One of the best things about reading in a franchise with an extended universe is seeing how all the little threads cross together and knowing that one event can have a direct link to another. For a more recent non-comic-book example, Disney has recently been pushing the boat out with their Star Wars merchandise: the new Sequel movies to continue the Skywalker Saga, the stand-alone movies Rogue One and Solo, not to mention the animated properties like Rebels and Resistance. Crossovers are also common in franchises such as this. For example, a recent Star Wars novel is pitched as having fan-favourite Grand Admiral Thrawn (who has thus far only been visualised on screen in Star Wars Rebels) meeting Anakin Skywalker during the Clone Wars, putting two important characters together in a new situation. In comic books, crossovers such as these are common: every other week, Spidey and Daredevil take on the Kingpin and Wolverine probably has a membership on every team Marvel has ever made. However, superhero comic books tend to take a step beyond the regular crossover scenario and craft a story which pulls together as many known characters from their universe as possible to tell epic sagas on massive scopes, such grand displays of vision that not even TV or film can compete with the sheer sense of scale and ambition. These type of crossovers are known as ‘Events’ in the comic book world and thus, the term ‘event comics’ is used to describe them.
Now, in our modern culture, the sense of an ‘event’ piece of media is fairly new. The only big crossovers, at least in movie form, that came to mind are The Expendables, for their attempt to reunite the old action stars of the day, Space Jam, because Michael Jordan teaming up with Looney Tunes is just fun no matter how corny, and, of course, the recent magnum opus of the Marvel Cinematic Universe: Infinity War, which is basically a Marvel event comic put to screen. In comic books, however, ‘event’ style storytelling is something so prolific that many comic readers claim to be suffering from ‘event fatigue’, worn out from these massive epics and wanting more individual introspective stories for their favourite heroes. Almost every year or every other year, there’s a new event within the big comic book companies. Marvel, in particular, seems to have at least three big character driven ‘events’ a year, each one featuring heavy plot-based stories uniting large ensemble casts of heroes from various ‘families’ together into a big collection. Usually, these stories tell epic rambling plots of herculean scope. For example, in 2015, Marvel published an event in which the main Marvel Universe and their Ultimate Brand, a modern 21st century retelling of all their heroes, collided and were destroyed following on after another Event, Age of Ultron, in which Wolverine and Susan Richards/The Invisible Woman did so much time-travelling that they broke time and led to the collapse of the multi-verse.
See what I mean about these epic events and the scale being kind of insane?
The event, Secret Wars, was a quasi-sequel event to one of Marvel’s most famous crossovers, 1984’s ‘Secret Wars’. The 2015 variant saw lovable dictator and classic supervillain, Doctor Doom, steal the power of God in order to save parts of the multi-verse, stitching them together into a weird amalgamation of provinces he came to call ‘Battleworld’. Secret Wars, as an event, is definitely worth a read. It’s as epic a story as you can get from event comics with whole multi-verses getting wiped out in tragic war, but has a solid core and focuses on the strains of one great character. The saga plays out as a Game of Thrones-esque thriller centered around Doctor Doom working to retain his Godhood, whilst everyone else acts ungrateful at the fact he saved all of creation (he might have also made himself God-King and stolen Reed Richards’s wife, but still, Reed’s kind of horrible and who would turn down Susan Storm?).
I might, in the future, even come back to talk about the Event in more detail later. For now, however, we’re in Spidember, so we’re focusing on Spider-man.
As such, the reason I have brought ‘event comics’ up at all is because event comics have a beautiful little thing called ‘tie-in’ issues for the characters involved. Whilst events like Secret Wars have a main story running throughout, the events are on such a large scope that individual characters get special issues of their own story to tie in to the events, developing their own personal stories and the larger scope through the narrative. In the case of Secret Wars, whilst some tie-ins featured reflected on Reed Richards and his group’s plans to overthrow Doom, some tie-ins for Secret Wars decided to delve into the various multi-verses Doom had snatched up from the time-stream, in order to expand the mythos of ‘Battleworld’.
One, in particular, was Spider-man related.
