When Norman Osborn killed the Skrull Queen, people forgot about his criminal career as the Green Goblin and lionized him for doing what S.H.I.E.L.D., Tony Stark and Nick Fury couldn't. So they made Osborn head of S.H.I.E.L.D., which he promptly disbanded, placing his own group, H.A.M.M.E.R. in charge, and since Tony Stark had put his company and his building under S.H.I.E.L.D.'s aegis, he lost them both, along with several suits of his armor. Osborn inherited them all, and reworked them, becoming a figure called "Iron Pstriot", as which he heads the Avengers.
But his Avengers are very different from the real avengers. All of them are either criminals posing as the real Avengers, or in the case of Wolverine, his son Daken, who hates him. Osborn is angry that he doesn't yet control everything flawlessly, and has a list of things he'd like to do- wipe out the old Avengers, Take care of his old foe Spider-Man, and take out Bruce Banner, Daredevil, Punisher, Namor and Nick Fury, among others.
Meanwhile, Clint Barton, better known as Hawkeye, is getting rather frustrated himself. He wants Osborn gone, and is willing to stoop to murder to do it. But the other Avengers are leery of stooping to murder, even a thug like Osborn. Even Moonstone, Clint's lover, isn't supporting him. But when Clint decides to break into Avengers tower to deal with Osborn himself, will he get more than he bargained for when Osborn sets Bullseye on his tail?
Matt Murdock has always fought the Hand. But with Osborn in charge, he's been forced into a truce with them. Now, he's agreed to become the Leader of the Hand in exchange for their help in fighting crime. They agree, but he must undergo their tests to become the Leader of the Hand. The proceedings are interrupted by Bullseye, who taunts Daredevil into a fight.
Daredevil has always beaten Bullseye before, but now Bullseye is much more bold, knowing that Osborn has enough power to get him out of pretty much any trouble. But how far will he go to bring down Daredevil, and can Daredevil live with the consequences?
Osborn tried for an agreement with many different peoples, from mutants to Atlanteans, but Namor only pretended to agree and ended up allying himself with Emma Frost, leader of the world's mutants to kill Osborn and create their own island for the Mutants to live on. But their plan failed to kill Osborn, and Osborn decides to get his revenge. He sends a mutated Marrina, now in the form of a giant eel-like creature, to attack Atlantis. Killing and eating Atlanteans will make her grow larger, and hungrier.
Needless to say, her current form cuts a vast swath through the Atlanteans, and the mutants, who Namor helped in the past, offer to help his people against the monster. But Namor refuses their offer. Can Emma and the other mutants persuade him to accept their help, or will Namor refuse out of pride? And what will he do to Osborn for what Osborn has done to his people?
Nicholas Fury isn't happy with Osborn, either, and he isn't shy about letting Osborn know it. He breaks into Avengers Tower to see Osborn, and his opponent isn't happy to see Fury. He tells Fury that killing Fury is on his list. Fury says he heard, and has a list of his own. "Save the World. Punch Norman in the face. Have a Beer."
The two team up to interrogate a former S.H.I.E.L.D. agent who seems to be making almost obscene amounts of money, but how? And what does it have to do with a secret Soviet Project known as Leviathan? Will Fury get to cross any of those items off his list?
Punisher is causing problems for another of Osborn's associates, Red Hood, so Norman sends Daken to eliminate Castle once and for all. One uses plenty of weapons and has decades of military experience. The other has claws and can regenerate. Who will be the ultimate victor?
Bruce Banner used to be the Hulk, until that power wss taken away from him. Now, Kate Waynesboro is the recipient of Hiroim's Oldstrong power. Kidnapped by Norman Osborn, she is being experimented on. Bruce Banner comes to rescue her. He's able to easily infiltrate Osborn's tech with his own designs because he is so much smarter than Osborn. He's also allied with his son by Caiera, Skaar. Skaar wants to kill the Hulk, not Banner, so he lets Bruce live.
Osborn sends Moonstone and Ms. Hand, his second in command, after Hulk and Skaar. Bruce is without his powers as Hulk amd Skaar is doing most of the fighting, but they make a good team- whenever Skaar isn't baiting his father. But can Bruce's tech and Skaar's strength and Endurance win the day in the fight against Norman Osborn?
Next, Wolverine teams up with Captain Marvel to take out an old Weapon X Facility. There, they meet Fantomex, another "graduate" of the Weapon X program, and find out that the lab has achieved sentience, and is growing its own "antibodies", cloned humans who were intended to be superhuman breed stock.
But something goes wrong inside, Wolverine is infected with a religiously-based virus that has also infected the clones. And it's up to Captain Marvel and Fantomex, who are unaffected by the virus, to deal with the brain that created it and the zombies under its command. But can they do it without being overwhelned by the vast number of creatures in the lab? And can they keep Norman Osborn from stealing the brain and using it for his own purposes?
Lastly, Spiderman is angry for people thinking that Norman is just fine as long as he protects the people of the USA. He knows that Osborn has been using people as guinea pigs, and breaks into Oscorp to download a copy of a video showing him doing just that, wanting to upload it to the world. But can Spiderman fight the might of the Iron Patriot armor, especially with Osborn wanting to kill him? And will anyone listen to the video if it comes from Spiderman? Or will Peter Parker have a better bet? Can anyone change people's mind about Norman Osborn?
This is a fairly large graphic novel that covers a wide variety of titles, authors and artists, making it occasionally feel a little scattered in focus. But each focuses on the effect that Norman Osborn's reign as Chief Security Officer is having on the people living in America. Not only is Osborn a megalomaniac, but he's basically trying to remake the world with himself in charge, so he's got so many fingers in so many pies, it's like each finger has a different color and taste.
I often wondered how he kept all his different schemes in mind, but I suppose it takes an obsessive megalomaniac to do something like that. And lots of shocking stuff happens in this book, with the death of a major character, and some interesting background revealed. The best story of all, I think, is the last- because we finally get to see Osborn's image beginning to crumble with the common people. And that may eventually topple him from his throne, so to speak.
I found this book somewhat strange and depressing to read in many parts, but others are nothing short of awesome. Nick Fury's for one- although the ending would have less confusing with some explanation- which is not forthcoming in this volume. It's a series of brutal and dark snapshots across the US, and I couldn't help but see it as a kind of political metaphor, and not for the current administration, either.
As a metaphorical trumpet blast resounding against Norman Osborn and telling us he will soon be unseated, the book, and the last story especially show us how ripe for the taking down Osborn is, and I think this book was a piece of dark and effective storytelling. But not without flaws. Too many of the stories seemed disconnected with larger events- we don't know why Osborn is going after some of these heroes, nor what happens after the stories end. So I recommend this book, but not that highly.