“Ah, the ol’ pass-out-while-your-wife-smashes-the-bad-guy-by-throwing-a-subway-car-at-him move. Spidey, you’ve done it again.”
What lengths will Mary Jane go to keep her family safe when they are out fighting crime? Could Venom be the solution?
STORYTELLERS: Gerry Conway & Ryan Stegman
COLORIST: Jesus Aburtov
LETTERER: VC’s Joe Caramagna
COVER ARTISTS: Ryan Stegman & Jesus Aburtov
VARIANT COVER ARTIST: Clayton Crain
ASSISTANT EDITOR: Allison Stock
EDITOR: Darren Shan
SPIDER-MAN created by STAN LEE & STEVE DITKO
STORY: Below NY, Spidey and Spinneret are battling Mysterio. Spiderling seems to be critically injured, but it’s an illusion. Siphoning Peter’s powers, MJ takes out Mysterio at the cost of Spidey momentarily passing out. At an Oscorp facility, Normie meets his scientists who are building…something. Meanwhile, Liz goes on tv to talk about her company’s new developments in organic biotech. MJ, as Spinneret, goes over to Allan Biotech to find out more, to see if something there can help her protect her family when they are in the field. Liz lets her try out their organic tech suit prototype. Spinneret goes out solo in her new look, stopping crime along the way. She passes out at home, having a nightmare as she sleeps, waking up in the heart of the city. When Peter wakes up that morning, he finds a very productive, and odd, MJ, who proclaims she’s never felt better.
THOUGHTS: Ever since I’ve seen this cover, I’ve been eagerly anticipating this story. I think there’s a certain age of Spider-Fan where Venom came out at just the right moment for them. I was 13 in the summer of 1990 when I got that Spider-Man vs. Venom trade paperback and I loved it. Here was a real threat to Spidey, not just because of his physical prowess and size, but because he could negate his spider-sense. Of course, by the mid to late 90’s Venom became overexposed and my excitement for him waned, but seeing this version of MJ and the upcoming Gwenom story over in Spider-Gwen has gotten me excited for a fresh spin. I couldn’t help but think of the end of Amazing Spider-Man #299 when I saw this cover. MJ stepping out of the dark calls back to Venom emerging from the shadows and growing his mouth. Here we get the added threat of seeing one of our heroes corrupted and the allusion that Spidey and Spiderling have been defeated. I couldn’t wait to open the book and get started and Conway and Co. don’t disappoint!
Mysterio is back for the first time! (You know what I mean.) Opening in media res, he’s seemingly crushed or even killed Annie, setting the stakes high right from the start. MJ is obviously freaking out, while Peter seems more nonchalant. I love how this is old hat for Peter, but with her inexperience MJ is in full on panic mode. Due to the sharing of Peter’s powers, they are a true team and it also increases the feeling of danger as MJ tries to use more of them to help their daughter.
An interesting part of the dynamic for me is how they respond “in the field”. Working with a partner lets them have moments where they can stop for consolation and support, like when Peter is providing solace and talking down MJ after the illusion of their child. It also allows for a bit of levity as Mysterio tries to rally and gets taken down again in an offhanded manner. Throwing in trivial remarks about whose turn it is to make dinner also takes the characters back down to earth, reminding the reader that the Parkers have to face many of the same realities, including the eternal struggle of what to eat that night. You don’t get conversations like that in Iron Man.
Conway continues to build upon the Normie Osborn subplot, giving us a sneak peek of Project M.G. “Mecha-Goblin”? “Mega”? “Monster”? I’m sure we’ll find out soon and I’m looking forward to it. It would be pretty weird to have the Spidey-Family taking on a 10 year old in a Green Goblin suit, but a giant sized Robo-Goblin would look magnificent under Stegman’s pencil.
Getting ready for an appearance on television, we see Liz Allan “putting on her face”, both in terms of applying makeup and putting on a positive front. It’s always stuck in my head how at graduation, Liz told “Petey” how she felt he always saw her “as just a dizzy blonde”. She is definitely not portrayed like that now. I can’t help but wonder, though, with a line like “that boy will be the death of me.”-is Conway foreshadowing her death? Another former flame snuffed out by a Goblin under Conway’s pen? If he killed Gwen, no cast member is safe!