This was Spider-man: Renew your Vows, and it is my favourite thing that has come out of Spider-man in most recent years. If you couldn’t have guessed, it is going to be the focus of today’s blog. I feel that the cover of the first issue, pictured above, shows you exactly why I love this comic so much.
Renew your Vows focuses on a different Marvel universe where Spider-man and Mary Jane never sold their marriage to the devil and the two remained together, ultimately having a daughter called Annie ‘May’ Parker. Spider-man: Renew your Vows is the Spider-man story I have always wanted to read, a story that advances the web-slinger’s story in a natural stage of progression and takes the next step in his journey, writing forwards with all the characters as opposed to the cyclical writing nature that has become all too common in comics (and I took a good chunk of last week ranting about). It’s also a wonderfully told one. Heck, even the first line of narration for the comic says ‘in a perfect world, this was how it was always meant to be’.
Now, originally, Renew your Vows was hyped up as ‘the last’ Spider-man story, considering the Marvel Universe was ending and everyone was wanting a chance to get in on the promotion. Of course, it wasn’t the end, because of course it didn’t end and soon, Peter Parker went back to climbing walls as a web-swinging bachelor once more, his days as a married man and happy father lost to him by a deal with the literal devil (no, I am still not over that and I doubt I will ever be so).
At least, for a little while.
In 2017, Marvel released another series of Spider-man: Renew Your Vows, focusing once more on a Spider family dynamic and continuing on with the story, even getting Mary Jane into the crime fighting aspects. So far, Spider-man Renew your Vows has been running for 22 issues so far. I’ve only read up to Issue 12 myself, but considering this is probably my favourite Spider-man series to have come out in recent years, I’m going to spend the rest of this post talking about it, giving each segment a review.
Warning: the rest of this blog is going to be spoiler-filled, but if you want a spoiler-free verdict, I strongly recommend you pick up Renew your Vows. It’s a brilliant collection of some amazing comics with a developed cast and a great understanding of what makes Spider-man so great, whilst still allowing the character to mature and applying what makes him appealing to his family. All the members of the Spider-family are compelling and there’s some great stories to be had in here.
With that said, I’m now going to be looking at each ‘part’ of Renew your Vows, talking about the first mini-series, followed by each individual story-arc from volume 2 of the Renew your Vows comics until I reach #12, where I’m sadly now waiting on a chance to go and grab the next installment. I’ll review each comic ‘arc’ out of 5, with 5 denoting not to a flawless story, but one that is as enjoyable and good as it can be, as close to perfection as possible.
With that all said and done, let’s dive straight in
Regent (Renew your Vows Mini-series #1-#5)
The Regent arc of Renew your Vows is the first and, honestly, the best part of the Renew your Vows story. The initial set-up is a simple one: Spider-man and Mary Jane with a new happy family, but its in the details that the plot really comes into its own as something epic and, also, unique for a Spider-man story.
After settling down with M.J and having Annie, Spider-man is called to Avengers Manor to arrange an attack upon a New York billionaire Augustus Roman, who has been scavenging dangerous technology and who they suspect might be behind the disappearances of several major superheroes, including the X-Men. Spider-man is about to leave with the group when he learns of a prison escape occurring concurrently on Striker’s Island. The Avengers, having an eye on the higher stakes, resolve to deal with the escape later, after confronting Regent. Spider-man, however, realises exactly who one of Riker’s in-mates is and abandons the Avengers, rushing home to find Venom with his wife and child.
As expected, Peter goes ballistic in a dramatic fight that sees him battling his doppelganger tooth and nail in order to save those he loves. In the end, Peter makes a choice for the betterment of his family, bringing down a burning building on top of Venom, actively killing Eddie Brock, so that he can never harm them again. A dark choice to be sure, but its one that reflects the new mature Peter Parker in this series, willing to go to extreme lengths to ensure no-one threatens his family. It’s a brilliant fight, as well, Peter’s inner monologue being one of his most engaging and determination ringing out in every word.
