“Who is Norman Osborn Part Five - Conclusions”
by Randy Lander
co-plot by Mark Bousquet
Spider-Man swung through the skyscrapers of Manhattan, his mind racing. So much had happened. Osborn had faked his death and framed him for murder. He had faced off with the Torch, the Thing and the Punisher. That poor homeless man who had bandaged him might be dead, shot trying to save Spidey. That was another one you owe me, Osborn. Another innocent harmed because of you.
Now Norman had his friend Liz Osborn and her baby Normie. Ben Urich had provided Peter with a name: Colin Warven. Security for Osborn Chemical, he had also done some moonlighting as Norman's goon, kidnapping Liz and Normie off the street. Unfortunately for Warven, he'd done it in full view of a Daily Bugle investigative reporter, and one who knew Spidey. Of course, Ben hadn't known that until earlier that day, when he'd come looking for Peter and found him sporting wounds oddly similar to Spidey.
It was a fortunate coincidence, however. It got Ben to the person he wanted to find, which was Spider-Man. And now Spidey, armed with Warven's address, was ready to fight back against the monster who had caused such upheaval in his life time and time again.
Spidey looked up and saw his destination, a place called the Stratford Towers. Warven had an apartment on the 17th floor, which was perfect for Spidey. He counted in his head, figuring out which row of windows was the 17th, and then let loose his web line, flying through midair for a few moments before catching the wall of the Towers and sticking to them.
The next part was going to be tricky from the outside. Finding 1717 meant figuring out which of the 30 windows belonged to Warven, and he had no way of knowing where the apartment numbering started. Not to mention that if anyone saw him outside the building, they'd probably call the police since he was still wanted for murder.
Spidey risked a peek inside the nearest apartment. Nobody there, but the room was littered with children's toys. Seemed an unlikely place to find the security man. He moved on to the next window.
After checking twelve of the windows, Spidey was rewarded with a tingling of his spider sense. He looked around him to make sure there was no one flying behind him, make sure the danger was coming from inside the building.
The window next to Spidey shattered, a large beefy arm emerging from it and grabbing his red and blue tunic. Before Spidey could do anything, he was yanked inside the apartment and slammed to the floor with enough force to make his head spin a little.
Spidey looked up. The man standing over him fit the description of Colin Warven in facial features, but he now stood about eight feet tall and was so overmuscled he looked like he was about to explode. His face was twisted into an expression of rage and pain.
"Spider-Man! Mr. Osborn warned me to expect you!"
Spidey triggered his web shooters, unleashing a burst of goop into the face of the monstrous figure.
"Yeah, well, sorry I didn't RSVP, but you know how the time goes when you're wanted for murder."
He moved, somersaulting into the air as the blinded Warven brought his massive fists down, crashing into the floor and breaking a hole in it. Spidey looked down and saw a young woman bewildered about the plaster that had just dropped into her soup.
"Sorry ma'am, this guy misunderstood me when I asked if he had a rec room!"
"I'll wreck you!" Warven yelled, reaching out for Spidey. He was faster than Spidey had expected, and managed to grab the web-slinger by the arm. Losing no time, he hauled back and threw his captive out the window and into midair.
Spidey twisted and triggered his web shooters, firing a line that attached itself to the nearest building. He'd been falling in midair so many times, he could do the move in his sleep. Using the momentum of the throw, he swung around and back and crashed back into the apartment, slamming into Warven with all his might. The bulky security man went crashing into the door of his apartment, knocking the door off its hinges to clatter into the hallway.
"Where's Liz Osborn?" Spidey demanded, smashing a fist into Warven's face.
"You think I'll tell you? You're insane, web-slinger!" Warven answered with a jab of his own, but Spidey leaped out of the way and flipped behind Warven into the hallway. He spun and delivered another jab into Warven's back, knocking the big man down inside his apartment.
The fury in Spidey's voice surprised Warven, who had never expected such a vengeful attitude from the hero. He didn't answer Spidey's frustrated query, but instead grabbed the door that Spidey was standing on and yanked upward, flipping the web-slinger up into the ceiling.
