“…that was just me. Peter Parker. A dad in a stupid red-and-blue suit.”
It’s the Secret Wars tie-in series “you’ve all been waiting for,” or perhaps dreading the most. The one in which the advanced orders outnumbered the orders for event it’s spinning out of. The comic with the teaser in which everyone wondered if Marvel finally came to their senses and were undoing “One More Day.” That’s right, it’s the first issue of Amazing Spider-Man: Renew Your Vows, featuring the (sort of) return of a married Peter and Mary Jane…and their daughter Annie?!
“Part 1: Why We Can’t Have Nice Things”
WRITER: Dan Slott
PENCILS: Adam Kubert
INKS: John Dell
COLORS: Justin Ponsor
LETTERER: VC’s Joe Caramagna
COVER ARTISTS: Adam Kubert and Justin Ponsor
VARIANT COVER ARTISTS: Humberto Ramos & Edgar Delgado, and Skottie Young
ASSISTANT EDITOR: Devin Lewis
EDITOR: Nick Lowe
THE STORY: We open with the happily married Peter and Mary Jane Parker in their apartment, where Peter is adjusting his web-shooters, while MJ is feeding their baby daughter, Annie. For reasons unknown, some street-level superheroes have gone AWOL, forcing Peter to spend more late nights as Spider-Man because, taking on other superheroes’ bad guys along with his own. MJ suggest that Peter should talk with them, as that now Peter’s a dad, he should spend more time at home and less time as Spidey. Later at the Daily Bugle, however, Peter learns the situation is far more serious, as Ben Urich tells Peter the police have found Punisher, Moon Knight and Night Trasher dead, while Daredevil is missing. The mayor has called for a media blackout to avoid a city-wide panic (a move J. Jonah Jameson considers censorship) while Peter heads to Avengers Mansion to get answers. There he finds not only the Avengers, but also the remaining New Warriors, the Hulk, and Namor, and according to Captain America, not only are superheroes being killed and/or missing, but they’ve lost contact with Charles Xavier and all the X-Men. Intelligence indicates the person responsible is one Augustus Roman, C.E.O. of Empire Unlimited, a company which specializes in superhuman research.
During the briefing, Iron Man offers Spidey and his family sanctuary at the Avenger’s Mansion and full Avengers status, but Spidey is reluctant to take him up on the offer as this could compromise his secret identity. Spidey phones MJ to ask her opinion, but before they can decide, the doorbell of their apartment rings. At that same moment, Hawkeye calls the Avengers and tells there’s been a massive breakout at Ryker’s Island and that all the villains have escaped. Cap, however, says Roman is top priority and that they care take care of the breakout later. Realizing his family is danger, Spidey leaves for home just as the Avengers are heading out to face Roman. When Spidey arrives home, he finds MJ and Annie in the clutches of…Eddie Brock, aka Venom. Even before Venom can dictate his terms, Spidey attacks without pulling any punches, and tells MJ to take Annie and run. Outside, MJ sees the Avengers fly by and tries to get their help, but they’re busy heading to the Empire Unlimited corporate building to notice her. Roman, now calling himself The Regent, communicates with the Avengers using Xavier’s telepathy and tells them to surrender their powers, or die.
Meanwhile, MJ, in trying find someway to protect Annie, sees a fire truck responding to a call. Knowing Venom’s weakness to sonics and fire, MJ hops aboard with Annie, and Venom pursues. Seeing Venom escape but also the energy from the Avengers battle with the Regent, Spidey chooses to pursue Venom as his family needs him, figuring the Avengers will be fine. Unfortunately, the Avengers are no match for the Regent, as he now has the powers of Daredevil and all the X-Men. Not even the Hulk can stop him as the Regent uses both Colossus and Nightcrawler’s abilities to rip the Green Goliath’s arm clean off.
When fire truck arrives at a burning building, and the firefighters escort MJ off the truck, Venom arrives. MJ gets into the truck and turns on the siren, stunning Venom, allowing Spidey to land a kick into his face, then forces inside the burning building. Venom threatens that even if Spidey stops him, he’ll still come after his daughter, saying he will suck out her brains. This makes Spidey even madder, and when he learns from MJ that the firefighters have cleared everyone out of the building, he pulls down one of the support beams, collapsing the entire structure on Venom…and kills him. We learn through Peter’s narration this was the day the Avengers died and the last time he was ever Spider-Man. Thus a few years later, Peter is teaching Annie, now a little girl, to look both ways when crossing the street while also ignoring the Vulture snatching a woman’s purse. We also see the Regent now completely rules New York.
