“Mary Jane was right. What we have together…it’s about our family.”
The Amazing Spider-Man is back and this time he brought his family! Will the combined might of the Parkers be enough to tackle the Mole Man and his Moloids?
BRAWL: In The Family: Part 1
WRITER: Gerry Conway
ARTIST: Ryan Stegman
COLORIST: Sonia Oback
LETTERER: VC’s Joe Caramagna
THE EARNEST ADVENTURES OF SPIDER-DAD
STORY & ART: Anthony Holden
MAKE IT WORK
WRITER: Kate Leth
ARTIST: Marguerite Sauvage
LETTERER: VC’s Joe Caramagna
COVER ARTISTS: Ryan Stegman & David Curiel
VARIANT COVER ARTISTS: John Tyler Christopher; Adam Kubert & Nei Ruffino; John Romita, Sr. & Richard Isanove; Sam Spratt; Elizabeth Torque
TITLE PAGE DESIGN: Anthony Gambino
ASSISTANT EDITOR: Allison Stock
EDITORS: Nick Lowe & Darren Shan
SPIDER-MAN created by STAN LEE & STEVE DITKO
STORY: After a battle with The Scorpion, Peter heads back to his family life. Upon a trip to the Daily Bugle, he hears of a disturbance at the Regent reclamation site and goes to check it out. Once there, he gets attacked by Moloids and a dinosaur. Mary Jane comes to assist, but the couple are quickly stopped in their tracks when they see that The Mole Man has captured their daughter, Annie! Two bonus stories are included, featuring a day in the life of Peter hanging with Annie and Mary Jane and Annie coming up with costume ideas.
JAVI’s THOUGHTS: Confession time, Crawlspacers. Back in 2007, I left the Amazing Spider-Man title after 25 years of collecting it. I had (counting Marvel Tales reprints) almost every issue, save for about 30. I’ll spare you my thoughts of how awful and out of character I thought One More Day was and surmise it by saying every time I decided to dip back in, usually for an anniversary issue, a certain variant cover, or a new #1, I didn’t see the character I loved in those pages, the one that shaped my childhood and influenced who I was as a person.
Writer Gerry Conway changed all that with a list. Milk. Laundry detergent. Bananas. All of a sudden, the corporate billionaire that had been globe trotting in the main title was gone, replaced by The Everyman. All of a sudden, I felt connected to Spidey again. Much to her chagrin, I often tell my fiance that I have my grocery list in my head. So naturally, I had to share this part of the story with her as soon as she got home. It makes Pete relatable again. Same with rushing home when MJ tells him they have a “Code Green”. Quality alone time between parents is a normal hurdle when one has a child and makes Pete and MJ feel more accessible to a certain type of reader than running an international conglomerate. After all, far more people are likely to get married and have a family compared to becoming a multi-national CEO.
The opening fight scene was dynamically rendered by artist Ryan Stegman. Motion and energy leap off the panels as the Scorpion thrashes his tail around and I loved how the onomatopoeia is blended in with the art, becoming a part of the scene itself. Scorpion’s tail is HUUUUUUUGE and conveys the requisite threat under Stegman’s pencil. Also providing menace is the shadowy form of who I presume is Normie Osborn. Conway provides an effective setup of things to come as we see that trouble is brewing at the site of Regent’s last stand, not to mention a Project “G” that is being developed.
The cast of the Daily Bugle makes a welcome return as Jonah, Robbie, and Gloria all show up to interact with Peter, who has devised a new method to take better pictures of Spidey in action with a modern twist. Conway has Jonah do his usual trope, but instead of feeling hackneyed, he gives the impression that he knows how he comes off, but he just likes to mess with Peter due to a hidden, long time affinity. Going back to the old status quo after so long feels like donning your favorite, most comfortable old tee shirt and Conway adds to that emotion in one of Peter’s thoughts as he asks himself, “But where’s the fun in working in a lab?”, instantly conjuring Horizon and Parker Industries in my mind and serving as a referendum to the current status quo.
Conway’s dialogue, particularly in the kitchen scene, felt very natural to these characters and highlighted how their family dynamic works. They’re a team, both at home, and as we see later, in the field. Peter and Mary Jane are very involved parents with Annie and like all concerned parents, ask her questions about her friends, set boundaries, and give wisdom and advice when they need to. Since around the age of 4 or 5, my dad started reading Spider-Man to me, starting me at the beginning with Marvel Tales. As I grew, Peter grew, too, going from high school, to college, to married life, to eventually expecting a child. At some point we diverged, but reading this title makes it feel like an old friend is back again, one that I missed very much.
