Gerry Conway’s fourth issue of The Amazing Spider-Man: Renew Your Vows came out this week, which means that Peter Parker fans are treated once again to a light-hearted and fun read devoid of Slottian baggage. The writer’s “All In The Family” tale wraps up with the Parkers defeating Mole Man, but it doesn’t come without a few creative red flags for the future.

Ask yourself this question: Is it sexist for Peter Parker to want his young daughter as far away from megalomanic super-villains as possible? This version of Mary Jane thinks so, and for some bizarre reason the hero backs down without much of a fight.

Check out my latest YouTube review for a better explanation of why RYV appears to be taking a problematic stance towards the family’s superhero dynamic. As always, let me know what you think in the comments section below — and be sure to subscribe if you enjoy the video format.

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About the Author Douglas Ernst

I'm a former Army guy who believes success comes through hard work, honesty, optimism, and perseverance. I believe seeing yourself as a victim creates a self-fulfilling prophecy. I believe in God. I'm a USC Trojan with an MA in Political Science from American University.

17 comments

  1. I’ve gotta admit RYV is definitely a fun read. Conway has a familiarity with these characters that certainly gives the book far more authenticity than Slott’s ASM.

    I guess I’ve accepted that in this alternate universe, there are things Conway is going to push more than if he were scripting a more grounded in reality version of Spider-Man.

    I for one am enjoying the ride, but I still yearn for a mature adult Spider-Man to return to his roots, perhaps through the restoration of ASM after the removal Slott.

    The Spider-Incredibles is fun for sure, but I’m really hoping Marvel will restore Amazing Spider-Man to showcasing his individual uniqueness, competence, formidability, resourcefulness, maturity and independence.

    Man, I miss the JMS style of writing.

    1. “The Spider-Incredibles is fun for sure, but I’m really hoping Marvel will restore Amazing Spider-Man to showcasing his individual uniqueness, competence, formidability, resourcefulness, maturity and independence.”

      I totally agree, Magnetic Eye. In many ways, we’re still getting a shadow the real Peter Parker. It’s fun, but it’s not the ASM Peter Parker that is waiting to some writer to let him shine.

      “Man, I miss the JMS style of writing.”

      I think that may have been the last time on ASM that I felt someone actually got the character.

      Update: Thank you for the kind words over at ComicVine, Magnetic Eye. I really appreciate it. I find it interesting that certain individuals like to talk a lot of crap over at other websites, but they won’t say it directly to me on my blog. If they don’t like my work being shared on ComicVine, then they don’t need to click it. It’s as easy as that. But for some reason they go out of their way to ask that it not be made available. Interesting…

    2. No worries Doug, you’re more than welcome. I think even if people disagree with each other’s opinions, a common ground can always be found. We can still be humble and civil in disagreements. We all love the Spider-Man mythos and we all want to read good stories.

      I can always count on you to keep up the good work. Your articles are interesting and informative.

      🕷

    3. “No worries Doug, you’re more than welcome. I think even if people disagree with each other’s opinions, a common ground can always be found. We can still be humble and civil in disagreements. We all love the Spider-Man mythos and we all want to read good stories.”

      The thing that is incredibly bizarre to me is that unless I just give some sort of blanket “awesome!” review to [insert person’s pet title here], there are a lot of people who interpret it as “this is horrible!” It’s like they’re incapable of nuance. I can say that I enjoy a book like RYV, but if I point out a couple of things that irk me then suddenly I’m being negative.

      “I can always count on you to keep up the good work. Your articles are interesting and informative.”

      Thanks, man. And like I said, I appreciate it that you actually speak to me directly when you have questions instead of just lobbing insults from afar. At this point in time I would think it would be obvious that the guy who writes on national defense issues, politics, faith, religion, movies, and comics … would also bring those issues into his comic book reviews as a possible segue into deeper discussions. I guess not! 😉

  2. This really could have been a great moment for Peter to plant his feet on the ground and really give something for M.J. and Annie to think about. It’s obvious that this will be a thing going forward with Peter reluctant to have Annie come along in certain scenarios, so this would have been a good chance for Peter to make his position clear to her on the matter.

    When M.J. says that “Only Peter is allowed risk his life, and the rest of us should just stay home?” Peter should have calmly looked her in the eyes and said:

    “I have been risking my life since I was 15 years old, I have done it because I have this great power, and it is my responsibility to do the right thing with it. But I also started with inexperience, and with that came mistakes. With mistakes, people die. The people we love can die. You two also have great power, but you need to use it responsibly and don’t throw it away with risks. I don’t want you two to make the same mistakes I did. And speaking from experience, this is too dangerous for her to come. Trust me. M.J.”

