Stillanerd Reviews: Amazing Spider-Man: Renew Your Vows (2016) #5


A night out at dinner for the Parkers turns into foiling a robbery in this amusing interlude of the adventures of Spider-Man and his Amazing Family.

Creating a single comic book issue with a self-contained story, or a “done-in-one” as it’s sometimes called, is becoming a lost art. A single issue is, more than not, written and illustrated with the idea that, someday, it will become one part of a collection in a trade paperback. Or, because it wishes to mimic film, an issue will contain enlarged panels with fewer word balloons and captions, placing a greater emphasis on the illustrations. Or, because readers only get one part of a story, it compels them to purchase the next installment to see what happens next. Even the first four issues of Gerry Conway’s Amazing Spider-Man: Renew Your Vows were still four separate parts of a larger story. But although this particular issue has the title of “Brawl in the Family: Part 5,” Amazing Spider-Man: Renew Your Vows (2016) #5 reads refreshingly like a story unto its own.

It’s an issue in which a lot goes on but in no way feels overcrowded. Much of the story centers around the Parker family going out for their weekly “Family Fun Night,” with Annie dragging her parents to an ersatz Chuck-E-Cheese called “Bouncy Bunny Buns N’ Burgers.” Little do they realize, the Sandman and his crew of thieves, who are a bit brighter in the brains department than he is (though not by much), are pulling off a bank robbery right next door. Meanwhile, Normie Osborn, having already examining Spider-Man’s “Buzzbee” drone, is one step closer to figuring out the link between his family’s greatest enemy and Peter Parker. All of these narratives Conway deftly balances, and, by issue’s end, weaves them together in a concise, logical way.

Credit: Nathan Stockman and Jesus Aburtov (Marvel Comics); from Amazing Spider-Man: Renew Your Vows (2016) #5

[Gerry Conway] showing how much Peter and Mary Jane’s lives have changed now that they’re raising a daughter…[is a] great way of reminding readers of how the Parkers’ lives outside of costume feels just as authentic and grounded as those of ordinary people…

But even though one can read this issue on its own, Conway also continues developing Renew Your Vows’ recurring subplots. Once again, Annie has another precognitive vision due to her enhanced spider-sense, only this time she tells her parents learn about them. Clearly, this is leading up towards the two-part team-up between the Spider-Family and this alternate-reality’s X-Men starting in issue #6, but it also gives her an invaluable storytelling role. After all, as this comic shows, Annie acting as an advanced early warning system of sorts provides a legitimate narrative reason for Peter to change into Spider-Man, and thus makes him a more active character. Annie also helps drive Normie’s narrative, too, as it’s becoming apparent his obsessive crush over her is what’s motivating him more than just wanting to live up to his family legacy by seeking revenge against Spider-Man. Which, in a way, makes him a more complicated and creepier villain.

All of this would be moot, of course, were it not more for some great characterization. Sure, the running gag of Sandman using the wrong word, or not understanding the subtle difference between describing something as a “cake walk” and a “piece of cake,” for example, does get somewhat thin after a while. But in fairness, it helps underscore Flint Marko as the typical “soldier villain,” (to borrow a term from M. Night Shymalan’s Unbreakable) one who’s all about using impulsive, brute force more so than using his wits. Conway also uses light comedy as a means for showing how much Peter and Mary Jane’s lives have changed now that they’re raising a daughter. Because Annie’s the center of their lives, so is everything else, from dining out to conversations with other adults. MJ laments how Annie’s taste in music makes her feel old despite being in her thirties, while Peter gripes about how they’ve watched too many movies with “talking animals.” It’s another great way of reminding readers of how the Parkers’ lives outside of costume feels just as authentic and grounded as those of ordinary people, one the very reasons Spider-Man became so popular in the first place.

Credit: Nathan Stockman and Jesus Aburtov (Marvel Comics); from Amazing Spider-Man: Renew Your Vows (2016) #5

More from Spider-Man

Still, I wish Conway did more with the “Bouncy Bunny” setting and how it’s garishness got on Peter and MJ’s nerves despite Annie’s enthusiasm. I also couldn’t help but be reminded of Peter Tomasi, Patrick Gleason, and Jorge Jimenez’s “Our Town” from Superman (2016) #7, where Clark Kent and Lois Lane take their son, Jon, to the local county fair. That comic was also an amusing take on how what kids consider “fun” is often so much different from what parents think of the word, but did so by also incorporating the setting more into the story. With Renew Your Vows #5, “Bouncy Bunny” is little more than a convenient excuse for the Parkers being close-by to foil Sandman’s robbery. Moreover, there’s still a lot of missing gaps when it comes to the intervening years between Peter and MJ’s time as parents.  Although we learn the fate of this universe’s Harry Osborn, it’s a revelation that also winds up posing more questions than answers.