The main story ends with all our heroes suited up to face the threat of the Mole Man. Peter is first on the scene and I found it interesting that Mary Jane tapping into his powers triggers his spider-sense. It’s logical that losing a portion of his powers increases the danger to him and with MJ using said powers puts them in a true partnership. They really need the other, both at home when Peter is making MJ a meal for the next day, and on the streets of New York as they combat Mole Men and T-Rexes, with Mary Jane swinging to the rescue. Speaking of, Stegman’s renditions of said Mole Man and his T-Rex are, ahem, amazing! I love the beakish nose and squint the Mole Man has, in addition to how the T-Rex’s arms are postured!
Already benefiting from a strong lead story, the first issue of Renew Your Vows also features two strong backups, full of equal parts whimsy and beautiful art. The first, The Earnest Adventures of Spider-Dad, focuses on a day in the life of Peter and Annie hanging out together. Told by Anthony Holden, it reminds me of a fun storybook, where life is simple enough that you can have an on again/off again super-villain watch your kid as you do a quick errand before you defeat him and turn him over to the police.
The second, Make It Work, shifts focus from Peter and Annie to Annie and MJ. It’s great to see both parents have solo time with the kiddo to establish their individual dynamics. Kate Leth portrays a mother and child who know each other very well, aided by the gorgeous and effervescent pencils by Marguerite Sauvage. Like the backup before it, the tale is a lighthearted one and in addition provides us with the genesis of MJ’s costume. Annie’s playfulness fighting the Rhino mirrors that of her father and coming up with her own costume designs shows her mother’s side.
All three stories are a welcome breath of fresh air for this long time Spidey fan. I didn’t read the Secret Wars Renew Your Vows mini until well after this series was announced, but this new ongoing hits all the right spots. Peter is back as Stan Lee intended, a regular guy, dealing with regular issues that we all face, just with superpowers. Hats off to everyone involved! For being on the fence when this series was announced, I am eagerly awaiting the next installment from Conway and Stegman! If you’ve been turned off by the main title over the last few years, I strongly recommend you give this title a chance!
MY GRADE: A+
JAVI’S HUH?: What was the art on the wall in the Spider-Dad backup? Also, didn’t Iron Man die in the original miniseries? This is a slightly alternate reality to the Secret Wars mini, correct?
MOHAMMED’s THOUGHTS: Well, I am finally reviewing a full issue, and it’s a Spider-Man book! It’s something I thought I would never be able to do, given the current state of the main title.
I’m happy to say it does not disappoint in the least and I loved every second of reading it! It is THE Spider book I’ve been waiting for. Gerry Conway, Ryan Stegman and Sonia Oback did a beautiful job with it and I have every confidence these 3 will carry on the same in future issues.
To give you an idea of what I mean-
Conway’s writing was superior to anything you get from the main book. Peter came across as mature, smart, and funny; so much so, you wanted to read him. His portrayal of Mary Jane was simply breathtaking, especially when she comes to help Peter when he got into trouble. And this time it didn’t feel like we’ve been deprived of Peter saving the day, this felt right. One of the best aspects as well was the interaction between Peter, Mary Jane, and Annie-it felt natural and like a family should be, especially when Mary Jane spells it out that Peter is no longer alone in being Spider-Man and hasn’t been since they got married and had a child. And let’s not forget the supporting cast! I loved seeing the “back to basics” of Jameson and Glory/Gloria with Jameson trying not to pay Peter full price for his pictures and Gloria putting Jameson in his place.
Let me not forget Conway’s way of showing how smart Peter is by having him build a camera drone with software he created and the fact that Mary Jane knows this and tells him that he could be more than a photographer, to which Peter replies that while she’s right, doing what he’s doing is a lot more fun.
Now, what can I say about Stegman’s art and Oback’s colouring? Simply beautiful, what more can I say? The art fit the story perfectly! Stegman shows in every stroke of his pen that he’s the right man to draw Spider-Man! Add to that Oback’s colouring and it basically elevates the art to the next level, which only improves the issue even further!
As for any negatives, other than a possible editorial error at the beginning and that it might feel a little rushed in some parts and at the end, I fully expect them to be explained in future issues, saying that it’s small in comparison and certainly nothing that takes away from what I said above and the grade I’m about to give.
And that grade is-A
This is a book that EVERY Spider-Man fan, should pick up.
Now before I forget, I’ll just quickly mention the backups.
The first, “The Earnest Adventures of Spider-Dad” with Story and Art by Anthony Holden, is where we have a story of Peter taking care of Annie, while Mary Jane is attending to a bit of business.
The story and the art were cute and fun, with a perfect dynamic between Peter and his daughter. I especially loved what they did with Sandman by getting Sandman to take care of Annie so that Peter can drop something off with Jameson.
If I was to give a negative, it would be that I would have gone with Frozen (instead of Tangled), but given what Annie got Sandman to do, I can understand why he went with the choice he did.
