This year's Peter Parker: Spider-Man annual takes us back in time to when Peter Parker was in high school, so that we may witness the adventure that he had on his summer vacation.
When the story opens, we find Peter Parker, along with every other student at Midtown High, rushing to get as far away from the school as they can for the next three months, because it's the start of summer vacation. Peter gets home and packs his things, and his Aunt May reluctantly drives him to the airport, so that Peter can catch his flight to Peru, where he'll spend the summer working for the Red Cross.
Upon his arrival in Peru, Peter boards the Red Cross bus. But the roads in the Nazca River region of Peru leave something to be desired, and the bus starts careening out of control. Peter bursts into action and leaps out the back window of the bus. He grabs onto the back of the bus, digs his heels into the ground, and uses his spider-strength to gradually slow it. Miraculously, he's not observed by anyone on the bus as he's doing this, although he is spotted by some suspicious-looking people in the shadows. Peter manages to slow the bus enough that it doesn't topple into a ravine, but when it slams into a tree trunk and comes to a jarring halt, Peter slams into the back and is knocked unconscious. The afore-mentioned suspicious-looking guys grab Peter and his belongings (including his exposed Spidey-suit), and carry him into the jungle.
Peter wakes up some time later in a tent, where he is being tended to by a beautiful jungle girl who speaks some language that Peter has never heard. Pete exits the tent to find himself deep in the jungle, where there is a whole village of tents and jungle people with spider-web tattoos. The girl converses with her brother in their own language, and the come to the conclusion that Peter is a powerful warrior. The girl starts speaking to Peter in English, which she learned from a missionary as a child. The girl says that they are in the Spider Village, where they worship the Great Weaver and the River Spiders, who build huge nests along the Nazca riverbanks. She explains that her people used to worship the Great Weaver at a temple, but that the temple was overtaken by their rivals: the Snake Clan. The Snake Clan slaughtered many innocent people, including the girl's parents. And now the sorcerer of the Snake Clan, Faire De Lain, lives in the temple, depriving the Spider Village of its power. The girl explains that there is a way to defeat Faire De Lain, but she will have to invoke the power of the Spider Amulet, and that she will need the help of a great warrior like Peter. Peter agrees, but insists that he must work alone. The girl reluctantly agrees, and then she introduces herself to Peter. Her name is Taran. Finally, Peter asks why they chose him out of all the people on the bus. She shows him his Spider-Man costume. Angry, Peter grabs his costume and takes off into the jungle. Then Taran reveals to her brother that she has to follow Peter.
Shortly thereafter, a disgruntled Spider-Man is swinging through the jungle, complaining about how the Spider Village knows his secret. Spidey stops complaining, though, when he reaches the temple. He easily dispatches the two guards at the temple door, but as he's webbing them up, a third guard appears with a blowgun, and hits the wall-crawler in the neck with a dart. The dart affects Spidey's vision and equilibrium, and when he tries to web up the third guard, he misses. Suddenly Taran and others from the Spider Village appear and they fight off the members of the Snake Clan who start pouring out of the temple. Taran tends to the groggy web-slinger, and she tells him that he's been hit by a nerve toxin, and that he'll be very sick for a day. Peter, under the influence of the nerve toxin, tells Taran that he finds her very beautiful. Then he gets up and, although he's dizzy and weak, prepares to go into the temple. Taran tries to stop him, but Spidey explains that it's better to go now, while the Snake Clan isn't ready for them, even if he is weakened by the nerve toxin. Spidey enters the temple, and the members of the Spider Village aren't far behind.
Before long, Spider-Man encounters Faire De Lain. Spidey demands the Spider Amulet, but Faire De Lain explains that the amulet, in conjunction with his own amulet, lets him reign over the entire Nazca River. Faire De Lain shoots an energy blast at Spidey, which barely misses, and knocks the groggy web-slinger to the floor. Just as Faire De Lain is about to finish Spidey off, Taran and company burst into the room. Faire De Lain conjures up enormous snakes to ensnare them, so that they can watch as he kills Spidey. Faire De Lain blasts him again, and Spidey topples down a crevice in the floor. Unbeknownst to the evil sorcerer, Spidey was saved by some thick spider-webs deep in the crevice, and he starts crawling his way back out.
Topside, Faire De Lain is about to kill Taran, when Spidey tackles him. The two of them fight and tumble across the floor, until they fall into the crevice from which Spidey just emerged. Faire De Lain gets entangled in the webs at the bottom, and Spidey hangs from one of his own webs above him. And just as Faire De Lain shoots another energy blasts at the wall-crawler, the spider-webs beneath him rip, and the sorcerer falls to his death.
Spidey emerges from the pit just in time to see the Spider Village people freeing themselves from the giant snakes. Taran recovers the Spider Amulet, and they all run outside, where the people of the Spider Village are fighting a huge battle with the Snake Clan. Taran raises the amulet and declares that the temple once again belongs to the Spider Village, and the Snake Clan retreats. And with that, the exhausted web-slinger, still under the influence of the nerve toxin, passes out.
Later on, Taran was named the High Priestess of the Temple of the Great Weaver. Peter goes to see her, since it's time for him to leave. Taran shows him the road to the Red Cross station, and Peter apologizes for what he said while he was affected by the nerve toxin. Then Taran gives him two things: a spider-necklace, and a kiss, and then she left. Peter gradually worked his way back to the Red Cross camp, but for the rest of the summer, his mind wasn't on the work there. He thought about the Spider People and Taran, and how, when Spider-Man is hated by the average person back in New York, it felt so good to be liked by these people in the Peruvian Jungle.
Ahh, the annual. The place to find offbeat, goofy stories, like Spidey teaming up with Moon Boy and Devil Dinosaur to fight the Circus of Crime.
Or in this case, to see Spider-Man going on a jungle adventure. Writer Fiona Avery presents us with this goofy, yet fun and often touching story. Sure, it's not exactly Spidey's forté, but it's just one issue, so why not? If Spider-Man were to become a full-time jungle adventurer, I might have a problem with it, but this story was a good time. The art by Juan Roman Cano, like the story, was somewhat unusual, but still quite pleasant.
Sure, I had some problems with this story. I mean, would ever-doting Aunt May really let Peter go to the Peruvian Jungle for summer vacation? I don't think she'd even let Peter go to a friend's for a sleepover during summer vacation. And I was somewhat disturbed by the lack of a rescue attempt by Spidey when Faire De Lain was falling to his doom. But these are small things, that don't really detract from the enjoyment of this issue.
This issue's a fun, out-of-continuity read, featuring high school Peter Parker, that easily deserves three and a half webs.