In Secret Invasion #8, Norman Osborn killed the Skrull Queen Veranke while a national audience watched, this event took place in Manhattan. Shortly after he killed the Queen, Norman returned to Washington D.C. where a lame duck President placed him in charge of everything that fell under S.H.I.E.L.D. jurisdiction. Norman harshly criticized Tony Stark as well as S.H.I.E.L.D., S.W.O.R.D., and the C.S.A for their actions prior to and during the invasion. After being awarded the responsibilities of leading a new peace-keeping task force in D.C., Norman returned to New York City and moved into his new residence, Avengers Tower.
Inside the Avengers Tower Norman held a secret meeting with a collection of notorious villains, a group which he referred to as The Cabal. They included Dr. Doom, Prince Namor, Emma Frost, Loki, and The Hood. Norman gave the group what can best be described as a sales pitch, urging them to allow him to unite them. This was featured in the one shot Secret Invasion: Dark Reign. Osborn explained to the group that they have all faced constant opposition in the past, from Stark, the Fantastic Four, etc. He stated that he does not plan to offer that same type of opposition, instead he offered them limited freedom with understood boundaries. The Cabal would not have free reign, but as long as they stayed out of the public's radar, Norman would help them to in certain endeavors. Norman believed that if they worked together, they could achieve their common goals. The group was resistant at first, but Osborn replied that they needed him, he was the new 'Nick Fury' and opposition to him would not be productive. In case that rationale was not convincing enough, Norman offered up a second reason to fall in line. Osborn introduced a shadowed figure to The Cabal, a figure later revealed to be The Sentry. The group knew Osborn was not bluffing and the respect for The Sentry's capabilities kept The Cabal at attention.
Norman further explained that the did not want to have to resort to violence against The Cabal, he wanted to embrace them and their causes. Norman continued to try and sweeten the deal, he offered to return Latveria to Doom, Atlantis back to Namor, and even suggested that The Hood's men go legit and register with the Initiative. Loki wanted Asgard, and Norman consented. In exchange the group had to stay away from attacking government facilities and no mischief for the sake of mischief (that was directed at Loki). The immunity they received also made them agents of Osborn, making 'hits' when he told them to. The group was then dismissed by Osborn, after he told them he'd be calling them soon, it appeared he was successful at creating this honor-amongst-thieves pact. After all the members of The Cabal had adjourned, two remained, Namor and Doom. A side pact was agreed upon by the two villains who thought it best to follow Osborn for the short term and wait for him to implode. At that point, they'd split the land and the sea between them.
Norman returned to Thunderbolts Mountain to begin the transfer of his base of operations from Colorado to the Avengers Tower in New York City. While there, Norman was confronted by the Swordsman who wanted retribution for his efforts as a Thunderbolt. The Swordsman was aware that Norman had no intention of using his services as a Thunderbolt or an Avenger, so he threatened to go public with Norman's transgressions as the Thunderbolt's Director (that is, becoming the Green Goblin and wreaking havoc throughout their base). Norman told the Swordsman to calm down, but when the former Thunderbolt did not, Norman was forced to take matters into his own hands. Norman impaled the Swordsman with his own sword and tossed him down the side of Thunderbolt's Mountain. After he killed Swordsman, Norman had a brief moment of panic as his psyche appeared to splinter and he questioned who was in charge...his answer...ME!!
Despite this hiccup, Norman was able to pull things together as he made a rather politically-motivated appearance at the funeral for the deceased Avenger Janet van Dyne (aka The Wasp) in Mighty Avengers #20. After Norman paid his respects, he was confronted by Clint Barton who had taken exception with Osborn's presence at the funeral. After referring to Osborn as the Green Goblin, Barton's temper raged as the seemingly unflappable Osborn chided him for not being a member of his (Osborn's) Avengers initiative. Osborn allowed Barton to embarrass himself in front of his fellow Avengers, and it became clear that the wheels were in motion for Clint to do something rash in response to Osborn's meteoric rise to power.
Things were going very well for Norman Osborn, the same could not be said for Luke Cage and his fellow Avengers. As the final battle against the Skrull invasion reached it's climactic end, Jessica Jones decided to leave her child with Jarvis so that she could fight alongside the resistance. Unfortunately for Jessica, this was not the real Jarvis, rather a Skrull imposter and after the Skrulls lost the war it escaped with her daughter (named Danielle). When the dust settled and Luke and Jessica had realized what had transpired, the two frantically searched for Danielle to no avail. In New Avengers #48, Cage turned to the one man who would be able to help them track down the Jarvis-Skrull and find Danielle, Norman Osborn. In exchange for Luke Cage to sign on with Norman's team, Norman used his resources to help find Cage's daughter...an uneasy pact was formed.
