One of my favorite things about alternate universe stories is getting to see the domino effect of change in action. Much like MC2, the universe of Renew Your Vows (officially dubbed with the clunk Earth-18119), resembles the main continuity Earth, and while the past five issues have devoted most of their time to building up the characters, Amazing Spider-Man: Renew Your Vows #6 takes a step back from the low-boil Normie Osborn plot to take a bigger picture of the state of the 18119 universe post (and pre)-Regent.
This issue kicks off with a “surprise” birthday party for Peter. We see a little more of the extended support cast, as well as some laughs at Annie staring dead-eyed at plate of vegan/alternative cupcakes. The party is quickly crashed by Charles Xavier, who somehow fails to make much of an entrance despite sporting a rather large canary yellow hoverchair familiar to all of us who grew up on a honey-sweetened nondairy flourless faux-nut fudge-free diet of Saturday morning cartoons in the mid ‘90s (who am I kidding, it was all processed sugar and red food dye #40). In fact, all of the X-Men costumes should be familiar to that crowd. Xavier extends to Peter an invitation to tour the ground of Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters and the story begins.
Peter, MJ, and Annie show up the following day in full regalia to meet Xavier in front of the school grounds. The spread is is absolutely beautiful and colorist Jesus Aburtov really brings artist Ryan Stegman’s inks to life. The Parker-Watson family meets the X-Men’s own new family which introduces the Wolverine-Jean Grey daughter, Kate a.k.a. Shine. The issue doesn’t really take off until about the halfway point with Peter and MJ sitting (demasked) in Xavier’s office, debating the merits of Annie attending the School for Gifted Youngsters.
Writer Gerry Conway does a good job of reiterating the defacto X-Men theme since the ‘80s in modern terms without being too obvious, making sure to carefully place the word “other” into a conversation between Cyclops and Mary Jane. I haven’t followed the X-Men much past House of M, so I can’t say much for their presentation here, but it definitely seems more “business as usual” than what Marvel has been serving up recently. Whether or not that’s a good thing I guess is up to the crossover X-Men fans reading this.
But this raises the red flag of the issue. In a series so new and so different, is it really a good thing to spend this much time with another team that has so much baggage? Cyclops expands the lore of the alt universe slightly by explaining that Civil War as it happened in 616 did not occur, and instead Xavier stepped in as a “policeman for mutant-kind” – an idea that I’m not sure was properly fleshed out all the way. Instead of the registration, Xavier and the Avengers agreed to “self-police.” Cyclops does not go into detail, but I assume it is something similar to what was seen in Avengers: The Initiative where young teens are sent to a boot camp to learn how to use their powers. While going to camp was voluntary in The Initiative (to an extent), Cyclops seems to imply that Xavier and the Avenger’s alternate is not. Since Civil War never happened, Peter never unmasked, and Mephisto never came into the equation. So we can tie this back to the general thesis of Renew Your Vows, which is nice. But like I said, this kind of thing is what I like about alternate universe stories.
The comic ends with Magneto assaulting the campus, taking down Beast, Jean and Xavier. Jubilee turns out to be a mole and it seems that Annie is poised to be the one with the best chances to stop Magneto’s plot to do… something with Cerebro. He explains Cerebro to Annie (and those readers who might not be familiar with it, a classic trick), makes a vague threat in regards to mass xenocide, and then states that controlling Cerebro gives him the ability to control the future. So, clearly he is going to use Cerebro to advance his agenda, but we do not know to what extent. Interestingly, when Xavier and Jean are put out of commission by a telepathic shock, Peter’s own Spider-sense seemed to put him in mass distress as well. Whether or not this is Conway’s way of implying something about the Spider-sense or not is up to debate.
All-in-all, this is still a fun issue, even if the X-Men addition so soon seems a little questionable. Like all of the issues before it, Amazing Spider-Man: Renew Your Vows #6 puts at least some of its page count into expanding the world around the Parker-Watson family. I’m not sure if the Magneto threat is supposed to serve as the A-plot or the B-plot for this arc, but so far it has about the same level of nuance as last month’s bank heist. Perhaps at the end of the arc we’ll pull back to see Normie Osborn pulling the strings, but for now it seems like Conway is delivering a boilerplate X-Men story with the Spider-Family serving as a twist. Not that there is anything wrong with that – after years of giant, Earth shattering stories filled with attempts at moral grays it is nice to have a story where there is a clear good and a clear bad and the clear bad will probably get knocked around, especially in a book that’s driven in part by nostalgia.