However, another choice the webslinger has made is revealed at the end of the first issue (that’s right, all this action was only in the first issue!). Since Peter didn’t go with the Avengers, as planned, Spider-man avoided their fate after their failed confrontation with Augustus Roman, who has now taken to calling himself ‘Regent’. In the aftermath of the battle, Regent has killed most of the remaining super-heroes, stolen their powers and now rules New York, instigating his own anti-super-powered legislation and forcing Peter into hiding in order to protect his family. Having spent the past five years raising Annie and trying to hide their super-powers from Regents wandering gaze. Over the course of the mini-series, Peter eventually realises that he must re-enter the world as Spider-man in order to protect Annie and other super-powered children just like her, and renew his vows, not to wife and child as the title implies, but his vows of great responsibility to the world and liberate them from their new overlord, Regent.
Renew your vows is a spectacular comic from start to finish, nothing short of amazing. From experience, Dan Slott, the head-writer for most Spider-man comics for the last several years, can be very hit and miss, but this special little comic is just packed full of hits. The characters are well-written with a great focus on Peter, Mary-Jane and Annie and their relationship, the world is well-crafted and the story serves not only as a love-letter to Mary Jane and Peter’s relationship, but to Spider-man canon as a whole. There’s one amazing scene where Mary Jane has to sit Annie down and explain to her father’s history as Spider-man. The sequence is brief but effective, calling upon elements of Spider-man’s past, before resting them upon the shoulders of Spider-man’s future: his daughter. There are great quiet moments of thriller suspense and fantastic action scenes. Peter first jumping back into the fray when he thinks his daughter is in trouble is brilliantly executed, with a group of onlookers all sharing the reader’s hope for the future and the return of Spider-man.
The villain is also surprisingly engaging as well, for an original creation based solely in this event. Regent is the oppressive figure threatening the Parker’s way of life and he plays the role of a watchful ‘Big Brother’ figure very well. His motivation is still world conquest, but it actually ties him in nicely to the Secret Wars event. Knowing of God Doom’s power, Regent seeks to usurp him and has been stealing meta-human abilities for this inevitable confrontation. However, Regent has realised he needs Peter’s abilities above all others because he feels the ‘spider-sense’ will give him the best chance at defeating Doom. It’s a really good explanation and clarifies Spider-man’s importance, despite his low-level power set. Plus, Regent’s full white god-like design is cool and he even has his own re-mix of the Sinister Six (Doctor Octopus has like eight metal-arms in the future…until Spidey rips them off…yeah, Peter goes dark a lot in this mini-series).
All of this gives great reason to talk about the artist: Adam Kubert delivers some great art-work with dynamic colouring that appears timeless and current in a way that only Spider-man can. His redesigns for old characters are fantastic, and Peter and M.J look fantastic here, at their best.
The other Marvel characters who appear in this timeline are also pretty cool in how they are featured, Sandman teaming up with Hawk-Eye, who has a fancy new eye-patch and has become running director of S.H.I.E.L.D in the absence of a super-hero organisation, whilst other non-powered humans have joined Regent to seek out more powers for him.
In all, it’s just a fantastic story which catapulted the Renew your Vows universe into the limelight, where it hope it can stay for some time.
Regent arc: 5/5.
Brawl in the Family (Renew your Vows #1-#4)
Following the restoration of the Marvel Universe, Renew your Vows proved popular enough with readers to earn itself a new series in 2017’s new ‘Marvel Now’ initiative. Following off a few weeks after the mini-series left off, the story would feature Peter, M.J and Anne as a crime-fighting family, using their combined spider-powers to better New York. For this great undertaking, Marvel put Ryan Stegman and classic Spidey writer Gerry Conway to the task to bring the Parker family in with a bang.
Structurally, Brawl in the Family is the best arc of the ongoing serial of the second volume. It really hypes up the potential of having three main characters by letting Peter, Annie and Mary Jane all have an issue of this arc devoted to themselves, exploring their family dynamic and their inner life. For example, Issue #1 starts with Spider-Man fighting Scorpion, trying to plan a shopping list, before Mary Jane contacts him through his ear-piece that they have a ‘code green’, which turns out to mean ‘Annie’s asleep, let’s go have sex’.
I feel this encapsulates the feel of Renew your Vows.
Not the casual marriage sex, though that is an engaging storytelling approach, I suppose?
