Thursday, February 11, 2010

Goblin's Advocate - How Evil Has Osborn's Dark Reign Really Been?

With Siege currently well underway, Norman Osborn’s year long Dark Reign is finally coming to an end.  What this means is that, once again, things will be just hunky dory for the heroes. But I ask you this, what exactly was so bad about Osborn’s tenure? 

We’ve been told that it is awful, we’ve been told that things are so terrible for our heroes, we’ve been told that all of our heroes were going to see what it’s like to be Spider-Man 24/7, with the people in control and media painting them as the bad guys and making their lives suck. 

Well, it's been a year and the results have been, well, not what you'd expect.  In fact, it's been pretty much the same ol, same ol since before Osborn came into power.  Hit the jump to see a comparison between Osborn's tenure and past directors as well as a breakdown of the "evil" things Osborn has done while in power and decide for yourself if it's been as bad as our heroes make it out to be.

Today's guest poster, Warwick Johnson, is an avid comic book reader and blogger who you can read more from over at his blog, Event Fatigue.

Has Osborn's Dark Reign Really Been That Bad?

We've been told all of these things ad nauseam, but my question is, has it really been that bad? The New Avengers went from hiding out in their secret headquarters while fighting the Hood to… hiding out in their slightly different secret headquarters while fighting the Hood. Huh.  The Mighty Avengers have run into Osborn only just recently and it was more of a team-up than confrontation. The Initiative went from a corrupt, Skrull invested, cadet killing meat grinder...a corrupt, super villain invested meat grinder that still did more good than the previous Initiative in retaking the Negative Zone prison and, generally, not cloning people or causing the deaths of or or press ganging into the Initiative of random civilians.

Even Spider-Man, who is supposed to be Osborn’s sworn enemy, has run into zero problems under Osborn's tenure except for the one or two times when he went out of his way to pick fights with Norman. Even then, Osborn did not retailiate.  If it weren’t for the American Son arc in Amazing Spider-Man or the Dark Reign: The List - Spider-Man special, which hasn't been referenced once since it happened, despite the supposedly large ramifications of Peter's actions in exposing Osborn's corruption to the general public, you wouldn’t be able to tell that Peter’s number one nemesis was in charge of national security and able to do whatever he wished to Spider-Man legally since there were never HAMMER agents pursuing Spider-man or his friends constantly as there should have been. 

Instead, with the exception of Tony Stark, everybody pretty much got on with their lives like they had since Civil War ended.  Osborn even did some good along the way, such as stopping Morgana La Fey or stopping the Molecule Man. 

Director or Dictator? - A Comparison

More than that though, what I really wonder about with the way that Dark Reign has played out so far is if Norman Osborn has really done that many villianous things in his tenure as Director of HAMMER. Aside from who he associates with, Osborn's actions have mostly seemed to be for the benefit of the every day citizens of the Marvel Universe, and Bendis usually portrays him as a guy who is trying to keep his personal demons in check while protecting America and our interests, even off camera, for the most part. 

Yet, Bendis himself writes a New Avengers where Hawkeye tries to rally the troops to go on a mission to murder Osborn in cold blood, even going so far as to compare him to Hitler (clearly Clint hasn't heard of Godwin's Law) because Osborn is so unbelievably EVIIIIILLLLLL that murder is the only option left and that the heroes should break every moral code they have to depose of him. 

And in order to prove my point that Osborn has not been a terribly evil head of national security, I've done some research into two previous Directors of SHIELD, Nick Fury and Tony Stark, and dug up some of the questionable and practically criminal things that they did while they were Director. Also, I'm going to go into the things that Osborn has done as Director of HAMMER and see if he really is as Hitler-esque as our heroes purport him to be.

Nick Fury

Looked on by many as the greatest SHIELD Director, and probably the greatest spy that ever lived, in the Marvel Universe, Nick Fury is not without his own fair share of evil deeds, shades of grey or otherwise. 

For example, under Fury's watch, SHIELD was taken over first by rogue Life Model Decoys, which were operating under the orders of Baron Von Strucker in the Deltite Affair, and then again by EXTECHOP, who were running the unauthorized NEMESIS project right under Fury's nose. Also, as recently revealed in Secret Warriors #1, SHIELD has always been a part of HYDRA, or at least been influenced and secretly controlled and monitored by them for years, so this entire time they've been chasing themselves, all under Fury's watchful eye. 

Fury also faced internal strife when he dealt with former KGB interrogator Dimitri Panshin as several SHIELD agents created a rogue faction within SHIELD to punish Panshin for his crimes. Also, as seeen Cable #59-62, SHIELD was starting up a new Deathlok program without Fury's knowledge and the resulting tinkering with Cable’s T.O virus caused the destruction of a Helicarrier and almost blew up New York City. Fury was also targeted by the Sept, who attacked the Helicarrier and overthrew a small Latin American government. 

In addition, the Red Skull has personally taken over the Helicarrier three times (3!) that I could find, all with Fury at the helm. Not that it matters, since Helicarriers are blown up or dropped on the Sentry or fall out of the sky every other day (seriously I think they've gone through like 5,000 of them), but not exactly confidence inspiring by having Fury at the helm. But, if anything, Fury's biggest probems stem from his inability to do anything or even monitor what's going on in his own freaking organization! And the times that Fury does actually do something, like in the Secret War, it turns out even worse.

However, before I get into Secret War, since I'm sure everyone is kind of familiar with that already, I just wanted to bring up this image I found online. It's from an issue of Fantastic Four where Fury and the FF travel back in time to World War II and Fury comes face-to-face with Hitler.This is in the past, so Fury can't just kill Hitler without destroying the Space-Time continuum and such, which Sue Storm makes quite clear to him during their trip. So, what does Fury do? He shoots Hitler! Continuum be damned, it’s time for some killing!

