“Brawl in the Family”
Story: Gerry Conway
Art: Ryan Stegman
Colors: Sonia Oback
Letters: VC’s Joe Caramagna
“The Earnest Adventures of Spider-Dad”
Story and Art: Anthony Holden
“Make it Work:
Story: Kate Leth
Art: Marguerite Sauvage
Letters: VC’s Joe Caramagna
What They Say:
The Parker family is web-slinging and wall-crawling their way into your hearts and into comic shops later this year! Life is good for Peter Parker and Mary Jane; their daughter Annie is their pride and joy, they’re both working and (barely) making ends meet, they’re keeping the streets of New York City safe from super villains…you know, normal family stuff. Oh, did we mention MJ and Annie have Spider-Powers –– just like Peter?! Being Spider-Man just became a family affair…
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers):
One of the best things to come out of Marvel’s Secret Wars was a Spider-Man miniseries called “Renew Your Vows.” In it, Peter and Mary Jane are married and have a precocious daughter named Annie May. After killing Venom to save his family, Peter retires the red and blues, and just in time as the villainous Regent killed the heroes of New York, usurping their powers in the process and setting himself up as the unquestioned lord and master of the city and creating an edict that anyone with superpowers must turn surrender to him.
Unfortunately, Annie May possesses spider powers like her father, and Peter eventually leaves retirement to try and save his family one more time. Together, the Parkers (along with a few others) manage to defeat the Regent, and everything is all hunky-dory and those of us who miss Peter and MJ together got a nice little treat.
Well, the treat wagon’s back, courtesy of Gerry Conway, Ryan Stegman, and Sonia Oback. I’m not entirely sure what prompted Marvel to green light an ongoing series based on the mini, but I’m delighted that they did. I’ve always loved Peter and MJ together and I never understood the idea that the story of a married superhero would somehow be less appealing or somehow bereft of drama. I think there’s room for both high school Peter and mature, adult Peter. I certainly enjoy them both, and I’m old enough now to be on both sides. When I was a kid, I certainly wasn’t married or in a relation, and now that I’m an adult, I certainly don’t identify with high schoolers anymore, but I can enjoy stories set in either world.
The issue begins with Spidey tussling with the Scorpion. MJ calls and tells Peter that they have a “Code Green” and upon hearing this, he dispatches ol’ Scorpy in record time and hustles back to his home. The reader, of course, is left to ponder just what a “Code Green” might mean: is the Green Goblin back? Is the Hulk rampaging?
Not quite. Instead, we find out that a code green means that Annie is asleep and the Parkers can have some alone time. This entire opening segment establishes the tone and pattern of the entire issue—the Parkers balancing superheroics with their familial duties. When he’s fighting the Scorpion, Peter keeps running his grocery list through his head; the parents’ alone time is interrupted by Annie’s tinkering with Peter’s webshooters; and the breakfast table conversation switches from wheatcakes and who at school wears light up shoes to Annie May using her spider agility to save a wayward cake.
Conway’s a veteran comic book writer, and he knows Spidey about as well as anyone in the business, having taken over writing duties when Stan Lee left the title. The pacing of the story is excellent, and its premise is drum-tight and structures the entire issue. His characters are familiar and welcome, like visiting old friends, but at the same time display a maturity that we don’t often get to see in superhero comics.
He also splendidly acknowledges and dismantles traditional masculine traditions in superhero comics. Peter now uses a drone equipped with a camera and “movement recognition software” he created so his pictures won’t be all “butt shots!” anymore. It’s a funny moment that jabs at Peter’s previous picture-taking strategy of webbing his camera to a nearby building, setting the timer, and hoping for the best, but it also could be poking fun at the tendency of superhero artists to draw the infamous “boobs and butts” pose and generally overly sexualize female characters. We certainly don’t get that with MJ when we see her in costume, for which I’m very thankful.
Conway also gets the whole “I’m the man and it’s my job to protect you” out of the way quickly. As MJ tells him “Look, I get it. You’re a guy. You think it’s your role to keep me safe. Maybe that was true. Once. Not anymore. Not since Regent, and certainly not since Annie.” To which Peter responds “Sometimes I forget you’re smarter about this stuff than I am.”
And that’s it. There are no recriminations on MJ’s part, no stubborn refusal on Peter’s to recognize how the situation has changed. Like any healthy, functioning married couple, they talk, they respect each other’s point of view, and they move on to what works best for the family. It’s wonderful, as far as I’m concerned.
I should backtrack for just a second. If you missed the “Renew Your Vows” miniseries, then you might not understand when I say that MJ shows up in costume. In the finale, MJ stole a prototype suit the Regent’s top scientist used to test the powers of the various metahumans they captured. MJ stole it and used it to fight Regent along with Peter and Annie. Peter has since retrofitted the suit so that she can tap into his spider powers, and MJ made it look much nicer than the bulky thing it was.
Okay, so back to the praising. Thus far I’ve focused on the writing, but that’s only part of the equation. The art here is just as spectacular (I couldn’t resist). Ryan Stegman knows how to draw a fluid, kinetic, powerful action scene as well as normal everyday life. And as I said before, he does a great job of drawing MJ. Sure, she’s a beautiful, fit woman, but she’s never draw salaciously or with an eye to the male gaze. Again, I appreciate that.
Also, his Annie is cute as a button.
Sonia Oback’s colors are equally amazing (again, couldn’t resist). They’re deep and eye-catching and set the tone nicely.
The “A” story here, “Brawl in the Family” is wonderful for old-school Spidey fans like myself and for those who simply enjoy good superhero comics. It clocks in about twenty pages, leaving the rest for two delightful backup stories, “The Earnest Adventures of Spider-Dad” and “Make it Work.” The first shows us Peter and Annie’s day together while MJ goes running around town, and the second shows us MJ and Annie in MJ’s boutique, trying to figure out their costumes. Although they’re short, they’re both great fun.
I find it interesting that both Marvel and DC’s flagship characters have comics where they’re married and raising a child. Superman and Lois try to raise their son, and now we’ve got Peter and MJ trying to raise their daughter. I don’t know if this is just a trend or what, but it has led to some great superhero stories, so I’m all for it.
Marvel’s killing me with the $4.99 first issue price, but I’m glad I shelled out the moolah for this one, because it’s just great. Superbly written and drawn and featuring beloved characters that have been allowed to mature and change, The Amazing Spider-Man: Renew Your Vows is a real treat, even if the title is super-clunky. Dr. Josh gives this an….
Age Rating: 12+
Released By: Marvel Comics
Release Date: 9 November 2016