Sunday, September 20, 2015

Series review - Amazing Spider-man: Renew Your Vows

It's been a while since I did a review. In that time Secret Wars has been delayed and extended while the tie-in minis are coming to their natural ends. Like Amazing Spider-man: Renew Your Vows. So let's take a look at the entire series to see if it's any good or not.

Story: The set up for the story is pretty simple. In this alternte universe two major things are different from the main Marvel series. First of all Peter Parker and Mary Jane Watson-Parker are still married, had a little daughter called Annie together and aunt May died. Second is that there's a billionaire super villain who's been killing off super heroes and stealing their powers, he calls himself Regent.

As Spider-man is summoned by the Avengers to join them on an all out offensive against Regent a prison break takes place and Spidey goes to protect his family instead of fighting Regent. Spider-man saves his family (killing Venom in the process) and Regent defeats the Avengers and takes over the world. The main story takes place eight years later, also the age of Annie, as the Parkers are living in hiding. Peter is no longer going out as Spider-man and they're doing their best to hide Annie's powers. It's a solid set up that allows the story to focus on what is probably the main theme, that people can agree on, for Spider-man as a character. Responsibility, and in giving him a daughter it adds a new wrinkle to that theme that is explored within this mini. More on that later.

It's a solid set up and all through out the five issues this mini the writing is enjoyable. It's reminiscent of a time in Spider-man comics that I have a great fondness for, when Peter and Mary Jane were still married and Spidey was more or a loner hero on the street rather than a member of the Avengers. As much focus is put on the Parker family and how they deal with super hero situations as it is on the super-stuff and that's something I feels has been missing from not just Spider-man comics but super hero stories in general as the heroes reveal their identities to one another more often than not and their super-lives become more intertwined with their regular lives. It's not a bad transition, but I do miss the classical set up. This series has that classic feel to it, sort of, and it made me smile.

The twist in the responsibility theme is also nice. Now that they have a kid how far should Peter go to protect his family in this dire situation. Will he kill his villains and abandon those in need so that he, MJ and Annie can be safe? Which is more important, his resposibility as a family man or that as a hero. It's all explored in the series and I always found those questions to be much more interesting than whether or not Peter can defeat a super villain before he's late to a date. At first I was worried that this series would end on a sour note wherein the point that you can't mix a regular life with a super hero life is made. I was pleasantly surprised by the end of it.

So yeah, the themes and overall build of the story gets a solid pass.

Studies show that kicking ass together is a great family bonding activity.

Characters: The main characters in this series is Peter Parker, Mary Jane Watson-Parker and Annie May Parker. To my delight they all get quite a lot of love in this series and are portrayed wonderfully.

Peter does his best to be a grown ass man that cares and protects his family. In doing so mistakes are made and other people pay for it. That's the classic bad luck Peter has and it's at its best when there's no wrong or right choice to his actions, like in this series. Protect his innocent family or pursue the greater good? He's just a man who happens to have powers and he does the best he can. That's what makes him the everyman of the Marvel universe and why he's so compelling as a character. At the same time he gets to kick tons of ass and use his scientific knowledge and engineering skills to great effect throughout the series. That's the Peter Parker I know and love.

Mary Jane is also handled quite well. A common complaint is that she isn't badass enough to be Spider-man's wife. It's a stupid argument that she's proven wrong so many times any way. For a person without super powers or combat training she's experienced enough super powered shenanigans to know pretty much exactly what to do in any given situation. When to run, when to fight and the best way to do either option. She's a caring parent and spouse who brings out the best in both Peter and Annie, and they do the same for her. Like Peter, Mary Jane is an adult in this series and she's just doing the best she can with the dire situation at hand.

Then there's the newcomer, little Annie May Parker. Kids are often tricky to get right in any medium so they often end up being annoying. Luckily that is averted here. Annie is a good kid and she does understand why they need to hide. But she's still a kid so she makes mistakes. She'll get overeager and beat up bullies bigger than her or get curious and climb up a wall, perfectly natural reactions for a child and it happens mainly via flashbacks so it never becomes bothersome. The most interesting aspect of her is that she's raised with good moral standings and stories about doing the right thing and she has the ability to do plenty of right things but she's told to repress that side of her for fear of what will happen. When she's finally allowed to do what just comes naturally for her she absolutely blossoms and is rather amazing at being an eight year old superhero. Annie May Parker is a great addition to the Spider-man mythos and I want to see more stories with her. I'd really like one where she meets May Parker from the MC2 universe.

I should also mention Regent, the villain of the story. He's less impressive as far as characters go in this story. He's a good overpowering villain for the Parkers to fight and I've always liked the idea of characters stealing super powers to become a chimera-ish individual. Sadly his design is rather bland and his motivation isn't really expanded upon, though if that was in favour of giving the Parkers more development I'm all for it.

And hey, three solid hits out of four is damn good.

All's well that ends well.
Overall: So with me liking the story and loving the characters I should really love this story, right?

Well, I do. I realise that a lot of it comes from my nostalgia for the Peter/MJ marriage and what could've been had it not been for One More Day. It elevates the story for me and I am not going to pretend otherwise. It's a fun story with versions of my favourite characters that I've been missing for a good eight years. I greatly enjoyed it, possibly more than if it was about any other characters, and that's that.

But I still have this niggling feeling that I could've enjoyed it more if I didn't feel like this was it for this cast. I want more of this Spider-man and his family but I don't think that we're getting more. After Secret Wars is done we'll go back to Spider-man being single and now he'll be doing James Bond-ish stuff, which is probably fun in it's own right but it is very far removed from the Spider-man in this series. There's no indication that any of these characters will resurface in these forms anywhere else and that's annoying.

I'm the kind of Spider-man-fan who feels that the character is best when he's maturing and growing up as the story goes on. I loved seeing him getting married, having a happy marriage and I've always like the idea of him and MJ getting a kid. This series shows us that it's a set up that really works and I want to see more but we probably won't get any more of it. This series was a way to placate the fans upset about One More Day and in a way it worked. I got enjoy reading a Spider-man story again. But this was just a first step really. I want more of this now, but at the moment that looks like an unlikely prospect and I am cynical enough to think that it will never happen.

So the behind the scenes stuff surrounding this series, or my personal thinking about that stuff, get's me in an annoyed mood. But the series itself is awesome and every Spider-man-fan should read it. So this was a digression, but that's what a blog is for anyway.

Rating: 4 - Great

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