Getting back to the more recent Secret War, which was one of Fury's last acts before being removed from SHIELD command, Nick bands together his superhero buddies for a weekend in Latveria in order to overthrow a democratically elected regime, destroy the Castle, and kill said democratically elected Prime Minister. After all that, just to make sure that the "What happens in Latveria, Stays in Latveria" slogan is true, he mindwipes his buddies for good measure. 

All this and still Fury is the patron saint of spying and Osborn is automatically a villain for not being as "good" as Nick Fury?  And these only touch on Fury's many failures.  He isn't always directly responsible for the actions of SHIELD, but, as director, it is his job and the ultimate blame falls on him when SHIELD recruits villains, green lights wetwork operations, falls on its face/is used as cannonfodder for villains' plots or otherwise gets its hands dirty, which was quite often under Fury's tenure as director.

Tony Stark

I'm skipping Maria Hill because she never really did anything except get all of Alpah Flight killed and allowed Civil War to happen as well as allowing a Skrull infestation to take root. Pretty light compared to Fury or Stark.  

Tony Stark, who took over in the wake of Civil War, ran SHIELD into the ground, helicarriers and all, as it no longer exists thanks to the Skrull invasion. In fact, here’s a brief list of the “accomplishments” from Tony’s reign as Director of SHIELD. 
  • Captain America was assassinated. 
  • The Red Skull almost took over the government until Bucky finally stopped him. 
  • The Initiative was created and operated under his watch, though mostly through the government's control, and was full of corruption.
  • The Hulk destroyed most of Manhattan and nearly cracked the planet in half in WWH. 
  • Thor set up his kingdom in the middle of the United States and was granted Diplomatic Immunity after pimp slapping Stark around in New Orleans. 
  • The Mandarin was nearly successful in releasing the Extremis virus which would have killed 97.5% of the people on Earth (we could chalk this up as a win since Tony did come out on top in the end with little fallout from it to blow up in his face). 
  • Terrorists co-opted his technology to make suicide bombers in Invincible Iron Man. 
  • Then there is all the wasteful government spending (and according to the tea-bagger movement, this is the big concern here) like commissioning the hideous yellow-and-gold Helicarrier that was only successful at crashing in every issue it appeared in and always looked stupid. 
  • Plus Stark rebuilt Avengers Tower with Government funds after the Hulk wrecked it, so the Marvel Universe’s tax dollars went towards building a super hero headquarters and private home in downtown New York for Tony Stark. 
  • Skrull's invaded and easily took over the world by crippling its defenses through the use of Tony's Starktech, which he installed in every major system throughout SHIELD.  
Did I mention that the reason the Hulk wrecked Manhattan was because of Tony Stark? It was because Tony shot the Hulk into space. Anyone could have told you that the Hulk was eventually going to come back to Earth and smash. Because that's what the Hulk does. He smashes.  And Tony Stark as Director of SHIELD?  That's a smashing failure.

Norman Osborn

So, in this context, Osborn's Dark Reign is looking a little better isn't it? I know that I'm playing Goblin's advocate here, but let's look at some of the things that he's actually accomplished first before we start diving into the negativity. 


First, he purged the bloated and corrupt SHIELD and created a new organization, HAMMER, to police the world.  He was able to bring several Atlantean terrorists to justice for attacking Los Angeles (though his means could be viewed as a little extreme, but well within national security methods in real life), formed a new Avengers team that actually did some avenging, unlike some other New and/or Mighty teams that sit around whining all year round.  

Dark Avengers - They Actually Avenge Stuff

This team defeated Morgan Le Fey and the Molecule Man for no other reason than Osborn wanted to stop them. There was no political gain from either fight and just "heroing" for the sake of being Avengers.  He even shut down huge riots that were out of control in San Francisco and brought the mutant population under control.

Now, yes, Osborn has dressed up super villains in heroic costumes, but they aren't the first criminals to be on the Avengers. Wonder Man, Hawkeye, Black Widow, Qucksilver, the Scarlett Witch, Swordsman, the Vision, and many others all had dubious pasts before becoming Avengers. These villains parading around on the Avengers have worked on a government sanctioned team - the Thunderbolts, which were conceived under both Fury and Stark's reigns in one form or another - and earned their pardons for past crimes.  Osborn helped stop the Skrull menace with his Thunderbolts team.  If these other criminals were given free passes to join the Avengers, why is it so bad that they get to be a part of this Dark Avengers team, which as accomplished more in their short time than the New Avengers did since that book's conception?  

Seriously, what have they done?  Raft prisoners escaped, they screwed up in the Savage Land, managed to get Sentry, the biggest threat to the world ever as of Siege #2, back in action, failed to do anything to stop the Civil War, failed to do anything in Secret Invasion, and have fought the Hood for about two years straight now without putting a stop to him while constantly complaining about how their life sucks and how "the man" is sticking it to them in their apartment/base.

Worlds Most Wanted - Captured

Plus, Norman captured the world's most wanted man and fugitive, Tony Stark, as well as put an end to the murderous, vigilante (some would say terrorist) actions of the Punisher, someone that had been given free rein by past directors, and even used as a blunt instrument by them on occasion.  While you could argue those two are "heroes", they were criminals in the eyes of the law within the Marvel Universe and Osborn did not do anything beyond the scope of his station to apprehend them.  There was no planted evidence and no mustache twirling evil schemes - Iron Man purged government databases and stole vital information upon his dismissal from his duties as director of SHIELD and fled authories.  Osborn merely tracked him down and brought him in for due process.

The Cabal - Basically A Weekly Poker Night

You could then point at the Cabal as another sign that Osborn is evil, but no one outside of the Cabal in the Marvel Universe knows it exists, and none of them except for the Hood is an out and out a super villain, as all of them have worked with super heroes in the past.  Emma Frost is even a high profile X-Man currently. Even then, the Cabal hasn't really done anything other than meet.  They haven't assaulted an alien planet, provoking a war against Earth in the process.  They haven't stuck their nose in the Beyonder's business.  They haven't stolen the Infinity Gems, which could have been a catastrophic event in and of itself, not to mention the prospect of losing them to someone or other havoc that could be wrought with them.  They didn't shoot Hulk into space.  Simply put, they haven't done anything to warrant their evil status and nothing remotely as bad as the Illuminati.  

