I read Dan Slott’s Secret Wars mini-series that launched the Renew Your Vows concept, as well as the first few issues of the ongoing title. While I enjoyed Ryan Stegman’s energetic pencils, Gerry Conway’s writing did little to hold my attention. And, as the Parker family’s adventures take place in another universe, with no bearing on Marvel’s main continuity, I abandoned the series–until now. As part of Marvel’s Legacy initiative, Peter, Mary Jane and their daughter Annie are now eight years in the future, with a new creative team at the helm, and the results are fantastic!
It can seem like comics these days are either deathly serious or mindless fluff with little middle ground. Under writer Jody Houser’s pen, the Spider-Family’s adventures in Amazing Spider-Man: Renew Your Vows Vol. 3: Eight Years Later (issues #13-18) are all-ages fun with a whole lot of heart.
For starters, the decision to age Annie a bit was a very smart storytelling decision. While watching Peter and MJ raise a small child while trying to be superheroes is entertaining, there’s only so much you can do with a character who’s too young to have her own social life. Now that Annie’s in high school (hey, just like Peter back in the ’60s), we’ve blown open the door to new story opportunities. It also doesn’t hurt that readers are surely reminded of the much-missed Spider-Girl series.
In Houser’s first arc, we tag along with the Parkers for Family Fun Day at Coney Island, which quickly turns into a bizarre team-up with none other than the Lizard. The real fun here comes from the quieter character moments, such as Annie having to hide her powers while trying desperately to win a carnival game. Or a jealous Spider-Man bickering with Annie’s instructor Wolverine (and calling him out on his apparent need to have young, female sidekicks).I know this is mostly Annie’s book, but I can’t help but love Houser’s take on Peter the dad. Despite being one of the Marvel Universe’s more youthful characters, let’s face it, Spidey was always a dad without kids. While he may run out of web fluid from time to time, he’s never in short supply of groan-inducing dad jokes.
Papa Parker truly shines in this collection’s second arc, in which Spidey takes a job as a substitute photography teacher at Annie’s high school to provide for his family. There’s some really nice character work here as Peter tries to connect with his daughter at school, only to be ignored by her–there’s nothing more embarrassing for a teenager than to go to the same school her dad teaches at! Even as a married father, Peter can’t shake that Parker luck in the halls of Midtown High.
Artists Nick Roche and Nathan Stockman handle the two story arcs’ art and do a fine job getting across this series’ youthful tone. You tend to remember Spider-Man artists by how they render Spidey’s eyes, and both Roche and Stockman always let you know what how Peter’s feeling under that iconic mask. Stegman continues to provide the issues’ cover art, so that’s a nice treat.
Clearly, I really enjoyed this book, but there was one downside. It’s the overall concept of Renew Your Vows I can’t quite understand–why is Peter cool with fighting crime alongside his wife and daughter? I get that this is in another universe, but at his core, Peter’s a character who must remain responsible or he could lose someone he loves (I mean, it’s happened several times before). Call me old-fashioned, but putting your teenage daughter in a costume and letting her follow you into danger doesn’t sound very responsible to me.
Still, this six-issue collection, priced at under $20, is a breezy read for any Spider-Man fans looking for some fun stories with a classic-yet-fresh feel. There are even some variant covers and original art added for your value. And while the two arcs in this trade are pretty self-contained, they do set up a future plot featuring an uneXpected villain from the X-side of the Marvel Universe. I look forward to seeing what Houser has in store for this character, as well as Annie and her folks in the issues ahead.
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