If you’ve been following the recent goings-on in the Marvel Universe, then you know the score: Norman Osborn, having “singlehandedly” saved the Earth from the Skrull invasion, is now officially the man in charge of keeping the American citizenry safe and secure from danger, with the help of his own brand of Avengers. This major change to the Marvel U’s status quo, dubbed Dark Reign, has had one major inherent flaw from the very beginning: Osborn is formerly and publicly known as the villainous Green Goblin, and his Avengers are a team of felons, murderers and psychopaths secretly posing as bonafide heroes.
Ronin, leader of the underground band of Avengers, publicly called out Osborn on national television in New Avengers #50 and reminded the general public that maybe having a known whack-job in such a high position of authority isn’t the best idea in the world. This bold move forced Osborn to respond to Ronin’s charges in a sit-down TV interview in Dark Avengers #5. Did Osborn, and by extension Dark Reign mastermind Brian Michael Bendis, succeed in explaining away the huge gap in logic that put a murderer like Osborn in charge? Your mileage may vary, but I’ll tell you what I thought about it after the jump.
The interview starts out pleasantly enough, with the pretty blond reporter lobbing a few softballs at Osborn, who charmingly and successfully answers all the questions. Eventually, the subject of Osborn’s dubious past is mentioned, and Osborn starts spinning faster than Peter Sellers’s corpse when the Pink Panther remake was released:
…what is important… for the people a home to know is that I was a very ill man. I was not of, as they say, sound mind and body… I was suffering from a severe chemical imbalance. One I was born with. Like millions of Americans.
Okay, that’s a fairly plausible, albeit quite abridged, explanation for Osborn’s past misbehaviors. A large number of people all over the world suffer from some form of mental illness. Sometimes, they even go on to become leaders of industry or political figures. Of course, most of them most of them don’t dress up in gaudy Halloween costumes, throw women off bridges, or style their hair to look like corduroy pants, but that’s neither here nor there.
Here’s where Osborn begins to stumble in his explanation:
And in my terrible state I was taken advantage of. I was engaged by unsavory people. I was pushed into violence. I was taken advantage of.
This is the point in the interview when any reporter with journalism skills above a high school level would have pressured Ol’ Brillo-Head to elaborate on who was allegedly manipulating him, but apparently Osborn is being interviewed by Corky Sherwood instead. Seriously, even Hoda Kotb would have grilled Osborn harder than that, and her main job these days is to pretend as if she enjoys working with Kathie Lee Gifford.
As you see now, I am a well man. I have signed documents by Nobel Prize-winning doctors to back that up. I am well. And really, do you think for a second that the President of the United States and the Joint Chiefs of Staff would allow a murderous costumed maniac to lead an important initiative in this, the most important time in our history?
And there it is. The pink elephant in the room, if you will. Everyone knows you need to sustain a healthy suspension of disbelief when you read superhero comics, but it’s really tough to maintain said suspension when the writer smacks you upside the head with the implausibility of the concept he’s trying to get over. For example, in Steve Niles’s 30 Days of Night, the script points out how impossible it would be for Sheriff Eben to become a vampire for a couple of hours and defeat vampire mastermind Vincente, who has hundreds of years of experience in combat. And then, that’s exactly what happens. It yanked me right out of the story and ruined the climax for me.
In other words, Norman, no, the President of the United States and the Joint Chiefs of Staff would not give a murderous costumed maniac a highly placed position in the government, no matter how many signed documents, sworn testimonies, or notes from his mother he has assuring the world he is no longer street rat crazy. Hell, look at Joycelyn Elders: In 1994, President Clinton fired her from her position as Surgeon General of the United States, and all she did was suggest that encouraging young adults to play with themselves more often might prevent them from engaging in riskier sexual activity. And you just gotta know Slick Willie enjoys his own “alone time”.
There have been a few things about Dark Reign that haven’t made much sense to me, but there are more than enough aspects that Bendis and his cohorts have pulled off successfully that have kept me engaged in the storyline. But for the premise to work in the long term, I think there needs to be a better attempt made to justify Osborn’s rise to power, before the entire story falls apart.