I’ve loved Spider-Man since I was just a little guy breaking into comics. As typical as it is, I connected to Peter Parker and all his geeky, imperfect sarcasm. I found and still find One More Day to be absolutely atrocious for many reasons that have been argued for nearly eight years in online forums. There’s no point in going over the debate here. Instead, I’ll relent a bit on my position to One More Day because without it and its Christmas Carol-esqe journey through Peter’s possible future with Mary Jane, we would not have Amazing Spider-Man: Renew Your Vows.
One More Day allowed the reader a brief peek into a world where MJ and Peter never gave their marriage to Mephisto, but Amazing Spider-Man:Renew Your Vows gives the whole picture. The series is set in a Battleword universe, where a superhero murdering tyrant, Regent, has taken control of Manhattan. In the fifth and final issue of the Secret Wars tie-in, Dan Slott sets up the final showdown between the massive, superpowered Regent and a weakened and distracted Spider-Man. The issue, however, is so much more than that final showdown.
Slott uses Peter’s dedication to Annie and Mary Jane as the pivotal emotion throughout the story. Trapped in a power-leaching chamber connected to Regent’s armor, Slott quickly replays the most impactful moments in Peter’s life. These brief memories act as the foundation for the idea that Peter’s greatest responsibility is to protect his family, no matter what. Slott sprinkles more of these moments of family bonding with MJ as she dons the armor of one of Regent’s underlyings to join the fight to protect Annie. No moment though, is as touching or meaningful as when Peter calmly and cool cracks a joke, yet holds a sharp piece of Regent’s broken armor ready to kill the villain as he threatens to strangle Annie. Slott masterful stays true to Peter’s sarcastic, improvisational superhero style, yet shows how parenthood changes the superhero’s moral compass.
The characterizations of MJ as a mother and Annie as a superpowered pre-teen really stand out throughout the story. Always stubborn and protective, MJ doesn’t shy away from joining the fracas. Faced with Regent’s wrath as Annie destroys the control panels that power the chambers holding Regent’s collection of superheroes, MJ runs headlong into battle.
On the other end of the Parker family, Annie’s personality is a perfect mix of her parents–headstrong, brave, and humorous in the face of danger. As she rushes to locate her dad, Annie quips, “You gotta stop calling me ‘Annie’ when we’re on a mission. How about ‘Amp’? Y’know for Annie May Parker. And I could say stuff like ‘Amp it up!‘” This dialogue is exactly what one should expect out of Peter and Mary Jane’s offspring, and Slott nails it.
Adam Kubert and Scott Hanna share the art duty for this issue and they present a really solid book. There are some issues–certain panels seem quickly drawn, sacrificing detail for action, and Regent, for all the implications of his motivations and power set, still seems to be too much of a Darkseid knock off; however, these flaws are easily forgotten. With much of the issue focusing on the emotional aspects of protecting one’s family, Kubert and Hanna expertly draw the reader into everyone’s reactions. There may not be tight, detailed shots of Peter’s rage, Annie’s bravery, or MJ’s protectiveness, but their use of space around the characters and their positions within each panel convey exactly what Slott aims for in the dialogue.
Amazing Spider-Man: Renew Your Vows takes the idea of Peter as a parent and a father that we were given, briefly, in One More Day and develops it to a satisfying conclusion in issue #5. The impact of Slott’s story paired with Kubert and Hanna’s art prove that Peter Parker will always be one of the most complex and interesting characters in the Marvel Universe.