Today, Drew and Spencer are discussing The Amazing Spider-Man: Renew Your Vows 5, originally released September 2nd, 2015. This issue is a Secret Wars tie-in. For more Secret Wars coverage from the week, check back Tuesday for our Secret Wars Round-Up!
Drew: It’s rare that we ever put a spoiler warning up on the site. It’s been suggested more than once, but we usually come to the conclusion that it would be redundant — it would be impossible to have the kind of in-depth discussions we have about comics without acknowledging what happened within them. That’s always been enough to end the conversation, but I also tend to think that superhero comics are impossible to spoil — or maybe that it’s they’re impossible not to spoil. That is to say, we don’t come to superhero stories to be surprised at the outcome, but to be inspired by them. I mean, “Spider-Man saves the day” isn’t exactly revelatory, but it describes the majority of Spider-Man stories (though not necessarily each individual issue), and doesn’t make them any less enjoyable. Indeed, that we know Spider-Man will get back up to fight again is exactly what makes him such an enduring character in the first place. So when The Amazing Spider-Man: Renew Your Vows inevitably lives up to its name, its predictability is a strength, not a weakness.
But man, does it live up to its name. I’m not sure if it was the title, my own faith in Peter Parker, or writer Dan Slott’s even stronger faith in Peter Parker, but I never really believed in Peter’s eschewing of his own values. That’s not to say Slott failed to establish the stakes — just that understanding the role of responsibility is so key to Peter Parker (especially Slott’s Peter Parker) that it’s impossible to imagine him doing anything else. Which I guess is my way of saying I never really thought that Peter would actually kill Regent. Oddly, I’m not sure Slott really thinks we would buy it, either; the whole feint is over in about a page, and Peter never really comments on it. Still, it’s an interesting enough question that he can’t help but pose it to us as a hypothetical:
Peter is oddly noncommittal, but it seems obvious enough — based both on the events of this series, and our own familiarity with the character — that he doesn’t believe such a situation could exist. There’s always a way out. But does that foregone conclusion rob this story of its tension? I suppose it might if Peter’s sense of responsibility is somehow still an active question in anyone’s mind, but for the rest of us, knowing that Peter will do the right thing is a reminder of what the right thing is.
To put it another way: I knew Peter wouldn’t kill Regent because it would have felt wrong. Spider-Man doesn’t do things that feel wrong — at least, not under Slott’s pen. A stabbed jugular would have been gratuitous when a stiff punch to the jaw would have done it, which is exactly why Peter opts for the latter. Additionally, Peter notes that his daughter is watching — perhaps a nod from Slott that kids are reading Spider-Man, too. There may be folks out there that prefer a little more conflict within their heroes over these moral questions, or maybe even just a little more blood, but Spider-Man is worried about the kids.
And again, Spider-Man doesn’t have these kind of moral conflicts. That made the premise of this series somewhat hard to swallow (often challenging our notion of who this character is just to get him into a conflicted position), but it also made this conclusion incredibly satisfying. Again, it’s not surprising that Peter does the right thing, or even that he ultimately succeeds: the real joy is seeing how and why. In this case, Slott allows Peter to reflect on his life, but oddly, none of the key memories seem to revolve around web-slinging.
This is why we read Spider-Man comics. I know he’s always going to do the right thing and win in the end, but understanding why — seeing that his values are ultimately pretty darn human — is what makes his stories so compelling. That’s the part that Slott’s always understood perfectly, so I’m willing to play along, even if he’s half-heartedly selling me a plot we already know the end to. I never come for the plot — we’ve all already seen this one before.
Spencer, I’m hanging a lot here on what I get out of a Spider-Man comic, but obviously there’s room for disagreement. Did you find the conclusion here as obvious as I did? If so, were you willing to forgive that in favor of this issue’s other charms? And, most importantly, do you think “Amp” is any kind of name for a superhero with spider-powers?
Spencer: “Amp” is, indeed, a pretty poor name for a superhero with spider-powers, but it’s exactly the kind of name a little kid would come up with (my initials were pretty important to me at that age too). The more I think about it, Drew, the more important I think your idea about “Spider-Man being for the kids too” is to this issue, and Annie is an excellent stand-in for all the kids who look up to Spider-Man as their hero.
Standing side-by-side with his daughter in battle may actually be the first time that Peter realizes how influential his example’s been to Annie. Drew, I admit that I actually, if only for a few brief moments, did think that Peter might go through with killing Regent, and it’s all because of his murdering Venom back in issue 1. That Peter was a man still trying to figure out how to juggle the responsibilities of fatherhood with the responsibilities of being a superhero, and he ended up being overwhelmed by his instinct to protect his family. Now, though, Peter realizes that his responsibility to protect Annie doesn’t just extend to her physical well-being; he has a responsibility to show her the best way to live her life, and it’s that responsibility — his needing to be the best example he can be for Annie — that leads to his sparing Regent’s life.
