This is goodbye — or is it?
A sad day for me has arrived, as yet another series about Spider-Man as a father and husband reaches its end. I’m not going to get into lamenting why this is happening, since it won’t bring the title back. Weirdly enough though, the actual issue doesn’t feel like the end at all. Perhaps this isn’t “goodbye” and more of a “see you soon,” as indicated by the farewell on the last panel. But who knows? Let’s dig in to understand what’s going on.
The issue kicks off with Annie divulging a major secret about her powers to her parents, and then our heroes jet off to try and thwart Mr. Sinister’s evil plans. There is a hilarious sequence that ensues involving the Parkers’ vehicle making what I believe is its debut appearance (continuity buffs keep me honest, but I believe this is the first time we are ever seeing Peter and MJ riding a vehicle together since the iconic Amazing Spider-Man #43!). This joke is then driven into the ground by Peter, fittingly so, during the battle that takes place to try and stop Sinister from conscripting the X-Men into his apparent “mutate” army. Surprisingly, an unexpected hero comes in to save the day and then we are left with a final moment to say goodbye to this series.
I enjoyed this issue. Nothing super-dark, just good old-fashioned superhero fun. This sense of fun is evident in both the script and the visuals. For what seems like the first time since the days when Conway was still writing, we get to hear the inner voice of each of the Parkers in the same issue, and it is Peter who is the core. In particular, his “dad jokes” fit surprisingly well. The conversation at the end between the family is everything we’ve come to expect over the last few years and is a great opportunity for Houser to show just how well she gets all of these characters and how well she’s made Annie into something distinct and different from anything that has come before.
Visually, there is an element of zaniness that is best captured by the latest spin on the Goblin legacy appearing near the end, which is cool. While the “mutate” monsters also add to this element, I do think a bit more detail could have gone into them and the art in general, as they appear with less detail than I would hope for. Background visuals are also very weak and give the vibe that this issue was rushed, as the entire second half of the issue seems to forget/discard the location/setting/environment and is entirely focused on the action.
The story is very action heavy, and within its own continuity, makes some big moves. Some of them work, like a major status quo change for one of the supporting characters. Others don’t work, like Annie’s revelation to her parents, which seems to get an incredibly underwhelming reaction and is honestly baffling as to why this was something she hid from them in the first place. Unfortunately, there are some other things that don’t quite work either.
Sinister himself is a problem. Even though he has been working this master plan of using the Parkers’ DNA since issue #15, in the end the scheme just doesn’t feel like it has enough weight for our heroes. If anything, there is more of an impact and threat to the X-Men, which is baffling since this isn’t an X-Men book. Most critically, we have been pointedly told that this series is going to directly precede Spider-Girls, which will feature the continuing adventures of “The Parkers,” but there is no sign of Peter and MJ in any of the previews, and furthermore, there is absolutely no hint or foreshadowing about how Annie ends up in a situation where she is teaming up with Anya and Mayday. If anything, this feels like just another issue of the series.
This issue is typical Renew Your Vows — spot-on characterization of the Parkers, nice callbacks to Marvel history, a few changes that slightly alter the status quo — but no element of finality that you’d expect with the last issue of a book ending after two years. Maybe it’s Houser’s way of being firm in the assertion that Spider-Girls is just going to be a title change and this is not the end in any way shape or form, but forgive me for being skeptical considering that is a limited three-issue mini and the Parkers are not on any promotional art. Regardless, I’ll be there for Spider-Girls, so there’s that.