Seriously, the series has a great tone of super villain fights contrasted with personal issues and interpersonal relationships. Conway’s writing is on fire here and this man who first took the helm of Spider-man in the early 70’s from Stan Lee, still hasn’t lost his touch at understanding what makes Peter Parker good and what makes his family tick.
In Peter’s issue, we see him in his role in its entirety, superhero when he’s fighting Scorpion, husband when he rushes home to be with M.J, father when he reassures Annie and his role as photographer at the Bugle and his friendship with Gloria Grant playing out in future panels. Through one issue, we get a complete insight in Peter’s role in this new world, coupled with some great established conflict and issues he has to deal with: mainly he’s still used to being a solo-agent and keeps trying to keep his family out of the superhero life.
This development and attention to detail is provided to the other sets of character specific issues as well. The third issue focuses on Annie making friends at school, dealing with her new super-hero identity, whilst the second issue is all about M.J, trying to organise a party for Peter, dropping Annie off at school and then going to her clothes shop and trying to make ends meet. Honestly, M.J’s story arc is probably my favourite part of Renew your Vows, because it points out how easy it would be to make M.J a part of the ‘Parker Luck’ in actual Spider-man and portray her compelling in a way a lot of writers fail to.
Unlike the original series, where M.J is a fashion model or occasional secretary for Tony Stark, the M.J of Renew your Vows is running a business from home, struggling to make ends meet and only gets redeemed by the fact that a fashion editor has shared her fashion blog and given it an award. It’s the perfect reflection to the Parker Luck and I personally wish it was how Mary-Jane would have gone in the actual Spider-man series. In addition, thanks to some altered Regent tech, Mary-Jane is able to tap into Peter’s spider powers, literally adding to the husband and wife metaphors whilst giving her a new identity: Spinneret. This is how you make good forward writing decisions. If people don’t find the relationship compelling, make it compelling.
Write it like this! Because this is awesome!
The only real faults I can think of with this arc is the villain they’re fighting. Mole-Man is 1. not the most interesting of villains and even if he was, 2. he’s not a Spider-man villain. It’s sad really too, Mole-Man spends the whole arc being hilarious with his ineptitude, and fails to really be a serious a threat, even when he has a death lazer stolen from Regent’s tech, along with an army of Molelings RIDING DINOSAURS! (As a side-note, Mary-Jane and Peter punching a dinosaur together in the head is what all relationships should aspire to).
Still, there’s so many good things to look at in this arc: the side-cast all get some establishment with Betty now as a reporter and Gloria working as a single mother, we are shown a lot of Annie’s school friends and we get some foreshadowing of Annie’s powers (her spider-sense shows her flashes of the future) and a new threat in the form of Normie Osborn, the son of Harry Osborn and Liz Allen. Normie is portrayed very much as a fusion of his father and grandfather, business-minded and cruel like Norman but capable of wonder and bafflement like Harry (upon seeing Annie in her Spiderling costume, he asks who the ‘marvellous young woman is’ and looks like he’s ready to burst with emotion).
He can probably show this emotion so well because the artist, Ryan Stegman, is really good. There are a few panels where things look a bit awkward (Stegman also did art-work for the Superior Spider-man, and the artwork looks less awkward than that at least, but still noticeably similar) but on the whole, Stegman does a great job.
The banter is amazing too. Not even just the fight banter, just the genuine chemistry between the main Parker clan is brilliant and the way they bicker and argue seems natural. Anyone who has been part of a family can immediately see the similarities between the Parkers and their own and it all builds into this great family adventure.
Overall, a great start, structured really well but it really did need a better villain.
Brawl in the Family: 4/5
Bouncy Bunny Filler Arc (Renew your Vows #5)
Yay, an actual Spider-man villain in a Spider-man comic! The one problem is that Flint Marko, the Sandman, isn’t really even the main enemy of this arc and he’s beaten very quickly. The main enemy is that of all families…
FAMILY FUN NIGHT!