Even putting aside the way she’s helped Peter grow, Annie Parker’s still become quite an enjoyable character in her own right. Her optimism and enthusiasm are a lot of fun, and it’s been a joy not only to see her embrace her abilities, but to see Peter and Mary Jane understand that they have to let Annie do so.
This scene may just be Annie’s crowning moment as a character. Not only is it the turning point in the battle against Regent, but it’s a powerful lesson for Annie to learn (and it will no doubt serve her well in dealing with any future boyfriends). Annie’s grown up both in her own eyes and the eyes of her family, and it’s not just she who’s stepped up to the plate; considering the way that Mary Jane marches into battle (and embraces her role as a mother while doing so), it’s easy to see where Annie gets her fierce individualism from. This is actually another important lesson for Peter to learn: his responsibility to protect his family doesn’t mean reducing them to helpless objects. Mary Jane and Annie are as capable as anyone, and the best way to protect his family may very well be to work with them as a unit.
Annie’s aversion to being thought of as a “collectible” also says a lot about Regent. Despite his claims of capturing heroes for the “greater good,” he largely hoards his defeated victims like trophies, seeming more interested in the process of attaining and preserving his victims than actually carrying out his plan. Early in the issue he talks about “having a complete set” when Dagger shows up, and frets about S.H.I.E.L.D. harming his “collection” — he collects and searches for the powers he needs like a kid with a Pokemon card collection, not like someone dealing with real people whose blood is now on his hands.
The idea of a collector’s mentality even plays into Regent’s appearance. Just take a look at the guy for a minute — who does he remind you of? Personally, I see Apocalypse, I see Onslaught, I even see some Juggernaut; he’s the epitome of a 90s X-Men villain. I suppose that makes sense, as that’s pretty much exactly what Regent is — the first issue of Renew Your Vows was rather explicitly set in the 90s, and Regent attacked the X-Men first before turning on the rest of the heroes. How fitting, then, that a character who so fully represents the aesthetics of the 90s also manages to embody Marvel’s weaknesses at the time. Those were the years where comic collecting first boomed, then burst and nearly bankrupted Marvel — and incidentally or not, X-Men books and Spider-Man‘s “Clone Saga” were key players in that bust.
So that makes Regent a 90s comic collector, someone who treats comic books as investments instead of stories and characters as a list of powers rather than people. That type of attitude doesn’t jive with Slott’s take on Spider-Man, especially as seen in Renew Your Vows. This is a Peter Parker learning to trust in the competency of his family instead of treating them like precious objects that have to be hidden away; this is a Peter Parker whose fondest memories aren’t of cool and edgy battles, but of his family and the love they’ve shown him. Slott couldn’t be any clearer about what he thinks makes the medium of comic books worthwhile, and I fully agree.
While the rest of the story has moved forward in time since the first issue, there’s still a bit of a retro sensibility to Renew Your Vows thanks to artist Adam Kubert. The artists who have worked on Slott’s Superior and Amazing Spider-Man over the last few years — all talented in their own right — have mainly specialized in more cartoony styles, but Kubert’s is about as down-to-earth as you can get without being specifically “gritty and realistic.” That’s not to say that his work is without its flourishes — Annie’s fight against one of Regent’s thugs is about as kinetic as they come, with the panels practically dashing around the page at the same speed as Annie’s attacks — but most of my enjoyment of Kubert’s art comes the sheer orderliness of it all.
Seriously, I can practically still see the guidelines leading to the vanishing point, and it’s fascinating to look at. Also, I’m in love with the level of detail Kubert puts into Regent’s armor — it’s not only impressive, but a key component in keeping that 90s aesthetic alive and well.
Renew Your Vows has been such a success as a nostalgic revisiting of the Peter/MJ marriage that I’d love to see it continue, and for any readers who feel the same, Slott and Kubert have a message.
Superhero stories never really end. Maybe Slott will incorporate some elements of this story into the next volume of Amazing Spider-Man, or maybe we’ll get a mini or an ongoing, or even another Secret Wars-esque event, somewhere down the line that will pick up where Renew Your Vows left off; it’s all a possibility at Marvel. Even if we don’t, though, fans will still keep this world alive, be it through fan fiction, fan art, or just in their own imaginations and hearts. As Drew pointed out, Slott clearly knows what Spider-Man means to people, and I can’t think of a more powerful ending to this series than acknowledging the power that gives each and every one of us over the character. It’s like my girl Stephanie Brown once said: “It’s only the end if you want it to be.”
For a complete list of what we’re reading, head on over to our Pull List page. Whenever possible, buy your comics from your local mom and pop comic bookstore. If you want to rock digital copies, head on over to Comixology and download issues there. There’s no need to pirate, right?