Norman made quick work of elucidating the whereabouts of the baby by forcefully interrogating some of the Skrull prisoners the invasion had left behind in New Avengers #49. Using Venom II (aka Mac Gargan), Norman was able to coerce the Skrulls into giving up the location for the Skrull rendezvous point. A location critical to their extraction back to their home planet. It seemed very likely that the Skrull-Jarvis would return there, so Luke Cage staked out the locale. Eventually the Skrull-Jarvis arrived and after seeing Cage, he peacefully handed over the baby after he asked Cage to spare his life. Cage did so, but Norman had a plan B, Bullseye secretly watched the Cage/Skrull interaction and used a sniper rifle to kill the Skrull immediately after he handed over the baby. Osborn's doctors confirmed the baby's health.
Norman's tactics did not sit right with Luke so he returned to Avengers Tower to clear the air. Cage threatened Norman and his crew with the Wrecker's crowbar. After he beat the snot out of Venom and Bullseye, Luke refuted his pact with Osborn citing that he would not consort with murderers (especially once they've already found his child!). Cage goes on to say that the only reason he's sparing their lives now is because they saved his daughter. Norman then called Luke a liar and a man of dishonor at which point Cage tossed the Wrecker's crowbar through the Avengers Tower window and escaped. Luke Cage had just made Norman's shit list and this storyline was featured in New Avengers 48-50.
While Norman was making deals with Luke Cage, he was also creating his own team of Avengers in Dark Avengers #1. The first item on Norman's agenda, the promotion of the outspoken S.H.I.E.L.D. business affairs operative, Miss Victoria Hand, to the position of Deputy Director. Miss Hand was charged with deriving a name for the new peace-keeping task force that replaced S.H.I.E.L.D. called H.A.M.M.E.R. Hand was very vocal for her disapproval of Stark and Fury's stance on terrorism, which was the main impetus for Norman promoting her. After relieving Maria Hill of her duties, Norman turned to Bullseye and requested that he become Norman's Hawkeye on his Avengers team. Bullseye graciously accepted the offer. Osborn then set his sights on former Avenger Ms. Marvel (aka Carol Danvers), but she flat out refused to join him. She became even more enraged after seeing that both Ares and Sentry had signed on with Norman. After she refused to join, Norman wanted her placed under arrest but she quickly fled Avengers Tower, he was now forced to find another Ms. Marvel. His first choice, Karla Sofen (aka Moonstone), who served Norman loyally (well, as 'loyally' as she can) as a Thunderbolt. Sofen accepted Norman's offer as well.
Perhaps Norman's favorite choice for Avenger replacement was his long-time nemesis Spider-Man. Norman knew he could not convince Spidey to join his team, so he did the next best thing, he converted Venom II into Spider-Man after feeding him a concoction that made him more 'presentable'. And the Dark Spider-Man was born. Norman and Ares then made their way to New Orleans in order to track down Daken Akihiro, a mutant known to have battled with Wolverine. Much to Norman's surprise, Daken admitted that Wolverine was his father and after Norman offered him a spot on the Avenger's roster, Daken agreed to join. Norman filled the second to last spot on his team with Marvel Boy (aka Noh-Varr) and asked that he become the new Captain Marvel. Norman encouraged Noh-Varr to be what he already was, a Kree Warrior and sworn enemy of the Skrull Empire. Noh-Varr accepted Norman's offer.
Osborn saved the best for last and decided that he would fill the last spot on his new Avenger's team. Norman was aware that this team was missing something that the former Avengers always had, strong symbolism. Their symbol of patriotism and strength was marked by the presence of Captain America, and Norman wanted to recreate that. After using his Thunderbolts operative The Ghost to break into one of Stark's secured vaults, Norman uncovered a plethora of Iron Man's unused armored suits. Norman then refashioned one into his new symbolic Avenger's leader, The Iron Patriot. Osborn took his team public and announced them to the world. This iconic group would function as the world's defenders, with Norman as their leader. The Dark Avengers were born.