Spidey slammed hard against the ceiling and fell into Warven's improvised paddle. He rolled out of the way as Warven brought it up again, cracking the ceiling and bringing someone's couch halfway through ceiling. From above, they heard a surprised "Aaaiie!" as whoever was sitting on the couch felt it shift.
Peter was getting tired of this fight, and really tired of endangering the people in the complex. He fired a strand of webbing from each shooter, connecting with each of Warven's shoulders. Then he ran past Warven and out the window, yanking hard as he leaped into mid-air.
Warven yelped in surprise as Spidey pulled him out the window and into freefall with him. Spidey pulled the webbing with him again, grabbing Warven by the collar. The two of them continued to fall toward the Manhattan streets.
Gratified, Spidey used one hand to fire a web strand and grasp onto a nearby building. He held onto Warven and swung them both up in an arc, landing on a rooftop. He deposited Warven rather roughly onto the rooftop and landed about a foot away from him. Hopefully, he'd put a scare into the man. If he hadn't, he could continue the fight here where there weren't as many innocent bystanders close at hand.
"Where's Liz Osborn?"
"I delivered her to an old warehouse that Osborn Chemicals owns. 412 Wharf's Run. It doesn't matter, Spider-Man. I may not have been able to beat you alone, but he has dozens of agents like me. Chemically enhanced, stronger and faster. He's been ready for you since the beginning."
Warven charged Spidey, but Spidey moved faster and punched Warven in the face with all his might. The surprised security man stared for a second, then fell down hard. Spidey webbed him up and then swung down to drop him at street level. A uniformed cop came running for him, but Spidey was already on his way. As he swung away, he yelled to the cop, "Suspicion of kidnapping! This guy works for Norman Osborn! Call Ben Urich and he'll tell you all you need to know to hold him!"
Flash Thompson looked down field. Nobody open, everybody was covered. Even his best receiver, who for some reason looked like Spider-Man, had let him down. He couldn't find anybody to throw the ball to.
Then he saw the free safety coming at him. Seconds before the impact, he saw the face in the helmet. Norman Osborn.
Then the safety crashed into him, and Flash went down.
Flash groaned as he woke up from his dream. His body ached, especially his neck, like he really had taken that hit from Osborn. Then he remembered that he had. Norman Osborn, nowhere near as dead as reports had indicated, had backhanded him in their office. Flash then realized he was hanging from a ceiling, his arms suspended above him and his legs restrained. Whatever it was, it felt kind of goopy. He looked down and saw what looked like an enormous chemistry set spread over the entirety of a warehouse floor. The floor was about fifteen feet below him. Hanging next to him, conscious and looking terrified, was Liz Osborn. He recognized the substance binding her hands (and presumably his, as well) to the ceiling. It looked like Spider-Man's webbing.
In the shadows below, Flash saw movement. Then he heard the familiar voice of Norman Osborn.
"Awake, then, are we? Good. Yes, Flash, as you've no doubt noticed, you're suspended using a substance identical to Spider-Man's webbing. Analyzed some of the stuff I had and had it duplicated by a rather brilliant chemist working at my firm. Same chemist who helped with all this, actually."
With that, Osborn gestured to all the chemical equipment in the better lighted sections of the warehouse.
"In just a few more minutes, the formula will be complete. It's been reformulated, made better. Not only will it allow me to keep the strength and agility that should be mine, it will stabilize my body, let me regain the shape I've grown so comfortable wearing."
Flash didn't know what that comment meant, but suspected it had something to do with the way Osborn's body had disintegrated after Spidey killed him. No, wait. With everything that happened, that couldn't be right.
"Spidey didn't kill you, did he?"
"Oh, heavens no, Flash. Don't tell me that took you in too. I just took advantage of the clone degeneration that was wracking my body. No, that was just to get him out of the way for a while, get him a bit more irrational so he'd be off-balance when he came looking for the rest of you. Which, by the way, he's probably doing right now."
"Clone...degeneration?" Liz uttered, unable to believe her ears.
"You're all such fools, aren't you? Not like my Gwen. No, she was bright and beautiful, better than Spider-Man, Osborn, all of you. I'll be reclaiming her as well, of course. My agents are already in place, searching her out and bringing her to me. By then I will have destroyed one of the men responsible for her death, and taken everything that mattered from the other one. His company, his accomplishments as the goblin, his daughter-in-law and grandson, even his very identity."
