Dan Slott is back, delivering a tale of Peter Parker and Mary Jane Watson’s struggle to maintain their family in the face of Secret Wars. However, references to Hickman’s massive event are non-existent. Instead, Dan Slott creates a dystopian world, reminiscent of the worlds of Orwell and Huxley, where supervillains hunt superheroes in the name of a despotic overlord. Despite the departure from the Manhattan that Spidey traditionally swings through, Dan Slott proves that he’s still more than capable of telling a story that puts the wall-crawler’s heart and determination on full display.
In this universe, Peter and MJ never sold their marriage to the devil and have raised a daughter, Annie. However, with the world quickly turning against superpowered people, Peter and MJ have to find ways to keep themselves and their child alive. The comic plays with the classic conceit of Peter and MJ struggling to make ends meet, but here, Slott puts a unique twist on that idea. This time, they need to earn enough money to keep their daughter alive; not just clothed and fed, but out of the sights of the despotic villains hunting superpowered people. Twisting the traditional role of parents is a clever move that allows the traditionally “boring” activities of parenting to tie into the larger plot and become relevant and dramatic.
One of Dan Slott’s greatest strengths is his use of continuity. Superior Spider-Man was set up over 100 issues of Amazing Spider-Man, and had roots in the character’s 50+ years of history. However, with Secret Wars taking place on Battleworld, a patchwork planet comprised of the shattered remains of the now-destroyed Marvel Universe, one would think there wouldn’t be much in the way of continuity for Slott to utilize. However, he puts all those notions to rest fairly easily. Slott uses the dystopian nature of the story to allow several B-list Marvel characters to take the stage. Rather than reduce these characters to simple cameos, however, Slott uses their very presence to illustrate the danger of the brave new world that Peter and his family live in, and how tenuous their existence in it is.
Adam Kubert, John Dell, and Justin Ponsor make their return here, and their art is in top form. The issue starts with a nightmarish sequence highlighting Peter’s inner turmoil and guilt from choosing to hide rather than fight. The scene is short, but it’s drawn and colored like a abstract painting, while at the same time never losing focus or flow. Later, they get the chance to depict the new Manhattan in all it’s all-too-perfect glory. The city is shiny and streamlined, like something out of the 1939 World’s Fair, but with grungy, 1980s seediness lurking in the shadows, illustrating the possibility of dissent rising up to meet the city’s new despot.
All in all, Renew Your Vows is turning out to be one of Dan Slott’s finest Spider-Man stories. Whereas recent issues of Amazing Spider-Man have almost been bogged down by their reliance on continuity, the nature of Secret Wars and Battleworld have allowed him to write a story where not only are Peter and MJ parents, but where Peter has to question whether or not the lives of his wife and daughter are worth the lives of the entire city. With the stakes raising higher and higher, Slott has quite a job ahead of him in delivering on the escalating drama, but if you’re a fan of Spider-Man, you’re going to want to be here to see how this all ends.