Norman Osborn did many things during his tenure as America's top cop and most of it was done to spite the numerous heros that preceded him. But arguably his most offensive deed toward Spider-Man, Iron Man, and the others was his orchestrating of a new Avengers team. A team comprised of murderers, psychopaths, and all-round despicable people bearing the iconic likenesses of tried-and-true heros. Osborn, of course, saved the piece de resistance for himself, borrowing themes from Iron Man and Captain America and hybridizing them into his Iron Patriot persona. He even stole from Thor as well, naming his S.H.I.E.L.D. replacement H.A.M.M.E.R., which was no doubt intended to mimic the strength associated with Thor's chief weapon.
During Norman's Dark Reign, he and his Avengers were everywhere, battling anyone and everyone. Chapter 14 has been dedicated to tracking Norman throughout his mischievous run as the Director of H.A.M.M.E.R. This particular section is focused specifically on the events which the Dark Avengers experienced as a team (to be blunt, this section covers the Dark Avengers title).
The affairs (pun intended) of Osborn and his Avengers prior to the attack on Asgard can be divided up into the six subsections shown below:
1. The formation of the team
2. Rescuing Doom from Morgana Le Fey
3. Osborn's deflection of Barton's accusations
4. Eliminating the Atlantean 'threat'
5. Battling the X-Men at Utopia
6. The attack of the Molecule Man
The formation of Osborn's team is explored here.
Norman got things rolling in Dark Avengers #2 after he addressed his inaugural class of H.A.M.M.E.R. soldiers, dubbed The First Agents of H.A.M.M.E.R., and apprised them of the current state of security in the United States. This battalion was comprised of loyal soldiers from his Thunderbolts Initiative as well as some promising agents from the S.H.I.E.L.D. and Hydra. After rallying the troops, Osborn returned to Avengers Tower and briefed his newly formed team of Avengers. Norman instructed his team to never talk to the media and warned them about fighting amongst themselves, he would not tolerate either screw up. Osborn told his team he would be making a list of targets to strike and after Bullseye suggested that they go after Stark, a stern look from both The Sentry and Ares dissuaded Osborn from pursuing that endeavor.
Meanwhile, over in Latveria Dr. Doom was attacked by the sorceress Morgana Le Fay who managed to hobble the seemingly indomitable Doom. Word of Doom's struggles quickly reach Osborn and his pact with Doom forced him to intervene. Osborn ordered his team to assemble and they made their way to Latveria. Upon arriving, Osborn had no idea who Morgana Le Fay was, it was Ares that recognized the sorceress. The Sentry immediately attacked Morgana and ripped her head from her shoulders, it appeared to be a quick defeat. However, moments later The Sentry exploded in a fiery blast as Morgana reappeared in front of Osborn's team. Le Fay had used her ability to rearrange time and return from the past to disintegrate The Sentry. She then unleashed a swarm of demons upon the Avengers, who now found themselves at Le Fay's mercy.
Dark Avengers #3 features a flashback to one of Osborn and The Sentry's earliest encounters, that incredibly significant sequence of events is explored further here.
After the flashback the story returned to present day, where Osborn and his Avengers are struggling to hold off the demons brought forth by Morgana. Le Fay turned Ares to stone (since he was a potential threat) and after Bullseye launched a flurry of arrows at the sorceress it appeared she died for the second time. However, she returned once again and this time Osborn knew he had to make a move to defeat her since both Ares and The Sentry had been neutralized. Norman grabbed the incapacitated Doom and demanded that Doom provide him access to his Doom Tech, Doom reluctantly complies. Taking control of the Doom Tech, Osborn opened up a Time Cube, which allowed he and Doom to travel back in time. They arrived in 690 AD (the time of King Arthur Pendragon) where they confronted Morgana in her secret lair.
The action continued in Dark Avengers #4 as Norman's team, which he left behind, continued to struggle against Le Fay's demons. Meanwhile back in 690 AD, Le Fay scoffed at Osborn's loyalty to Doom as she pointed out that even he has to be aware that Doom planned on betraying him. Doom, who did not defend himself against Morgana's claims, instructed the sorceress to 'end this now'. Le Fay refused as she claimed that Doom could not kill her since their time streams were too intertwined (thus killing her would have a negative impact on Doom's life as well). So Doom did the next best thing, instead of killing her, he sends to exile back into prehistory, 1 million years ago to be precise. Le Fay was neutralized. As Doom and Osborn prepared to return back to present day, Norman suggested that they 'wiggle some things around' as he implied some tweaking of the timestream to favor the two of them. Doom quickly vetoed Norman's suggestion, citing that nothing good can come from doing so. It was a very interesting scene as Doom clearly stood as Osborn's intellectual superior an odd twist considering Osborn's capabilities (ie, he's a pretty bright guy in his own right). After returning to present time Latveria, Osborn gathered his team and informed Doom that he's now on his own. As Osborn's team took off in their jet, Doom rebuilt his recently destroyed castle. Upon arriving in New York City, Victoria Hand informed her boss about Barton's public attack at Osborn's history (for more on Barton's beef with Osborn check out The Onset and Barton vs. Osborn). Norman immediately scheduled an interview of his own to counter Barton's claims. As the team approached Avengers Tower, they were blinded by a brilliant flash a light and as the light dissipated, The Sentry appeared. He had returned from the dead...or so it seemed.