Liz was stunned. "You're not Norman Osborn, are you?"
"Norman" stepped out of the shadows then, and Liz gasped at his monstrous form. "What...what are you?"
"All that matters to you is that I will be your death. In a few seconds, I'll snap your necks, and do the same for Normie and May. Then when the police find this place, and find you webbed up next to Spider-Man's corpse, they'll assume he did it. I will have claimed not only his life, but his legacy."
"Not a chance, Professor Warren."
"Norman" spun and saw Spider-Man standing at the entrance to the warehouse, holding the broken lock in his hand. Spidey advanced on the green, bestial creature standing before him.
"I can't believe I didn't figure it out earlier. All the cloning, and yet when Norman Osborn showed up, I just let myself be fooled into thinking he'd suddenly developed those skills. I didn't even think about how much you hated Norman Osborn. Almost as much as you hated me. Isn't that right, Jackal?"
The Jackal let a yellow-toothed grin split his hideous face. "Very good, Spider-Man. But you're still not going to win."
With a triumphant flourish, the Jackal flipped into the air, his movements quick like an animal. He pulled the tarp off of a large box on the floor, revealing a glass and metal cage. Inside was Normie Osborn, holding a crying baby and crying himself.
Peter did. That was his daughter, May Parker. And the Jackal, the beast that had once been his professor Miles Warren until his obsession with Gwen Stacy drove him mad, was standing right next to her, his claws looking sharper than ever.
"I'm going to kill you. But first, I'm going to kill them!"
The Jackal raised the top of the cage and pulled back his hand, ready to claw the crying children. Liz screamed, and Flash yelled obscenities. Spidey leaped into action, grabbing the Jackal and throwing him to the other side of the warehouse.
"You sick monster!" he yelled. "I've always felt sort of sorry for you, Professor! But that's over now! You've put me through hell, and it's time I repaid the favor!"
The Jackal stood, blood trickling down from his scaly lip. He reached over to the chemical equipment near him and pulled out a flask. "You sound as if you actually think you can win. How sad. Let me disillusion you."
With that, he swallowed the contents of the formula. His eyes glowed with an even wilder madness when he put the empty flask down.
Peter's spider sense warned him a second before the madman came at him, but it wasn't fast enough. Even as he was beginning to leap out of the way, the Jackal had crossed the room on foot and slashed his claws through Peter's costume. Peter felt as if his stomach had caught fire, and he looked down to see three deep furrows of blood.
He countered with a roundhouse punch, but the Jackal ducked lightly out of the way. He was cackling at Spider-Man now, obviously enjoying himself. He moved in with his claws again and tore a chunk out of Peter's right shoulder. Peter felt the arm go numb, and felt himself becoming light-headed already from the loss of blood.
Focusing his anger, Peter lashed out, jabbing a fist at the Jackal. He connected this time, sending the madman crashing into the chemical equipment. The Jackal stood up, chuckling hysterically as he walked out of the scientific wreckage.
"Don't you get it? I'm better than you! I always have been! You're fighting evolution, Spider-Man!"
The Jackal pounced and backhanded Peter across the face, sending him sprawling into a pile of crates. He stumbled to his feet, but he was beginning to think that maybe the Jackal was right. Maybe he wasn't good enough to beat him.
"No!" he said out loud. "You're a deluded madman! Nothing more, Warren!"
Spidey leaped out at the Jackal again, and was rewarded with a rake of claws across his back in exchange for the punch he delivered to the Jackal's midsection.
"I can do this all day," the Jackal gloated. "You've just been through hell, remember? It's made you irrational. I brought you here to destroy you. Do you really believe Warven told you all that because you beat it out of him? I set you up. I've been playing you all along."
Spider-Man lunged again, but the Jackal grabbed him by the throat and lifted him into the air. Peter gasped for breath, feeling the Jackal's hands beginning to crush his larynx.
"I'm through playing now."