THOUGHTS: For those who are long-time readers of Spider-Man, or even those who are new to the wall-crawler’s adventures, you don’t need much of a reminder about One More Day. Of all the controversial moments Spider-Man has had over his fifty plus year history, none has been more acrimonious and universally loathed than the story where Peter and Mary Jane are forced to relinquish their marriage to Mephisto in exchange for saving the life of Aunt May. The debate over whether Marvel was justified in making Spidey single again or not continues even eight years after the fact, with some believing it was a necessary evil while others believe it was one of the worst editorial decisions Marvel has ever made.
So when it was announced last fall that, as part of its Secret Wars event, The Amazing Spider-Man would be temporarily replaced with a series featuring a married Spider-Man and his daughter, the controversy of “One More Day” was rekindled, with both sides apprehensive about what this could mean, especially since Dan Slott, someone who has gone on record many times to support Joe Quesada’s decision in undoing the marriage, would also be writing the series. Yours truly even wrote an op-ed about this not that long ago. So now that the first issue of Amazing Spider-Man: Renew Your Vows is here, and in light of Slott less than stellar track record since The Amazing Spider-Man comic book relaunch post-Superior Spider-Man, what are the actual results?
Much to my surprise, Amazing Spider-Man: Renew Your Vows #1 is actually pretty good. In some instances, it’s even better than I expected.
Now before some of you accuse me of saying this just because Spidey is married to MJ in this story, there are few things which need to made abundantly clear. In the first place, Amazing Spider-Man: Renew Your Vows is not an undoing of “One More Day;” given the nature of Secret Wars and the make-up of Battleworld, it’s clear this story takes place in an alternate continuity other than the regular Marvel Universe. Those who have read Secret Wars and my reviews of those issues will also know this is not the 616 Spider-Man, as he was one of the few survivors from that universe on Reed Richard’s life raft. This also isn’t so much a “What If One More Day Never Happened?” because there’s more differences presented here than just Peter and MJ being married and having a kid. In this world, Peter still works as a photographer for the Daily Bugle and Jonah is still his boss. Heroes like Captain America and Iron Man wear slightly different costumes, and there are hints which suggest events such as Avengers: Disassembled, Civil War, X-Men: Schism, and Avengers vs. X-Men never took place. The best way I can describe it is to imagine a reworked version of Spider-Man from the early 1990s filtered through the early 2000s. So no, contrary to what Nick Lowe claimed, Amazing Spider-Man: Renew Your Vows isn’t “taking where “Brand New Day” started and taking it down a different road.”
Yet it might as well be because in spite of the cosmetic changes, fans of the marriage will feel as though they, albeit for a moment, got “their” Spider-Man back, while those who favor Spidey’s current status quo may find themselves starting to favor Spidey the husband and father over Spidey the perpetual bachelor. This is not the bumbling, hapless manchild readers have been subjected to over the last year, for Slott gives us a more capable, mature and plausibly adult Peter Parker not seen since J. Michael Stracynski’s run. The same goes for his depiction of Peter and Mary Jane as a couple. The opening scene where the two of them playfully argue over Peter’s diaper-changing duties (and why using his webbing is not the most effective alternative) and keeping Peter’s identity secret from their daughter (as she’s learning how to talk) shows the natural chemistry these two characters have had together, and is a reminder of why the marriage between them was popular among the fans in the first place. This is also far and away the best depiction of Mary Jane Slott has ever done. Unlike the MJ we’ve seen during the course of The Superior Spider-Man, this MJ is courageous, quick-thinking, has plenty of sass, and, although waiting for her husband to save her and their child, refuses to be a victim. By having Peter and MJ married and giving them a child, Slott not only makes them act in ways not seen since Spider-Island, he has their actions drive the narrative instead of the other way around.
