Sometime this fall (exact date TBD), Marvel is adding a new Spider-Man-themed comic book series to their roster —The Amazing Spider-Man: Renew Your Vows (“RYV” for short), written by Gerry Conway and illustrated by Ryan Stegman.
The series is actually a followup to a pre-existing, five-part miniseries of the same name, written by Dan Slott and illustrated by Adam Kubert and Scott Hanna. It was a stand-alone installment in a mega-story called Secret Wars, that spanned and played with parallel universes and altered realities.
Installment one is set in a world where having superpowers is a death sentence. New York City is ruled by an evil technocrat despot, Regent, who slaughtered almost all the world’s superheroes in his coup, and is hunting down and vivisecting all superhumans he finds. Peter Parker survived the purge and hung up the webs for good. He and his wife, Mary Jane, are doing their best to stay hidden and raise their eight-year-old daughter, Annie. Unfortunately, Annie inherited her dad’s abilities to do whatever a spider can and their cover is destabilizing. Peter might find himself needing to dig out his old Spider-Man gear and suit up again, this time for his family’s sake.
In an interview released shortly before the original series saw publication, author Slott explained the origins of his story:
“As a Spidey writer, the Spider-Marriage has been a locked off part of the Spidey U. toy box. It’s taken something as big as Secret Wars—an event where every rule can be broken, where nothing is off limits—it’s taken something this epic to give me the freedom to go to the Powers That Be and ask, ‘Can we bust the lock?’”
Returning that much loved era (by fans—Marvel itself completely mutated the franchise to get rid of the setup) seems to have paid off, as the little story was very well received. Personally, this is the only thing from the author that I’ve liked, and I think that it’s because the story doesn’t depend on bizarre set-ups and out-of-character depictions to tell its story.
The Spider-Man mythos has been defined by responsibility from day one. This story follows that theme by forcing the character to reconcile seemingly conflicting responsibilities; his superhero calling and his family. It’s an interesting path as he comes up with the answer, with stakes that are arguably higher than in previous stories.
On top of that, the interactions between the Parkers are well-rendered, a nice surprise given that, in the stuff I’ve seen, Slott’s characterizations are not that good. It all feels very genuine. I also like the added touch that Annie’s relationships with each parent are slightly different. We see how much she looks up to and wants to be like her dad but seems to gravitate to Mom when feeling low, etc.
The artwork is amazing, which is always a good thing in this medium. Bright colors, lots of little details, a wide variety of background characters (I expect a lot of long-time fans will find some clever Easter eggs and cameos), and a wonderfully tacky homemade superhero costume for Annie that rivals her dad’s prototype suit in the original Spider-Man movie! In fact, excusing an awful-looking Doc Ock (adding more metal arms, good; making the arms look like tin-plated tulip bulbs, not so good), I’ve nothing to complain about.
Now, the story does have its weak points. Regent is a very bland villain, with generic motivations and no personality to speak of. Seriously? This guy steals superpowers and is utterly convinced that he’s the misunderstood hero of the story, and even has a point, in a very twisted, sick way. That should be a Spider-Man 2 Doc Ock-level great villain. Ironically, this character was later incorporated into Slott’s main Spider-Man writings, despite being a universally criticized part of the story.
The pacing on the last couple issues feels a little off and doesn’t sparkle the way the others
did. I think it’s because this is where the superhero action comes in and the Parker family moments take a backseat. Conflict with a villain just isn’t as interesting as a family discussing the best kind of pancakes when the later are more fun to read about. The fact that Regent is so overpowered that the story has to work around the clock to justify Spider-Man even having a chance to win doesn’t help.
There’s also a great deal of foreshadowing of a defeated enemy coming back that ultimately never goes anywhere, which feels like wasted potential. What makes it more frustrating is that, if this villain had replaced Regent as the antagonist, I think it would’ve made a better villain plot. Admittedly, this would’ve cut the interesting premise of superheroes underground, but I was reading this for the Parker family and actually wouldn’t have minded a more “normal” backdrop.
But I find those flaw don’t compromise the story. If you’ve never read it, I’d recommend giving the trade paperback a spin. It comes with a fun little bonus short story about this Spider-Man comparing notes with a parallel universe counterpart during an inter-dimensional adventure (love the nod to the Sam Raimi Spider-Man trilogy), a gallery of select alternative cover art from the original comic issues (the third one’s the best, IMHO), and some concept art. There’s a funny printing mistake on the back cover; the summary describes different bonus content that was included, despite the list of contents in the corner on the same side being correct!
So, I’m pleased with the news of a RYV continuation, given that I was hoping for a sequel of some kind since the original was released. How about you? Share you thoughts in the comments.
– RYV isn’t the first Spider-Man series to deal with Peter and MJ raising a family; a prior one called Spider-Girl (1998 – 2010) also covered this subject, except using a different daughter character and making her, not Peter, the lead.
– Dan Slott had a cameo in the original RYV series. He’s the bearded man with the cap seen in the second issue when Peter is photographing D-Man’s capture.
– Original RYV artist, Adam Kubert, discussed his work on the comic in a podcast interview. While it’s more focused on his profession in general, Kubert does reveal some interesting info about RYV.
– RYV diverges from the original Amazing Spider-Man series and its spinoffs sometime after Peter and MJ’s marriage (meaning that earlier back issues are part of the RYV story). The story has a number of references to previous Amazing Spider-Man comics. Thanks to this and Google, we can get an estimation of where the divergence point was.
As far as I can tell, the last chronological event alluded to was MJ asking Peter to stop using his black costume, which happened in Amazing Spider-Man #300, published in 1988. Therefore, presumably anything printed before that story almost certainly happened in the RVY series, baring any minor discrepancies. The latest the divergence point would be the “Clone Saga” in 1994, since that story deals with a Parker child in a different way.
– Am I the only one reminded of the Incredibles car scene when MJ tells Annie to keep her head down in school? (In all honesty, a lot of the elements—superheroes trying to keep their pasts a secret and live normal lives, the villain gaining powers from technology and hunting down former supers—really do feel like similar themes to The Incredibles.)
– Gerry Conway, the new RYV author, is a veteran Spider-Man writer. He’s probably best known for his contributions to “The Night Gwen Stacy Died.” Interestingly enough, he also wrote a 1989 comic called “Parallel Lives,” which focused on how Peter and MJ got together.
– The new RYV series tagline, “One More Chance,” could be a nod to “One More Day,” the name of the story that wrote the Parker marriage out of the franchise. While it’s unclear how the new series will connect to the original story, MJ and Annie are wearing the costumes they got in the last issue.