Norman's very public announcement of his Avengers did not go unnoticed by the real Spider-Man and his fellow Avengers, as seen in New Avengers #50. Flabbergasted by Norman's blatant theft of their earned iconic images, the team resolved that they must make a stance against Osborn. It did not take long for Spidey and the others to realize Norman had staffed this team with his Thunderbolts as well as picking up a few other stragglers. And the Bucky-Cap led team knew that they were heavily outmatched with Ares and The Sentry alongside Norman. Clint Barton (aka Ronin aka the original Hawkeye) suggested that they simply confront Osborn and his team and expose them for the criminals that they were. But arresting Norman's new legitimized team was not an option, they were the law. To get around the big guns enlisted on Norman's Avengers, Carol Danvers suggested that they utilize the machine Tony Stark had once used, the Starktech power drainer. This device is essentially a biological emp having the capability to drain nearby super humans' powers. As Danvers and her team were commiserating, Jessica Drew (aka Spider-Woman aka the face of the Skrull invasion) arrived at their door step and offered her help. The team decided to send her to Norman at the Avengers Tower as a double agent trying to earn his trust. When Drew arrived at Avengers Tower, she was immediately neutralized by Sentry and the others, she then offered Osborn a deal. She would give them the location of the other Avengers in exchange for a job on his team. It appeared as though Norman fell into her trap.
Spider-Man and the rest of the Avengers waited at an abandoned mansion of the Hellfire Club for Spider-Woman to return, with Dark Avengers right behind her. Suddenly the team realized that something was wrong and before they could figure it out, the Starktech power drainer exploded and they were ambushed. But they were not ambushed by Norman's Avengers, rather, The Hood's villain syndicate. A battle ensued and Spidey and his team barely escaped with their lives. Norman and his Avengers watched from a safe distance as he cleverly maneuvered around the trap that his foes had set for him. Norman's Avengers were disappointed that they were not permitted to join the fray, but Osborn explained that he did not want his first act as America's Top Cop to be beating up Captain America.
Norman's smooth defeat of Spider-Man and his fellow Avengers did not go unrequited, as they quickly realized that The Hood and Osborn were working together. Fed up with the bullshit act that Norman was laying thick over the American public, Clint Barton decided to make a stand. Barton made his way into a news studio and announced to the world that Norman Osborn was the murderous Green Goblin and that he had been in an a mental institution. He further stated that Osborn's team was staffed with murderers and psychopaths. Barton made himself into a freedom fighter, saving the public from the tyranny Norman was about to implement.
The battle lines had been drawn in the sand and Norman's Dark Reign was under way...
A simplified list of the events that led to the onset of Norman Osborn's Dark Reign are summarized below.
1. Osborn and his Thunderbolts defeat the Skrulls in Washington D.C. and subsequently head to New York City and continue their fight against the invasion (Thunderbolts #125)
2. Osborn steals the Skrull data from Fury/Deadpool (Deadpool V2 #3). Osborn would later hire Tiger Shark to kill Deadpool after the merc attempted to tarnish Osborn's 'heroic' reputation (Deadpool V2 #6-7)
3. In Manhattan, Osborn kills the Skrull Queen Veranke (Secret Invasion #8)
4. Osborn returns to D.C. to appear before the Senate Oversight Committee where he criticizes Stark/et. al (Thunderbolts #126)
5. While in D.C., Norman is awarded (by a lame duck President) the job as the new director of America's peace-keeping task force (Secret Invasion #8)
6. Norman returns to N.Y.C. and the Avengers Tower where he meets with The Cabal for the first time (Secret Invasion #8 epilogue)
7. Normans makes a deal with the members of The Cabal for their cooperation in exchange for his protection (Secret Invasion: Dark Reign)
8. Norman pays his respects to the deceased Janet van Dyne and Clint Barton decides to share a piece of his mind with Osborn (Mighty Avengers #20)
9. Norman finds Luke Cage's daughter and, soon after, Luke refutes Osborn (New Avengers #49)
10. Norman assembles his Avengers team and announces them publicly (Dark Avengers #1)
11. Norman's Avengers outsmart the Bucky-Cap Avengers and Barton goes public against Osborn (New Avengers #50)
Secret Invasion: Dark Reign
Secret Invasion: Dark Reign
Secret Invasion: Dark Reign
New Avengers #49
Dark Avengers #1
Dark Avengers #1
Dark Avengers #1
Dark Avengers #1
Dark Avengers #1
Norman introduces his Avengers to the world, as seen in Dark Avengers #1
New Avengers #50
New Avengers #50