Mary Jane and Peter are forced to take Annie out on a play-date with Glory Grant and her son, but that soon gets stopped by a bank robbery from Sandman next door. All in all, the issue is a harmless bit of fun, but mostly fluff. The only real plot movement in it are Normie Osborn getting his hands on a data-drive and we get some scenes of him interacting with Betty Brant. It’s good at establishing some of the situation and the end image of the Spider-family passed out on the couch is adorable.
This issue is supposedly a fifth part to Brawl in the Family, but really feels like its own separate story-line. It isn’t a bad thing, and it’s some nice welcome filler, but it lacks any of the real depth of the other arc, for obvious reasons.
Bouncy Bunny Filler Arc: 3/5
School Daze Arc (Renew your Vows #6-#7)
I’m not going to lie, disappointing is really the phrase for this arc. Don’t get me wrong, there’s promise to this storyline but it really falls down in the face of Brawl in the Family and the original mini-series.
Peter has a birthday party and, who’s there but Charles Xavier, head of the Xavier Institute for Gifted Children…for some reason? Well, actually, Xavier himself lets Peter know he’s actually here for Annie. Xavier invites the Parker clan to his school to discuss the idea of moving Annie into his gifted school for youngsters. Whilst Annie isn’t a mutant, as far as Xavier yet knows, her powers make her a target for the world around and Xavier and the X-Men want to shelter from that. The discussion of Annie’s development is tabled, however, when Magneto and his evil brotherhood of mutants attack the X-Mansion in an effort to take control over all mutant-kind.
This is, honestly, the worst of the Renew your Vows stories so far. One, it feels pretty early in the book’s lifespan for it to be focusing on crossovers with other comic-book characters like this and, two, it’s also a really bad crossover as well. The primary conflicts are Magneto trying to take over the school and the dilemma of whether or not Annie should join Xavier’s school or keep living as she is now. The problem is that neither of these conflicts are handled well: the Parkers never reach a decision on Annie’s fate and the threat of the Brotherhood is literally dealt with in a single issue after their set-up. The story arc feels like a massive waste and really does come out of nowhere and end just as quickly, especially since it’s tackling the big idea of the mutant agenda. Jubilee even turns on the X-Men because, after everything that’s happened, mankind is still discriminating against mutants and nothing has changed. It should be a powerful scene and it’s discussing the deep questions that make the X-Men work. However, it has to be shown to us in a smaller time-frame, too rushed, and the two issues are too small a timeslot to ultimately tackle anything of meaningful weight. No conclusion is reached, no peace or resolution found. It’s just a fun little romp with the X-Men, which is alright, but also not why I, personally, have come to read this comic. This is about Spider-man and the family and though it starts with a great dilemma, by not focusing on the Parker’s reaction to mutant treatment (Annie may indeed be one) or confronting the possibility of Annie moving out of their lives, it all falls a little flat as the story loses momentum.
It does have its good points, of course. The dialogue is good, characterisation is fine across the board and there are two great scenes in it. Annie’s speech to Jubilee about the nature of power is well done for a nine year old and Mary Jane is a highlight as always, her punching out Magneto and Emma Frost in one panel serves as an awesome display of her power but also helps build on something that’ll be more important in the next arc to come.
Apart from those few bright moments, the main point of this arc seems to doing a bit of clean-up to explain the continuity of the new Renew your Vows universe. The alterations to the main Marvel timeline are explained through the fact that the Civil War never happened. Instead, Professor Xavier got involved and proposed superheroes self-policing themselves and the government agreed. This, admittedly, still makes little sense in the context of the civil war, but it least adds more motivation to Xavier’s appearance in the story. Scott even compares him to a ‘police-man for mutant kind’. Despite this attempt at continuity though, this crossover makes things more confusing, especially considering the implication that the X-Men should be dead in the new Renew your Vows continuity due to Regent stealing their powers before the first issue and the implied death or inevitable decomposing of all test subjects.
The only good thing to really come out of this is development for the Renew your Vows universe X-Men as characters. Wolverine and Jean are together and have a daughter called Katie/Shine, whilst this Scott Summers has…actually become one of most likable versions of the character. No longer just a straw-man hard-ass, Scott is dealing with feelings of confusion, conflict and personal turmoil since his support of the Professor led to the end of his relationship with Jean and comes off actually as the most reasonable person in the school, telling Jean not to trust the professor, despite him believing in the school.