Ben Urich walked back into Osborn Chemical, wearing the fake "Ben Pollux" ID badge he had gotten for his last foray into the company.* He walked past security with a friendly wave, and then down the hallway. He wasn't sure where to find the information he was looking for, and much as he hated to do it, he was going to have to go directly to one of his sources for the information, even if that meant alienating the source. (*in Web of Spider-Man #132)
Stepping into the chemical research labs, Ben looked around. He saw the man he was seeking standing over several beakers, methodically pouring substances from one to another. The man was in his late twenties, about Peter Parker's age. He had handsome features, with a sharply curved nose. He reminded Ben quite a bit of Norman Osborn in appearance, although in place of Osborn's odd hair, this man had a shaggy mop of brown hair dangling down just above the shoulders. In the lab, he kept it tied in a ponytail.
The man looked up, and Ben could see his name badge. Stanton Noble. ESU graduate, bright star of the Osborn Chemical research department, and a source from inside the company who had approached Ben. He had told him about some of the illegal things going on here, directed him to the chemical formulae in the mainframe. He told Ben his conscience was killing him, but he desperately needed the job. This wasn't the first time he'd found out he was working for crooked employers. His last job had been with Roxxon. He'd told Urich that if he were to quit now, claiming corruption, that would be another black mark on his resume'. Better to help clean up the corruption with outside help.
"Mr. Pollux? Safety inspection time again? Why don't we talk in my office?"
Noble smiled at the others in the lab as he guided Ben into a small office off the floor. He closed the door and shut the blinds. His smile disappeared, turning into a worried frown.
"Mr. Urich, what are you doing here? I thought we agreed to phone contact only."
"That was before Norman Osborn upped the stakes. He isn't just running a corrupt company now, Stanton. He kidnapped Liz Osborn and her son. He wasn't really murdered, he just framed Spider-Man for it. Who knows what else he's been doing?"
"I do," Noble said. He reached into his desk and produced a file. "Mr. Osborn has been creating some kind of 'super steroid' and giving it to some of the security men. He doesn't know I know about it, but I've got records here of the composition and lab-time used for it, not to mention the names of the guys who took it."
"That's great. That'll go a long way toward proving my case that he was involved in the kidnapping. All I need is for my friend to come through with the kidnapper. What about faking his death? Did any of the security cameras record what happened?"
"None of the ones he knows about. But I had a friend of mine in security install another one and I just got the tape back a little while ago. The tape completely exonerates Spider-Man, and makes it pretty clear that it was all done to frame him."
"This is great stuff, Stanton," Ben said warily. "When were you planning on sharing it with me?"
"I was just about to call you," Stanton replied. "But since you're here, you can take it. Take it and nail him to the wall, Mr. Urich."
Peter was losing consciousness. He grabbed Jackal's arm with both hands, but could barely even grip it. Desperately, he tried to squeeze his arm, pull it away from his throat, but he wasn't having any luck.
His vision began to blur. From behind the Jackal, he saw some movement, but he wasn't sure it was anything but a hallucination.
Fortunately for him, it was. Jackal lost his grip when the new arrival kicked him in the back with all his strength. Peter went flying out of Jackal's arm and landed on the floor, tumbling for a minute before stopping. He gasped for breath, staring with blurred vision at Jackal and the new arrival.
It was a man, dressed in a black bodysuit complete with hood. He wore white goggles that were shaped a lot like Spidey's own mask. Over the bodysuit, he was wearing a brown trenchcoat. His body was lean and muscular, and Jackal could tell from the posture that he was angry.
"Well now, who's this?"
"Not important," the man said. "It's over, Jackal. You've done enough."
"I'll destroy you first."
Jackal leaped at the man, but he moved out of the way. Spidey thought there was something oddly familiar in the man's movements. He followed through with a kick to Jackal's back, sending the villain sprawling into some of the chemical equipment.
Jackal stood up and leaped again, landing next to the man. He swept his claws through him, cutting into the man's arm. As a follow-through, he pulled the same move on the mysterious stranger that he had pulled on Peter. He grabbed his throat and lifted him off the floor.
Peter watched the man struggle. Instead of trying to break the grip on his throat, he was landing repeated kicks to Jackal's body. It was clear he didn't care whether he lived or died, but whether Jackal lost. This man who Peter didn't even know was willing to sacrifice his life to put an end to the Jackal.
