Jody Houser and Nick Roche Put A Teenager Back In The Webbed Underoos In The Amazing Spider-Man: Renew Your Vows #13

by Noah Sharma

I think Spider-Man was the superhero I most looked up to as a child. I could be Spider-Man, I was practically halfway there already! I may have liked Batman better, but Spider-Man ‘got’ me. He was an adult who felt like me. I think that’s an increasingly relatable thought for children and adults alike these days. And that’s the through line the keeps Amazing Spider-Man: Renew Your Vows #13 rolling.

Spider-Man, the essential kid hero trying to be an adult, is all grown up and somehow he’s still a kid hero trying to be an adult. Meanwhile his daughter is sixteen and starting to feel the weight of being born for ‘great responsibility’. The eight-year time skip places the Parker family in a very interesting stage of life and both Jody Houser and Nick Roche have done fantastic work on all the projects I’ve read from them, so, yeah this book has my attention.

Jody Houser has a clear knack for the Parkers’ voices. Peter’s hyperactive wisecracks slide between millennial angst and dad jokes with ease, and Annie’s teenage lethargy feels authentic rather than easy. It even goes beyond the main cast, with a particularly accurate Wolverine showing up in the early pages. Houser plays these characters off of each other wonderfully, demonstrating her ability to craft amusing, relatable moments.

The strength of characterization is an effortless boon to the issue that runs up against its greatest weakness. To get right to the point, the pacing in this issue is wonky. Yes, theoretically this is a textbook comic structure, but the stakes aren’t elevated enough to pull it through. Renew Your Vows #13 lacks a greater purpose than introducing us to Annie’s teenage troubles. It seems likely that this is just an introduction, but there’s little to draw monthly readers back at this point. This definitely seems like a trade-focused narrative at this point.

I was also disappointed a bit by the lack of guidance for new readers. With the time jump and the new creative team I, and likely a number of others, was kind of hoping to remedy my mistakes and jump onto Renew Your Vows, but, this isn’t really a particularly strong entry point. Not that there’s so much to explain; Peter and MJ are together and they have a wonderful daughter, but little things like Annie studying with the X-Men or Mary Jane having spider powers are just assumed to be understood when that may not be the case.

That disconnect is minor, especially if you’ve been aware of either of the other Renew Your Vows runs in one way or another, but it also applies to seemingly new developments. An eight-year time skip and mentions of a VR theme park gear you up to wonder how things have changed, but Marvel time still seems to be in effect, Peter looks as young as ever and his rogue’s gallery is the same as it ever was, when even Adrian Toomes is implied to still be hanging around!

Nick Roche is a natural Spider-Man artist, immediately demonstrating an exuberance and motion befitting of the wall-crawler and his world. Particularly in action scenes, Roche just feels like he’s drawing Spider-Man. There’s a refreshingly unconscious retro vibe to the issue, like it’s channeling 80s and 90s heyday Spider-Man, not as homage but because that’s what came naturally. Roche’s Logan is particularly wonderful, channelling the classic look while also blessedly remembering just how Wolverine is proportioned.

Roche’s greatest weakness is the distinctive look of his faces. Though there’s something refreshing about the specificity, at times it definitely drifts into the uncanny. The angular anatomy of Roche’s faces runs the gamut from strikingly emotive to nigh nightmarish when he’s trying to depict an excess of enthusiasm. There are also some characters that just look…fine. An appearance by a major villain towards the issue’s end is well composed, but, while in no way wrong, just feels a little generic. Hard to believe I can be saying that only a few pages on from a wonderful expression of how one feels after playing a carnival game.

The colors for most of the issue are solidly capable, but for the entire first scene Ruth Redmond knocks it out of the park. Dancing over Roche’s creeping inks, Redmond does some beautiful things with the classic Spider-villain greens and purples before shifting into light and using pink and blue.

There’s also a short comic at the back of the issue written by Robbie Thompson and drawn by Nathan Stockman and Jim Campbell that seriously triggers my nostalgia for Spidey. It’s a fine summary and a nice little extra, but it doesn’t really clarify anything that the cover didn’t already.

Amazing Spider-Man: Renew Your Vows #13 is proof that this concept and this creative team have narrative and dramatic legs, however, it’s not the great jumping on point that it might appear to be. There’s not a lot of context for new adopters and the issue is, critically, missing a hook to lure readers back for the next installment. And that’s a shame, because this really feels like Spider-Man in a lot of the right ways, art and writing.

One expects that the set up will help to support the story that emerges in issue #14, but those on the fence might be better served making their decision based on that issue. In the meantime, Renew Your Vows #13 remains an issue full of charm and classic Spider-Man feel, but lacking in oomph.

Amazing Spider-Man: Renew Your Vows #13 is currently available in comic shops.