Committed to making this title more focused on the Parker family as a collective rather than Spider-Man and His Amazing Family, writer Gerry Conway follows the same basic formula laid out from the issue prior for Amazing Spider-Man Renew Your Vows #3. This time we follow Annie May and the events that lead her to conflict with the Mole Man. We see more of Annie but, like #2, the plot presented in #1 only progresses in the final few pages.
This is the first time we’ve ever focused the narrative attention on Annie May, and here we learn a little about her school, her classmates, and her powers. Conway handles the exposition well, making sure to move the reader along quickly without dwelling too much on what’s happening while also dropping key information that will be important later but as of now has little impact on the plot.
Conway’s handling of a child’s voice is more or less spot on – he manages to capture the spirit of the child (always obsessed with age and school year), while sidestepping the all too familiar problem of an adult trying to sound like a child. His schoolyard antics are a bit tired, as his characters suggest in dialogue, but work to establish playground relationships without spending too much time and distracting from the main narrative of the issue, that is, Annie May.
But exactly how much of this is actually needed? It is difficult to say what in this story counts as fat to be trimmed and what will play off later because Conway loves to set objects in motion that won’t collide for another four issues or so. This can result in a sporadic and slow read going month-to-month (see Carnage, also written by Gerry Conway) but works as a more cohesive story when collected in trade. What can be said is that this issue is extraordinarily decompressed. Artist Ryan Stegman really stretches some sequences out, taking three pages to show Annie May changing into her costume and ditching school. A solid fifth of the page count for #3 is devoted to splash pages and spreads with a few other pages being not much more than three or four panels. There isn’t anything inherently wrong with decompressed storytelling, but a balance must be struck so that readers feel like they got their full $4 out of the comic. As it reads now, I feel like this issue could have easily been a ten page backup in the end of ASM RYV #1 rather than the two slice-of-life comics we got, cute as they were.
Because most of the action takes place in the school, we don’t get to see the Parkers interact as much as we did in the previous two issues, but we do get to see the Parker parents filtered through their daughter’s eyes. It allows the reader an insight into Annie May’s relationship to her parents, and allows us to more easily place Annie May’s personality because of it. We see that she is a child who loves her parents, doesn’t want them disappointed, but also holds some of her mother’s rebel spirit and her father’s sense of heroic responsibility. That’s fine for the groundwork of a character, but maybe not if we were going to spend an entire issue focused on introducing her.
There is a little intrigue set up as Conway continues to set pieces on the board. Annie May seems to have developed a secondary spider-sense that works more like Madame Web’s precognition than just a danger tingle (which she also has.) Little Normie also seems to have taken a shining to Annie May, commenting as such as she swings around the Mole Man’s colossal dinosaur. Both are plot threads that might not be the freshest in the world (after all, the Normie/Parker daughter romance was a big part of Tom DeFalco and Ron Frenz’s Spider-Girl), but are presented here with enough twists that they provide a decent enough hook for the reader’s interest – even if it is a little weird to hear a child refer to another child as a “marvelous young woman.” But we’re supposed to understand that Normie has a lot on his plate and has thus grown up a little faster than others, perhaps he already has developed an interest in girls.
Amazing Spider-Man Renew Your Vows #3 is a serviceable issue that plays an important role in introducing Annie much like last issue introduced Mary Jane, yet this issue didn’t quite give us as deep a look into Annie May as we got in Mary Jane. Part of this is because children tend to be more blunt and one dimensional, not having a life time of experience and neuroses to draw upon, but also because of just how decompressed this issue was. #4 marks the end of this particular arc – evident by the “to be concluded at the end of this issue – so hopefully moving forward Conway is able to deliver more tightly packed and paced arcs and issues, lest he repeat some of the same mistakes as Carnage.