I like MJ having her own supporting cast at her store, one unconnected from her new super-heroics. Peter may have The Bugle crew, but with them being reporters they have close links to the heroes and more extraordinary events of the Marvel U. MJ’s peers lead normal lives in contrast, relatively untouched from the strife The Bugle covers. It gives her someone to talk about her relationship with Peter and get ideas from, like advice on finding her own life outside the relationship to maintain a healthy balance, her “scrapbooking”. This conversation adds to the impetus for the choice she makes later, to potentially disastrous results. Marriage is complicated, though, and I am glad Conway has scenes addressing and showing that, making his character’s lives feel richer.
It stands to reason that MJ would put on an air of confidence as she tries to convince Liz that she can handle the suit, even name dropping that she took down Magneto. She’s always worn that mask of bravado, one of the many things that make her a match for Peter. So, while that doesn’t surprise me, her aesthetic choice of outfit does. Obviously, she didn’t make the “suit” black, but when told she can make it her own with her mind, she chooses a large white spider to adorn it. If we’re using the old 616 continuity as a departure point, MJ famously hated that suit starting with Amazing #300, causing Peter to burn his cloth facsimile and switch back to the old red and blues. It gave her nightmares, especially with Brock stalking the family for years, not to mention how he kidnapped Annie May in the Secret Wars miniseries. It’s a bit of a stretch, one I just opted to roll with for sake of the story, No-Prizing it with the suit taking immediate control of her subconscious and altering it that way.
In addition to the obvious inspiration of Venom, I also thought of Anya Corazon’s Spider-Girl outfit, but with the spider being lower on MJ’s. Also, for those who may be reading this issue in print, the preceding page has a big advert for Marvel’s Inhumans tv series, featuring Black Bolt’s torso emblem, which also bears a striking resemblance. Intentional subliminal marketing?
While on the subject of influence, after a successful solo bust, MJ returns home and promptly passes out after an exquisite dinner of grilled cheese. She wakes up after a horrible nightmare underneath a bridge, reminding me of Spider-Man 3, where Tobey Maguire, too, woke up shocked in a strange place after being possessed. What happens next is a little more disconcerting for MJ, especially with the nightmare she woke up from.
The nightmare was a well done sequence by all involved. Stegman gave the walls of the tunnel a Giger-esque feel and the shimmering light provided by Aburtov perfectly lit the scene, but there’s no benevolent light at the end of that tunnel. Conway’s scene gets you into MJ’s psyche, a place that’s no longer safe as the symbiote rips her away from her loved ones, firmly seizing control of it’s new host.
Now that the suit is inside her, MJ is acting like she’s on drugs, babbling away about pancakes, bacon, and their gas tank and scrapbooking, bringing it back to her private conversation with her friends. I have to imagine Peter’s next line is something about not owning a car or what scrapbooking has to do with pancakes and I’d love to see his bewildered expression continue. Stegman sells her amazement over her pancakes with her eyes and as the camera gets closer, we see the symbiote lurking within them. It’s a classic comics technique, used to great effect here. The symbiote has got her.
There’s a lot of history between the characters of Renew Your Vows. While some of it is very familiar to long time readers, and a lot is left unsaid and ill defined, it still allows for a very deep and rich world to be embellished upon, setting the stage for characters we’ve grown up alongside. Mary Jane seeking out a way to not hinder her husband’s crime-fighting by leeching his powers as they patrol together is a great story idea, addressing fan concerns about how this dynamic would work over time. This is a great first chapter to the story, with just the right balance of action and character. The art is as dynamic and gorgeous as you’d expect and I can’t wait for the adventure to continue next time!
MY GRADE: A
JAVI’S HUH?: Do you think MJ disguises her voice to speak with Liz? Without the benefit of a full mask to muffle her voice like Peter’s there’s no way Liz wouldn’t recognize her friend. Just chalk it up to Clark Kent’s glasses.
How did MJ sneak out without warning Peter’s Spider-Sense? Can this suit negate it as well? Would that mean it’s part of the original or tied to it in someway, learning that trick?