Credit: Nathan Stockman and Jesus Aburtov (Marvel Comics); from Amazing Spider-Man: Renew Your Vows (2016) #5

I’m also not too crazy about the art for this issue, in which Nathan Stockman, formerly the illustrator of the short-lived Spidey comic series, fills in for Ryan Stegman. When it comes to capturing character expression, Stockman’s work comes off a like a pale, often inconsistent imitation of Stegman’s, especially when it comes to Annie. Her enlarged eyes, head, and mouth and small, stick-like body make her seem like a refugee from Rugrats. This doesn’t, however, mean that Stockman is a bad artist; on the contrary, there are really good panels throughout. The opening two pages (which I’ve talked about in more detail in the Preview Review) are terrific. And Stockman draws an excellent Sandman and shows off his abilities in full effect, proving just how what a powerful heavy hitter the villain can really be. Moreover, he makes effective use of lighting, with a nice touch in using much heavier, traditional inking when it comes to Normie, as opposed to the bright, softer touches during scenes with the Parkers.

So while Amazing Spider-Man: Renew Your Vows (2016) #5 is imperfect, it does exactly what it sets out to do, which is to tell a fun, amusing, and playful story that’s complete from beginning-to-end. It knows when not to take itself too seriously and when to quietly build-up suspense. More importantly, it’s a comic which one can read on their own apart from the rest of the series; but, for those who have read the series from the beginning, also instills a greater sense of appreciation for Conway’s larger narrative. Which, of course, is what any good done-in-one comics should do.

Stillanerd’s Nerdy Nitpicks (possible spoilers)

Credit: Nathan Stockman and Jesus Aburtov (Marvel Comics); from Amazing Spider-Man: Renew Your Vows (2016) #5

Hold on a second! Didn’t the solicit for this issue imply that the Parkers would spend their “family fun night” at their “household,” and that Sandman would “crash [their] party?” Except it turns out, the opposite happened. What gives, whoever writes the solicits?

  • Does “Vinnie’s Place” qualify as a “Bar With No Name” in the Renew Your Vows-verse? If so, how can it be a “Bar With No Name” if it has a name?
  • All right, now we definitely know this is a different Renew Your Vows than the one in Secret Wars. Because I just remembered that Sandman died during that miniseries. But here he is, alive again and up to no good. Either that or the revolving door of death exist here, too.
  • Just when I didn’t Normie couldn’t be more of a creepy little hell-spawn, he then orders any pictures of Annie found in the Buzzbee be sent to him “immediately.”  I don’t even want to think about what he plans on doing with those.

  • So Harry Osborn is also dead in this universe. Guess that means Spectacular Spider-Man #200 is canon. Then again, the way Normie and Betty Brant are talking, it sounds like Harry’s death was more recent. So which is it?
  • No, Betty, I don’t think the word “unusual” accurately describes Harry leaving control of Oscorp to his ten-year-old son. The word you’re looking for is probably “insane.”

    On the one hand, one would think the Parker’s “Family Fun Night” would only include Peter, Mary Jane, and Annie. On the other hand, that they’ve included Glory Grant and her son, Jermaine as a part of said “Family Fun Night,” and thus essentially making them are part of their family, is rather touching.

    You also see a talking animal in real life too, Peter. Remember your pal, Howard the Duck?

  • I guess because Annie’s wearing her Spiderling costume, Sandman wouldn’t recognize the little girl who asked to make a Sandcastle for her during the back-up for Amazing Spider-Man (2016) #1, huh?
  • Wait, even if Spider-Man, Spinneret, and Spiderling completely coat Sandman with air-tight webbing, couldn’t he still get out between the gaps between the webs and the floor?

  • “I really hate that song” You don’t like your theme song, Spidey? But it’s a classic! You sure you’re not thinking about this one?
  • Time for some Stillanerd Speculation: I’m guessing the “R” on the box stands for Regent, and that computer chip inside is what allowed him to tap into and absorb other super powers.