Ever since Brand New Day was first released, with its associated mangling of continuity, fans have been asking that the details to get cleared up. Marvel, eager to look to the future, has spent very little time trying to fill in the gaps, promising only that concerns will be addressed – eventually. With this issue, one of the major continuity wrinkles is finally bashed flat as we finally discover what led to the the return of Harry Osborn.
Whether Mephisto was actually involved in Harry’s return is kept wisely quiet. No part of his resurrection requires a break from continuity as established, and mirrors his father’s return almost exactly – the goblin formula kept him alive, and he hid (though not voluntarily) in Europe until returning to the US and having his status re-established. Upon reading this, it’s hard not to think that the solution offered displays a lack of imagination. Even the telling of it is relegated to a quick, recap-style flashback, and the feeling readers are left with is one of begrudging placation rather than the year-long payoff that they were rightly expecting. The intention seems to be that Marvel want readers to understand that this is the status quo, and that they’re not going to waste too much effort connecting it with the past.
Of course, whatever you think of the manner in which the continuity plugging has been done, the issue is still one of Slott’s weakest. While there are some good scenes between Peter, Harry, Carlie and Lily early in the issue, the latter half of the issue is largely built around Harry’s under-established former family, neither of whom have been members of the supporting cast any major capacity for some time. The ingredients for this issue all seem correct – a heavy focus on Peter’s personal relationship with his cast, a look at events that occurred during the Brand New Day “missing time”, and the return of a classic villain – but somehow Slott doesn’t quite manage to pull it all together.
Slott’s dialogue, at least, is on fine form (particularly Aunt May, recalling an villainous encounter from the past: “I don’t want you taking this lightly, Peter, Molten men are dangerous!”). McKone’s artwork is as reliable as ever, though Cox’s colours give the issue a slightly muted feel that makes even the scenes featuring Mysterio and Molten Man feel a bit more subdued than you’d expect from such larger-than-life villains. It’s not a bad issue by normal standards, but judged against Slott’s previous work, well, it’s hard not to be just a little disappointed.