ASM Renew Your Vows #5, Justin Parris’ take

RYV 5 cover The Regent Saga reaches its climax and conclusion! Did they figure out a way to tie this all up in one issue in a satisfying way?

Writer: Dan Slott

Art: Adam Kubert and Scott Hanna

Colorist: Justin Ponsor

Letterer: Joe Caramagna

Editor: Nick Lowe

Editor in Chief: Axel Alonso

Cover: The Parker Family cornered in an alley, ready for battle, with the shadow of Regent looming over. It works perfectly well for what it is. The only real problem is its inaccuracy, and that’s kind of a nitpick. When this happens in issue, Peter isn’t wearing his mask and MJ is in a completely different outfit with a different weapon. It serves as a healthy reminder. When they show us these covers months and months ahead of publication date, there’s not much point to speculating too deeply as to what will happen based on the cover since Marvel themselves clearly don’t know for certain when they put out these cover previews.

Summary: Without wasting any time at all, panel one launches straight into Hawkeye and SHIELD (sans MJ and Annie) attacking Regent in his compound. This goes about as well as you might think for a super hero offensive that doesn’t include the book’s title character. Regent effortlessly defeats the heroes. Hawkeye shoots his special arrow he made from Pete’s inhibitor technology, only for Regent to catch it out of the air. Regent says he knew to grab it because his spider-sense was tingling, revealing he can now do whatever a spider can. Hawkeye becomes certain they’re now all but doomed.

Peter is in his power absorbing cell. He has flashbacks to his personal family life, and regrets failing MJ and Annie. Cut to a monitoring station inside the facility. MJ and Annie show up from the Spot’s portal. Upon MJ’s orders, Annie attacks the scientists working there. The security guard is confident in herself, as her suit has the same tech as Regent and is poMJ is supermomwered by “a far stronger super” than Annie. It does her little good however, as she’s completely unable to land a hit on the little Spider-Lass. After a quick victory, MJ quickly realizes what sort of facility they’re in. She questions the scientist on how to shut down the superhuman containment cells, and thusly, shut down Regent’s powers. The scientist responds that Regent would never allow any real control access here. They only observe and research. MJ tells Annie to head through the facility and look for her dad’s cell, and to smash any one that’s not his. She then puts on the security guards superpower suit.It doesn’t take long before Regent, having figured out what’s happening, bursts through the wall ready to kill whomever is ruining his collection. MJ tells Annie to run while she gets ready to fist fight Regent herself.

Peter, still in his thoughts in his cell, is slowly fading. He doesn’t think he has anything left in him, until he hears Annie shouting “MOM!” He has a sudden burst of strength and breaks out of his cell. Everyone’s caught by surprise as Peter hurls himself towards Regent, taking both of them out the window, into free fall from a skyscraper. 

We cut back and forth now between Peter fighting Regent on the street, and MJ with Annie breaking apart the containment cells that are fueling Regent with power. Regent is imploring Peter not to force his hand, as he needs to safely acquire Peter’s RYV 5 Regent fightpowers for the greater good. Against warnings from her mother, Annie jumps out to save her father. Just as Pete seems to be beaten, Annie comes out of the sky and appears to punch Regent in the neck.  A moment later, Regent is zapped with energy and most of his suit disappears. Annie explains that before she jumped, Clint Barton gave her the special arrow designed to sever Regent’s access to his powers. Soon, MJ joins her family and Regent stands little chance. As a last ditch effort, Regent manages to grab Annie by the neck. Threatening her life to keep Peter and MJ away, he says he can start collecting powers over again, starting with the most important one. The general public on the street gets to see their benevolent dictator clutching a little girl by the throat.

Peter takes a shard off of MJ’s suit, rationalizing that his own suit is probably strong enough to break his skin. He then does what he does best. He tells a bad joke. This makes Regent laugh, exposing his neck. Instead of slashing at Regent’ s jugular, as was his plan, he punches him in the mouth. Thinking to himself that he can keep his daughter safe without compromising his ethics. He can renew his greatest vow. Shield shows up to take Regent to a secure holding facility, and the Parkers go home, to have a well earned banana pancake breakfast.

Commentary: They really had a tall order to fill in this issue. They established a villain who could easily roll over the X-Men and the Avengers, and they really only had one issue to show his defeat. That’s on top of telling a story that’s fundamentally about the Parker family dynamic. I really feel this lead to a rushed conclusion that was entirely of their own making. I’m not sure anyone could have hit issue #5 out of the park. It’s just asking too much of a final issue to a mini-series. 