Thunderbolts Black Ops Team

Even when Osborn turned the Thunderbolts into a black ops team that take out high risk targets, you can't really say that makes him evil. Fury and SHIELD, under any director, did this all the time. And what do you think the CIA and other real life organizations do? G. Gordon Liddy was piano wiring people to protect America's freedom long before I was born.

The Mutant Threat

What about the mutants in San Francisco, you ask?  Osborn "forced" (the X-Men were planning it already) the X-Men to set up Utopia and is keeping them there, but Cyclops exacerbated the situation and forced Osborn's hand into dealing with it in this way and not negotiating in the first place. There are other isolated incidents from obscure issues or miniseries, of course, but from the main titles featuring Osborn, there have been relatively few incidents that paint him in a negative light beyond the scope of a Fury or Stark or anyone you'd expect to be in that position. 

He Ain't No Hitler

In fact, that's as far as I can tell from the things that Osborn has done that the public, or even readers, know about, and none of those things really are worth killing him over or warrant Hitler comparisons, despite what Hawkeye insists. Hawkeye's big arguments for killing him basically boiled down to "He was the Green Goblin, he dressed Bullseye in my old costume, he keeps trying to arrest us because we won't register and continue to operate outside the confines of the law, so let's break into his house and kill him in cold blood like Spidey should have done back in high school". 

But if we look at the reasons why, it makes even less sense, as first of all, Osborn has cleared his name and done lots to move his public identity forward since being outed as the Green Goblin (and Hawkeye was also a criminal at one point) and, secondly, of course Norman is trying to arrest you, you're fugitives from the law and have been for a while now because you are unregistered. If you don't like being hunted down for breaking the law, stop breaking the law! Of course one of the dumbest of dumb arguments Hawkeye presents is another Hitler inspired analogy in the form of, "If you had the chance to kill Hitler, wouldn't you?". Well, we all know that if Fury had the chance he’d take it. But is Osborn really as bad as Hitler? I say no. I say that Osborn is no worse than other controversial appointed officials like Henry Kissinger or Donald Rumsfeld.


So you see, life under Norman Osborn? Not really all that bad. At least not as bad as Bendis or Hawkeye would have you believe, especially since, really, Osborn hasn't been THAT awful compared to Nick Fury, Tony Stark, or even real life figures like Donald Rumsfeld. And he certainly isn't as bad as Hitler, that's for sure, or requires heroes to kill him in cold blood. 

So I say, let's all sit back and relax, try to enjoy the last days of Norman Osborn's regime until he gets beaten up (or maybe even killed again) and they then replace him with Steve Rogers as head of SHIELD, which would allow for Bucky to still be Captain America while making Steve an important part of the MU again. 

But what do you think?  Is there any particularly noteworthy events you think warrant labelling Osborn as the Hitler of the Marvel Universe?  Has he been the worst thing to happen to the Marvel Universe in years?  Has he really been that much worse than Fury, Stark, Hill or any other government agency in the Marvel Universe?  Let us know in the comments below.

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Anonymous said...

The only thing i can think of is that when a villain signs up for initiative, part of the deal is that you can keep doing small crimes and you get away with it.

Anonymous said...

Um...didn't he slaughter a city of Atlantians to piss off Namor...and then fed the prisoners to Venom? Not to mention all of the other people he has given to Venom to eat or has let him eat. And I know a lot of people didn't read the War Machine title but Osborn was testing biological weapons on people and rigging the courts to defend corrupt, murderous politicians. Not to mention he made a hit list of the super heroes, not trying to arrest them, but to kill them.... and tried to prevent Steve Rogers from coming back which basically would have been murder. I mean, he even tried to kill his son to help improve his own yeah, he actually sounds a lot like Hitler...

Steven R. Stahl said...

You might be overcomplicating things with the comparisons to S.H.I.E.L.D. directors and so on. The motivation behind "Dark Reign" was, I think, as simple as Bendis and his buddies wanting to write about villains having the advantage over the heroes. The New Avengers vs. the Dark Avengers was a repeat of the NAers vs. the Mighty Avengers; the NAers vs. the Hood and his gang continued from the "Civil War" event. "Dark Reign" is ending because there's nothing left to do. NEW AVENGERS #61 had as generic a plot -- randomly selected villains trying to kill ramdomly selected Avengers -- as any other comic I've read. The only reason for doing SIEGE is that Osborn had to go out with a bang of some sort, and Asgard was a convenient target.

Simple minds produce simple stories.


Chris said...

I don't really buy the "Norman captured the world's most wanted man and fugitive, Tony Stark", Stark was only a fugitive because Norman said he was, and also, he didn't go after him because he was a fugitive, he went after him because he wanted Stark's intel to help him capture and kill all of the superheroes. Also, the "brought him in for due process" is completly wrong. If the news cameras had not shown up and Victoria Hand hadn't screamed at him to stop, Norman would have beat Stark to death as soon as he caught him, as it was, he beat him to near death anyways. Even after he got him in custody he still tried to have him killed. That is not due process.

Also, can we not count the time he had his people blow up Soldier Field and kill thousands of people and then blamed it on on the Asgardians? I realize that none of the heroes have real proof that is what happened but I'm pretty sure most of them have probably figured it out...either way the readers know he did it, but maybe this doesn't count because I think it was after the whole Hawkeye thing you are talking about at the end...

Anyways, this was a good read though and I think you made some interesting points and some fun comparisons and it did really make me kind of realize how little this whole thing played into Spider-man's life which is a little odd.

Ryan K Lindsay said...

This article is freaking phenomenal. You can see it slowly ramp up to the end where it finally makes me want to stand up and salute the Osborn flag of HAMMER. It's really well paced, as it starts out pretty conversational, but in the end you just want to pound podiums and get in on the action.

