'We really want to see a Spidey and Norman showdown' and I really wasn't interested in that. It got assigned to me and I didn't know how I was going to do it."
But the writer soon came around. "When somebody described the story as 'The Last Temptation of Harry Osborn' I then felt it was something I could really get into," Kelly said. "That really comes to a head in the fourth issue and in the fifth and final issue there's a 'Brawl to end them all.'"
"Amazing Spider-Man" #598 goes on sale next week from Marvel Comics.