“Who is Norman Osborn Part Four - Truths”
by Randy Lander
co-plot by Mark Bousquet
Spidey knew the Punisher was going to fire a second before he did it. Unfortunately, he also knew he couldn't get out of the way. As he heard the gunshot, all he could think of was Mary Jane. All he could hear was a cacophony of voices.
As the shot rang out, something moved in front of Spidey, then collapsed on top of him.
"Raymond?" Spidey said.
"Hey, Spidey," Raymond said weakly.
Spidey realized slowly what had happened. Raymond had jumped in front of him. Taken the bullet. Desperately, Spidey began looking for the wound.
"C'mere, Punny. I wanna give ya a love-tap."
The Human Torch encircled the Punisher in a ring of fire as Thing moved in on him. The Punisher cursed and reached into his coat. Producing a grenade, he dropped it into the sewage with a splash. The area was filled with smoke, making it impossible for anyone to see.
Spidey was moving, his danger sense tingling wildly. He couldn't see, but he remembered which way was away from all his pursuers. He took to crawling along the ceiling, avoiding the splashing of water that would give him away. He held Raymond in one of his arms.
"Hold on, Raymond. I'll get you to a hospital."
The Punisher cursed in frustration. The infrared sight on his rifle was useless, blocked by the Torch's ring of fire. He took a deep breath and splashed into the sewage, swimming underneath the ring. Once he felt the heat subside, he emerged and began running. Amateurs, he thought. Left me an avenue of escape. He surfaced and ran for the nearest ladder, using the sight on his rifle to see through the smoke. He was up the ladder and out before the smoke dispersed.
The Torch flew out of the smoke, following Spidey. He heard Thing yelling behind him. No time to wait for his slower companion. He was the only one who could catch Spidey now. With any luck, the Thing could catch the Punisher.
Rounding several corners, the Torch saw Spidey up ahead.
"Give it up, Spidey. Turn yourself in. We'll get this all cleared up."
The Torch used his powers to raise a wall of flame in front of Spidey.
"Johnny...this guy is gonna die if I don't get him to a hospital. He's shot bad."
"Then let me fly him. It'll be quicker. But you've got to come with me, Spidey. I don't know what happened, but I can't just let you walk."
"Johnny, I didn't kill Norman Osborn. I was set up. You've got to believe me. You know me!"
"Do I? I don't even know your real name!"
Spider-Man was stunned into silence for a second. He'd always thought of Johnny as one of his best friends, one of the few people that he liked who actually understood what it was like to be a hero. But a lot of that camaraderie came from knowing all about Johnny as a public figure. What did Johnny really know about him?
"You're right. But now isn't the time. Let me work this out for myself, and we'll have a long talk afterwards. Please, Johnny."
The Human Torch stared at him. Spidey waited for the tingle of his spider-sense that would tell him Johnny wasn't going for it. He wondered if he could really take on the Torch. Those flames sure looked dangerous.
"Okay. I'll fly this guy to a hospital, you go clear your name. But Spidey, this is a limited time offer. Get it done fast."
"Thank you, Johnny. Oh, uh...can I ask one more thing?"
"Could I borrow a pair of pants? And maybe a shirt?"
Punisher War Journal, Entry Number Two: Another innocent caught in the crossfire. I don't know what it is about these people, that they can't see the corruption right in front of them. I made a mental note to find the man and arrange for his hospital care to be taken care of, but first I had to get away before the Thing or the Torch came after me. Those two were way out of my class without special armaments. I ducked into an alley up above to make sure the Thing wasn't following me. He wasn't. Someone else was.
"He's gone," Frank whispered to himself. "Time to move."
"Not so fast."
Luke Cage, who had just entered the alley, blocked Frank's exit.
"My lucky day, I guess. Heard a police call about gunshots in this area and a Spidey sighting and caught a ride in. Then I find you."
"Move out of my way, Cage," Punisher said.
"Or what?" Cage replied. "You gonna tickle me with that rifle?"
"No," Castle answered.
Frank moved up to Cage, reaching into a jacket pocket and pulling out another grenade, this one not simply a harmless smoke bomb. With his other hand, he brought the rifle up and fired into Luke's face. The bullets bounced off, but Luke instinctively raised his hands, leaving his midsection unguarded. Frank reached out, stretched Cage's pants forward, and dropped the grenade into them. Then he dove back into the alley as the short-fuse grenade exploded.
It was a simple matter to run past Cage then, as he was lying on the ground, howling with pain.
