If there was any doubt that Amazing Spider-Man: Renew Your Vows would suffer without writer Gerry Conway behind the story, this issue has dispelled all of it. Artist, and now writer, Ryan Stegman has proven himself capable of writing a nuanced and emotional Spider-Man tale enriched, but not dependent, on the history of the character.
Nathan Stockman returns for art duties, last seen in Renew Your Vows #5. Stockman’s inks (no inker was credited, just Stockman as “artist”) are a little sketchier than Stegman’s, but it seems that he took special effort in rendering Normie Osborn this issue, with great success. From little touches like Normie immediately stuffing his teddie bear out from Ms. January’s view to the larger, more expressive panels, Stockman elevates this issue in ways that I cannot stress enough. Going through the issue again, the art is so well constructed and expressive that this could almost work as a silent issue.
The issue opens with a brief glimpse into the Normie Osborn homelife and then later, as the title promises, we get “A Day in the Life of an Osborn.” The first and most striking aspect of Normie’s life is how lonely it is. While “It’s lonely at the top” is not a novel concept, the strength, or maybe even the thesis, of Amazing Spider-Man: Renew Your Vows has been taking old concepts and putting a fresh and unique take on them. At first glance, the B-plot, Spider-Man and Spiderling fighting the Lizard, seems to be filler, but soon the warmth and love between Spider-Man and Spiderling comes forth as a foil to the cold and sterile office birthday for Normie Osborn.
Over the next few pages, we finally get definitive confirmation that Normie has been working on reviving the Green Goblin persona. While there is no surprise there, Stegman restrains himself from using the revelation of the Green Goblin costume as a massive, scene chewing moment for Normie. Instead Normie quietly monologues, telling himself that he is both happy and lucky while Stockman draws him weary and stooped. Through all of this, Normie is just trying to live up to the legacy his father left for him. It’s then we are hit by the Green Goblin reveal and learn that Normie plans on honoring his family legacy by becoming a Goblin himself, having exposed himself to small doses of the Goblin serum to gain heightened intelligence.
Of course, the monologue is cut short by the sound of a crash as the Lizard storms the Osborn labs looking for Regent tech. Spider-Man and Spiderling show up and the B-plot and A-plot of the issue merge. The violence comes to a crescendo, the Lizard is defeated, and Normie charges Spider-Man, only to find he and Spiderling hugging, with Spider-Man telling his daughter he’s proud of her. This triggers Normie to flashback to the events of Spectacular Spider-Man #200, where Normie watches his father die (unbeknownst to Normie, due to an advanced Goblin formula Harry had ingested), and stuns him. Suddenly we see not Normie Osborn, the heir to the Goblin, but Normie, the kid who misses his dad, who spent his birthday alone in a room full of people. The previous monologue with the Goblin reveal was about how Normie was attempting to gain the approval of his late father, but here, seeing Spider-Man showing his daughter the pride that Normie will never be able to see from his own father, breaks him. Spider-Man leaves, attempting to console Normie by telling him his father loved him which leads to Normie rage about Spider-Man’s interference. Normie’s tantrum cracks a photo of he and his father on Normie’s birthday, and as cliché as that beat is, Stockman draws Normie’s anguish and pain so well that I am not ashamed to admit I got misty-eyed.
The last page promises us the hook of the rest of the story, if Spider-Man was a hero, why could he not save his best friend? The hook has two prongs, one that promises to force both Peter and Normie to deal with the answer to that question. It’s an interesting question that will close out this chapter of the title, as I have just learned as I typed this review, that news broke out that Stegman and Stockman will be off as creative leads starting with Amazing Spider-Man: Renew Your Vows #13, as RYV ties into the Marvel-wide Legacy push. These last two issues will serve as an ending to the limited run started by Conway and Stegman, as #13 will feature a significant time skip. Either way, if the quality is consistent for the last two issues, I believe that we’ll have a series that is fit to be placed high on the Spider-Man canon.