Amazing Spider-Man: Renew Your Vows #13
Writer: Jody Houser
Artist: Nick Roche
Colorist: Ruth Redmond
Letterer: Joe Caramagna
Cover: Nick Roche
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Remember when Spider-Man made a deal with a devil (not the Devil, because comics) and retconned his marriage to Mary Jane Watson out of existence? Because editorial decided Spider-Hubby wasn’t as interesting as Spider-Bachelor? Comics!
It’s been a long-held belief that characters in general —let alone superheroes— are boring when they’re happy. I can understand that from an objective standpoint. Dramatic conflict arises when a character wants something, but doesn’t (or can’t) have it. Everybody wants to be happy, but we’re not all lucky enough to attain happiness. That makes for an interesting conflict in fiction. Hell, the pursuit of happiness is basically Batman’s entire deal, and even he’s starting to finally enjoy some of that for himself these days.
But the “happy characters are boring” argument conveniently ignores a follow-up question worth asking: “What happens after happiness?”
Set in one of the many realities forged to create Battleworld in 2015’s Secret Wars, Amazing Spider-Man: Renew Your Vows hinges on the basic premise of, “What if Peter Parker and Mary Jane Watson’s marriage wasn’t erased from history?” For many Spider-Fans, it’s a reality they wished they lived in. Incidentally, it’s also a pretty good refutation that happy characters can’t be interesting.
On Earth-18119, the Superhuman Civil War never happened, therefore preventing the chain of events that lead to Spidey’s deal with Mephisto from occurring. Because of this, Peter and MJ remained married and had a daughter named Annie — who just so happens to have the same exact powers as her father. When young Annie decides she wants to be a superhero just like daddy, it becomes a full-on family affair, and MJ even decides to suit up with them too.
I’ve only read about five or six prior issues of Renew Your Vows to prepare for this review, but #13 offers an excellent jumping-on point for new readers by launching its narrative eight years into the future. Annie is now a teenager on the cusp of her sophomore year in high school, leaving Peter and MJ in a very unfamiliar status quo for readers: middle-aged parents. But crime doesn’t discriminate on the basis of age, so our Spider-Fam —Pete’s Spider-Man, Annie’s Spiderling, and MJ’s Spinneret— are still very much active on the streets of New York.
Renew Your Vows #13 is very much a table-setting issue, but it’s excusable because of the time jump. Eight years is a long time, especially for adolescents. While Annie hasn’t fundamentally changed as a person since the last time we saw her, she’s a teenager now, with all the tropes that entails: she’s constantly on her phone, easily embarrassed by her parents, and acts more mature than she really is. Being a superhero is the easy part for her.
Some readers may note Annie’s similarity to Spider-Girl of the MC2 universe, and she’s an interesting character in her own right, but I think MJ is the real MVP of this series. While she hasn’t been given much to do since One More Day in the mainstream Marvel U, this version of the character is pretty fantastic. Badass mom who moonlights as a superhero when she’s not being a famous actress or designing fashion? What’s not to love?
Part of Renew Your Vows’s new charm is down to writer Jody Houser, who’s perhaps best known for her work on Valiant’s Faith. I believe this issue makes Houser the first-ever woman to write an ongoing Spider-Man comic, and while it’s an obvious win for creator diversity —especially regarding top-shelf characters like Spidey— the fact that it has taken this long for Marvel to making a hiring decision like this is kinda depressing. Just this month, Joelle Jones became the third-ever woman to draw a Batman title, so while the gender disparity is getting incrementally better, it’s still an issue.
There’s also the fact that Renew Your Vows is set in an alternate universe, which makes it easy to be seen as less “important” to the overall Spider-Verse than sister titles Amazing and Spectacular. That’s a minor quibble, though — Spider-Gwen is wildly popular, and that’s another female-led Spider-Title. As long as Houser can keep up the bubbly tone of this run, it’ll definitely have a loyal audience.
Renew Your Vows has cycled through quite a few artists by this point, and Nick Roche might be my favorite of them yet. His illustrations are very Saturday Morning Cartoon-y, and that totally fits Houser’s script in a way it wouldn’t for past scribes Dan Slott and Gerry Conway. Ruth Redmond’s colors complete the aesthetic, with bright colors that really pop on the page. And Joe Caramanga’s letters, like usual, are very good and easy to read.
The Verdict: Buy it!
Want an upbeat Spider-Man comic without all that Spider-Man baggage? If the answer is yes, then Amazing Spider-Man: Renew Your Vows #13 is perfect for you.