Peter struggled to his feet. His head was still spinning, his vision still blurred. He stumbled and fell on his face. Grunting, he slowly pushed himself to his feet. He kept walking toward Jackal, who was at this point oblivious to him. He was cackling and screaming at the man in his death grip.
"Why did you have to interfere? You're always interfering! You're just like Peter Parker, aren't you? I know you are! You're Peter Parker! I don't know how you did it, but you're him, aren't you? I'll kill you!"
Peter tapped the Jackal on the shoulder.
"Wrong guess, bunky."
With that, he landed a haymaker to the Jackal's jaw. The Jackal hit the ground hard, then bounced along the floor until he hit the wall. The man he had been holding dropped to the ground, leaped into the air, and performed a somersault in midair, landing next to Peter.
The Jackal started to cackle. He stood up, and Peter fought back the urge to vomit when he saw that the creature's arms were rotting away.
"He betrayed me. The formula...he betrayed me."
His cackling grew louder and louder as his arms rotted away. "It doesn't matter, Parker. I've won! I've already won!"
Peter and the mysterious man turned away as the Jackal continued to deteriorate.
"You get May and Normie," the man said. "I'll take care of Flash and Liz."
Peter ran over to the cage where Normie and May were trapped. He reached one hand in. "Normie? Hand me the baby. I'm going to get you both out of here."
Normie stared at Peter. He was terrified of the Spider-Man costume, Peter knew that. To him, it represented the thing that had killed his father and grandfather. "Normie...please. I want to help you."
Trembling, Normie handed the baby to Peter. Peter held her, and permitted himself a minute to look into her eyes. She looked back, and even though she couldn't see him beneath the mask, somehow she must have sensed her father. Her crying stopped immediately. Peter felt tears dampening the inside of his mask.
He looked up and saw the man clinging to the ceiling, tearing the webbing free with one hand. He grabbed Flash in one arm and Liz in the other and leaped down. Something very familiar about his moves, Peter thought. He couldn't wait to get out of here and confirm his suspicions. After all, if May wasn't really dead, maybe...
"C'mon!" the man yelled, rushing toward the door. He opened it and tossed Flash and Liz out. Spider-Man had a flash of spider sense, and looked back at the Jackal. He had disintegrated into nothing more than a pile of green goo.
When Peter turned around, he saw the man standing right next to him. "Move! Don't you feel that?"
Peter realized what was triggering his spider sense when he saw the red electric numbers mixed in with Osborn's lab equipment. They were counting down, and there were only five seconds left. Peter ran for the entrance, holding May. The man was right behind him, with Normie closely behind. Peter heard someone stumble and he looked back even as he kept running. Normie had fallen, but the man in black had gone back for him.
"Go, Peter!" the man yelled.
Peter kept moving. He heard the man yell, "Catch!" from inside and spun to catch Normie, who had come flying at him. Inside, he saw the man in black running for the back of the warehouse.
Peter couldn't tell if he made it. The warehouse erupted in fire and noise. After the fires had died down a little, Peter rushed back in, but it was too hot to get very far. He wouldn't have any luck finding him now.
Flash Thompson walked sheepishly towards Spidey, who had put Normie down and was holding May in his arms. "Spidey...I'm sorry I doubted you. I'll do whatever I can to get your name cleared, I swear."
Peter smiled inside his mask. "Thanks, Flash. You're a good guy. Do me a favor, will ya? Get this little lady to Mrs. Watson-Parker. I have a feeling she'd like to see her."
He handed the baby off to Flash and swung away from the scene. Behind him, the warehouse burned, consuming all the madness that had infected his life for the past month.
CORRUPT CEO KILLED IN EXPLOSION!
The headline blared across the front page of the Daily Bugle special edition. Ben Urich beamed. There was a fantastic shot of the warehouse exploding to match the story, courtesy of freelancer Peter Parker. The Bugle had paid a pretty penny for that photo, which hadn't made Jonah happy.
What made him even less happy was the sidebar on Spider-Man, proving that Norman had faked his death, and Spidey hadn't been involved at all.
Betty Brant walked over to Urich's desk. "Nice story, Ben. How did you get all that info on Osborn, anyway?"
"A good reporter never reveals his sources, Ms. Brant," Ben said. "You ought to know that."
