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“Spider-Man: Renew Your Vows #1” opens series with a solid start

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The new Amazing Spider-Man: Renew Your Vows series (RYV for short), written by Gerry Conway and illustrated by Ryan Stegman, finally arrived this month. As a big fan of the original RYV miniseries, I was really looking forward to this release, which contains the first part of the series’ inaugural story, “Brawl in the Family.”

Mary Jane and Spider-Man are on the case in The Amazing Spider-Man: Renew Your Vows #1 (art by Ryan Stegman)

Ever since taking down the villainous Regent in the original story, Peter, Mary Jane, and Annie Parker have been living a mostly normal life — mom and dad bringing home the bacon and stealing private time when they can, child getting her homework done and feeding the pet turtle his carrots, the usual stuff.

The unusual stuff is that the entire family is joining Peter in his superhero gig; Annie inherited a copy of his superpowers and MJ uses technology that allows Peter to share his with her. The latest problem that the Spider family needs to respond to is a sinkhole that opened up in the city. The Fantastic Four villain Mole-Man is using it to lead an army of his Moloid subjects (think subterranean goblins) from Subterranea to the surface. Cue the obligatory cliffhanger.

The story is primarily focused on set-up, so there’s not a lot of action in and of itself. But, that said, the set-up is pretty good. We get to see the Parkers mostly at home, which was a good call.  It also invests us with the characters more if we have reason to like them beyond the superhero fun. Gerry Conway’s script has a more natural feel and funnier lines than the original RYV did, and I’ve always liked the civilian aspects of these characters.

Excusing the Parker family themselves, the thing I was most looking forward to, based on the previews, was Mole-Man’s T. Rex (dubbed “Godzooky” by Peter, after Godzilla’s young cousin from the 1978 Godzilla cartoon). Dinosaurs have always been something I’ve loved in one form or another, so seeing my favorite superhero fighting my favorite animal is the definition of something I didn’t know I badly wanted until I saw it. Also, thank you for making it a classic, scaly Jurassic Park-style T. Rex instead of an emasculated feathered one.

Given the new premise, the comic seems to be hinting that there might be a new theme beyond the classic responsibility lesson Spider-Man is most known for. When Peter doesn’t call her in right away for superhero help, MJ tells him: “You’re not a solo act anymore, Tiger. You haven’t been since we got married.” Peter later thinks: “What we have together, it isn’t about MJ or Peter. But it isn’t about Mr. and Mrs. Parker as a couple, either. It’s about family.” It’ll be interesting to see if and how that plays out over the rest of the series and how it complements the responsibility angle.

While I slightly prefer Adam Kubert’s artwork for the original RYV series (and Mark Bagley’s work on Ultimate Spider-Man, for that matter), Ryan Stegman gives some excellent illustrations. I especially like the vibrant colors and the pencil-like effects that give the art a textured feel.

My criticisms and “I wish they had done that” moments? As the story is mostly setting the stage for the series proper, I think it’ll be a better read when the rest of the story comes out and we can view it in one sitting. I wished it had been explained why Annie isn’t supposed to use her superpowers in the privacy of their own apartment. I want to know what MJ and Annie’s superhero codenames are and more context on why MJ decided she wanted to join her husband in the field. I’m confused if Mole-Man’s T. Rex came from the surviving dinosaur population in the Savage Land or was native to Subterranea (probably unimportant, but since I love dinosaurs, I want see and hear about the T. Rex as much as possible).

The issue also contains two additional short stories at the end. First off, we get “The

“Spider-Dad” and Annie run into a surprises Sandman in the “Earnest Adventures of Spider-Dad” short story. (art by Anthony Holden)

Earnest Adventures of Spider-Dad,” by Anthony Holden (regular dad). It’s nothing too complex, just Peter spending his day off with Annie. But the expressive, cartoony artwork suites the tone of the story just right and the tale balances humor with heart quite nicely, making it my favorite part of this issue. I was a little puzzled if Sandman was supposed to be a villain or not, but it doesn’t really matter that much, This is one of those stories I think will probably speak the most to parents but can be shared with the youngest kids. If Marvel decides to make Holden’s “Spider-Dad” a regular feature in the RYV series (or through other sources), I will be extremely happy.

The second story, “Make it Work,” is written by Kate Leth and illustrated by Marguerite Sauvage. A month before the Mole-Man story, MJ and Annie are working on costume designs, only to be interrupted by an unexpected visitor. One of the strengths of the original RYV series was the mother/daughter interactions with MJ and Annie, so having a story that revisits that and bridges the gap between the two series makes a lot of sense and is a welcome edition. The final gag with the Rhino works really well.

Make it Work” even acts as a companion piece to the “Spider-Dad” story, as it shows the different relationship dynamics that Annie has with each parent. I also liked seeing the battle armor from the original RYV story come back, however briefly, and getting more explanation behind the character’s new costumes.

My only complaints are that the story seemed a little rushed and the use of the original RYV miniseries’ flying cars seems to be inconsistent with the rest of the issue’s materials. Of course, given that this series is a loose followup to the original, there might be some confusion of what still counts.

So, in conclusion, I think RYV is off to a solid start with an inaugural issue that captured the stuff I love about the Spider-Man characters, and, despite no immediate payoff and a few wonky continuity moments between all RYV stories past and present, builds a foundation for great things to come.

So, what do you think? Is this new series the Spider-Man comic we should’ve been getting years ago, or is it the franchise’s latest misstep? Post comments and replies below.

Extra notes:

– Author Gerry Conway was interviewed on this podcast, where he talked extensively about his history of writing for Spider-Man, with some comments on his work for RYV. Artist Ryan Stegman was a guest on another podcast, where he spoke extensively about his work on RYV, why he wanted the job so badly, and about his work in general.

– The issue comes with a complimentary digital copy, but you need Marvel’s smart phone/tablet-only app to access it. The code is located under the Inhumans Vs. X-Men ad, after page two of the “Spider-Dad” story.

– Unbeknownst to the Parkers, a mysterious corporate owner has arranged to have exclusive rights to the leftovers of Regent’s empire and inventions. Popular theory on the Internet is that this unnamed person is either Harry Osborn or his son, “Normie” — a minor player in the latter day Amazing Spider-Man and Spider-Girl comics. Given that the figure looks like a young teen, I’m guessing the latter. Regardless, I can’t wait to find out what “Project G” is (“G” for “Goblin?”).

– Annie’s full name is “Anna-May,” meaning she has a double moniker like her mom. She was presumably named after MJ’s aunt Anna Watson, who was instrumental in introducing Peter and MJ; and Peter’s aunt May Parker, who filled the roles mother, mother-in-law, and grandmother to the family. This nomenclature is a slight retcon from the original RYV miniseries, where “Annie” actually was her first name and “May” was her middle name.

– During the discussion about the web shooter incident, a poster featuring Captain Marvel (AKA Carol Danvers) can be seen on Annie’s wall.

– Since Jameson couldn’t be depicted with his trademark cigar — Marvel has adopted a policy of not showing any characters smoking in their comics — mentioning that he quit and showing him using a candy cane as a substitute is a clever way to address the issue and keep the rough visual intact.

– When thinking about the camera drone he made, Peter comments: “MJ thinks I’m wasting my mad tech skills as a news photographer. She’s probably right — but where’s the fun in working in a lab?” In an interview, Conway confirmed that he was giving Dan Slott’s concurrent Amazing Spider-Man series – which has Peter as an Iron Man-like industrialist — a nod.

– For some odd reason, Spider-Man calls Sandman “William” in the “Spider-Dad” story, despite the fact that his first name is “Flint.”

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