    Maybe she would have listened, maybe she wouldn’t have, and I’m sure Annie still would have gone off on her own anyway, but at least Peter doesn’t look like a pushover and states his reason as to why he feels the way he does.

    1. “When M.J. says that “Only Peter is allowed risk his life, and the rest of us should just stay home?” Peter should have calmly looked her in the eyes and said:

      ‘I have been risking my life since I was 15 years old, I have done it because I have this great power, and it is my responsibility to do the right thing with it. But I also started with inexperience, and with that came mistakes. With mistakes, people die. The people we love can die. You two also have great power, but you need to use it responsibly and don’t throw it away with risks. I don’t want you two to make the same mistakes I did. And speaking from experience, this is too dangerous for her to come. Trust me. M.J.'”

      Ah, Carnage. I can always count on you to be a voice of reason and a sea of….

      Why do you get it and so many others don’t? It’s baffling that so many people say they are fans of Peter Parker, and yet they cannot see something that right in front of their faces. It’s like a giant hand that’s slapping them and yet they’re like, “Do you feel something? I feel like something is trying to get my attention, but maybe I’m just hallucinating.”

    2. Or maybe:

      “Yes. Shut up and go home.”

      “…and make me a sandwich”

      “…I’m only kidding about the sandwich part…though I won’t turn it down”

      Is there a hero like this even left in the Marvel Universe?

  3. General thoughts: Liked it overall, although it felt a little rushed. Maybe another issue would’ve helped (like having issue 4 focus on the Parkers working out the disagreement and resolving it and then have issue five be them carrying out a plan to save the day)? Agree that the art is good. As a warmup story, I think it worked fine.

    As for the feminist thing, I think I’m going to say “nay,” at least from MJ’s perspective. My case is as follows:

    A.) When reading the conversation, the fact that MJ and Annie are female doesn’t seem to be a factor; the issue is revolving around them being immediate family members. For example, I don’t think the argument would change if Peter and MJ had a son instead of a daughter.

    B.) The rhetorical question if MJ and Annie should be waiting at home instead seems to stem from the fact that it’s one of the few alternatives to them all working together in the field. What else would she say? Also, while I’ve gathered that 616 comics have done some exploring what it means for MJ to be at home and the baggage that would come with, I do know that the Ultimate comics showed that it was very hard on Ultimate MJ knowing that her significant other was out there risking his neck and her not knowing if he’d come back okay or not. So, there is a precedent that she might want to be more active in this part of her husband’s life and that she would have negative feelings towards that specific role. (I guess I’d also take that as the answer to why MJ suddenly wants in on the superhero gig now that there’s a door open. Maybe a little inelegant, but I’m having trouble thinking of any really better alternatives.)

    C.) In the second issue of the series, we have MJ thinking: “Six months later [after joining in as a superhero] [Peter] still seems to think I’m kidding.” She also compares being left out as being “shut out,” which regardless of how logical or fair that is, does give some idea of she feels. If we assume for the sake of discussion that joining the team is important to her as the comic is telling us, I wouldn’t blame her for being sore if she thought that Peter didn’t take it seriously. While slightly different characterizations do apply, in “Spider-Man 3,” MJ was really hurt when Peter was dismissive of something that was important to her. At any rate, the series has already set up that the question of if the family should be superhero-ing together is a sensitive subject for her, meaning that the argument erupting over it is a fairly logical outcome this early in the game, as is her reaction in the cave scene.

    D.) Every one is stressed out and pretty worked up by this point in the story, so I’m not sure how much stock we can put in they’re saying; we all can say things we don’t mean or aren’t thinking through when we’re angry enough. Since MJ was jumping from “I don’t think Annie should be here” and hearing it as “Both of you shouldn’t be here,” I think we’re meant to read that as her overreacting in the heat of the moment, not as “She’s right, he’s wrong.” Also recall that after pulling themselves out of the pit and discussing that Peter’s still getting used to not working alone, he seems to be reaffirming that he’s accepted MJ coming with, further undermining the weight of the “stay at home” line. We also don’t get to hear the entire conversation, since Annie tunes it out shortly after it gets started, so we’re drawing a conclusion from a fragment, not a whole.

    E.) For what it’s worth, I liked that they’re showing some growing pains and a learning curve as everyone is trying to adjust to the new normal and figure out how to make it work, where the limits are, second guessing decisions, disagreeing on execution, etc. It made for a more interesting start than just having everything running like clockwork from the get go.

