The following contains spoilers for Amazing Spider-Man # 2, on sale now from Marvel Comics.
The name “Norman Osborn” should send shivers down Spider-Man’s spine. After all, no foe is responsible for more tragedies in the wallcrawler’s life than Norman. Whenever the Green Goblin is in town, horror usually follows. However, in Amazing Spider-Man # 2 (by Zeb Wells, John Romita Jr., Scott Hanna, Marcio Menyz, and VC’s Joe Caramagna), a benevolent and apparently amnesiac Norman comes offering a job to Peter instead. Surprisingly enough, Peter accepts and the man who was once CEO of Parker Industries is reduced to being an errand boy for the monster who killed his first love.
Indeed, Norman has gone through periods in the past in which he seemed cured of his madness. Soon after revealing his identity to Parker way back in Amazing Spider-Man (vol. 1) # 40 (by Stan Lee and John Romita Sr.), a battle in a burning safe-house left him with no knowledge of Peter’s secret identity or his own evil past. Over the next several years, Norman would shift back and forth between his Goblin persona and his amnesiac civilian identity, until things finally came to a head with his infamous slaying of Peter’s girlfriend, Gwen Stacy, in Amazing Spider-Man (vol. 1) # 121 (Gerry Conway, Gil Kane). Any reason to forgive Norman’s transgressions ended the same night Gwen Stacy died.
Since Osborn returned at the climax of the “Clone Saga”, he has been a force to be reckoned with. Norman’s bouts with amnesia were regarded as a Silver Age trope, and modern stories have consistently portrayed him as a psychopathic businessman singularly obsessed with destroying Peter’s life. The webslinger also had plenty of reason to hate Norman in turn. In addition to killing Gwen, the Goblin impaled his clone “brother” Ben Reilly and induced a stillbirth in his then-wife Mary Jane all during one Halloween night of horror in Spider-Man (vol. 1) # 75 (Howard Mackie and John Romita Jr.). This caused Peter to temporarily abandon his code against killing, lobbing a bag of flaming pumpkin bombs towards the Goblin’s torso.
However, Norman came back, and he was not finished with the wallcrawler by a long shot. In the ensuing years, he kidnapped Peter’s beloved Aunt May… twice (the first time in Spider-Man (vol. 1) # 98 by Howard Mackie and John Romita Jr., the second time in Marvel Knights: Spider-Man # 1 by Mark Millar and Terry Dodson), bonded with the Carnage symbiote and murdered Flash Thompson (Amazing Spider-Man (vol. 1) # 800 by Dan Slott and Nick Bradshaw), and even traded his son Harry’s soul to the demon-lord Mephisto (Amazing Spider-Man (vol. 5) # 72 by Nick Spencer and Mark Bagley). While Norman did have his sins purged by a revived Sin-Eater in Amazing Spider-Man (vol. 5) # 50 (Nick Spencer, Patrick Gleason), Peter still regarded him with suspicion after all the trauma Osborn had subjected him to over the years.
But in Amazing Spider-Man (vol. 6) # 2, it seems as if it was Spidey himself who was suffering from amnesia as he no longer held any malice towards the person who shattered his life so many times. Norman is smug and self-assured for someone who has supposedly been cleansed of his sins, and Peter was all too willing to take on menial jobs for him. The question has to be asked as to why Norman is not rotting in the Vault for his countless crimes. Peter took an oath long ago that he would not let dangerous criminals go free, and suffering from amnesia does not excuse the Goblin’s laundry list of evil deeds.
Whether Osborn returns to his villainous ways remains to be seen, but Parker would be ignoring his hallowed sense of responsibility if he did not investigate his former nemesis. If he lets his guard down around the figure who has caused him so much pain, then he will have no one to blame but himself. At the very least, Peter should not lower himself to do Norman’s bidding.
Avengers: The Bizarre Return of Avengers Mansion, Explained