Episode 0006: Amazing: Spider-man: Renew Your Vows, Volume 2: The Venom Experiment (Part One)

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Adam Graham takes a look at Amazing Spider-man: Renew Your Vows, Volume 2: The Venom Experiment with a look at the alternate universe Spider-Family and the reason they exist. He discusses Issues 6 and 7 as the Spider Family meets the X-men.

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Transcript Below:

Spiderman and family meet the X-Men, fight the Lizard and face a giant Green Goblin robot. Find out more about it on today’s episode of the Classy Comics Podcast.

Welcome to the Classy Comics Podcast where we search for the best comics in the universe. From Boise, Idaho here is your host Adam Graham.

Welcome to today’s episode of the Classy Comics Podcast. If you have a comment email it to me classycomicsguy@gmail.com. Today we’re going to be talking about the trade Amazing Spiderman: Renew Your Vows Volume Two: The Venom Experiment, collecting issues Six through Twelve of the ongoing Amazing Spiderman: Renew Your Vows series. So, what’s this series about? To explain that you have to begin in the 1980s with the marriage. In both the comics and comic strip Spiderman, AKA Peter Parker, had been a bachelor from the 1960s on. He had a series of women in his life: Betty Brant, Gwen Stacy, Mary Jane Watson, Deborah Whitman and the list goes on and on. However, invariably, tragedy would strike or Spiderman would come in between Peter Parker and happiness in one way or another.

However, the decision was made for Peter Parker to marry Mary Jane Watson and it was a big to-do. It was done in both the comic strip and the comic books, as well as a live action ceremony performed by Stan Lee himself at Shay Stadium. However, many comic book writers chafed against the marriage, and really struggled with how to write it well. The best writers managed to come up with interesting angles on the marriage, while others could only portray Mary Jane as someone who was constantly worried about Peter, and serving no constructive purpose in his life. And increasingly Marvel looked at ways to get rid of the marriage in order to avoid having Peter seem too old, and they tried several things. There was a period where Peter and Mary Jane were separated and there was a period where they actually killed Mary Jane off. Neither of these were accepted by fans and Mary Jane returned alive, so this led to One More Day.

In One More Day Peter’s Aunt May is critically wounded by a gunshot wound. Peter turns to help from anyone in the Marvel Universe he can find it from including Doctor Strange and Doctor Doom and Doctor Octopus and Reed Richards of The Fantastic Four but all are powerless against a bullet wound. They might be able to bend reality, summon dark forces from other dimensions, bend time itself and threaten creation with utter destruction, but a bullet wound – that’s just a little bit too hard for them. So, Peter ends up trading his marriage to Mary Jane to Mephisto, the Devil character of the Marvel Universe in exchange for Aunt May surviving and his secret identity being restored which was revealed after civil war.

For many fans, One More Day led to a parting of the ways with Spiderman and disillusionment with Marvel Comics because it represented a betrayal of the character of Peter Parker and Spiderman. Not only had the comics portrayed Peter as someone who cared about morals and responsibility, doing the right thing and that was all betrayed here because ultimately, according to One More Day, the big reason he couldn’t let Aunt May die is his inability to take responsibility for his own sense of guilt about the person who shot her having done so because of his activities. And it…also Spiderman has always been a character that rue, changed and advanced in life. When Peter Parker became Spiderman he was sixteen years old, and Stan Lee made the really monumental decision in Amazing Spiderman Number Twenty-Eight to have him graduate from High School. This was really something that had not been done. If a character was in his thirty teenager he would pretty much stay that way for decades on in. This was something that marked Marvel apart. Spiderman was a character who aged, who had new experiences. He graduated college, he went to Grad school. One More Day tried to take him back to what the writer Joe Quesada imagined as the good old days and thus violated the character.

Fan reaction remained negative. The comic strip tried to follow suit with undoing the marriage. They didn’t bother with something like One More Day, they just announced that they were changing it so that Peter was now single and back in college. The reaction from readers was so vociferous that the comic strip reversed course, but no such luck with the Marvel Comics which is insisting that this will be forever the way it stands. However, as part of Marvel’s Secret Wars event from 2015 – not to be confused with the very popular 1980s mini-series – there were various battle worlds created and one of those was written by Spiderman author Dan Slott who created a world where the marriage between Peter Parker and Mary Jane Watson remained intact. And the series was Amazing Spiderman: Renew Your Vows.

It was a five-issued limited series, and after the events of Secret Wars all of the alternate universes were to be done away with, including the popular Ultimate Universe. But the popularity of Amazing Spiderman: Renew Your Vows with fans who, like the marriage, led to the series being reissued as an ongoing series written by Jerry Conway who had a memorable run on the Amazing Spiderman back in the 1970s. In the series Peter Parker is married to Mary Jane and they have a daughter Annie who also has spider powers. In addition, the villain named The Regent who the Spider Family dealt with and defeated in the first mini-series had the power to drain the superpowers from other superpower beings, and this is something that Peter appropriated so that Mary Jane could tap into his power and they could fight crime together. This volume starts off with School Days. Annie is offered a chance to attend a very special school – the Xavier School – i.e. the one the X-Men went to. However, during their visit Magneto attacks with a little help from the inside.

So what do I consider some of the positives of this story? One is meeting these alternate Earth X-Men where some things have turned out a little bit differently than on the main Marvel Earth. For one thing, Wolverine is married to Jean Gray. They explain how that came about and they also offer an explanation for why One More Day isn’t part of the reality on this world, and the answer is that Professor Xavier actually avoided the civil event which led to Spiderman becoming a wanted man, which led to Aunt May being shot. It was also interesting how there managed to be a debate over whether Annie should go to this private school between Peter and Mary Jane based on their very different experiences in school. For Peter, school was miserable with a lot of bullying and being picked on and that was definitely something that Annie would not have to worry about at the Xavier School. Mary Jane had a far more positive view of public schools and that led to her taking a different stand. It’s a good contrast and it’s a believable bit working that shows how these two relate. I also like the scene where Annie took on the mutant traitor who helped bring Magneto to the school.

The big negative of this story is that Spiderman is essentially like Superman in Season One of the Justice League TV series. In that series they had an idea that they didn’t want Superman just to solve everything and they wanted to highlight other heroes which is a good goal. The problem was that they were constantly having Superman knocked out and beat up. And the story has the same issue: it’s wanting to highlight the heroism of Mary Jane and Annie, but because of that Spidey ends up getting held back. There needs to be more of a balance and I hope that in future volumes they get to that, but other than that point this was a pretty enjoyable book. And also these two Issues have the best art in the series as Ryan Stegman, the artist, would become the writer for the rest of the book and other artists would come in. In my opinion they were OK but not quite as good as Stegman.

Well this episode has gone a bit long just because of all the backstory to explain this series, so in order to avoid having a super-long podcast we’ll sign off for now and be back later with the other three stories in this series. If you do have a comment send it to me classycomicsguy@gmail.com. From Boise, Idaho this is your host, Adam Graham, signing off.

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