    As for the Brant and Jameson exchange, there could be shades of it there, but I took it mostly as a simple way to establish that Brant has been promoted to a new job since the original comics (we don’t see Brant’s face or hear her name until Jameson warns her to be careful) and to set Jameson up for the joke regarding her misreading his ire that Spider-Man has a new “partner in crime,” so to speak. (Seeing Jameson being annoyed while holding a lollipop is quite funny. The idea that he quit smoking and is using candy as a substitute isn’t going to get old.)

    Now, as far as the logic in Annie coming along on the missions, I will concede that it’s probably always going to have some suspension of disbelief. However, that was the deal going in, the idea of kid superheroes working with adults has always been a tradition that comics have used, so I’m not sure what else we can do about it. (Given an announcement for an upcoming issue in the series, I wonder if Conway is going to be playing with the idea that Annie is a newbie in the business.) Interestingly enough, the entire family seems to be using web shooters pretty well, which might imply that they’re been training between the original miniseries and the present.

    As far as Annie misbehaving and getting away with it:

    A.) The resolution to web shooter incident in the first issue wasn’t shown, but the scene ended with Peter and MJ clarifying that they’re still not happy with her, so I’m not sure she got off scot-free.

    B.) We have yet to see if the grounding she was told she was getting for getting involved in the Mole-Man fight in the second and third issues was forgotten about or not, esp. given that MJ was pretty consistent on that point (bringing up three times) and seemed to have Peter’s support.

    I actually appreciated that the third issue gave Annie a sympathetic reason for sneaking off to the fight (getting the vision of her parents in trouble and wanting to prevent that) instead of just having her do it out of sheer rebellion or something. Not saying it should automatically excuse it or anything, but there was more depth to the decision. I do hope that the future issues don’t overuse the idea of her getting into trouble; that’ll get old really fast and not reflect well on the characters.

    Maybe I’m wrong about all the above, but that’s was my impression. Mileage may vary and all that.

    I have noticed a few reviewers who were not very happy with the Mole Man characterization. This’s my first exposure to the character, so I was curious what you thought of him, Douglas?

    1. “As for the feminist thing, I think I’m going to say ‘nay,’ at least from MJ’s perspective. My case is as follows…”

      That was a seriously impressive mental gymnastics routine. I’m not even going to try and rebut your arguments other than to tell people to read the book and check it out for themselves. And if they are on the fence about Conway and the feminism thing, then I suggest scrolling through a few days of his Twitter feed…

      “I have noticed a few reviewers who were not very happy with the Mole Man characterization. This’s my first exposure to the character, so I was curious what you thought of him, Douglas?”

      Honestly, I’m not too up on Mole Man because I’ve never been a huge fan of The Fantastic Four. I know how I would write him if I were the guy penning Marvel comics, but in general I have no beef with what Conway and Stegman are doing with him. What are the criticisms? I didn’t know people were that invested in the character. Haha.

    1. With every other argument I see, this statement is by far the most relevant. Anyone that has a child knows that throwing a young teen into danger…at least in modern times…is not going to illicit a tale of courage and sacrifice, it’s a tale of horror and stupidity. A dead youth and a picture of 2 people who completely dropped their most solemn responsibility for a cheap go at sharing the glory of heroism. This is the thought process of suicide bomber parents, not loving people.

      Gerry has kids, though, which just makes it worse to me. Along the lines of “are you stupid?” and ” how long have you’ve been sucking up that Cali BS”. As I know personally, you get into a the political world they live in and everyone is a sacrifice, even your kids.

    2. “…A dead youth and a picture of 2 people who completely dropped their most solemn responsibility for a cheap go at sharing the glory of heroism. This is the thought process of suicide bomber parents, not loving people.”

      Punishing critique, Chuck. That one left a mark!

      “Gerry has kids, though, which just makes it worse to me. Along the lines of ‘are you stupid?’ and “how long have you’ve been sucking up that Cali BS”. As I know personally, you get into a the political world they live in and everyone is a sacrifice, even your kids.”

      It’s kind of like people who bring to their kids to political rallies and use them as props. There is nothing more bizarre to me than seeing little kids dressed in “I’m with her!” or “Feel the Bern!” or “MAGA!” gear … jumping up in down like mini-activists because their parents wouldn’t let them just be a kid.

      Again, vicious blow with a sword of truth there, Chuck.

  4. “That was a seriously impressive mental gymnastics routine. I’m not even going to try and rebut your arguments other than to tell people to read the book and check it out for themselves. And if they are on the fence about Conway and the feminism thing, then I suggest scrolling through a few days of his Twitter feed…”

    Okay, fair enough. My case was intended along the lines of “I don’t hold that view and this is why,” not “I’m trying win a debate.” Guess it goes to show that different things will stick out to different people. Right now, my red flag, so to speak, is the messy continuity between the original miniseries and the ongoing, which is something you haven’t chosen to comment on, I guess like how your red flags are either things I’m not that worried about or are not picking up on.