Great work, Warwick. You should go into politics, dudes like Cheney would hire you in a second.

I really want Tom Brevoort to read this article.

Deicide The Everliving said...

Oh, you forgot some of Osborn's good deeds.

Allowing villains into the Initiative is bad? No, because those same villains are not invading banks or murdering people anymore.

Evil murderers in the Avengers? No, because they're being fed meds that allow themselves to better control their psychosis.

The X-Men situation? Cyclops was clearly the villain there. He did nothing to stop the mutant riots.

The super-evil cabal of evil bastards (redundant, I know)? The deal was: you give us no trouble and stop attacking America, and I help you get what you want peacefully. Too bad Doom or Namor or Emma Frost were too dumb to understand how much profit they could get from the deal.

The REAL problem with Dark Reign are the writers. They make everything simple and dumb. Dan Slott literally compared Osborn to Mengele by making him to experiments on living humans. In Utopia, Fraction inserted the torture-filled mutant prison just to make Osborn look bad. While in the Dark Avengers book Osborn is presented as a flawed belieavable character who's trying to keep his demons at bay, in almost all tie-ins to Dark Reign Osborn is presented as either a raving lunatic, a mustache-twirling paragon of villainy or a self-serving megalomaniac.

Also, the "heroes", like Iron Man or the X-Men, are constantly breaking the law or doing questionable things, like wiping out government databases or creating a mutant paramilitary militia, complete with a black-ops execution squad, and disregarding the law every time it gets in the way of their "super-heroics". And their writers still keep telling us those antics are "good deeds".

Tiago José "Deicide" Galvão Moreira

Monch said...

Great Article! Pointed out some great things, which I agree with. To bad it's ending so soon..

I'm hoping this Heroic Age won't make MU too dull. I mean, it had always been the Heroic Age (heroes winning, people showering them in love) until recenlty, so I'm not too sold on this concept.

Rottgutt said...

In Dark Reign Lethal Legion (which was actually pretty good), Norman Osborn recruits the Grim Reaper to reform the Lethal Legion (including Wonderman) and cause trouble bascially so they can be captured. He fakes Grim Reaper's death in prison so Grim Reaper can become some kind of operative for him overseas, but he also allows the Grim Reaper to kill one of his own HAMMER agents in front of him so they have a body to replace the Reapers' (and because the Reaper must apparently kill someone every once in awhile to stay alive or some such).

I only read the first issue of Dark Reign Zodiac, but in it Zodiac tortures and kills over 100 HAMMER agents, so really anything Osborn did or didn't do in the mini-series probably comes up as less evil in comparison.

Kirk Warren said...

@Anonymous 2 - As far as I know, the only ones fed to Venom so far were war prisoners (Skrulls, which our so-called heroes were casually killing every chance they got in Secret Invasion, even when they were disabled or not a threat) and some Atlantean terrorists.

And the Atlantean colony wiped out was the terrorists that attacked the west coast (unless I'm missing another attack on Atlantis, which I may be). Any country attacked would likely respond in kind against rebels/insurgents/terrorists int eh same brutal manner.

@Chris - How many times has a hero been stopped from killing a bad guy at the last moment by a friend or loved one or just random luck? Too many times to count as they prove "theyre better than the villain". Osborn was going to kill Stark, but the only fact that matters is he didnt, even when he could have. He probably could have gotten away with it as well, yet let him live.

As for motives for tracking him down, if it was Nick Fury wanting th einformation (he had an Identity Disc before and a series dedicated to it with villains in possession of it), he'd have devoted his resources in much the same manner. Gyrich or other government officials would be equally "heartless" in getting those files back. Osborn had a personal interest in it, but he still did his job.

As for Soldier Field, that is entirely my fault. This should have been posted before Siege even started. I had too many things on my plate and it, and many guest posts, got delayed. It woudl have shown a sort of recap of Osborn before Siege and would have actually shown how bizarre his actions with Soldier Field and Siege in general were compared to his portrayal, in most cases, has been along the way.

@Deicide - The writers as the real problem comment is how Ive felt about it. Its much like Tony's reign as Director of SHIELD in that he's a strawman political message in one issue, Hitler to some in another and then the flawed man that made the right decision, but had the worst outcome in other titles.

Osborn has been relatively solid with Bendis and a few others. In other fringe titles, he's doing experiements on humans for a strawman villain or other such instances.

Kirk Warren said...

One thing I forgot to mention to Warwick/edit in to the post was the whole deal with Luke Cage and his missing baby. Osborn did everything in his power to track down their baby. He didn't betray Cage, he didn't kill innocents and was just coming into power, yet went out of his way to help Cage in exchange for him joining the Avengers.

Upon receiving their baby, Cage blindsides everyone and tells Osborn to shove it. Osborn never did anything to retaliate against him in that case.

This is where it really drove home for me how poorly written the early premise of Dark Reign was. The heroes had passed judgement on Osborn from the onset and set out to use him for their own needs (getting baby back) and betrayed him on the preconception he was "evil", despite the fact Osborn had been cleared medically and monitored by the governement in the Thunderbolts for the past year, had aided and helped stop the Skrull threat and was now cleared as the leader of HAMMER by the government (he didnt use magic or make a deal with teh devil or anything else).

Has he done bad things? Yes. Has he done good things? Yes. Has he been worse than other directors or government strawmen in the Marvel Universe? No.

hooligantuesday said...

No Chris, Tony Stark was a criminal because he was a criminal. Tony may not have liked Osborn, but Osborn was duly appointed to his position, he didn't cheat his way into power. They gave him the keys and the helicarriers, that means that he gets access to the database of super-heroes, Tony Stark doesn't get to decide that because those lists are government property, not the property of Tony Stark and by destroying them it's a Crime.

