Things aren't all sunshine and roses when Peter goes to his high school pre-reunion and finds out that an old friend is in trouble. With the Kingpin and a few other shady characters involved in this mess, helping Peter's old friend could prove to be quiet difficult, but it makes for one sweet seventeenth annual!
Milton Farr, a less than upstanding publisher is getting some late night visitors, yes, the unfriendly kind. He goes for his gun, but all Farr gets is a beat down for his trouble. Seems Mr. Farr has evidence that could really stick it to the Kingpin but he refuses to talk.
Spidey is doing his crime fighting thing and really ticking off Mr. Gilbert, the man watching his operation get busted up, via security monitors. Kingpin comes into Gilbert's room and he is less than pleased to find he's failed... again. Kingpin and Gilbert go into the gym for a little chat. Fisk informs Gilbert that Milton Farr was kidnapped. Farr has some dirt on Kingpin and since he's been abducted, he could sing about the Kingpin's dealings. Kingpin tells Giblert he's made it so the police can trace all the stolen goods he's amassed. Well Gilbert doesn't like this revelation one bit and says that if he goes down, his tubby friend is going with him. Gilbert winds up with two broken legs for being stupid enough to threaten the Kingpin.
Switching to his secret identity, Peter makes his way into the building that's hosting his high school pre-reunion. Peter gets recognized by some of his former classmates and one remarks how he "doesn't look so puny anymore!" Chatting it up, Peter is surprised to find out that all the guys who used to pick on him thinks he made out pretty good for himself as a freelance photographer and admire him for it. The guys tell Peter he may want to make himself scarce since Flash Thompson is approaching, but they're all surprised to see that Peter and Flash have become good friends. Flash was going to talk to Peter about his troubles with Sha Shan but they get interrupted by big mouth talker, Louie Minelli.
Peter spots C.J. Vogel a former classmate that helped Peter out one time when he was being bullied. C.J. used jokes to get the bullies to stop picking on Peter, something Peter has never forgotten. As C.J. is leaving Louie drops the name Remington Colt, making C.J. sweat bullets. Louie gives C.J. a card and tells him if he wants to know what he knows to give him a call. Spidey overheard everything. As Peter Parker, he owes C.J. a favor, one he thinks he'll be able to repay as Spider-Man.
Stopping by the Bugle, Peter talks to Betty Brant and Ned Leeds about the name Remington Colt. Turns out the name is a Pseudonym for staff writers that work for Milton Farr. Most people that have written under that name have printed some pretty raunchy stuff, the kind of material that could ruin a writer's career.
C.J. calls Louie. Louie knows all about a contract he's going to sign to do a kid's TV show. C.J. knows that if he doesn't play ball, Louie will do things to make the stuff hit the fan. Outside of C.J.'s home, we see that Spidey's ability to stick to walls make him the perfect candidate for overhearing things most people would want to keep private.
Farr has been beaten three ways from Sunday because he still won't talk about Kingpin. Thus, the negotiations continue. Down at the water front, C.J. meets Louie, who gives C.J. a package he wants him to deliver. C.J. hopes the package that he's delivering won't explode. As C.J. makes his way to his destination, he doesn't realize he's being tailed by Louie and two other questionable fellows. One of them is carrying a camera to catch C.J. in the act. C.J. gets "invited" in to the place where he's delivering the package. Turns out the package isn't something that goes "boom" but three stacks of cash money. Money that is concealing a gas bomb. Louie's flunkies dawn gas masks and move in, one waiting outside to keep snapping the pics. The photographer's photo shoot is cut short when Spidey puts him to sleep. Spidey moves in and carries a knocked out C.J. to his apartment.
C.J. wakes up and finds himself in the company of his old friend, Peter Parker. Peter shows C.J. the photo's that one of Louie's men took. C.J. decides to tell Peter what's going on. Farr hid some records containing valuable info on the Kingpin and C.J. (and now Peter) is the only one who knows just where those records are hidden. Peter offers to help C.J. out but he declines, stating that this is his problem, not Peter's. Still believing that he owes his old friend a favor, Peter changes into Spider-Man. Thinking that it was nice of Peter to want to help out, C.J. stops dead in his tracks when he remembers that Peter works for a newspaper. Fearful that Peter will expose him, he rushes off to get those hidden records.
The thugs beating on Farr have finally gotten him to talk. He gives them the location to the safe. This is starting to become the worst kept secret, no? Spidey makes his way to Farr's office and it appears that someone's already been there. The place is trashed but they didn't find the records because they were hidden beneath a solid 300 pound art file. With the goods on C.J. in his trusty Spider belt, Spidey puts the safe back the way it was and takes off to find a phone to call the cops.
C.J. arrives, happy to see that the safe looks undisturbed, but before he can leave, Louie has a gun aimed at him. Just then, Louie is shot by the other rival gang that wants to see Kingpin taken out. As C.J. is about to hand the files over to them, Spider-Man busts in. In all the racket, C.J. bolts, dodging fire from Louie's gun. Spotting a fire burning in a barrel, C.J. dumps the files into the flames but something causes the flames to go boom. Spidey checks things out. The safe itself survived the explosion but the rest of the files are ash. In trying to cover his own hide, C.J. gave the Kingpin a lot more freedom.
Louie meets with the Kingpin, bringing Farr's safe with him. Because of Louie's actions, Kingpin can breath easy. Or at least that's what Louie thinks. When Louie leaves, it is revealed that whatever Farr had on Kingpin wouldn't have caused too much trouble, but possessing the contents of the save would have given him some leverage. Thanks to Louie's involvement, that leverage is lost. Louie wanted a reward for "helping" Kingpin out and the crime lord makes sure he'll get it.
At the high school reunion, Louie is arrested. Farr is dead the cops found his finger prints on the safe. Peter gives C.J. the file that Farr had on him. Peter is disappointed that his friend thought he was only helping him to get a story out of it. He says that he helped C.J. because he helped him out years ago. Peter tells C.J. that he isn't the good Samaritan he was back in high school and walks off, leaving him alone.
This annual was enjoyable from start to finish. I enjoyed the occurrences at Peter's high school pre-reunion and the stuff with the Kingpin and rival gangs made for a good old fashioned blackmail story. I figured Louie would be killed for causing the Kingpin an inconvenience but maybe he thought Louie wasn't really worth killing.
Four Webs. A good story from beginning to end.
The full names of two characters who first appeared in this story were revealed in the Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe Volume 11 (2008) include Cleto "CJ" Vogel and bully Ernest "Ernie" Saunders (who appears in the annual in a flashback on page 13 and later in another flashback in Amazing Spider-Man #515). Others were given full names in the "Spider-Man Through the Decades" trade paperback's Midtown High profile including Clyde Zeisloft (guy wearing a cowboy hat on page 9), guitar playing Jose Barcelo (bottom of page 12),mother and former actress Cathleen "Cathy" Shea, beautiful dancer Gertrude "Trudy" Lounsbury, and novelist and former high school football player John Cervino (all three at the top of page 12).