One of the stupidest things that Joe Quesada ever did, in a long, long, long list of really stupid things he’s done as the head of Marvel, is to retcon the marriage of Peter Parker and Mary Jane Watson. Now I know he’s rationalized why, but I’ll always believe it’s because he’s a pathetic fanboy who wants to see Parker a perpetual loser high school student.
Regardless, I’ve always loved seeing Peter and Mary Jane together and I loved the idea that they’d have a kid named May who would become Spider-Girl, not in an alternate universe, but in the Marvel 616. This isn’t exactly that, but maybe it’s close enough, so let’s take a look at Spider-Man – Renew Your Vows.
We start off with Peter and Mary Jane and their infant daughter Annie May Parker. Peter has been working hard as it seems like other local heroes have been disappearing and no one knows where they’ve gone. But soon it becomes clear as a local business owner appears, having captured, killed and taken the powers of the X-Men, most of the Avengers, etc. Peter is only spared because he was fighting Venom at the time after he escaped from prison and went after Peter’s family. Peter proves that he will stop at nothing when he kills Venom in order to stop him from ever threatening his family again. Cut to several years later, the business owner has dubbed himself Regent and now effectively rules New York. Being a mutant has been outlawed and gangs of Regent’s operatives roam the streets rounding them up. The ones that Regent can use, he kills and syphons their powers. The rest are experimented on. Peter has developed a bracelet that negates their powers, thus allowing them to remain undetected, but when Peter is forced to reveal his existence again, it becomes a fight against time, working with the resistance, made up mostly of non-powered former Avengers, to take out Regent before he gets his hands on Annie May, who shares her father’s powers.
Of course, this all ties into Secret Wars, Regent is stealing powers because he figures he’ll have to fight against God Doom for his city. He thinks everything he’s done is an acceptable sacrifice to save the lives of all of the citizens. Whether he’s morally right in any of that is left up to the reader to decide.
I had a couple of problems with this series. First off, no more than 7 years have gone by between the beginning of the story, which is supposed to be in relatively modern times, and the era of Regent, but in that time, they’ve developed flying cars and all kinds of really advanced technology. Are we supposed to think that Regent has provided this technology for the people? The development curve seems absurdly fast. Secondly, and I think most significantly, they cast Regent as an unbelievably powerful villain, after all, he rips Hulk’s arm off with zero effort. Yet by the end, they have to come up with a really silly way of depowering him so that the Parker family can beat him into submission. They’d have no chance at all if not for plot convenience theater, which I really hate. It really doesn’t even make sense how they did it. Somehow, Hawkeye realizes, out of the blue, that the chip in Annie May’s power-controlling bracelet can block Regent from the whole host of powers that he’s stolen. So without any significant time or effort, he mounts the chip on an arrow, which Annie ends up plunging into Regent and saving the day. Never mind that a moment before, Peter noted that Regent had armored skin like Colossus and no arrow is going to penetrate that. It just has to happen! And finally, the idea that one of Peter’s Spidey-quips actually saves the day left me groaning.
This isn’t bad, part of me loves it for the Parker family dynamic and I really adore Annie. Even Mary Jane isn’t obnoxious milk toast as she has been so often in the past. She’s tough, she’s smart, she’s willing to fight against unbelievable odds, especially since she’s only human… although I admit there were a couple of panels toward the end that had me questioning that. It looked like she was flying. Since when can Mary Jane fly?
Regardless, I did enjoy the mini-series, more for the nostalgia element, seeing the things that I really wanted to see, and to get rid of the really stupid crap that Quesada did to the character back in One More Day. For that alone, it’s worth reading. Aside from that though, they could have done more. The art is variable, it starts out good and fades by the end. The characters are decent, the Parkers are spot on, but a lot of the villains, and there are a lot of villains, are a bit rough. The finale, where you have a Parker free-for-all, while corny, works because they built it up over time and even though I know it’s silly, I still liked it. All around, it was a fun book, if you can overlook the various problems within.