With just over one month remaining before Marvel’s huge Secret Wars event kicks off, nary a day goes by without more details about the event’s many crossovers and tie-ins. Some of these are exciting returns to beloved characters and storylines, some are entirely new things, still others are wonderfully strange mashups. But one of them is different; choosing instead to revisit one of the most controversial decisions in recent Marvel history: The Amazing Spider-Man: Renew Your Vows.
EW has the first details about the Secret Wars tie-in that will bring back Peter Parker’s marriage and child for what’s being billed as “The Last Spider-Man Story.”
Ever since EW revealed the first tease for Vows, speculation has run wild. While there isn’t much of a way to objectively measure these things, the dissolution of the Spider-marriage in 2007’s One More Day is easily one of the most widely disparaged story decisions for the character in recent memory. (The “death” of Peter Parker leading up to Superior Spider-Man may have come close, but a lot of people have come around on that front. Not nearly as many have said, “Hey, the Parkers selling their marriage to the devil to save Aunt May was actually great.”) Mourning the lost Parker marriage has become a regular tradition, most recently practiced by celebrated Atlantic writer Ta-Nehisi Coates earlier this year.
“There are legions of Spider-Man fans that are passionate about changes that have happened to Spider-Man continuity,” says Renew Your Vows writer (and current Spidey scribe) Dan Slott. “They are upset that the baby went missing, that the marriage went away. Spider-Man has been around for fifty years, and the marriage was around for twenty-five. So now we’re seven or eight years into a world without a married Spider-Man. It’s a big itch that people want scratched.”
Of course, as any longtime Spidey fan will tell you, the baby is probably the most bananas part of all this. One More Day was a very clear story decision—Marvel felt the character needed revitalizing, so they made some changes. One of those changes was making him single again. This sort of thing happens all the time—but what made One More Day particularly contentious was how this change was made. Because it really did involve a deal with the Marvel equivalent of the devil, and that seemed a bit…off.
But that baby! The baby was just altogether forgotten and never really definitively addressed—in the long, winding mess that was “the Clone Saga,” Mary Jane told Peter that she was pregnant (in Spectacular Spider-Man #221), only to be poisoned and be told by doctors that the baby girl was stillborn (in Sensational Spider-Man #11) while readers are led to believe that she was still alive and in the hands of the Green Goblin, even after a fakeout that led to the return of the previously-dead Aunt May (in Amazing Spider-Man #441).
In fact, one of the most popular Spider-Man spinoffs, Tom DeFalco and Ron Frenz’s Spider-Girl, was set in a world where that baby definitively survived and grew up to replace her father. In Renew Your Vows, Slott is particularly interested in really diving into how the role of husband and father would affect Peter’s heroic mission.
“Spider-Man, when you get down to it, is a character about responsibility. And the second he’s a father and a husband—he has a responsibility to share his powers with the world, but suddenly he has two people that are his whole world. That changes everything, the complete dynamic of what it means to have great power and great responsibility,” says Slott. “You need to be there for your daughter, you need there for your wife—in a way that he hasn’t had to be there for anyone else. And that drastically changes what it means to be Spider-Man.”
So yes, Baby Parker is a pretty big deal to both fans and the general goings-on behind Renew Your Vows. But, as Slott notes, there’s a purpose to it all, and it’s probably not what you think it is.
“With any story where you give people what they want—there’s a difference, as a storyteller, between what your readers want and what your readers need. In a good Peanuts story, you want Charlie Brown to kick that football. But if Charlie Brown kicks the football, it’s over!” says Slott. “All the best stories in serialized fiction–it’s always about teasing the greatest wishes and wants, but monkey-pawing it. Always giving you what you want, but not the way you want it.”
So what else do fans want? What else might they see in Renew Your Vows?
“You haven’t seen Spider-Man’s classic villains the way you know and love—I wouldn’t be surprised to see Eddie Brock as Venom in this story,” teases Slott. “Or Sergei Kravinoff as Kraven the Hunter in this story. There’s going to be a lot of bullets in the gun for things you wanted to see in a Spider-Man story that you haven’t seen in a while. This is the ultimate classic feel. This is the last Eddie Brock story. The stakes have never been higher for Peter Parker because he’s never had so much to lose. So he has never been this close to the edge. And these are the Last Days.”
Even with the return of all these long-missing classic Spidey elements, there’s also something new in the mix (besides the whole Secret Wars thing). If you’ve been following Secret Wars via Marvel’s interactive Battleworld map, you’ll notice that Renew Your Vows is set in a region of the world known as The Regency—it’s named after The Regent, the mysterious villain of Renew Your Vows. The Regent’s identity is top-secret—all that Marvel is saying about him/her is that the villain has a plan in place, and it’s one that Daredevil and Moon Knight have already fallen prey to.
As for Renew Your Vows’ role in the grand scheme that is Secret Wars, it’s Marvel’s intent to make the series—which will be the core Spider-Man book throughout the event—stand on its own two feet.
“If all you care about is Spidey,” says Slott , “it’s totally cool if you have no idea what’s going on in Secret Wars.”
But if you’re interested in the future of Spider-Man’s world after Secret Wars, Renew Your Vows is where you’ll want to go to see what’s going to make it into the new Marvel Universe.
“What I can tell you? No matter who or what or how Spider-Man comics will be made in the future—elements from this story will go on into the next incarnation,” says Slott, speaking extremely carefully. “Elements. Of this. Yes.”
The Amazing Spider-Man: Renew Your Vows #1 by Dan Slott and Adam Kubert goes on sale June 3, 2015. Courtesy of Marvel, here are some exclusive preview pages from series artist Adam Kubert.