The story also shows why a Spider-Man who is both a husband and father is, contrary to what Marvel has claimed for so many years, such a source for great dramatic potential. Everyone knows responsibility is one of the core themes of Spider-Man, so having him be in a situation where he needs to look after a family of his own makes all the sense in the world. Also, unlike with him taking care of his Aunt May as a teenager, Slott shows us Peter has far more to lose with a wife and child, thus raising the stakes even higher. Thus when Peter is forced to take Venom’s life to protect MJ and Annie—and with MJ’s blessing I might add—this doesn’t upset me in the slightest because it feels as if this is something Spidey would do if faced with these circumstances. After all, long time readers know full well how easy it is for Spidey to be pushed over the edge when the lives of his loved ones are at stake, including the time he tried to the kill the Green Goblin during “Revelations” when he found out Norman Osborn caused MJ’s miscarriage. And before you can say, “But Spider-Man doesn’t kill under any circumstances,” that’s exactly the point: Peter may have sworn to never take a life as Spider-Man, but with the exception of Spider-Girl, he has never really been shown as a new father until now. And as any parent can tell you, when you have children of your own, you would do almost anything to keep them safe, and God forbid if anyone ever threatened them in any way, especially to your face. I’m not saying being a parent means you’re justified in killing someone who threatens your kids, or that Spidey was right in killing Venom, but I understand why Peter did what he did within the context of this story. One could even make the case he was committing self-defense, not murder.
This also allowed the original Venom to once again be the terrifying, near-unstoppable monster and anti-thesis of Spider-Man he was always meant to be, not the “lethal protector” Marvel made the mistake of turning him into so many years ago. If this really was the last Eddie Brock as Venom story, I can’t think of a more fitting end than the imagine of the symbiote melting from his outstretched hand in a pile of burning rubble.
Some might also take umbrage with Peter’s decision to quit being Spider-Man after the death of Venom, and in the end opting to place the needs of his family over that of protecting the city. Again, I would argue, based on his history, this is also in-character for Peter. This isn’t the first time Peter has temporarily given-up being a superhero for familial reasons, and it’s a given that if Peter did take the life of one of his villains that it’d also mean the “death” of Spider-Man. Also, keep in mind since this is just the first issue, this certainly won’t be the only time Peter will be Spidey in this story. Sooner or later, his guilt over not using his powers to protect the citizens of New York along with his family will weigh heavily on him as it’s made clear he’s now the only superhero left alive. What we’re seeing here is the setting up of the classic scenario where a once great hero who is no longer on the top of their game is forced out of retirement to face a seemingly unstoppable evil.
Yet as near-perfect as his characterization for Peter, MJ and Venom, Slott’s dialogue remains clunky, expository and heavy-handed. It’s a nuisance, for example, to read three back-to-back scenes about missing or killed superheroes, as it’s an all-too obvious means to try and escalate the impending threat from the Regent which never feels earned. Not to mention for someone who is supposed to be skilled at military tactics, Captain America’s plan to have every single Avenger go after the Regent on the mere suspicion he’s an “Omega-level threat,” while also all-but ignoring the Ryker’s prison break is pure plot contrivance. And as for the Regent himself, not only does he look like a wannabe of DC Comic’s Darkseid with a more perfected power siphoning abilities of X-Men’s Rogue, he’s also ends up being some generic new villain we’ve never heard of before. So of course, because he’s some generic new villain we’ve never heard of before, all the other superheroes have to job to him so we can see how “badass” he supposedly is. If you thought Captain Universe and Leopardon losing to Solus in “Spider-Verse” was a crock of you-know-what, it pales in comparison to the level of sheer gargantuan-sized bullcrap in seeing The Regent take out the Incredible Hulk. He’s also someone who comes off being incredibly out-of-place in an otherwise far more grounded and personal narrative. Still, if the idea of this comic was to evoke 1990s nostalgia, then the Regent feels right at home with the “Xtreme era” as typified by early Image comics.
Admirers of Adam Kubert will not be disappointed, as his pencils, John Dell’s inking and Justin Ponsor’s coloring, are more than decent throughout. Particularly noteworthy are the scenes involving Venom, and the image of him sitting on the sofa with MJ and Annie is the stuff of nightmares. The moments depicting action are also well-suited for Slott’s breakneck narrative pacing, as punches seem to have weight behind them, and panel transitions crisp, clear and easy to follow. Unfortunately, while Kubert appears to have a firm-grasp when it comes to perspective and proportion, the one area he appears to struggle with baby Annie. In the opening scene alone, Peter and MJ’s daughter looks as if she age several months over the course of a two-page spread; and during the pursuit by Venom, Annie as toddler looks more like a boy than a girl. Then again, compared to grown-ups, babies are more difficult to draw.
