Some may think that Secret Wars is really starting to feel like a thinly veiled excuse for writers to create lengthy What If? plots. In the first issue of Amazing Spider-Man: Renew Your Vows, Dan Slott gets to dive into a reality where Peter and Mary Jane didn’t separate and we never had to live through One More Day.
The issue revolves around Peter trying to find balance between his double life. This isn’t an overly original idea, but Slott works well within the alternate reality of Battleworld to make the plot thread feel more important than a simple issue of What If?.
Slott begins hitting notes of Peter’s new, family-oriented life from the very first page of the issue. The story opens with Peter tinkering with web shooters at the kitchen table while Mary Jane feeds their daughter, Annie. Slott quickly employs the signature witty banter that fans of Peter’s relationship with MJ expect to emphasize the new world he resides. MJ states, “No. You are not playing that card. We both know ‘going on patrol’ is code for ‘I don’t want to change a diaper.‘” If only we could all call upon vigilantism as an excuse to get out of diaper changes…
While the witty banter is established early and helps readers feel nostalgic about Peter and MJ’s relationship, Slott slowly builds Peter’s sense of responsibility to his family. This aspect of the story feels different. The Peter Parker of the Marvel Now era has been aloof and a victim of his superhero identity–always forced into situations the pitted him against his personal life.
Slott takes a turn from the expected and shows that this version of Peter understands that his greatest power is, in fact, his responsibility to his family. The turning point of the plot arrives with the appearance of a Venom. His confrontation with Venom forces Peter to realize where his priorities have to reside. Slott again employs the reader’s sense of nostalgia by using Venom as the villain who inspires Peter to grow up.
Adam Kubert’s pencils and John Dell’s inks are interesting. At times, the facial expressions Kubert uses are awkward. This is especially seen with Peter’s daughter, Annie. In some panels, her facial features are flat as if she’s been hit with a frying pan, while in others her face has a more natural blend of MJ and Peter’s features. These awkward visuals combined with the presentation of Regent – a power stealing mega villain who looks a little too much like DC Comics’ Darkseid – to create some real head-scratching moments throughout the issue.
Kubert excels, however, at portraying Peter (in costume) and Venom. The detail used to construct these two adversaries pop with anger, desperation, and strength.
Though Kubert’s art is hit and miss throughout the issue, Slott’s consistent connection to past continuity and excellent dialogue save this issue from becoming a Secret Wars tie-in that no one will remember.