Overall, it’s a jumbled attempt of an un-needed guest star comic that ultimately just ends up feeling kind of a hollow, a real arc turned filler before the next story arc kicks in.
School Daze: 2.5/5
The Venom Experiment (Renew Your Vows #8-#9)
Now, this is a good arc.
Building on already established features, Mary Jane notices that her Regent suit is draining Peter’s powers due to her using it recklessly to zap his powers, showcased in her fight with Magneto and a showdown with Mysterio at the start of the comic (speaking of, hey, it’s nice to have Spider-man villains featuring). Searching for a way to still be a hero without relying on stealing Peter’s abilities, Mary Jane discovers that Liz Allen has made a new name for herself as head of a bio-tech branch, promising to unleash the power of the human ability using new enhancement suits. Mary Jane obviously goes to see her and is rewarded with a new state of the art black suit.
Spoilers: the suit is obviously the Venom symbiote, having survivied its encounter with Spider-man in the first mini-series. Liz plans to use the symbiote Mary Jane to distract Spider-man from her son’s efforts long enough for her to talk poor Normie down out of being crazy. As expected, the symbiote takes control of MJ, doing everything it can to get revenge on Peter whilst taking hold of the woman he loves.
Honestly, for once, it’s the brief nature of the storyline that really makes it so engaging. We all know when reading the exact beat for beat storytelling that the encounter with Venom will bring, but it’s delivered quick enough and well enough that the plot still remains compelling. Mary Jane’s fall to the symbiote and ultimate prevailing over it through the help of Peter is really fun to read. Peter latches on to the symbiote idea quickly too, after a brief moment of disbelief considering the symbiote should technically be dead with Eddie. The main negatives of the plot is mainly that it is so predictable. The only twist is that M.J gains control of the symbiote and has to use it for a short time, being unable to remove it…for some reason? She never tries which seems a terrible mistake when you’re wearing an evil alien parasite.
It’s a good arc, even more so when you consider that Ryan Stegman was allowed to co-write the series with Conway, ultimately becoming the main writer for the final three fantastic issues I’ve read, ultimately dropping his role as artist so other talents could come in.
On the whole, Venom’s return as Mary Jane is a simple little arc but it does well and the best parts are when it shows how the symbiote affects Mary Jane, causing her to be more hyperactive, moody and then chaotic, whilst decrying Spider-man as a murderer for Eddie. It actually works as a nice metaphor too, the symbiote trying to kill Spider-man’s family since he killed its user, its family.
The Venom Experiment Arc: 4/5
A Day in the Life of an Osborn Arc (Renew Your Vows #10)
Damn. Just, damn. Stegman brought his a-game for his first time in the full writer’s seat.
This is the best story in the Renew your Vows continuity by a massive margin.
As the name suggests, we follow Normie Osborn running his father’s empire. Meanwhile, Spider-man and Spiderling are hunting down the Lizard and his son, Billie Connors, who has turned himself into a Lizard monster just like his father. The two eventually head to Oscorp and are confronted by the Normie, who in turn, has to be saved by Spider-man and Spiderling.
This issue is brilliant solely for two things: Normie Osborn and the way it treats the past history of the Osborns as a whole. Normie, as one might expect, is a pampered little child running a multi-million dollar corporation. As such, he has been forced to grow up into a man that can survive that kind of cut-throat world, despite him being only ten years old. Normie’s ‘day in the life’ of heading to Oscorp offices, dealing with staff and finally retiring to his office are all juxtaposed with memories he had of his father, Harry.
You see, one thing I forgot to mention about the One More Day retcon ages ago is that the retcon that dissolved Peter and M.J’s marriage, also brought Harry Osborn back to life, after Norman had hidden him away or something. The Normie we see in the Brand New Day Spider-man timeline is just an ordinary kid with a few daddy issues, but the one from this timeline feels like a natural extension of a child that was left behind after the events of Harry’s past. After all, Harry went crazy, hunted Peter down and only surrendered by saving his family and Mary Jane from an explosion.