The start of the World's Most Wanted arc really bugged me like that, because Tony was totally in the wrong with it. He built all this stuff with government money and he was the one who pushed for the database to be created. He's meant to be a genius what did he think was going to happen? That he was going to be director of SHIELD forever and that all of this stuff was his to play with.

The start of that arc isn't Osborn being evil it's Tony Stark being a deluded egotist who's convinced that only he knows what's best for the world and as such only he can be trusted with this list. Despite the fact that none of it belongs to him, he has no right to destroy it and he'd only be temporarily entrusted with it by the American people. Just like the New Avengers it wasn't a case of Osborn is evil Hitler! it's Super Heroes are self-important arseholes who can't accept that the rules apply to them as well.

In general the Dark Reign event has made me think that Osborn would be doing a great job of it if he wasn't being constantly harrassed and attacked by Super Heroes, he's certainly made a pretty decent job of it and while he has been attacking Super Hero teams at places, how do you think Nick Fury would respond if SHIELD was constantly being assault by super heroes bent on destroying a global peacekeeping organisation?

Chris said...

@ Kirk
The difference there though is that usually in those cases the superhero is in a fit of rage or something. Osborn made it clear he was going to kill Tony, especially after he realized he'd wiped his memory, plus Tony was basically defenseless during his beat down and Norman sure seemed to be enjoying himself. Also, he didn't "let him live", he tried to pull the plug on him at the hospital and he still has assasins trying to kill him.

@ hooligantuesday

I was thinking Stark erased everything after Osrborn put out a warrant for him but I guess thats not right. Still, Stark did that to protect the other heroes, I don't think he was being stupid, I think he realized how stupid he had been and was trying to fix that. And Osborn would have easily used the intel to kill people, first thing he did when he came to power was search to see who Spider-man was, its not like he wanted to invite Peter and Aunt May over for dinner.

Chris said...

Just to be clear, I really liked this article and agreed with a lot of it. Basically the only thing I didn't agree with was the World's Most Wanted part (minus the Punisher line).

Also, to clarify for Anonymous #2 I could be wrong, but weren't they taking Venom out and feeding him hookers in Amazing Spider-man? I think in the American Son arc? I could be wrong, it just seems like I remember him eating someone and I don't remember the Atlantis thing.

Warwick Johnson said...

Thanks a lot for posting this Kirk! I'm thrilled to have something I wrote up on the Weekly Crisis!

@Anonymous 2 - I think that you were referring to X-Men: the List with the Atlantis comment, and honestly I've trying to forget that comic ever happened (Marinna!! NOOO!! WHY FRACTION?!! WHY??!!) so that's why I didn't include it, but you're right that those were innocent Atlanteans.

@ Ryan - Thanks so much for saying that! While I probably would never work for Cheney, the Brevoort comment was probably the biggest compliment I could get. And I spent like 5 minutes explaining why that was a big deal to my girlfriend.

Besides, it was Soldier Field during a Bears Game in Siege #1. As a Chicagoan and a huge Bears fan, I think that should be looked at as an act of mercy by Osborn.

Thanks for the comments guys! I'm glad you enjoyed it!

Erica said...

I often think Marvel editorial has a lot of learn about what "dark" really is. Along with consistency. Depending on which title(s) you were reading, greatly influences just how insane or logical you find Osborn. Fraction wrote a far more evil black hat version of Osborn than Bendis did. Slott just basically had superheros saying Osborn was still evil.

That said, Nick Fury has done far more evil things than anyone's version of Osborn as H.A.M.M.E.R. director.

And lazy writers need to learn some new non-Nazi comparisions for villians.

Aaron K said...

@Warwick - I have enjoyed your piece, but I think you have improperly construed the heroic opposition to Osborn.

Perhaps this is a misreading on my part, but I think the initial premise of Warwick's argument - that heroes in the MU believe that the Dark Reign has permitted evil - is false. The most was made of Clint Barton's comments on the evils of Osborn in a leadership position, but I don't believe that Barton ever really made a clear claim that Osborn HAD done evil as H.A.M.M.E.R. director so much as he WOULD do evil. The distinction is crucial.

The idea of traveling back in time to kill Hitler usually assumes that you travel back to a time BEFORE Hitler had begun certain atrocious actions. I think Barton's decision should be seen in that light: he wished to stop Osborn BEFORE he did anything atrocious. Basically, Barton felt that he understood Osborn's true moral character, and that that character would inevitably lead to horrible abuses of power, which Barton must therefore prevent.

By way of contrast, Barton (or others) could believe that Nick Fury's character would not allow him to cross that invisible line from questionable, and perhaps ultimately detestable, actions in defense of world security to evil actions in service only to Nick Fury.

It remains an open question whether Barton's belief was true (and his justifications for this belief are even more noteworthy and debatable) and it is here that Warwick's discussion of the merits of H.A.M.M.E.R. is appropriate. But, it's not the end of the story. Barton believes that Osborn will crack and revert to Green Goblin insanity. He wishes to prevent that possibility from occurring. All evidence of efficient and noble leadership by Osborn need not affect Barton's belief about the eventuality of a break. (This belief is presumably born out to be true in Siege: Osborn finally snaps.)

In conclusion, therefore, I would suggest that the Dark Reign should be understood as a bad thing for the MU not primarily because of what DID happen, but because of what WOULD HAVE happened, given sufficient time. And it was this possibility that alarmed the heroes most. Thus, an analysis of the merits of H.A.M.M.E.R. as against S.H.I.E.L.D. is something of a non sequitur.

Kirk Warren said...

@Aaron - This is the same Hawkeye that led the Thunderbolts, a team that had just recentlyt aken over roughly 70% of the world under the rule of Baron Zemo, a former nazi.

The same Hawkeye that was a villain prior to joining the Avengers and "could crack at any time" by the same argument. He was given Avengers clearance from the getgo and in control of saving the entire world as an Avenger, yet is sanctimoniously condemning someone tha thas battled his demons and been cleared by governments and doctors to lead the world (remember, he's not just stepping in and taking over or some super-villain plot. He's appointed to that position legally and by the government).

