Spinning out of the popular and well-liked mini-series from Secret Wars, we have a brand-new Spider-Man: Renew Your Vows series. Focusing on the family of Peter, Mary Jane, and Annie, what can this super-powered family get into? Is it good?
Writer: Gerry Conway
Artist: Ryan Stegman
Publisher: Marvel Comics
The Parker clan web-sling and wall-crawl their way into your hearts! Life is good for husband Peter Parker and wife Mary Jane: their daughter Annie is their pride and joy, they’re both working and making ends meet, they’re keeping the streets of New York City safe from super villains…you know, normal everyday stuff. Oh, did we mention MJ and Annie have super-powers just like Peter? Being Spider-Man just became a family affair! And when the Mole Man attacks NYC, only the sensational Spider-Family can stop him!
The Initial Reaction
While I never read the original mini-series, since I was not keeping up with Marvel during Secret Wars, I was genuinely intrigued by a series like this. It looked different, yet very classic in its dynamics and its sense of fun, something that I feel has been lacking in recent years for Spider-Man books. Plus, with the current Superman comic focusing on Clark and his family, I was hoping for something in a similar vein here. I’m pleased to say this is easily on par with Superman and is one of, if not the most heartfelt and upbeat comics Marvel is currently putting out.
The one thing that struck me the most after finishing the trade was how strong and clever the story was written. The first arc is about the family coming together to help Peter fight and defeat the Mole Man, who’s raiding a destroyed area from the Renew Your Vows mini-series. It’s simple, but enjoyable–taking place over four issues, the plot doesn’t seem like it could last for more than two. So, how does Gerry Conway stretch this out in a way that actually works? He tells the first three issues from each character’s point of view, with the plot slowly advancing at the end of each one, until the fourth issue ties everything up.
Oh yeah! Thread and a needle so I can repair the crotch hole in my costume I just got now.
While I can see how this may annoy people who follow series on a month to month basis (I know that feeling), this storytelling choice benefits the series greatly here. As each issue focuses on a single character, we get time to know each one, learn who they are, what they’re like, and how they’re different from the others. Everything then comes together in the fourth issue where we see them all team up and work off one another. While the story may be too thin for this arc length, Conway took a very smart approach for an opening arc and made it work overall, even hinting at and setting up plot points to be explored later.
Peter Parker/Spider-Man is pretty much the classic character he always is: funny, smart (self-aware of his own problems and situation is another story), and pretty snarky during his fights. And with the addition of Mary Jane and Annie, we get to see his caring and loving side with how he treats and looks out for them. Even though they’re both powerful and capable in their own ways, he still worries about them like you would expect. Mary Jane is more serious and focused on all aspects of her life, from her family, her job, to even superhero fighting. She seems more stressed out than Peter about things, while he’s more carefree. However, she can still cut loose and show as an immense amount of care and love for her family. Annie is a girl who loves being a superhero and wants to save the day, despite how inexperienced she is and how worried her parents are about her involvement. She’s capable from what we see, though very rough around the edges, and her desire is inspiring. However, what this comic does not forget is that she’s also still a child and she acts very much like one when she’s not serious. Her behavior at school, how she views her fellow classmates, to even being overexcited about going to a Chuck-E-Cheese knockoff and having fun there–the writer never forgets what her age is. Showing both sides to Annie makes her feel a lot more real than a lot of kid characters out there.
The dialogue can feel a bit sitcomy at times, like how Mary Janeover uses her catchphrase to the point where it becomes stilted, but it’s usually okay. The tone is consistent from beginning to end and the alternate takes on this universe’s history are interesting, giving us a world that’s familiar but different enough to make it feel unique. The best part is that this book is very easy to jump into. Outside of the references to the previous mini-series, you don’t need to read anything else to fully enjoy this comic, making it both perfect for newcomers and longtime Spider-Man fans.
Most of the artwork is provided by Ryan Stegman and he does a great job here. His layout work is excellent, providing a nice flowing story that moves naturally from panel to panel without any abrupt or odd transitions. The action has a good sense of motion to it while almost every single panel has a fully drawn background. The characters are all drawn rather well and Stegman absolutely nails capturing everyone’s facial and body language, helping to add so much personality and emotion to each moment. The only time the artwork has problems is in the odd posing and the way people bend their bodies, but it’s a Spider-Man book and that sort of thing comes with the territory.
Nathan Stockman draws the fifth issue, and I’m a little mixed on his work. I think he does well with layouts, drawing locations, and keeping the excellent tone and mood of the series, but he’s not as good as drawing action and his characters tend to look a bit weird. They’re far more cartoonish-looking than Stegman’s style, but not exactly in a good way–more in a creepy way. His style just gets distracting unfortunately, but it’s far from awful.
Is It Good?
The Amazing Spider-Man: Renew Your Vows Vol. 1: Brawl in the Family was one of the most enjoyable, fun times I had reading a Marvel comic in recent memory. The story is told very well and cleverly, introducing fans new and old alike to the Spider Family and showing their dynamic. The solid writing is propped up by great artwork that helps bring this tale to life. If you are a Spider-Man fan, this is definitely the comic you’ll want to check out.