If you’ve been keeping up with Mark and Dan’s “Essentials” podcast, you’ll know that a Spider-Man and Wolverine team-up has some history to it. Because of that, including a two-part X-Men guest arc makes a little more sense for Amazing Spider-Man: Renew Your Vows, even if there wasn’t much of a Renew Your Vows twist on the team-up. While the issue itself wasn’t the highlight of the series, it wasn’t particularly bad when viewed in a vacuum, but when compared against writer Gerry Conway’s previous title Carnage, some old habits and common complaints emerge. More on that later though.
The action picks right up with the start of the issue. Spider-Man and Wolverine spring an ambush, trade a few lines, and then jump straight into team-up mode, smashing their way hallway to hallway through the School for Gifted Youngsters. Not a lot of weight is put into this aspect of the story, as Conway crams three plot threads into one 20-page book, nevertheless, artist Ryan Stegman shines with paneling these fight scenes. Also worth a note is a poster-worthy, full-page spread of Spider-Man and Wolverine racing forward – Spider-Man tense, Wolverine with a competent-yet-wild look.
Meanwhile, Cyclops and Spinneret (as she reminds the Blob) continue their conversation from last issue that serves as more background for the current status quo at the X-Manor. Jean never recovered emotionally from the Dark Phoenix incident while Cyclops believed she had, driving a wedge between the two. The Blob crashes the party, and Mary Jane takes a hands-on lesson in that nothing moves the Blob. Cut to Cerebro, where Spiderling asserts herself and her morals to Jubilee. Eventually the three meet up, and Spinneret quickly disposes of Magneto and his plot.
By the halfway point in the issue, Conway devotes full time to the Annie/Jubilee conflict, abruptly wrapping up the two B plots. Looking at just this issue by itself, it seems excessive to have two separate fights for MJ and Peter taking up real estate in an arc that is ultimately about Annie asserting her own agency against the tyranny of “you’re too young to understand.” However, I believe this two-issue arc is being used to foreshadow the conflict to come with the next few issues. For those who have not been keeping up with the solicits (or did not read the last page of this issue), the next arc will deal with MJ taking on the Venom symbiote. Knowing that, Cyclops’s own relationship troubles vis-a-vis dark powers takes on a new meaning, spelling out marital strife for Peter and MJ brought on by the Venom symbiote’s corrupting influence. The segregation of the team-ups (Wolverine and Spider-Man, Cyclops and Mary Jane) might also suggest that the two will have similarly diverging opinions; MJ will think she has the emotional strength needed to overcome the symbiote while Peter believes that it requires outside help. Jean’s own admission “there’s a dark side to all of us” takes on a similar foreshadowing tone, strengthening my feelings on this particular reading of this issue.
That being said, this is pure speculation but looking back to Carnage, Conway often wrote “for the trade,” and I would argue that this style of foreshadowing is better suited for such readings – especially considering that this X-Men arc and the proceeding three issues will be bundled together for the second trade volume. While not necessarily a bad thing in ASMRYV #7, Conway’s more ambitious decisions in Carnage hurt the month-to-month enjoyment of the title and while I am certainly not judging Conway’s Renew Your Vows through the lens of Carnage, I am wary of signs of that title’s pitfalls appearing in this title.
But if my readings are incorrect and I’m just reading way more into the Cyclops/Wolverine/Jean triangle than I should be, then this issue is kind of a flop. It misses an opportunity to showcase Spinneret and Spiderling without the Amazing Spider-Man in tow, simply leaving him and Wolverine knocked out with Xavier and Jean – something a little more interesting on a narrative standpoint than splashes of two separate fights. Which leads me to a difficult juncture as a reviewer – do I grade the book based on my assumptions or do I take it at face value? This also extends to the reader’s own enjoyment; is it fair to devote half the book to something that’s inclusion only makes sense within the context of material that has yet to be released? With more space devoted to the two separate team-ups their inclusion could have been justified by virtue of providing action, but as presented here they function more like cinematic smash cuts, mere examples or suggestions of action interspersed between monologues. I’m looking forward to next month’s issue giving me some answers, but I’m not sure if this issue would win over readers grabbing this off the shelf on impulse.