I want to be that guy that you see in the movies that starts that slow clap all by himself and then everyone joins in. I think I’ve picked the right moment, just the wrong medium. It loses some of its punch when it’s done in print.
This! My fellow Marvel fans, is how you create diversity in comics!
All the while writing for a readership that is now leaning to the older side and still pull off one hell of an entertaining read. This might just be the best Spider-Man comic I have read since Bendis was early in his run on Ultimate Spider-man. This is how you do it!
(It’s still not effective in print.)
This is the first time in a loooooooong time that Marvel has made me giddy with a new title. This was so out of left field that I was completely blindsided by the sheer energy and genius of it. I have so many things that I want to address in this review! I feel like a little kid again; standing around with my friends at the playground as I excitedly ramble on; trying to describe everything I know about who this character is, or who this super team fights… my fingers can’t keep up with the joy I feel at having a Spidey book I can love again! Oh happy days!
I think that my editor Al sent me this book as an early Christmas present, so let me share some of my holiday cheer with you; in the hopes that you can spread it around to your friends and family. Buy this comic. Take my word for it … buy a copy and hand it over to an older fan who has gotten bitter and cynical about the industry of comics and watch their face light up as that warm familiarity wraps around their cold fanboy heart.
OK, so let me break down why this comic is one of the best that Marvel has released in the modern era.
Gerry Conway is no stranger to Spider-Man or comics. With a career that spans close to five decades and a resume that includes the creation of the Punisher and the death of Gwen Stacy this is a legend that knows his characters and has the chops to make them shine.
Conway’s deft hand builds a strong, intelligent, and free-spirited Mary Jane Parker that surely reflects the aspects of Conway’s own female friends and family members. MJ feels real from page one. In one single issue I felt more of a connection with this female lead than I have in years reading Wonder Woman, or any of the new female fronted books. This is a woman, a mother, a spouse, and a hero. This is a complex human being who is trying to juggle a dozen different roles in her life and only successfully achieving her goals in part of them.
Her marriage isn’t perfect.
Her child isn’t perfect.
Her job isn’t perfect.
She is not the prefect hero.
These flaws are the very foundation of what made Spider-Man resonate with fans for years and Conway has somehow found the magical combination and infused it into MJ. Gone are the days of the ditzy runway model, gone are the days of the nagging wife. Mary Jane is now a full-fledged, fully fleshed out heroine that can stand toe to toe with any other female in the Marvel Universe.
Conway has written his magnum opus and funny enough it doesn’t center on Peter Parker, but once again focuses on the love in his life. You feel the concern that MJ has for what Peter does. She doesn’t play the helpless victim or the bitchy wife, instead she worries; just like every wife who has a spouse in the military, or who puts on a badge, or answers a siren that might mean that their lives will be put in harm’s way. She frets. She shows concern, but ultimately she shows unwavering support for her partner.
This narrative is far more complex than simply the woes and worries of a wife. It also shows how there is another side to MJ that we have rarely been witness to, the side that gets sheer enjoyment from dawning her own crime fighting outfit and getting to play hero. It’s in these moments that the adrenaline junkie clashes with a woman who tries to be in control in so many other outlets in her life. This is her escape, her release from the pressures of all the responsibilities she has to account for.
It’s here that Conway shows more maturity than 90% of his peers. He doesn’t play MJ off as a second-rate character, but instead fits her with all the power and grace of Peter and then has the gumption to NOT write her like a male character. He doesn’t weaken his main character just because she has a vagina. Instead he plays fight scenes with more emotion. MJ dives headlong into a fight with the Mole Man and his minions not because she wants justice or to right wrongs, she joins in to watch out for Peter and to protect her daughter. It’s when her family and her need to help collide that she becomes as savage as wolverine. She is one bad mutha.
There is an entire semester of English Lit in just this one issue. The dissection of a strong female lead is something that is sorely lacking into today’s market, and while every company is racing to find a way to tap into that elusive female audience Conway has provided us with a shining example of how to do it right. This is a master a work. Take notes young comic writers. Take notes.
If Marvel was smart they would stop and recognize that all of these marketing stunts of taking male characters and flipping them female are a waste of energy. Here Mary Jane has been established as her own character and then built up to become her own super hero. She does it for her own reasons. She is her own woman. Peter Parker doesn’t have to die or leave the Marvel Universe in order for another character to emerge as his equal (or arguably his better) in order for women to take their rightful place at the forefront. The entire Spider-Man line of books should stop dead in their tracks, redirect their efforts to become the sister book to this amazing title and allow all of us to enjoy great comics for decades to come.
The Spider-Man line of titles has been a launching pad for artists since its inception. Names like Ditko, Romita, McFarlane, Larson, Ramos, and Bagley (and too many other to list) have become industry mainstays because of their time on Spider-Man. Drawing Peter Parker in a new and exciting way will get you noticed real quick in the comic book business. While I’m not announcing anything that comic fans don’t know already by saying that Ryan Stegman’s artwork is stunning I will be the first to announce that the kid has officially “arrived”.
His line work is flawless, his panel layout is perfect, his poses are dynamic, and his story telling is spot on. This will be the title that follows Stegman around perhaps for the rest of his career and if that is the case and this book continues this high-caliber quality then he will be walking around with a lean because of the gigantic feather in his hat.
The costume design is eye-catching and when mixed with Stegman’s style it is striking, mix in some poses that harken back to the aforementioned legendary creators and you’re left with a fusion of new and old that breeds excitement. I want to see what this character is going to do next. I want to watch what the creators have in store. I want that next issue and it can’t get here fast enough. This is the ideal blend of story and art. Stegman should be extremely proud of what he is accomplishing here.
If Marvel gives a damn about its fans then they need to let this creative team run wild. Let them do what they want. Give them the keys to the kingdom and get the hell out of their way! Conway and Stegman could very well be Marvel’s answer to Snyder and Capullo. Let the team with the hot hand continue without having to stop and start for crossovers, summer events, or stupid editorial tinkering. Get out of the kitchen and let these two masterminds continue their work.
Conway and Stegman have not only created the best Spider-Man title of the last decade but they have also created a family book that has more heart than the last ten years of the Fantastic Four! This is Marvel’s new first family and anyone who argues otherwise is a damn fool. The dichotomy of this book is perfect. Given the right amount of time and energy we could be on the verge of one of the greatest Spider-Man runs in recent memory. Don’t forget that the last time Conway was allowed to helm the Spider-Ship he killed Gwen Stacey and created storylines that are still revered to this day. Imagine what this legend could have in store for us moving forward.
I don’t easily get impressed with comics anymore. I read so many that I get numb. I can say with 100% certainty that this book not only knocked my socks off by coming out of nowhere and giving me one the best comics of the year, but it has saved my dwindling love for Marvel’s flagship character. Spider-Man has been stale for years. (No offense to the men and women who have worked on the character, this is just personal opinion) This title has reinvigorated me. It found that dwindling spark of youthful fascination and excitement and breathed new life into my love for the medium.
I guess you can say that it’s a Marvel Christmas miracle! Happy holidays everyone!
Final Score: 5 stars –Marvel’s Book of the Year!
The Amazing Spider-Man: Renew Your Vows #2
Story: Gerry Conway
Art: Ryan Stegman
Colors: Sonia Oback
Letters: VC’s Joe Caramagna