Not only does Renew your Vows keep this record of events but it seems heavily apparent Norman Osborn isn’t present in this current world, leaving the Osborn legacy to fall into Normie’s lap. Each scene with Normie has a contrast, comparing his life now to his life as a child when his father was around: celebrating birthdays, watching Spider-man vs the Green Goblin on TV and finally, Harry’s tragic death. Each of these flashbacks is perfect, mirroring the current scene and creating a complete sense of tragedy and repetition. Peter himself looks saddened by the whole affair of meeting Normie again, still guilty for his hand in Harry’s death and Annie exists as a juxtaposition to Normie’s unhappy childhood: free, loved by her parents and powerful. The comic ends with Normie’s breakdown, clutching a picture of his father to him, before asking that if Spider-man was his ‘best friend’, as was Harry’s words, why did he let Harry die? The image fades to green and with a distortion of his features, Normie suddenly appears to be the legendary villain that Spider-man fears. The Will of the Green Goblin lives once more.
Juan Figeri was the artist for this sole issue and he really did a fantastic job at bringing the story to life. The characters all leap off the page with personality and the sequences mirroring Normie and his father are beautifully rendered.
Mary Jane is absent from the story due to her involvement in ‘The Venomverse’ crossover, but honestly, I don’t mind that much. The story here is perfect and I’m not sure if including her would improve things here. Mary Jane isn’t the the focus of this issue, Normie is. Annie and Spider-man serve as foils to him in this regard, children raised by loving parents and fighting the good fight, vs. a boy tortured by loss with power enough to continue his family’s vendetta against Spider-man. A perfect short story for the Spidey mythos and an excellent lead in to the final arc of Stegmen’s writing.
A Day in the Life of an Osborn Arc: 5/5
The Curse of the Green Goblin Arc (Renew your Vows #11-#12)
The Normie Osborn storyline concludes here before the changing of the creative team of the comic.
Spider-man, Spinnerett and Spiderling are chasing after the Rhino when they are shot by concussive waves from a truck. Annie is taken by Normie Osborn as bait to lead Spider-man into a trap and Liz Allen finds herself betrayed by Miss January, Normie’s personal assistant. With the Spider family split up, Peter and M.J have to find Annie and confront a new threat as the Osborn legacy surfaces its ugly head again.
As a conclusion to the Normie Osborn plot-line from the past issues, The Curse of the Green Goblin is quick but effective. Spider-man gets to show off more dark moments, the X-Men appear again (seriously, I love the X-Men, but, why do they keep showing up in my Spider-Man comic?) and there are just enough new twists to the mix to make the conclusion to the Curse of the Green Goblin saga successful. Annie’s scenes with Normie do a great job at establishing a friendship between the two and it’s actually nice that an Osborn gets a good ending for a change. Miss January’s appearance as the driver of the Goblin Mech and the ultimate realisation of the plot is a little out of nowhere, considering it suddenly stops becoming about Normie’s wishes and transforms into her wanting to avenge Harry, despite that having never been a thing referenced before. Artist Brian Level crafts some great panels for this finale to Stegman’s run but, really, a few of the panels seem flat and I do miss seeing Stegman’s hand in the art, as good as he made the finale to this story. Ultimately, Annie proves herself a hero, saving her de-powered parents with the help of Normie and defeating the Regent tech powered Goblin Mech (yeah, there’s a Goblin Mech and it’s amazing).It’s a happy ending for all…following which is a time-skip.
You see, with Ryan Stegman leaving, a new creative team came in, writer Jody Houser and Artist Nick Roche. Whilst change is good for new twists of a comic, I really don’t like the idea of the eight year timeskip following the first part of this story. Whilst I’m not sure whether the idea was Stegman’s or Houser’s, skipping such a large chunk of Annie’s development and just plopping her in her teenage years really disappoints me.
Never the less, the first half of Renew Your Vows ended with a considerable bang and a pretty good conclusion to Normie’s Osborn madness.
The Curse of the Green Goblin Arc: 4/5
On the whole, Spider-man: Renew your Vows has been a great comic series that I’ve loved getting into. The characters are well-written, the adventures mostly engaging and the family Spider dynamic really never does get old. However, of course, nothing’s perfect and whilst this is my favourite Spider-man comic in recent years, I still think we need to discuss what could help make Renew your Vows even better in the future, or things that could have been improved.
