"New Ways to Die: Book Two"
Amazing Spider-Man #568 ended with Peter Parker finding Norman Osborn, the former Green Goblin and now leader of the hero-hunting Thunderbolts, in his apartment surrounded by his nasty goons. Osborn's utterance of "Parker" in the final panel left the impression that our hero and his archenemy are heading for a "Brand New Showdown."
That "Parker" line was pregnant with meaning for both men. Osborn represents Peter's antithesis, possible potential, and perennially thorn in side. Spider-Man/Parker is the son Osborn never had, the embodiment of failure, and most of all, Osborn's old life.
So when this issue opens with Norman not remembering that Peter Parker is Spider-Man, it's really disappointing. As much as this works within Slott's narrative, it doesn't build on the tension already existing between these two men. In fact, it lessens it, and the two characters (if you count Spider-Man separately, that's three characters) spend their shared scenes building up that tension all over again.
Yet the change in their relationship opens the story to more possibilities. If Osborn doesn't know Parker is Spider-Man, then he can't just appear in his apartment and cuff him. There is a cat-and-mouse relationship again rather than an all out slugfest. Also, with the aforementioned tension gone, the story can open up to other subplots without feeling secondary or inhibitive. Overall, this is a good change for the series.
As for the other plot, the much-hyped "Anti-Venom" shows up and gives an old character new meaning. Eddie Brock, the original host of the Venom symbiote, is miraculously cured of his cancer after being touched by Mr. Li at the F.E.A.S.T. Center. When the new Venom, a member of the Thunderbolts, sniffs out its old host, Brock reacts to the symbiote's touch and becomes its antithesis. The transmogrification reflects the inward peace of Brock's soul. Without the symbiote he was weak and powerless, dying of an incurable disease. But his inexplicable cure by Mr. Li has given him a new chance to step out of the shadows of his old life and embrace a more positive existence. As interesting and constructive as Anti-Venom is, his name leaves something to be desired.
Ironically, "New Ways to Die" seems to be about classic characters in their new lives. Slott and Romita Jr. are challenging my conceptions of what Spider-Man is and piquing my interest. Yet will any of these changes live long enough to be fulfilling? We shall see.
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