Not so simple was dealing with his partner, Iron Fist, who came out of nowhere to deliver a vicious kick to the Punisher's midsection. At the same time, his other leg kicked the rifle out of the Punisher's hands. Fist flipped in midair and landed in a cat stance, staring at the vigilante.
"My partner and I have some questions for you, Mr. Castle."
"You're interfering with my mission."
"Luke, are you all right?" Fist didn't take his eyes off the Punisher as he called out to his partner.
"Christmas...Fist," Luke coughed out. "Guy dropped...a grenade down my drawers...do you think I'm all right?"
"You're fine," Frank muttered. "You're the one with the steel-hard skin."
"Steel hard or not, a grenade in the nether regions is bound to sting," Fist replied.
"I don't have time for this," Frank growled. "Spider-Man is getting further and further away."
"So you are chasing Spidey," Cage said, standing up. "Not going to happen, Frank. Spidey's one of the good guys. He's been framed."
"You have proof?"
"We don't need it," Fist replied. "We have faith."
Frank sighed and made a move for his pistol. He didn't want to hurt these misguided heroes, but this reminded him a lot of the blue wall that got thrown up to protect corrupt cops. Just because they were all in the same club, they figured that earned them special treatment.
He didn't even clear the pistol out of its holster before Iron Fist delivered a kick to his throat, knocking him back into Cage's arms. Cage squeezed hard, and Frank felt himself getting light-headed. His kevlar wasn't helping at all against this.
When Castle passed out for real, Cage let him go. He didn't fall for the two attempts Frank made at feigning unconsciousness.
Cage and Fist stared at the Punisher, collapsed into a heap on the ground.
"We can't take him to the cops, Fist. Much as you and I might hate to admit it, we need this guy taking out the criminals we can't deal with."
"So what do we do, Luke? We can't have him hunting down Spider-Man."
"I guess Heroes for Hire isn't going to complete this assignment, then. We got into this to protect the web-head, and we'll do just that by keeping Frank out of circulation until it's over. Spidey will have to watch his own back from here on in."
"Okay, you better pick him up so we can get him out of here. I'd carry
him, but all that ordinance weighs a ton!"
Mary Jane sat in her chair feeling helpless. She stared that the television news, reporting that the police were closing in on Spider-Man, who was believed to be wounded. She thought about what she had found out about Norman Osborn kidnapping their baby girl and telling the Parkers that she was dead. She remembered the stranger who had brought her the information. And she cried.
The front door to the house opened. Mary Jane stood and started yelling at what she assumed was the stranger, returned with more enigmatic hints.
"What? Haven't you turned my life upside down enough?!"
"Did we have a fight that I missed?"
Mary Jane rushed up to him and threw her arms around him. Then she crinkled her nose and pulled away, looking quizzically at Peter.
"Oh. Let's get you in the shower. Then I think we should talk."
Flash dropped the stack of papers in his hand, and they scattered on the floor. He stared at the man in front of him. He wanted to speak, but no further words would come.
Norman Osborn strode calmly into his office.
"Packing up my things already?"
"Mr. Osborn? But...you're dead!"
Osborn walked over to the desk and ran his hand slowly along it's bare surface, making a loud squeaking sound.
"In point of fact, Mr. Thompson...I am neither."
Before Flash could react, Osborn leaped over the desk with an animal grace and landed next to him. He delivered a vicious backhand that knocked the former athlete unconscious. Flash collapsed in a heap on the floor.
"And so the collection is complete."
As Osborn glanced out the window, he smiled.
"Ah, Mr. Parker. I wonder how you're coming along with the little distraction I arranged for you."
Mary Jane paced the floor, listening to the water run upstairs. Peter usually took long showers, as a result of grime or blood or whatever else he'd picked up in his extracurricular activities. That gave her some time to think about how she was going to break the news to him. Unfortunately, she had been thinking for a good fifteen minutes and hadn't come up with any way to tell him that their daughter was alive, or had been, and that she was in the hands of Norman Osborn.
He's already lost someone to Norman, she thought, remembering Gwen Stacy. True, Mary Jane and Gwen had not exactly been friends. Rather, they'd been rivals for Peter's affection, and when they did get together, they exchanged catty remarks with one another. Mary Jane didn't like to think about Gwen, because she knew that if the Goblin hadn't killed her, Peter would most likely have married her instead. She didn't like to talk about Gwen, because she could see the look of pain on Peter's face when she did. In Peter's mind, he had failed Gwen, just like he failed his Uncle Ben...
Stupid! She had let herself get off on another tangent. Why was this so hard? She and Peter could communicate, but they hardly ever talked about May. She honestly had no idea how he'd react to the news.
