“Well…they do say the family that fights together stays strong together.”
Brawl In The Family reaches its conclusion as the Parkers face the Mole Man and his death ray! Can they come together as a team before it is too late?
WRITER: Gerry Conway
ARTIST: Ryan Stegman
COLORISTS: Sonia Oback & Jesus Aburtov
LETTERER: VC’s Joe Caramagna
COVER ARTISTS: Ryan Stegman & Sonia Oback
VARIANT COVER ARTIST: Humberto Ramos & Edgar Delgado
ASSISTANT EDITOR: Allison Stock
EDITOR: Darren Shan
SPIDER-MAN created by STAN LEE & STEVE DITKO
STORY: The Parkers are on the run from the Mole Man and his minions underground. Betty Brandt is above the scene, reporting to Jonah that Spidey and a costumed woman are on site. Normie is also there and he discovers Buzzbee, Spidey’s photo drone. The Mole Man has discovered a weapon left over from Regent that converts life energy into weapon energy. Team Spidey manages to subdue the bad guys and turn the weapon over to the police and out of Normie’s little hands (for now). Annie gets her nome de guerre…”Spiderling”!
THOUGHTS: Here it is! The finale for Brawl In The Family finds the Parkers a little tied up on the cover, recalling those old serial cliffhangers where the villain would lower the heroes slowly to their demise. If you think Stegman’s pencils look great here, wait till you turn the page and peer inside!
Conway opens in media res, the heroic standing of ground last issue morphing into a turn tail and run situation. The Mole Man is still in his over the top mode. He comes off as a matinee comic book villain, randomly spouting out insane, often nonsensical dialogue. He’s clearly been without two way conversation for a long time and I can’t say how well that is in 616 character for him as my exposure has been pretty limited. However, this isn’t Earth-616, and whilst cartoony, I went with it. Clearly, this isn’t the main Marvel Universe as Peter is acting like an adult, so I can forgive the Mole Man’s character eccentricities.
After a magnificent two page splash of our heroes making their escape from their pursuers, Stegman then resorts to utilizing heavy white boarders on specific panels every page. It really makes the art pop out, especially the way he staggers them and frames the scenes. Stegman provides energy with every page and this is exactly what a modern Spider-Man comic should look like. Even trapped underground and therefore unable to web-sling building to building, there still is a dynamic sense of motion with our wall-crawling family!
So, this is the Parker clan’s first outing and as such, they’re not quite a cohesive fighting unit yet. Well, fighting they have down pat, be it with Moloids or bickering with each other, but coordinated efforts aren’t quite their forte, as is evidenced at one point when Annie falls towards subterranean lava. MJ dives after her, whilst Peter does the same, but shoots a web after her as well. Given that this is Conway writing, I immediately thought of Gwen falling to her death and felt a slight twinge at the possibility of history repeating itself. Now as readers, we know the odds of Conway killing Annie in issue 4 of a new series are pretty much nil, especially when we have solicits for a few months from now showing her on the cover. However, PETER doesn’t know that, and as a dad myself I can only imagine his anxiety as he bears witness to history potentially repeating.
Annie saves herself with her own webbing, causing Peter and MJ to collide. Once everyone gets to a safe spot, there is a bit of irritation with each other between Pete and MJ, with each side justified in their frustration. However, it soon gives way and we see some romantic sparks begin to fly, until Annie reminds them of her presence. This leads to igniting an argument about their daughter and who is allowed to risk their lives as heroes. Conway makes their relationship feel authentic by giving us a couple that love each other very much, but don’t always see eye to eye on every issue. Unlike the previous chapters, which gave one character a focus over the others, the spotlight here seems to be evenly shared, until we get Annie’s point of view during her parents’ spat. All of a sudden, Peter and MJ are the adults in a Peanuts cartoon, with the only decipherable word being Annie’s name. It was a fun bit that sells Annie’s youthful frustration and at the same time showing how neither party is hearing the other.
Betty Brandt makes an appearance that for me was a welcome one. Not only because it’s great to get back to some of Spidey’s supporting cast, but for how she’s obviously evolved beyond her role as Jonah’s secretary. Speaking of the jolly one, I loved seeing her give him a hard time about women reporters and women heroes. It’s always fun to see JJJ get flustered and it seemed appropriate that someone like Betty, who’s known him forever, could do so. Man, I’ve missed The Daily Bugle!
Conway further seeds the threat of Normie Osborn with plenty of potential for conflict. Not only do Annie and he share a mutual interest in each other, but he found Buzzbee, Peter’s picture snapping drone. I had already forgotten about it and it won’t bode well for the future. I’ve always wondered what happens to all those Batarangs Batman leaves about town. We never see superheroes clean up any gear they left behind and now it looks like Peter will have to shell out some cash to make another one. I’d be surprised to see Normie riding a glider this soon, so maybe his father or grandfather will make an appearance to threaten our cast.
Despite their numbers, Mole Man and his Moloids get defeated easily enough once the Spider-Family comes together, a promising start to this new family team. Peter finally relents, bestowing upon Annie the code-name of “Spiderling”. She’d prefer “Spider-Girl”, but her dad informs her that it’s taken. It was the perfect way to end the issue. Yes, this isn’t the 616. Yes, Mary Jane is now a hero. Yes, their daughter’s name isn’t May. However, there is no doubt in my mind that Conway respects what has come before in other iterations. The goal here seems to be back to basics and yet still make it fresh with its own unique, ahem, spin.
In a marketplace oversaturated with Spider titles, Renew Your Vows is definitely worthy of your attention. Now that the opening arc has concluded and our leads have been established, I can’t wait to see Conway further develop these characters he knows so well. As much as I’m looking forward to Stegman’s artistic take on old favorites, I’m also eagerly awaiting to see what new villains he and Conway cook up to throw at the Parkers. In just four issues, Stegman has cemented himself as one of my all-time favorite Spidey artists, with a take as definitive as Ditko, Romita, McFarlane, and Bagley. Yeah, he’s that good. A “modern classic” as I believe Stan Lee used to say.
For the last few years now, I’ve been searching for the Spider-Man of old, trying to find glimpses of the hero I loved as a child. That search led me to 2099, Miles Morales, Spider-Gwen, and to the Edge of Spider-Verse. I’m happy to say that Conway, Stegman, and their team have led me home.
MY GRADE: A
JAVI’S HUH?: If Peter didn’t want Annie out, just who made her entire outfit? Was it something MJ whipped up and they didn’t agree on it?