Going back and stopping Hitler is related to knowing the outcome. By all accounts, Osborn was reformed. You could see the steps Hitler was taking along the way and his rise to power and evil acts that pushed him further and further into power. Osborn didnt do anything evil to get into power and had helped the Avengers (Cage in particular) the moment he got into the director's chair.

Saying something bad would happen as proof you should kill someone precludes all the other villains that have been in the catch and release program that is the Avengers and other heroes' M.O.'s since the dawn of the Marvel Universe. Magneto, Dr Doom, Red Skull and dozens of other villains have kileld more people in single storylines than Osborn's entire reign as Director of HAMMER. Even Ultron wiped out an entire country. Should Pym have been put to death for creating him?

Vigilantes shouldnt get to make the call on who lives or dies and comparing anyone to Hitler, especailly when the guy is most well known for throwing pumpkins at Spider-Man and hasn't really done anything wrong up until that pointas director, is a flimsy premise at best. Just made Hawkeye look like he was off his rocker and should have been committed himself.

Aaron K said...

@Kirk - Well, I never said Barton had a JUSTIFIED or TRUE belief. :)

Still, there are notable differences between the examples you cite and that of Norman Osborn. Osborn is the Green Goblin - a crazy nut who liked killing people. He's literally a serial killer. It does not stretch the imagination to suppose that Barton believed that he could never be "reformed". Conventional knowledge on Osborn may have insisted otherwise, but our heroes do seem to operate from a privileged epistemic position: they simply know things about other heroes and villains that John Q. Public does not. It is from that position that Barton should be judged. If Dr. Doom, Red Skull, or Magneto had been made director of H.A.M.M.E.R., I think Barton's reaction would have rightly been the same.

Having said that, I think what actually happened was precisely as you wrote: Hawkeye was made to look like a crazy vigilante. I don't know why Hawkeye's belief in Osborn's evil was so intractable, but it did not do him credit in the pages of New Avengers. This does not change my essential point from before, though, that Barton was judging Osborn based SOLELY upon his past (had Osborn had a chance to do anything other than constitute his Avengers team when Barton attacked?) and upon his perceived irredeemability, and NOT upon his actions as director of H.A.M.M.E.R. You're right: it IS a flimsy premise. That doesn't mean it wasn't Barton's though.

I'm not defending Barton's actions here. I am merely suggesting that the reason Osborn's Dark Reign was feared, as exemplified by Clint Barton, was this belief that he would use H.A.M.M.E.R. as a means of builing up a power base under the auspices of legitimacy, through which he would then use that power for his own self-regarding ends. And this belief was based upon an earlier belief of the nature of Norman Osborn's moral character. Nothing in that statement is inconsistent with Osborn doing good along the way; indeed, it is a prerequisite that Osborn foster good will towards himself in order to use that public support for his ends later.

Steven said...

He impregnated his son's girlfriend and turned her into a monster.

He lets Bullseye run around killing tons of people and covers it up.

He set up the Initiative to train criminals to better rob the public.

His list was a lot of nasty, evil stuff.

He arranged to have the Headsman attack the president dressed as the Green Goblin.

He had Xavier and Hank McCoy kidnapped, held incognito and tortured.

The dude is evil. The fact that he is also insane and has been managing to hold that insanity more at bay than normally is beside the point. All you need do is listen to what Peter Parker has been saying all along. He may seem like he is on top and in control right now. But Norman is gonna eventually be Norman. Spidey knows him better than anyone else in this whole extended storyline. Trust Spidey.

Warwick Johnson said...

@Aaron K - I agree with you, and the bulk of my criticism of Dark Reign thus far has been directed to the writing of Osborn's reign by Bendis and the others. First though, if Hawkeye and the Avengers were so sure that Osborn was going to commit evil, then why weren't they ready to intercede when it looked like he was doing evil things? They just sat around watched TV when Osborn was cracking down on mutants and everybody else, and they didn't even bother going to Chicago or heading out to Asgard right away when Osborn started his attack, instead of sitting around until Steve Rogers called everybody.

But my big complaint is that we didn't see MORE evil or at least morally ambiguous actions from Osborn. We all knew he was going to lose his power, so why not have him "rendition" some superheroes that he personally hates? I say let him win a couple fights and lock up a bunch of heroes in prison for disagreeing with him, second or third string guys like Shang-Chi or The New Warriors getting captured and water-boarded. Instead, Norman lost every fight with heroes except against the Punisher.

Aaron K said...

@Warwick - To offer a plausible answer to your question, "why weren't they ready to intercede when it looked like he was doing evil things?", I would submit that (a) no one was nearly so crazily anti-Osborn as Barton - Spidey included - and he lost that fight pretty badly; (b) these aren't morally perfect or consistent characters, who would always sacrifice their own safety when they're on the run; (c) we don't know precisely what they were aware of at all times (maybe no one was watching tv but Steve Rogers); (d) they did LOSE their first fight(s) against Osborn when he set them up for a beating at the hands of the Hood et al.; (e) the comics timeline breaks down here: the New Avengers seem to have had two adventures in the same time that Norman Osborn had about fifty; (f) they were busy with other fights ALL the time: how much downtime have the New Avengers had in which to be proactive, as opposed to reactionary?

At the end of the day, I share your desire: I wanted to see more EVIL Osborn punishing heroes than we received. This is one of my chief complaints about Siege - it feels so forced because Osborn seems to have never been so out of control as he was at the VERY beginning, killing Swordsman in the Secret Invasion: Dark Reign one-shot (I could easily be wrong as to what comic this happened in). Rather, he became more stable the more involved with H.A.M.M.E.R. he became, until he just lost it all abruptly.

hooligantuesday said...

Personally i'd like it if more writers took the Dark Avengers line, the Green Goblin is evil but Norman Osborn is just driven arsehole who doesn't believe in doing anything the subtle way. The best parts of Dark Avengers are when we've got seems of Norman trying to hold it together while still staying in control of HAMMER.