The second story is “Make It Work” with Story by Kate Leth and Art by Marguerite Sauvage. In this backup, we have a story involving both Mother and Daughter, Mary Jane and Annie, where they discuss the creation of their costumes, with a bit of adventure with the Rhino.
All I can say is that I simply loved what happened here and what I loved was we see Mary Jane having her own boutique business simply called “MJ’s”, with Annie showing her age by saying that the current costume of Mary Jane is cool and that she should keep it and with MJ stating that keeping it like it is isn’t very practical and that Peter is going to incorporate the technology into whatever costume she designs. I also love the fact that it was Mary Jane who chose the costume design for Annie, which Annie herself came up with.
Speaking of the Rhino, I liked how they dealt with him and loved seeing MJ standing her ground and, while wearing the Regents’ tech, taking him on and successful I might add, only to have Annie finish him off, while he’s busy being stuck to the wall. All this is told perfectly through the beautiful art of Marguerite Sauvage.
As for negatives, I saw none. However, if I was to say something negative, it would be that it would be a shame if we don’t get more of these backups in future issues, maybe even one that takes place right after OMD, depicting Peter and Mary Jane’s refusal of the deal.
As for my grade, what else can I give them but an A!
NEIL’s TAKE: This. This is a return to form for Spider-Man and his amazing family. After a year of terrible-to-good ranged stories, I can thankfully say there is a title named “Amazing Spider-Man” that I look forward to picking up and I think at the very least, the others will agree with me on that end.
The biggest change you’ll notice is the dialogue. One of my biggest gripes against Slott is how his dialogue is stilted and has no sense of realism in any sense. Now, to be fair, that seems to be one of my crippling flaws when I write, but I can tell good dialogue from bad dialogue. Conway has a very good way with allowing the dialogue to shape the scene for you. Even if you don’t have it in your hand and somebody is reading it to you, the characters speak in a way that details the scene for you and allows you to picture it for yourself. This translates into a way to establish the setting of the Parker household; it’s hectic, they lovingly bicker, and Annie acts like a kid would; as (assumably) the youngest of the Crawlspace reviewers, I can assure you that this is how young children act in this day and age, as opposed to Slott’s interpretation, which has Annie acting a little too intellectual for her age, Parker kid or not. Peter and MJ are the reason we read it, and I wasn’t disappointed; I even had a good chuckle at the fact that they were struggling to find time to have sex with a small child in their vicinity. Normally, I would cringe at this kind of joke, but in this setting and under Conway’s pen it works because I believe they’d be in this setting. Other side characters, including Jonah, Robbie and Gloria, each get their own chance to shine in this issue despite their limited screen-time, and allows us to get a bigger glimpse into the world that Peter and MJ now live in; Glory is a single mother who, along with Peter, feels honor-bound to stick with the Bugle, which is still the same for a familiar approach. There was no real central villain this time around (unless we include the Mole Man, who will be used later on, Scorpion, to start us off with an intense action scene, and the short businessperson, who I’m sure will be established given time), but this can be excused as this issue is working to establish the RYV universe.
Stegman comes back with a vengeance as well, drawing amazingly-choreographed fight scenes that are crisply pencilled regardless of how hectic the panels get. Even his scenes of characters just sitting down have a lot of energy in them, and nothing feels static. Everything moves in these panels, and it feels real and allows me to feel like the universe I’m reading is in motion.
The secondary stories provide something that hasn’t been present in Amazing Spider-Man either; harmless, unadulterated fun. The art is maybe a little too cutesy for me at times (the Regular Dad Spider-Dad back-up sometimes looked like one of those Disney picture books you find at Barnes and Noble) but it is serviceable and does establish how it’s not really supposed to be taken seriously. Again, the MJ/Annie backup does establish where MJ’s costume comes in, but the other one is just meant to be a purely fun backup. I just hope they aren’t a regular thing; sugar every once in a while is good for the soul, but too much and you’ll crash.
As I said at the beginning, this is a return to proper form. It was fun, it was serious, and it was action-packed; it was everything Spider-Man should be. I’m still having some trouble accepting MJ as a superhero, but I’m sure I’ll get over it by next issue. If anything, I have to give my regards to this comic and highly recommend it to anybody who wants a good dosage of Peter and MJ; and this is coming from a jaded Slott reader, mind you.
NEIL’S GRADE: A
RYAN’s THOUGHTS: Check out the video below!
IT’S UNANIMOUS! The Crawlspace is all A’s on this title! What’re you waiting for, Spider-Friends? If you haven’t already, go check this out!
Many thanks to Mohammed Jaafar, Neil Bogenrieder, and Ryan Read for all their hard work! Check out all their other reviews on the Spider-Man Crawlspace!