Peter Parker and Norman come face to face for the first time in years! Norman and Harry meet for the first time in decades! A new symbiote appears! Is any of it as cool as it sounds? You know the drill: click, read, comment.

“The Osborn Supremacy” (Part 2 of “New Ways To Die”)
WRITER: Dan Slott
PENCILS: John Romita Jr.
INKS: Klaus Janson
COLORS: Dean White

For those naive enough to expect a non-copout follow up to last issue’s cliffhanger, here’s your punishment: Norman just wants Peter to tell him where Spider-Man is. Peter seems to know why he thinks no one remembers his identity, but the writers won’t clue us in. The Thunderbolts leave when Vin Gonzales comes home, and Vin thinks Peter trashed the place with a party.

Returning from the doctor, Eddie Brock tells May and Martin Li that his cancer disappeared and his white blood cell count and antibodies are phenomenal. He now stands among the many F.E.A.S.T. clients to experience miraculous healing. Li takes Brock to his office and tells him not to question the magic in life. The philanthropist shows Brock a Go board and tells him that, every now and then, he finds a piece moved by an invisible opponent. He’s learned not to ask too many questions and enjoy the game.

Norman visits Harry at the coffee bean and lets his son know how his disappointment over Harry leaving Oscorp to serve drinks. Even Harry’s billion-dollar franchise deal fails to impress Norman, who leaves to deploy the Thunderbolts after Spider-Man. Spidey finds Norman instead, and taunts Osborn about how he remembers everything, yet Norman now has no idea who Spidey is.

Norman calls the Thunderbolts back to base, but Venom refuses because he senses his old host at the F.E.A.S.T. center. Of course, that host is Eddie Brock, not Peter Parker. The symbiote tries to rebond with Brock, but Eddie rejects it. A white substance flows from Eddie’s skin, burns the symbiote, and coats Eddie until he becomes Anti-Venom, a reverse-colored antithesis to his former self.

If New Ways To Die came out in March, and it may as well have since nothing’s developed since then, then I’d have called Brand New Day a roaring success. Slott tells an exciting story here, and he even hints that answers to One More Day’s nagging questions actually exist. Unfortunately, it isn’t March; it’s August, and simple reassurance that answers might come someday does not suffice. After twenty-four issues, two year’s worth on a monthly title, I need to know RIGHT NOW how Aunt May, Norman Osborn, and either Venom can possible remember any of the last few years without recalling the man around whom their lives have completely revolved. Dragging it out this long has turned what could have been a cool mystery into one of the most annoying and logic-defying plot holes in the history of Spider-Man.

On the other hand, Dan Slott convinces me here that Norman Osborn, now with a grander purpose than ruining Peter’s life, can be a top-notch villain without knowing who’s under the mask. Somehow, Slott keeps the animosity between Osborn and both of Peter’s alter egos feeling deeply personal. I can still enjoy the story, even if I can’t wrap my head around how Norman, for example, remembers throwing Gwen Stacy off a bridge but not why.

But that enjoyment would come a lot easier if Slott didn’t go out of his way to remind me how much sense this doesn’t make every two pages. The Martin Li Go board scene about allowing yourself to enjoy the things that don’t add up just screams, “it’s magic, we don’t have to explain it.” I know Slott’s being playful, and not “flipping fans the bird” as has been suggested of the metatextual statements peppering his work, but it still calls unneeded attention to the worst part of his story.

The second worst part is the Norman/Harry interaction. We haven’t seen these two characters together since the 1970s, so their reunion should be an event in and of itself. We should get a hint about how both thinking the other dead for so long affects their relationship, assuming Harry’s “death” ever occurred at all. What happens derives too much from the movie, and I’m aching for something new.

I don’t want to excessively focus on the negative, not for a great issue that just came too late. We’re still in the setup phase, but the way it’s set up I don’t see how the next four issues can be not awesome. With the Thunderbolts, Norman, Anti-Venom and Mr. Negative already in play, Slott could get a decent story just coasting on the naturally resulting fireworks.

Speaking of Anti-Venom, I don’t know what to make of him just yet, but he looks freaking sweet. Everything looks sweet. John Romita Jr’s style has evolved since he last drew Spidey. It’s looser, sketchier, but less blocky than five years ago and with a better inker and colorist. The book looks like real Spider-Man again, and worthy of the year’s most epic tale.

4 webheads out of 5.