Too many of the other writers are playing it like Norman was put in charge then immediately put on a black cape and sat around laughing maniacally and twirling his moustache for no real reason. They seem to think that the only thing that would change if Norman became the goblin again would be that he'd start to wear more green and purple tunics.

That kind of attitude really detracts from the event for me, because it would have been an infinately better story for Osborn to start out as ruthless and hardline but still commited to getting the job done and then as things started to pile up and he was getting more and more stressed out he'd start to crack, go Goblin and start doing genuinely evil things.

Anonymous said...

As Steven Said Hawkeye/Bullseye has killed a lot of people.
Venom has ATE a lot of people.
Face it, there have been a LOT of civilian deaths because of H.A.M.M.E.R. and Osborn.
He allowed them to happen.
Oh, and the 100+ who died in Hell's Kitchen.

Please....Osborn is a Psycho.
Alan aka Jettblackberryx

Obo said...

I think a lot of people are looking at DR with one eye closed. Norman is reformed and trying to do what he thinks is right. The problem is what he thinks is right is him gaining power, and everyone who is a hero can see through that.

So much of the the wrong that norman has committed is him allowing things to happen, and often those things put him in an advantageous position. it's not comparable to Stark, who had to deal with corruption and villains attacking him and others. Norman didn't care most of the time, and when he did it was mostly for P.R.

Norman isn't supposed to be a villain acting like a crazed fool with his finger on the trigger. Norman is a player in a game of politics and espionage, who tries to control people lives through his power. Siege is him making a power play and failing.

Marshall said...

Nice cherry picking in this article.


Keep trying, pal.

Lucho said...

Osborn is character that´s evil but under Bendis writing sometimes seemed like a man trying to win over his personal demons.

hooligantuesday said...

You really don't understand the concept of a Devils Advocate do you Marshall? It's intentionally written like that not because Kirk believes it, but because it's meant to provoke discussion and get people considering the alternative points of view.

But nice failure to understand basic debating concepts, keep trying pal.

Anonymous said...

If you just read Dark Avengers or New Avengers and none of the other Dark Reign books, than you'd think that Norman Osborn wasn't evil at all but manipulative, cause for the most part Osborn has been written as a guy who uses people to help himself while trying to keep his demons at bay. I think it's a fair arguement that he hasn't done anything super evil, or at least evil enough to warrant Hawkeye trying to kill him

Anonymous said...

Didn't he shoot down a plane full of civilians to test Pepper's armour in Iron Man?

Parallax207 said...

He's unleashed the Void on the world... Did you see what he did to Ares?

He had Daken slice and dice The Punisher... he was on the list.

I think the thing that stands out for me when it comes to Normy being in his position is that fact that he is defying Obama and it seems like there's nothing that the President can do to stop him. I'm surprised he hasn't orchestrated a super-powered coup d'tat on the White House and installed himself as president yet... Maybe then he could better justify some of his more dubious command choices.

BTW Kirk, nice analysis... Now you need someone's in depth counterpoint on your argument.

Daryll B. said...

Now this is the type of intelligent debate that should be in comicville instead of the stupid "Cap Sign Gate"

Thank You Warwick, Kirk and commenters. This is definitely great comic debate stuff.

fo diggity said...

I'm late on this, but I'll just say that I don't think "evil" and "bad for the country" are the same thing, which is the mentality that got "Slick Osborn" into power in the first place. I think that Osborn was evil, especially given his portrayals outside Dark Avengers, but his track record was surprisingly good, which is what this article points out. But I don't think his track record is as a direct result of his management style and I'm too much of an idealist to say "yeah, we can let the evil man into power because he doesn't make waves". Evil needs to be crushed by Thor.

Ivan said...

Hi, I hope someone can help me.

They just started to publish "Dark Reign" here in Brazil, in a comic that features "Dark Avengers", "Thunderbolts", "Secret Warriors" and "Secret Invasion: Dark Reign".

My question is: If I buy ONLY this comic, will I be able to understand most of what happened during Dark Reign without much sidetracking? I know the last one I listed is a one-shot, but the others seem like a permanent part of the mix.

Kirk Warren said...

@Ivan - If money is tight, Dark Avengers is probably the only Dark Reign title you really need. It follows Osborn and his Avengers and their trials and tribulations and gives the broadstrokes of it all.

Thunderbolts started out like it would be quite essential to Dark reign, but creative team shake-ups and crossovers kind of sidetracked it and never really became overly relevant, but if you enjoy it, it's definitely Dark Reign related on some level.

Secret Warriors actually covers more of nick Fury and his actions with Hydra and, later, a small crossover with Thunderbolts that is more about Ares and Phobos than something I'd call Dark Reign related. I love the series, so Id say keep with it, but it's not what Id say is required as a Dark Reign title or something you need to follow.

To be honest, most books just sort of follow the same pattern they did before Dark Reign began.

New Avengers fight the Hood in their book (only difference is he has ties to Osborn and the Cabal, pretty much the same story, just bitching about Osborn instead of Tony Stark now).

Mighty Avengers is just Hank Pym and only just had a short team-up (ya, not fight, team-up) with the Dark Avengers. Barely mentions it.

Spider-Man, Osborn's most hated enemy, had one arc I believe - American Son - that showed the effects of Dark Reign. Not really essential either.

Cosmic books have no dealings with it.

X-Men book shave a brief crossover/event with the Dark Avengers, but otherwise you can ignore those books, too.

That leaves pretty much just the books you have already listed and a future storyline/minievent/series of one-shots called Dark Reign - The List, which features several one-shots like Dark Reign - the List: Spider-Man, Wolverine, Punisher, Daredevil and so on. I'd actually receommend most of those one-shots. They have great creative teams attached.

Another book that may interest you is Dark Wolverine. It follows Daken, who is much different than shown by Bendis in Dark Avengers. Very Dark Reign related, but won't really impact the story or universe with what happens in it if you only care about the broad strokes things.