Norman Osborn found himself face-to-face with a seemingly resurrected Sentry at the onset of Dark Avengers #5. The Sentry, just like Osborn, was baffled as to how and why he was able to evade death. He seemed to be teetering on the brink of another meltdown and Osborn tried to preempt that from happening. Norman reinforced the fact that the Void did not exist to The Sentry, but The Sentry was not buying it as he struggled to keep his grip on reality. But, unfortunately for Osborn, he had bigger fish to fry, he needed to counter Clint Barton's claims regarding his own mental sanity. Toward this end, Osborn scheduled a semi-live interview with Shannon Queller (interesting name choice for a news reporter since Norman was trying to quell a rumor). He provided Queller with scripted questions that she was to 'stick to' and after taking a brief second to get in character, he was ready to begin the interview. Osborn opened the interview by stating that he was given a huge amount of trust by the American people and that he believed the country needed and deserved leaders that they can trust. Queller then played a sample of Barton's claims about Osborn and after watching the clip, he confessed to having been the Green Goblin.
But, of course, Norman tried to justify why he became the murderous villain. He claimed that he was 'taken advantage of' by 'unsavory people' and that he suffered from a severe chemical imbalance (an imbalance he was born with) that caused him to become a 'very ill man'. He went on to explain that this was not a secret he was trying to hide as he claimed that all of this information was known and prominent in headlines at the time he was outed (Osborn was right, for more click here). Norman did not take the heat for the Green Goblin's activities over the years, he explained to Queller that a lot of what had been attributed to the Green Goblin was not him. Osborn felt this fact was obvious because of the numerous public attacks the Green Goblin had made at him and his family over the years (Osborn was right again, for more click here). He even goes as far as to name Spider-Man as one of the people who donned the Goblin attire and that there was an entire Nightline episode dedicated to Osborn the victim.
Stepping away from Osborn's interview scene for a moment, I'd like to add some commentary. Technically, Norman was correct in saying the Spider-Man donned the Green Goblin attire, he did so because he was under subliminal mind control after Osborn tampered with his toothepaste (see here for more). But did Norman actually remember that or was he just throwing dirt on Spider-Man's name? It's an interesting question given the Brand New Day universe that robbed Norman of his shared alter-ego secret with Peter. The whole point of Osborn forcing Parker to become the Goblin back at that point was to have him become his heir, a very personal plot against Peter. If Norman remembered that Spider-Man donned the Goblin attire but no longer remembered it was Peter Parker behind the mask, what does he remember about that sequence of events? It was a off-hand remark by Osborn during this interview, but a very loaded remark indeed...
Getting back to the story, Norman conceded the fact that he was the Green Goblin at one point in his life, but, as he explained to Queller, the important thing was that he sought help and he received it. Osborn then goes on to explain his thoughts regarding Barton's current state of mind. He claimed that Barton may be cracking under the pressure after having witnessed Captain America die and Tony Stark fall from grace. Norman explained further that Barton is not hiding in the shadows concocting conspiracy theories about Osborn while Norman had tried to help him and give him a spot within his initiative. But Norman can not help him because Barton refused his help. Norman also pointed out the irony that when Barton joined the Avengers, he did so as an ex-con and that he joined the team with two other known terrorists (Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch). Yet Barton would not allow Osborn a shot at redemption in the same manner that he received in the past? After making those insightful comments regarding Barton's past, Norman did one of the most unbelievable things...he prayed to God! Not only did he pray to God to express his thankfulness for the second chance he was given but also for the second chance that the world had been given...what a guy! Norman said he used to pray to God when he was at his worst...he did?
Queller went on to ask him about the identities of his team, but Norman would not share that information, he wanted to allow them their privacy. He justified his decision by saying that the American people didn't care who was protecting them, only that they were being protected. As for the rest of Barton's claims (ie that the team is staffed with murderous psychopaths), well, Norman said those accusations are 'just madness'.
Norman dodged a major bullet, keeping his reputation in tip-top shape in the eyes of public. Osborn made a habit of putting out fires during his reign, which was a good thing too because there was a lot of fires to put out. And just as Norman seemed to pacify the waves created by Barton, the newsfeed from his interview was interrupted with breaking news. An Atlantean terrorist cell attacked innocent civilians in Los Angeles.
The story concluded with a brief affair between Marvel Boy and Ms. Marvel (aka Karla Sofen), after which Sofen confirmed that Osborn's team was filled with murderous psychopaths. This news caused Noh-Varr to flee Avengers Tower, he never returned. His story is continued here.