The shower had stopped. Peter came downstairs, wrapped in a towel, his hair still wet.
"Boy, are you a sight for sore eyes, pretty lady. Give your fugitive husband a kiss."
She kissed him lightly.
"I think you should sit down, Peter."
He sat on the couch, a worried expression on his face. "Don't tell me this day gets worse?"
"May didn't die."
Peter shut up and stared at his wife. "Aunt May?"
"No. Our daughter. It was a trick. Norman Osborn took her."
Before Peter could react, there was a frantic knocking at the door. Peter jumped up. He hoped that he hadn't been followed. He could have given away his secret identity and endangered Mary Jane. He ducked out of sight as Mary Jane moved to the door.
She opened the door and found Ben Urich standing there. A cigarette dangled from his mouth, and he looked frantic.
"Mrs. Parker! I need to find your husband, it's a matter of life and death!"
"Ben?" Peter ran up to the door. "Ben, what's wrong?"
"Liz and Normie have been kidnapped. I need you to contact Spider-Man."
"Wait, hold on...who kidnapped them?"
"A man from Osborn Chemical. He works security there, his name is Colin Warven. I'm going back in to find out what's going on, but someone's got to rescue Liz and Normie...what happened to your leg?"
Peter realized he was wearing only a towel. The bandaged wound on his leg showed clearly. Ben was a good reporter. He'd make the connection as soon as he heard about Spidey.
Apparently, he'd already heard. "Well, I'll be damned..."
Catching himself, Ben Urich said, "Huh. Probably hurt it doing some of that photography work, huh?"
"Yeah," Peter answered lamely. No need to go any further down that train of thought. At least, not right now.
"Okay, Peter. I heard Spidey's been hurt, but I also know that he'd want to make sure Liz and Normie Osborn are okay. Can I trust you to get word to him while I handle the evidence?"
"You can count on me, Ben."
The reporter shook his head in amazement once again and ran back to his car. As he drove off, Peter limped back upstairs.
"Peter! Can't you get someone else? What about the Fantastic Four, or Daredevil, or..."
Peter emerged from the stairs wearing his Spider-Man costume, without the mask. "They're hunting me down for killing Osborn, although I'd bet anything he's not really dead."
He yanked the mask down over his face.
"I'm going after him. I'm going to save Liz, and Normie, and May. And I'm going to make him pay for everything he's done."
First off, let me apologize for not mailing you last issue. I had been very busy. Anyway, "Who is Norman Osborn" is shaping up nicely! I wonder who it was that had Flash so startled in the last panel? For that matter, I can't wait to see how the Punisher cliffhanger is going! Just keep up the great work!
TJ, now you've seen who it was that startled Flash. Admit it, he would have startled you too, wouldn't he? :)
Great story, Randy! I'm really enjoying you're take on Spidey. I just have one problem: Are the medical officials so stupid that they can't detect Norman died of natural causes? And I think it's easy to guess who Green Goblin is: Liz Osborn. I also like what looks like a revival of the Sinister Six with Hobs and Scorpion. Keep up the good work!
Hmm...it's almost like someone paid the medical officials to falsify their reports. ;) As you can see, there are additional complications involved in Norman Osborn's death. The setup was the thing. I think you're the first to make a guess on the Green Goblin's identity, which will be revealed in the upcoming "Spot-Quest" story. And I have big plans for Sinister Six coming up.
I'm really enjoying this storyline. I would like to see more closeness between Johnny and Peter (or rather the Human Torch and Spider-Man). I would also like to see Peter and Mary Jane interact. The two of them together is my favorite aspect of the comic.
I liked seeing MJ go to the hospital to get answers for herself. That really illustrates what a strong person she is.
I can't wait for Flash to find out what Osborn is really like. All his hero-worship has really been getting on my nerves.
Glad you like the Peter/Johnny dynamic, that's a big feature of this title and something Mark Bousquet, former FF writer, definitely brought to the book. I'm glad, because I love writing these two. Also, there will be a bit of a Peter/MJ spotlight right after the end of "Who is Norman Osborn?" And Flash found out, rather rudely, what Osborn is really like this issue. But will he survive the revelation?
In addition to the ongoing story, I've been in discussions with Neil
Gow about Web of Spider-Man Annual #11, which will feature a two-part story
featuring Sherwood and the Crusaders! Co-written by Neil and myself, it
will begin in Spidey continuity and then finish up in Crusaders time, and
should be a lot of fun. Not on the schedule yet, but we're working it out.
For those of you not reading Crusaders, I highly recommend it.