Having too much to accomplish in one issue lead to rather boring and predictable plotting, and many logical questions left on the table because the plot doesn’t have enough time to answer them. What happens to the government now that Regent is gone? Did the Parkers just throw the world into anarchy? Why did MJ and Annie entering the same portal as SHIELD lead them to a completely different place in the same building? How could Regent possibly expect Spider-sense to work on Doom when he can be completely de-powered by what is, from Doom’s perspective, very rudimentary technology? The answer? It doesn’t matter. It’s a mini-series in a universe that isn’t tied to continuity. They feel no obligation for it to particularly make sense or deal with the ramifications of deposing a major world dictator. To me, most of this issue sent one message, they don’t care. 

Most of the problems sadly, were completely avoidable. The fundamental concepts of the story, Peter’s protecting of his family and Annie’s growing into her powers, didn’t require the over the top global crisis scale that they gave it. This story didn’t need a villain who could easily kill the Avengers. It didn’t need an oppressive future, or a convoluted plan to kill God Doom. None of the issues which lead to an impossible to write final issue contribute much to the base human story being told. They made this five issue mini dramatically more complicated than it needed to be, and a lame duck conclusion is the result.

This next point really did shock me. I imagine many of you won’t be bothered by this, but I was rather blown away. In the middle of this issue, as is not infrequently the case in comics, is an ad. It’s a big multi-page foldout advertising new series for the upcoming new Marvel U. The problem? This foldout ad was inserted into an important two page spread, splitting through the middle of panels. If you read the pages under assumption that, like nearly every comic ever, an ad on the right page means the panels on your current page only travel through your current page, you’ll completely misread the scene. This just happens to be in the middle of Peter’ internal monologue when he’s in his cell, and how he breaks out of his cell, arguably the most important character moment in the book. I had to stop and read it three times to make certain I had read it correctly. If you fall for the ad’s trick, Peter literally says “I have no power” followed by immediately breaking out of the cell. An amusing mistake at least. What bothers me so much about this isn’t so much the annoying effect it has on the reading experience, but what it says about Marvel editorial. I can’t imagine an editor reading that and thinking it was acceptable. The only way I can see this happening is a lack of caring. If they don’t care about the climax of Renew your Vows, why should we?

I would be remiss if I didn’t also talk about the title of this story, “Renew your Vows”. I really feel like I’ve been the victim of a bait and switch. For months and months, Marvel heavily suggested that this story was about Peter and Mary Jane’s marriage. Every cover that wasn’t already specifically about the marriage, had alternate covers that seemed to scream to the rooftops that the story was about the marriage. Not only is the story only very slightly related to the marriage, focusing more on the Parkers’ parenthood, but the very title was intentionally misleading. In the final pages we learn that “Renew Your Vows” does not refer to relationships at all, but Peter Parker’s self-imposed rule against killing. Now there’s nothing wrong with telling a story about Peter and his killing rule. There is something wrong with advertising one thing and delivering another. I didn’t expect a permanent return of the marriage, that would be optimistic to say the least. Within the context of Spider-Man fandom though, you don’t get to put a happily married Peter and MJ on your cover, name the story a reference to marriage, and then make the relationship between the two largely irrelevant to the story.

I can understand why some people might enjoy this. Though I found this as a solo issue very bland, and its effect on the arc very negative.



Random Thoughts:

-See Regent, Spider-sense really isn’t all that reliable. As you can see in the above picture, you just nailed Peter with an obvious optic blast. I mean, good for you because Cyclops fails at that all the time. It’s just, if it isn’t working for Peter against you, how is it going to work for you against Beyonder powered Doom?

-When Annie starts to fight Regent’s Security guard, Annie says she’s going to play tag. Shen then “tags” the guard, by punching her in the face. She continues to dodge the guard’s attacks, while punching her in the face and saying “tag” in spite of the guard never tagging her back. Clearly, Peter has utterly failed to teach his daughter how tag works. Do not play tag with Annie Parker.

-So, I’m confused. In previous issues Peter went and got inhibitor chips from the Tinkerer. The Tinkerer said they didn’t work, but Pete was fine with that because he could fix them. Later, Hawkeye acted amazed that Pete had developed inhibitor tech, saying he was a genius. This suggests inhibitor tech didn’t exist prior to Pete inventing it………but THEN in this issue, when Regent realizes he was hit with inhibitor tech, he gets offended because he specifically outlawed it, meaning obviously it already existed……..So which is it? Did Pete invent inhibitor tech or is Hawkeye just tremendously stupid that it never occurred to him to go shopping for the inhibitor tech that Regent specifically made illegal to prevent this very outcome from occurring?