    “What are the criticisms [about Mole Man]? I didn’t know people were that invested in the character. Haha.”

    Some constants I’ve seen are that they don’t care for the dialogue he’s been given. A podcast review I heard from the “Spider-Man Crawlspace” website had a panelist who specifically held the opinion that Mole Man’s lines were bad writing (incidentally, a couple of panelists are also not fans of Mary Jane being a superhero). Personally, I didn’t mind, although I will concede that a few of his lines do fall flat.

    Another common critique is that Mole Man is out of character in this story. Since I don’t follow “Fantastic Four” either, I couldn’t say if that’s true or not.

    In my own opinion, I do think that Mole Man was an odd choice for an opening villain (although I have heard the theory that the Parkers are supposed to be like the “Fantastic Four,” so he makes sense thematically). I also think that his role in the story is kind of perfunctory. However, since the main focus of the arc was the Parkers themselves, I don’t think he was supposed to be the main focus but the catalyst to drive the former forward.

    “Seems like Mommy Insanity is trying to kill off her daughter. The writer clearly does NOT have kids, to think parents would throw them into the lions den like that.”

    I think both Gerry Conway and Ryan Stegman have kids.

    1. “Okay, fair enough. My case was intended along the lines of ‘I don’t hold that view and this is why,’ not ‘I’m trying win a debate.'”

      I have no doubt that you were not trying to solely “win” a debate, given that I’ve interacted with you on this blog for quite some time. My stance is that it takes some serious mental gymnastics to ignore the in-your-face “girl power!” pandering via Betty Brant and MJ in this issue.

  5. Enh. It’s superhero comics, normal rules barely apply. We could complain about all the Robins over the years. Though MJ shouting like a knee-jerk feminist at an Ashley Judd poetry slam sounds stupid.

    This is a kid who can stick to walls, has psychic visions, and can (I assume) bend iron bars with her bare hands. Some bully could sock Annie, and bust her hand on Annie’s unnaturally tough muscles. What I’d like to see are the Parkers training her to know the difference between, “I can help here” vs “I’m in over my head.”

    Though having an elementary-school aged superhero does create story problems. Annie being in regular public school but still running off during school days to have adventures is going to become either ridiculous or played for comedy after a while; as will be her showing up at school with bruises! The Parkers will end up arrested for facilitating truancy or suspected child abuse! It would help to have the principal be placed there by a friendly agency (Avengers? Shield?) who covers for them, or set up a scenario where Annie is allegedly being partially home-schooled.

    1. “Enh. It’s superhero comics, normal rules barely apply. We could complain about all the Robins over the years.”

      I think that is a pretty interesting point. Are we supposed to be examining this situation in as great of detail as we are? Now, obviously we can and it’s a fair idea to explore (esp. as Conway has been addressing the issue himself), but I have the suspicion that the whole family as a superhero thing is primarily being used as a vehicle to explore the family dynamics in an interesting manner, not to be a deconstruction or completely true to real life. It’s also a very common trope for series writing with families; have them all working as a job that’ll involve opportunities for adventure along the way.

      “Though MJ shouting like a knee-jerk feminist at an Ashley Judd poetry slam sounds stupid.”

      You can read stuff I wrote above for what I thought of that, mental gymnastics or otherwise. (Although, giving it thought, I’ve been a Trekkie for some time and involved in various discussions on that. Based on how some of those conversations go, I can assure you that my theories about this comic barely qualify as warmups in comparison to the mental gymnastics I’ve seen and provided for “Star Trek,” but whatever, right?)

      “This is a kid who can stick to walls, has psychic visions, and can (I assume) bend iron bars with her bare hands. Some bully could sock Annie, and bust her hand on Annie’s unnaturally tough muscles. What I’d like to see are the Parkers training her to know the difference between, “I can help here” vs “I’m in over my head.””

      Yeah, I like the idea of that.

      “Though having an elementary-school aged superhero does create story problems. Annie being in regular public school but still running off during school days to have adventures is going to become either ridiculous or played for comedy after a while; as will be her showing up at school with bruises! The Parkers will end up arrested for facilitating truancy or suspected child abuse! It would help to have the principal be placed there by a friendly agency (Avengers? Shield?) who covers for them, or set up a scenario where Annie is allegedly being partially home-schooled.”

      Two theories, either they will address it or it will be another suspension of disbelief for the sake of the premise. Which it is and how well we’ll accept it depends on the quality of the stories and writing, I think.

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