It’s a cliché to say that as soon as I finished reading this, I immediately went and re-read it again, and yet, that’s exactly what I did. Not because I necessarily needed to immediately reimmerse in the story, but because I needed to make sure I had not blown through the story or missed any sort of nuance or detail. Last month, I had commented that the weakest element of Amazing Spider-Man: Renew Your Vows #11 was the conversation between Normie and Annie/Spiderling, and that I hoped that ASMRYV #12 didn’t depend on that exchange. Well, about that…
As the narration points out, this issue is about how “open hearts triumph over closed fists.” We later learn that the narrator is Annie eight years into the future, thinking back to the day she first became a super hero. It’s a weird framing piece that seems grafted on to ease the abrupt and unceremonious eight year jump that leads into the new creative team’s run. As a narration, it introduces the story well enough, only to disappear until the very end to reveal its speaker (who I originally thought was Spider-Man, something I believe was intentional). The use of this storytelling technique seems like a crutch designed to tell the reader how to interpret the ending, something I felt should have been handled by the story itself.
The biggest issue with this, however, is that Normie’s face-turn ultimately happened off panel, in between issues. Not only did I re-read this issue, but I grabbed #11and read the back half to see if there was any indication or foreshadowing that Normie was standing down. But there does not seem to be any indication, only that he was slightly troubled by what Annie said. So, from what we read we have to fill in the blank that Normie had a sudden change of heart and that Ms. January needed to, for some reason, incapacitate Normie in order to take over the Goblin mech. It’s a very important part of the story to leave off panel – it’s the peak of Normie’s character arc and in a story titled “The Curse of the Green Goblin” I would expect to see that arc in full. I’ve been very warm on Stegman’s scripts and dialogue so far, but I think this represents his biggest misstep of the series, which is doubly unfortunate because the rest was so good. Almost like watching a rookie pitcher come in and throw a perfect game until the 9th inning.
Outside of that, the battle with the Goblin mech leaves a little to be desired, but it’s still a fun, well drawn fight. The X-Men show up for no reason other than to fill pages and gab, a staple of X-Men cameos. Still, it reminds the reader that the X-Men are still around in this universe, and if I am to understand the solicits correctly, they will have some importance with the new creative team. Their inclusion adds a small wrinkle to the tale – it shows that there is Regent tech in the Goblin Mech, but other than that, there isn’t much done with that information. The mech absorbs Cyclops’s concussive blasts (or the ability to open portals to a dimension of pure concussive energy or whatever the explanation for his powers are this year), but it appears that the blast that it uses to take out MJ and Peter (as well as conveniently obliterate the Venom symbiote) was part of its regular ordinance. So I question the inclusion of the X-Men and what their purpose in the narrative was, other than to show that the “closed fist” style of conflict resolution was not going to work in this situation. If so, it would have been better to see how their inclusion compounded the struggle for Spider-Man, rather than just be told via dialogue that the mech was now even more powerful. After all, Iceman is an Omega-level mutant and the Goblin mech had those powers, though I assume Ms. January does not know the extent of Iceman’s abilities.
Ultimately Normie and Annie bridge the gap between the two families after Normie directs Annie to the core of the Goblin mech, they hug, and the moral of the past twelve issues is shared, “when your life is so filled with love … it’s important to share it.” It’s a sweet sentiment and I think that ultimately the arc is completed and the story stands up well with this in mind – if anything these past few issues have been about the love felt within the Parker family, even more so than their super heroics. That’s what Stegman and Conway said the story was about from the beginning, and I believe they managed to pull it off by the end, even if the last issue itself was somewhat of a misstep.
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While not soaring quite as high as the rest of the series, Amazing Spider-Man: Renew Your Vows #12 does enough to serve as a solid thematic capstone for what has been a modern classic in the Spider-Man mythos.