"I do," she retorted. "But you seemed so giddy over this story, I thought you might slip up."
"I got him," Ben said. "Do you know what that feels like? This guy ruined my credibility, and was a menace to everyone, and I got him."
"I don't know it yet," Betty said. "But when you and I crack the Hobgoblin case, I will."
Stanton Noble sat in his office, reading the front page. He was on the phone, cackling with glee.
"That's it, Hobgoblin. A little leaked information, some flaws in the chemical formulae, and some positive interference by Spider-Man for once, and one potential rival has been eliminated. With this Osborn pretender gone, I guess there's no one to compete for the mantle."
He paused for a second, listening to the voice on the other end of the line. "No, I think it's pretty likely I'll be out of here soon. Osborn Chemical isn't in the greatest of shape after all this."
Wilson Fisk looked out over his city. His assistant Charles stepped inside the door and cleared his throat. Without glancing behind him, Fisk motioned for the man to come forward. Charles came in, carrying a silver tray on which rested several pastries, a carafe of coffee and a mug, a cigar, and the Daily Bugle.
"Read it to me, Charles."
The man cleared his throat again and then read from the business section of the paper. "Osborn Chemical prices dipped today by nearly twenty points, with several stockholders liquidating all their holdings in protest over the corruption rampant in the company. Illegal motions which put Norman Osborn in charge are being investigated, but CEO Liz Osborn is as of now not able to legally take any action on behalf of the company, leaving it rudderless and in dire need of a corporate 'white knight.'"
Fisk smiled. It had been quite an investment in Miles Warren. He had provided equipment, funding, and information that would let him impersonate Norman Osborn. In the end, it had worked out better than he could have hoped. Spider-Man had been put through no small amount of grief, a potential rival in the business of the city had been eliminated, and with just a few phone calls, Fisk would soon have another company under his control. Fisk took the cigar being handed to him by Charles and lit it. As he puffed out the smoke, he couldn't suppress a small chuckle. It felt good to be a man of power again.
Steve Caesar didn't remember when he had made the change from average security guard to hired goon. It might have been, although he didn't know it at the time, when he injected the formula that Stanton Noble offered him. It might have been then.
But it might have been more recent than that. It might have been when Norman Osborn invited him into his office, gave him a picture of a pretty blond girl, and said "Find her and bring her to me. Her name is Gwen."
Now he was standing outside a coffee shop in Seattle called the Daily Grind, some kind of chain place that had started in New York. He watched a pretty blond waitress, all smiles and energy, weaving between customers to deliver the lattes and the cappuccinos. He stared at the picture again and nodded to himself. This was Gwen Stacy, the woman he was sent to find. Or her clone or something like that. He'd kind of trailed off when Osborn briefed him.
Steve started to move out of the alley and toward the coffee shop when he felt two strong hands grab his shoulders and pull him back. Once in the alley, he was given a pretty solid thrashing by a man dressed all in black. The man dropped the Daily Bugle onto the man's chest, with its headline story about Norman Osborn's death. He hoped that would persuade him to give up the quest, he hoped.
Shedding the black suit that was his disguise, the man walked into the coffee shop. Gwen Stacy came immediately over to him. "What can I get you?"
"Well, pretty lady, you could get me a job, if you're hiring."
"Matter of fact, we are. I'll get you an application."
She turned back for a second and half-smiled at him. "Do I know you from somewhere?"
He smiled back. "In a sense, pretty lady. Get me that application. Have
I got a story for you..."
Hey Randy! Great issue of Spider-Man. Of course Ben Urich's figuring out Spidey's secret ID was a cool moment, but Iron Fist's quote about Spidey's innocence this issue was one of the best I'd ever read. And I'll freely admit that I would have been shocked in Flash's place as well. Keep up the great work buddy!
TJ has consistently been the first guy to put a letter in my e-mail box with responses to Web, and I'd like to thank him for it. Now that you've seen the conclusion of this storyline, which is really where Mark and I built to from the beginning of the series, what do you think?
Aiiiya!! Forget Chapetr 1 and vol 2. This is the only Spidey stuff I am interested in . I am drooling here. Give me issue #136 now!!!!!!!
Thanks! Here's #136. What did you think of it?