My main complaint with Renew your Vows is that it’s quick. Really quick. The first arc with Moleman was actually really well-structured and the original mini-series by Dan Slott was plotted to allow for a balanced degree of action and character development in a short amount of time. In the Renew your Vows series, however, everything just feels a bit less. Mole-Man has the longest arc in the main series, 4 issues, and the return of Venom and the meeting with the X-Men is gone and done in only 2 each. I’m not saying that shorter stories can’t be good, but the longer an arc or a story is allowed to breathe, the more invested we can get in the narrative. For example, my favourite Spider-man series of all time, Ultimate Spider-man, usually averaged about 6-7 issues an arc, balancing the main plot with established sub-plots. I’m not saying that Renew your Vows should go for this limit, it’s probably hard to write long-term storytelling for what it is, sadly, a Spider-man side series. However, at least aiming for 4 issues an arc could give the characters time to talk, drama time to rise and also give us a chance to get better connected with the side-characters.
Which is another issue I have with Renew your Vows. The first few issues work to set up some side-characters in the Renew your Vows canon: re-featuring Peter’s old colleagues, introducing Mary Jane’s new store helpers Murphy and Wendy, and Annie’s school friends, Jermaine Grant and Stephanie Kim, but they don’t feature again. Heck, the X-Men have appeared more times than the regular side-cast. It’s not a massive problem, but it’d be nice to focus on the Parker’s relationships with these new characters, pull us down into the soap opera drama that makes Spider-man so compelling. It doesn’t always need to fighting Magneto for the fate of the world, it could be just stopping Shocker whilst hiding a secret identity. Sadly, the scope and writing of Renew your Vows seems to throw chances of this at every turn.
The last problem I have I’m going to mention is linked to this idea: the real lack of a Spider-man cast presence within a lot of the book. I love X-Men and Mole-Man…exists. But neither of them are really what I come to read a Spider-man family story for, and they detract away from Spider-man’s own Rogue’s Gallery. Whilst I’ve not read more, I’ve seen that Mister Sinister appears later on. Yeah, Mister Sinister is cool…but if they wanted a villain on cloning, why not use, oh, I don’t know, the Jackal, literally the Spider-man villain famous for cloning people? It’s a minor gripe but it becomes more and more pressing in my mind when I think about it. Not to say that other villains from other stories can’t appear and affect the Parker family, but the ones that do don’t really fit and really disappoint by how out of place they feel.
There is still a lot of mileage to get out of these villains, and some great stories to tell with the rest of Spider-man’s cast. I want to see a comic where Black Cat re-emerges and Annie learns about her and Peter and there’s tension between the leading ladies in Spidey’s life. I want to see Mary-Jane’s fashion blog get picked up by Roderick Kingsley, who makes a new Hobgoblin army or something. I’d love to see more of Spider-man’s Rogue’s gallery dealing with their feelings of family like Lizard and Billy Conners or Normie and his absent father. It’d be cool to see Shocker dealing with a delinquent son wanting to follow in his footsteps. Hell, bring Doctor Octopus back. Peter ripped off his metal arms in the mini-series, that’s gonna lead to a comeback at some point. If he’s dead, like that ever stopped Doc Ock from doing cool stuff.
All in all, however, Spider-man Renew your Vows is brilliant. Any gripes I have about the stories are merely me just wanting more from it because I honestly believe it’s the best Spidey story on the shelves at the moment. I want to read about Peter advancing in the world, moving forward in life, even if it stumbled, and these issues with him married to Mary Jane show just how a Spider family dynamic can be something worth writing and reading.
Of course, it’s unfair of me to harp on about Renew your Vows being the best thing in Spider-man right now and not take a look at some of the recent events in Spider-man comics. So, we’ll be doing just that next time, and we’ll take a look at a recent event in the Spider-man universe, and we’ll talk about what happens when loved ones, friends and enemies are ‘Dead no More’, in Spider-man: The Clone Conspiracy.