Avengers: The Initiative also shows a lot of Dark Reign related work with taskmaster and the Hood leading the Initiative.

So, in short, yes, just go with Dark Avengers, Thunderbolts and maybe Secret Warriors. If you want more, Avengers: the Initiative will show some other behind the scenes Dark Reign plots, but is not essential either. The List one-shots would be good, too. And, ona personal note, the various Dark Reign labelled miniseries can all be pretty much ignored except the odd diamond in the rough, like DR: Elektra, which was excellent, but not really a storyline/event impact title either.

Ivan said...

Hey, thanks Kirk. That was helpful.

Dave Anderson said...

I think these various "events" do deserve some serious criticism for not only being all pervasive, but the greater sin of over promising and under delivering. I accept this article as a well needed criticism in that regard. However ...

I think the premise of the argument that Norman Osborn was that bad is stretched beyond the point of breaking. I'm sure these points have already been made but everything Osborn did top to bottom lent credence to the label "dark reign." Some garden variety corruption and other forms that were truly historic:

* He assumed the directorship of HAMMER in order to elevate his public profile and to position himself to profit personally rather than out of a sense of public service.

* He immediately set to work siphoning off both public and confiscated resources for his own personal benefit.

* He engaged in rampant industrial espionage under the guise of law enforcement.

* He engaged in a series of ongoing criminal conspiracies, including his involvement with dozens of known fugitives working for the Hood.

* In some cases, he directed the criminal activity. In all cases, he would have been an accomplice to any criminal act committed by this folks, which included multiple counts of murder and attempted murder.

* He often interfered in criminal prosecutions (events in Daredevil being one example).

* He arrested people without warrants, he detained people without charges, he used excessive force, he tortured, he performed medical experiments on people, he killed people, etc. etc.

* He conspired with a number of individuals that the United States government has no doubt classified as terrorists, including Dr. Doom, the Red Skull, and possibly Namor (I can't keep up), which is treason.

* He invaded sovereign countries without either the police powers of the president or the power of Congress to declare war, which means treason, terrorism, etc.

* And, of course, he plotted the deaths of the thousands who died in Chicago.

Gorillamydreamz said...

I had trouble with Dark Reign for the simple reason that I didn't belive the overly simplistic way that Osborne was given command. But I actually have liked his run as HAMMER director. He has done horrible things yes, but he's also been more proactive and competent than anyone who has previously held the post. Some comics did a better job of showing how he's crossed the line. But he's been a very dynamic figure all year.

Alien Rope Burn said...

There are the coverups of all the murdering sprees we've seen from Bullseye, Venom, Moonstone, Dark Beast, et cetera.

And, of course, Siege seems him engineering the deaths of thousands.

Tony and Nick may be total screwups in every sense of the word, but I at least know they'd probably try and save my life.

Justin Beiber said...

Osborn may've occasionally done some good for the average citizen of the marvel universe, but he's done it all with disregard for personal rights and often the safety of the public, his staff and the suspects they deal with.

Anonymous said...

I agree with the article. Osborn did nothing worse than any of the other guys.In fact, i would think that when put in a position of power, the first thign u would do is speak to Doom, Namor and the Mutant population to broker a peace deal rather than pick fights with those powerful entities. Plus, he invited the Hood in, in order to have some sort of control over the criminal element. Wouldn't that make more sense than to just keep waiting for them to commit a crime and then bust them? What did Stark and Fury expect, to incarcerate every villian in the world and end crime? Osborn got them under control. i am pretty sure terrorism, murders and other violent crimes were down under Osbron, even if robberies were up.

Osborn basically paid off the criminals (with the money of their innocent victims yes) but it at least kept the collateral damage and violence down, in order to keep his image.

Stark on the other hand, created clones, waged battles with his buddies in the street, turned the same Osborn into an assasin being controlled by nanobites and gave villians carte blanche to hunt heroes while locking away people in the negative zone with no trial !

Madness! And u want to compare Osborn's evil deeds to that madman's own?

Anonymous said...

An interesting article, but there's a lot of cherry picking and a blind eye towards some of the more obvious difference between S.H.I.E.L.D. and H.A.M.M.E.R.

The main difference being that if you wanted to do something evil and unjust in S.H.I.E.L.D., you had to form a rogue faction and do it in secret. If you want to do it in H.A.M.M.E.R., then your evil and unjust operation likely has Normon Osborn's seal of approval on it.

Kirk Warren said...

@Anonymous (most recent) - Goblin's Advocate is just a play on words for Devil's Advocate. It is intentionally written with cherry picking in favour of Osborn to stir up discussion and spark debate on it by taking his side. Osborn is a bad person.

We're just trying to discuss how bad, is he Hitler-level evil and what has he done that has caused our heroes to throw away the 'no kill' rule to murder him in his sleep like Hawkeye did.

Before Siege and the stadium blowing up, there really wasn't an outright 'okay, this is bad' moment and that is kind of what the guest post is trying to get by through the open discussion on the topic.

Jason said...

I recall reading that not to long ago Norman had a airplane shot down because it had a pacifist he didn't like on it. I guess Osborne doesn't have the balls to mock Ghost Rider because he know he couldn't even annoy him, or would get humilated.
He tried to kill Spider Man including telling Bullseye anything goes in the American Son storyline.
In the same issue Norman Osborne further continued to slam his son. I know you can't call that evil but you can still classify that as bad. Seems like another Bennie Lopez.

Anonymous said...

Also, Tony nanoteched Norman into killing Atlanteans for him in Civil War!!

Anonymous said...

I like the analysis, but given the way that Osborn pretty well gave carte blanche to criminal activity left, right, and center, between pulling supervillains out of prison and sticking them in control of government agencies to covering up massacres and actually instigating them in other cases... Well.

I think there was plenty enough 'fox guarding the henhouse' activity going on to qualify this as a 'Dark Reign.'

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