Conway and Stegman conclude the Parker family’s first arc!
Yeah so…home life stuff meant I was shorter on time than in previous reviews. As such I’ve opted to use the pro/con format for this review. Those same home life stuff might make the need for this format necessary for future issues too so apologies. The one advantage of this format though is that I can highlight smaller points that I usually leave out of the other reviews.
The Parkers flee the Mole Man and the Moloids who are firing the Regent’s big green laser device at them. So focused are they upon avoiding the blasts they inadvertently (because they don’t have Spider Senses apparently) find themselves plummeting over a pit of lava.
Whilst Peter and MJ are able to right themselves Annie isn’t so lucky, prompting her parents to dive down to the rescue. Unfortunately between MJ getting sprayed in the face by Peter’s webbing and the pair colliding mid-swing Annie is left to rescue herself.
Meanwhile above ground news reporters are covering the recent events at the Regent’s HQ. Among them is Betty Brant who informs Jonah about Spider-Man’s involvement, along with a new mysterious spider woman (no mention of Annie though). Whilst demanding an inventory of the site (and all information on Annie), young Normie Osborn spots the damaged remnants of Peter’s camera drone amidst the rubble.
Back in the Mole Man’s domain, Peter and MJ bicker over getting in one another’s way, though they soon make up. Their moment is interrupted when Annie asks about a codename for herself, prompting Peter and MJ to argue over her role as a hero. As they continue to ‘talk’ Annie takes note of a hole in the cave wall where the Mole Man’s voice seems to be emanating from. She tries to inform her parents about the hole and how she should use it to sneak up on Mole Man (given how it’s too small for her parents). When they fail to listen she crawls into the hole, infuriating Peter and MJ (though they confess they are sort of proud of her).
As Annie sneaks up on Mole Man he rants about making his enemies pay and how the device converts ‘life energy into weapon energy’, leading him to begin killing his Moloids. Soon though the Parker’s ambush him and his forces, making short work of them.
Later the family observes Normie Osborn fume over the feds impounding the Regent’s device, with Annie commenting on how she finds him cute (*coughjustlikeMaydaycough*). On MJ’s prodding Peter reluctantly accepts Annie as a hero, dubbing her Spiderling.
- The arc is over. Whilst enjoyable we’re done with the set up and can now hopefully move onto more of the meat that fans wanted out of the series. Also we don’t need to see more of this annoying interpretation of Mole Man.
- Whilst there was not enough action for a climax to an arc, the action scenes we got were energetic and well rendered by Stegman who, as I have said before, is exceptional on this book. Of particular note is his opening double page splash and the sequence where Annie climbs down the hole.
- Annie is cute and smart in this issue. She does that thing kids do wherein they do something they know they aren’t supposed to do after ‘informing’ their parents whom they know are not paying attention just then. It was funny (especially when presenting the conversation from her point of view) and fairly true to life. Okay yeah it was maybe on the cliché side of things but in fairness we’ve never seen that particular cliché employed in Spider-Man before.
- The conversation/argument scene itself was also…well it was sort of neat to see again because it’s another down to Earth domestic thing that happens in real life. It was also nice to see the scene balancing out Peter and MJ’s relationship. They were presented as loving, but also far from the perfect couple and like most couples prone to arguing. And fittingly, like many couples such arguments centred upon their kid. So at least conceptually having the scene in there was great though there were problems with it which I will discuss in the cons.
Their earlier disagreement though about working together was in contrast better handled and similarly worked in balancing their problems with their love for each other. The scene leading into it where they got in one another’s way was also amusing and (as the issue itself mentioned) highlighted some of MJ’s more fiery personality traits.
- Peter is not however left out as appropriately he demonstrates a real resistance to his daughter being a hero but simultaneously has pride in her when she shows her skills. A great balancing of the mixed emotions our hero would be feeling in the situation.
- Normie Osborn continues to be intriguing.
- Betty’s reintroduction is a fun bit of nostalgia especially if she sticks around. In the main universe we’ve seen little of her and whether you enjoy her as a reporter character and/or for her…eccentric antics shall we say it’s nice to see her all the same. She’s just part and parcel of the classic status quo and cast we know and love.
- There is some funny/endearing dialogue towards the climax of the issue where Peter and MJ talk about punishing Annie. There is another nice exchange when MJ brings up an old proverb about families fighting together which Peter is sure isn’t really a proverb.
- Finally we have a nice little nod to Mayday at the very end of the issue which also undermines her recent stupid name change into Spider Woman.
- Whilst I’m glad the arc is over and we can move onto to more low key plots with Spider-Man elements (as opposed to Fantastic Four elements), the issue kind of felt like it went by too fast. It wasn’t rushed exactly but it was more like…It just felt like too quick of a read for a wrap up issue.
- Part of that is tied to the Mole Man’s goal being underwhelming, along with his defeat. The former boils down to ‘’shoot enemies with this big laser”. Meanwhile the latter amounts to running away, sneaking up on him, dodging some blasts then a one punch knock-out. As much the Mole Man was annoying I feel like it was a lacklustre way to wrap things up and wasn’t worth the price of admission. I mean this whole arc was fought over just a really big gun basically. That’s it.