In response to the Atlantean attack on U.S. soil, Osborn summoned his Cabal in Dark Avengers #6. Norman apprised the group as to the specifics behind the attack a proposed a countermeasure to their attack. He asked Namor to first publicly denounce the attack by the Atlantean terrorists and then to lead a black ops to crush the terrorists, killing all but one. He wanted the one remaining survivor dragged through the streets to ensure the American public that everything was under control. Namor flat-out refused, as he claimed that what Osborn perceived as a terroristic threat was actually a sharp retaliation for the threat the surface dwellers have posed to the Atlanteans. The conversation between Norman and Namor gets heated and the Sub-Mariner threatened with more violence from his home world. Norman scoffed at Namor's claims and suggested that he reconsider his actions. He told the prince that he's being self-destructive and not considering what Norman would give to him in return.
Namor and Osborn would never make amends and their association ended abruptly after Namor turned on him during the X-Men's exile to Utopia, explored here.
After the botched attempt at recruiting Namor to do his dirty work, Norman returned to his team and found a handful of the members unaccounted for. Marvel Boy was gone, Ares had not yet reported in and The Sentry was off-radar. Victoria Hand, sensing a potential break-down out of Norman, suggested that he take some time off because he had not slept since he was appointed that position. Soon after, The Sentry appeared before the team and, after taking Hand's advice, Norman sent him on a solo mission to destroy the Atlantean cell. He gave The Sentry the same orders he attempted to give Namor (that is, annihilate the cell and leave only one survivor to be dragged through the streets), but instead of asking Bob to do this, Norman requested the Void. The Void would be merciless and Norman knew that, he sought swift justice against the terrorists. The Sentry complied, he unleashed the Void and crushed the Atlanteans in their underwater homes.
This is an interesting interaction between Norman and The Sentry, especially given the events of Dark Avengers #13, which is further explored here. Norman had provided The Sentry with The Professor's formula that enabled him to access the Void portion of his personality. So Norman was willingly activating the Void, yet trying to suppress him at the exact same time. Clearly Norman wanted control over the Void to use for his own vices, thus giving Bob the formula to do so, but what Norman was quickly learning was that there was no controlling the Void and The Sentry was slowly slipping out from under Norman's thumb.
After The Sentry crushed the Atlanteans, he and Osborn received overwhelming praise and support from the President himself, praise which Norman graciously accepted. To cover his gruesome order, Osborn had H.A.M.M.E.R. give a press release stating that The Sentry attempted to arrest the terrorists, but upon his arrival they detonated a suicide bomb, killing all but one of them. The press release went on to say that that one remaining detainee would be given due process in accordance with the law. But the poor Atlantean did not receive due process, instead he was fed to Venom as a nice sushi snack!
Once Norman got off the phone with the President, he gave Sofen an earful regarding the disappearance of Noh-Varr. Norman, like The Sentry, seemed be losing his tenuous grip on reality as he returned to his private quarters. Once he returned to his chamber, Norman collapsed to the ground and the Green Goblin aspect of his psyche spoke to him and reminded him that he's always there...
As Norman struggled to suppress his demons, an anti-mutant sentiment began sweeping down the west coast and landed at the doorsteps of the X-Men's newest refuge in San Francisco. The conflict between Norman Osborn and Scott Summers is outlined here.
Dark Avengers #2
Dark Avengers #2
Dark Avengers #3
Dark Avengers #3
Dark Avengers #4
Doom quickly scolds Osborn for his suggestion to tamper with the timestream, as seen in Dark Avengers #4
The Sentry returns from the dead in a flash blinding light, as seen in Dark Avengers #4
Dark Avengers #5
Norman rationalizes his horrific past as the Green Goblin, as seen in Dark Avengers #5
Dark Avengers #5
Dark Avengers #5
Dark Avengers #6
Namor refuses Norman's plan, the two did not see eye-to-eye again during Norman's reign, as seen in Dark Avengers #6
The lone surviving Atlantean terrorist was fed to Venom as a snack, as seen in Dark Avengers #6
Norman refuses to leave his workshop, most likely because the stress was bringing out his darker side, as seen in Dark Avengers #9
The Sentry vanishes into oblivion, shortly after his arrival in Dinosaur, Colorado, as seen in Dark Avengers #10
The Molecule Man extracts Osborn into his fiery lair, as seen in Dark Avengers #10
Norman tries to intimidate The Molecule Man to no avail, as seen in Dark Avengers #11
Norman's delusion features a demonic Spider-Man, Iron Man, and Ares, as seen in Dark Avengers #11
The demonic Spider-Man drops Osborn from high above the city streets, as seen in Dark Avengers #12
Victoria demands Osborn seek professional help for the recent trauma his brain has suffered, as seen in Dark Avengers #12
Norman collapses to ground as Loki suddenly appears behind him, the God of Mischief has been manipulating him, as seen in Dark Avengers #12