Osborn’s prominence in the Marvel Universe came to a rather swift end in “Siege,” so after a few months of downtime, it’s good to see someone finally pick up the thread of what’s happened to him since and, in particular, what happened to the power structure that surrounded him.
Strangely, although Osborn’s name is on the cover, the book mainly writes around him, spending more time on characters reacting to his presence in their lives, rather than on the man himself. It works to play up quite how difficult to handle Osborn is, even behind bars. Surprisingly, the ties to “Amazing Spider-Man” are rather pronounced (if slightly out of date) with Peter Parker turning up alongside Norah Winters (a character scared into staying quiet over Osborn during “Dark Reign”) as well as some of the Goblin disciples we’ve seen starting to appear in Spidey’s own series.
Although this ultimately has the effect of relegating the title character to little more than a subplot in his own series, the rest of the book is strong enough to carry it. Everything is about Osborn, even if he isn’t the protagonist. Kelly Sue DeConnick makes it work by filling the book with snappy, compelling character interaction and taking the time to come up with logical thought processes behind all the characters’ actions. If you ever wondered quite how a man like Osborn made it into power with apparently no opposition, this issue does a good job of making you believe that it could happen, from the senators arguing over his punishment to the feisty reporter who buried her story.
One element that jars a little is the introduction of a new prison wing, dedicated to housing the worst villains in the Marvel Universe which, in practice, means a bunch of people we’ve never heard of. The reasoning for not using existing characters makes sense, but this is one time when continuity could have been used to bring in characters with an inherent air of menace. Instead, we get some intriguing new villains, but for a series that should be about Osborn, it feels like a good idea in the wrong book, as their story threatens to overpower, rather than drive his.
The backup strip is evidence of that, as Warren Ellis returns to Osborn’s world, bringing artist Jamie McKelvie with him. In truth, as strong as the opening story is, Ellis and McKelvie steal the show with a depraved short about one of the new villains in “The Prime of Miss June Covington” which recalls Ellis’ the biting edge of Ellis’ “Thunderbolts” and Osborn’s initial reinvention.
Emma Rios’ work on the lead is itself strong, and although her Peter Parker could look a little more Parker-ish, it’s clear that Rios is an artist with a bright future. Between her and McKelvie, it’s a good-looking book, while Ellis and DeConnick keep the writing engaging. It’s likely to wrong-foot those looking for Osborn in a starring role, but if you can see past that failure of expectation, there’s a huge amount to love.