Last year, American Son proved to be one of the Spider-franchise’s bigger storylines, so it’s little surprise that Marvel have brought the character and concept back for a second roll of the dice.
Starring Harry Osborn, the series picks up some time shortly after “Siege” and places Harry’s rather tragic circumstances under the microscope, showing him more trapped than ever in the shadow of the father he can never please. With drug and money problems stacking up, it seems like things can’t get any worse -- and of course, they do, when someone starts using the American Son armor. With a genetic lock on the suit preventing use from non-Osborns, it seems like Harry has gone off the deep end, and he’s only too happy to argue his capabilities when the investigators start calling. But is it really him?
The first issue reveals the truth -- and this is a fairly major spoiler so I’ll give you a chance to bail out now if you’re planning to buy the issue (and if not, maybe this’ll change your mind) -- it isn’t Harry, but his “brother”, Gabriel, the son of Norman and Gwen.
In many ways, it was inevitable that these two characters would finally get to meet, although tellingly, the twist mostly works because the Stacy twins have been allowed to fade entirely out of the public consciousness of late. Given the reaction to those characters when they were created, it’s hard to say whether this is going to endear people to the series. The twist itself makes sense, but in terms of storytelling choices, I’m not so sure.
Worse still is the ham-fisted manner in which Reed attempts to create ambiguity and misdirection early in the issue. While it’s believable that Harry might be indignant about the perception that he would be incapable of being a superhero, it’s less believable that he wouldn’t outright deny his involvement. Indeed, if he knew it wasn’t him in the armor, one would expect him to be more concerned who was, not to go along with the accusation to prove a point.
On the plus side, the art of Phillipe Briones makes the issue work far better than it would under another artist. Briones’ art resembles a slightly rougher Phil Jimenez, and his good storytelling and dynamic superheroics make up for the slightly rushed appearance of some of the faces.
It’s an odd side-effect of the increased emphasis on the character’s solo title that this story would probably have had a better chance if it were just another arc on “Amazing,” rather than a spin-off. It isn’t horrible, but it is unremarkable. Nothing about the title or concept feels compelling enough to grab reader interest, whereas an in-built audience would have been satisfied, if not blown away. To that end, if you can still make room for yet another Spider-Man book in your life, it ticks the boxes -- but I’d expect three times a month is more than enough for most.