Then again this arc is for setting up the characters and the Mole Man is supposed to just be somebody for the family to fight. At which point though there was really little point making Mole Man the villain instead of a Spider-Man centric character. Well, little point except to thematically poise this series as partially a Fantastic Four substitute.
- Going back to that conversation I mentioned in the pros, there are some real problems with it which go right back to the underlying problem with the concept of the series.
Look…the series is supposed to be about the Spider Family. The essential problem being that what parent allows an 8 year old to go into dangerous situations like this? I’ve said this many times before. It was part and parcel of the problem of Renew Your Vows volume 1 when Annie was drafted into the battle. At least there it sort of made sense on the grounds that with so few active super heroes the characters needed all the help they could get. Here though with heroes existing in the world what justification is there for allowing Annie to be an active hero?
In this issue Peter’s natural opposition to this role for Annie is brought up and prompts the conversation/argument between him and MJ. And the thing is that it’s partially consistent and partially inconsistent.
On the one hand its consistent because in Renew Your Vows volume 1 MJ was (towards the end of the story) onboard for allowing Annie to help out, whilst Peter throughout the story was protective of her (going so far as to retire for 8 years and remain in hiding). So in this issue Peter being opposed to Annie’s life as a superhero whilst MJ defends it makes sense, at least for this universe’s versions of the characters.
However it’s inconsistent because in issues #2-3 MJ grounded Annie for coming to the Regent’s HQ and Peter has clearly already consented to Annie being a hero earlier in the series, hence her costume. Similarly in issue #1 the implication was that he’d discussed and accepted that she was going to fight crime with them.
However the question on consistency pales next to the fact that again…why is Mary Jane defending and even encouraging an 8 year old to fight crime? For the sake of argument let’s presume her and Peter’s histories are more or less the same as their 616 counterparts. If that’s true then she knows all too well the dangers her husband has endured in that line of work. It’s one thing to ask for Annie to be trained in her powers so she can defend herself, but this is different.
And the problem really for this book is that it really needs to either come up with a convincing justification for that or not mention this issue and make the concept enjoyable enough that readers accept that this is just the point of the series.
This issue though brings up the incredibly valid criticisms of Annie being a hero but the best defence presented is that Peter is too stuck in his ways and won’t let anyone else help him, which is a weak argument against his point. The problems are compounded when the conversation switches to Annie’s POV and we don’t hear anything else being said. It’s evocative of how Conway is at least struggling to legitimately justify this concept from a character point of view. But the solution to that is not to pay lip service to the fact that Annie’s parents would argue about it without finding a genuine justification.
Making the matter worse is that at the end of the issue Peter’s problems with his daughter’s dangerous new lifestyle are essentially hand waved and he just welcomes her to the team.
- Similarly Conway is again seemingly trying to make the point that having MJ stay at home whilst Peter went off to be Spider-Man was a bad status quo back in the day. The thing is that…it really wasn’t. I mean sure MJ just waiting by a window all the time was bad, but the idea that MJ not being actively involved in Peter’s crime fighting life somehow was undermining of her isn’t true at all. She had her own subplots to deal with, one of which involved her cousin Kristy which you know…Conway wrote.
- Another dilemma in this series is its relationship to the first volume of Renew Your Vows. Conflicting answers have been given as to whether or not volume 2 takes place in the same universe or a different one or if it’s the same universe albeit it altered. This issue continues to present confusion as it has a caption referencing Volume 1 as though the events o it happened exactly as we saw. Which clearly isn’t the case, as other heroes are alive in this universe and it seems unlikely that Peter wasn’t Spider-Man for 8 years or that the world was under totalitarian rule for that long.
- Moving onto some smaller quick fire points, Peter and MJ getting in one another’s way was fun but if we are to presume Peter’s history is mostly the same as his 616 counterparts’ then surely he must’ve worked with other people before in the past. Whilst never an Avenger in this universe did he really never work with Black Cat, Daredevil, Captain America or other such characters? Surely someone as experienced as him would be able to avoid getting in someone’s way or letting someone get in his? If nothing else wouldn’t their respective Spider Senses have allowed them to avoid one another?
- The cave hole was a little too convenient.
- The codename Spiderling is pretty lame if we’re being real here.
- If Normie Osborn is only 10 years old why is he in charge of his family business and acting like he’s an adult? Also whilst creepy to most people why were Peter and MJ so distant and even a little mean to their friends’ son/their godson?
- The way the Regent’s device worked was poorly explained. It converts life energy to weapon energy? What does that mean exactly? It acted as just a big laser but then Mole Man behaved as though sacrificing his Moloids by shooting them somehow powered it up?
- Normie finds Peter’s drone that he used to take pictures of himself. Read my thoughts on issue #1 to hear me elaborate on the drone, but this issue fulfils some of my points about it. Its large size and colourful design make it a big target and could possibly compromise the Parkers’ secrets.
- Finally…how did the family get free in between last issue and literally the first page of this issue?
Ultimately my problems with this series roll right back to the inherent conceptual ones I’ve had since day 1. Beyond those though the only real sins of this issue are being a bit too fast and anti-climactic. Still it was fun enough for what it was though.
Author: Alex Evangeli
I’ve loved Spider-Man, Spider-Girl and the Clone Saga since I were but a wee lad living in the United Kingdom. Glad to be here!