Amazing Spider-Man: Renew Your Vows #4

The past three issues of this series have spent a lot of time justifying why Peter Parker is hiding with his family during a time when those with superpowers are being hunted, but Dan Slott begins to bring back the great power Peter has within him -- along with those of his similarly superpowered daughter -- in "Amazing Spider-Man: Renew Your Vows" #4. Slott brings several more welcome characters into his story, both familiar and obscure, from within Spidey lore and without, giving Adam Kubert and Scott Hanna the opportunity to illustrate a very fun penultimate installment to an increasingly strong series.

Over the course of the series, Slott has convincingly argued the great power/great responsibility motif in favor of Peter's greatest responsibility of all: his family. Conversely, he's also made a case for the other side of that no-win situation, namely by unveiling the consequences his inaction has caused elsewhere. Slott sets up a tense scenario that both justifies Peter's decisions while showing the fallout from them, practically side-by-side. It's a deliberate conflict where Peter not only has to make the heroic decision, but so does Mary Jane. Ironically, young Annie May yearns to use her own great powers responsibly, in a manner not unlike Uncle Ben once taught Peter, with Peter and MJ now preaching responsibility by containing her powers.

Slott also ensures that -- while no one can ever fault a father and husband for protecting his family -- the situation still doesn't feel quite right and, in this issue, that uneasiness is openly addressed. With that, the story breaks wide open as an influx of characters on the side of the resistance take a more active stand and finally go on the offensive. MJ, who throughout has been the stoic but protective mom, reaches that difficult point in every mother's life where she has to let her little girl fight her way through the world; literally, in this case. Annie May herself, one of the series' strongest characters, now gets to be herself and Slott ensures that she does so with a grand debut. Kubert choreographs a dynamic and hilarious entrance for Annie May, who makes a very impressive if unorthodox first impression.

Kubert and Hanna also get to cut loose with a cast of characters who are chosen wisely for the story's needs. Some are rendered true to familiar form, while others are altered in a manner befitting of this darker region of Battleworld. Even the neglected, ill-remembered Spidey villain the Spot is given a serious if somewhat pedestrian/disturbing appearance. Kubert's layouts are smooth and flow naturally, and Hanna adds a texture where necessary to add a more realistic touch without trying to be photorealistic. If there was any doubt that Annie May would see some action this issue, Kubert's cover addresses that in convincing fashion before the comic is even opened.

It's no big surprise that the buildup has been leading up to the Parker family swinging back into action. "Amazing Spider-Man: Renew Your Vows" #4 finally pulls the trigger on it in a nicely structured and satisfying lead-in to next issue and presumed final showdown.

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