While I may have preferred more time devoted to Peter and MJ raising an infant daughter than jumping forward a few years later, Amazing Spider-Man: Renew Your Vows is off to a promising start. Though not perfect, Slott appears to have regained a sense of enthusiasm and vibrancy for Spider-Man that’s been sorely lacking as of late. By not having to conform to Marvel’s edict that Spidey must stay young, single and childless, Slott is now free to take chances and explore avenues with Peter and his supporting cast in ways Marvel otherwise wouldn’t do, and because this is a mini-series, this is a story which will have a genuine beginning, middle and end. It also shows how, in their belief going back to an unmarried Spider-Man would create more storytelling opportunities, a Spider-Man who is still married, and a father to boot, may carry just as much potential, if not more.
- So based on the calendar in the background, the comic takes place on May 1st. May 1st, as some of you know, is also known around the world as “Mayday.” And seeing how Peter and MJ’s daughter is named after MJ’s aunt instead of Peter’s in this story, I’m expecting there will be some Spider-Girl fans who will not be too happy.
- And thus the age-old question of whether web-fluid would make ideal disposable diapers is finally answered. But does it make for a good substitute for baby food? Because some of what Annie is eating looks like it’s going to dangerously mix with Peter’s latest batch. Then again, maybe this version of Peter has found Gerber’s makes for some extra-sticky webbing?
- I wonder if all those pigeons flying around at the beginning are Easter Eggs for One More Day and One Moment in Time? Couple that with Peter’s narration of “In a perfect world, this is how it was always meant to be” with not a sign of any red pigeon, is it naïve of me to hope this is Slott and Marvel’s way of saying Peter and MJ should still be married after all?
- Maybe it’s just the coloring, but Ben Urich doesn’t strike me as the “I Wear My Sunglasses At Night,” Agent Smith of The Matrix cosplaying type. Also, you just know Urich already knows Peter is Spidey. Otherwise why would Peter even think about it when recalling how Urich figuring out Daredevil was Matt Murdoch?
- So in this reality, Dwayne Taylor, aka Night Trasher, was still “a boy” instead of an adult? I suppose there was bound to be some confusion, seeing how the leader of the New Warriors rode around on a skateboard and acted like Batman because, you know, the 90s were “kewl” and “xtreme.”
- “…got this intel from Black Widow before we lost contact.” What do you mean lost contact, Cap? Natasha is right there at the meeting?
- Well on the bright side, at least this version of Spidey didn’t have time to actually take up Iron Man’s offer to move into Avengers HQ, join the Avengers and possibly compromise his secret identity. Because we all know how well that worked out, don’t we?
- Awww…’lil Annie Parker wears Daredevil pajamas. And plays with a Hulk doll. Though having a crib mobile with toy spiders dangling from it might be a bit creepy.
- So with the arms torn off of the Hulk doll, as suppose this is foreshadowing what happens to the real Hulk in this comic. Which is still a gargantuan steaming pile bullcrap, by the way!
- Nice going, Avengers. Not only do you ignore MJ pleas for help, but you made ‘lil Annie cry. World’s Mightest Heroes, my foot.
- Um…is that red head Cap is calling “Jen” supposed to be She-Hulk? Because methinks even with the red-lighting, she’s not green enough.
- Even in an alternate reality, we still cannot escape from Pedro “Ollie” Olivera, aka MJ’s firefighter rebound boyfriend from the 616. Next thing we know, they’ll be an alternate version of Carlie Cooper showing up at some point.
- Now hold on. If Amazing Spider-Man: Renew Your Vows takes place on Battleworld, a place where everyone worships Doctor Doom as their all-powerful ruler and god, then shouldn’t Spidey have said “Doom help me” instead of “God help me.” Man, Pete was darn lucky Doom didn’t send the Thors to rain lightning bolts on his butt.
- Come to think of it, did Doom sanction and approve the Regent taking over this version of New York? And why is Augustus Roman calling himself the Regent? Whose stead is ruling for? Also, Augustus Roman of Empire Unlimited be any more on-the-nose? Why not have his middle name be “Caesar” and have a security force called “The Praetorian Guard” while we’re at it?
- With all of Spidey’s concern about whether people might discover his secret identity, he seems pretty careless about it at towards the end, considering he’s holding hands with MJ while she also holds their daughter for everybody else to see. Then again, maybe he figured it no longer mattered as we learn he gave up being Spider-Man after that night.
- Okay, sure, the Regent killed all the superheroes, villains like the Vulture are still on the loose, and Peter is not longer Spider-Man, but as least under the Regent, New York City now has flying cars! I’d say that’s a worthwhile trade-off, wouldn’t you?