This Annual ties in with the May Parker/JJJ, Sr. wedding. It also introduces the villain Raptor who appears in a full-length story arc beginning with Amazing Spider-Man #608. The splash page talks about the engagement party being held for the Reilly side of the family (Aunt May's folks, naturally). Bit before that, we have a bit of a flashback to deal with.
SPOILER WARNING: This and the following ASM story arc is a bit of a "whodunnit". At the end of this review, I give the secret away.
Flashback, several years ago, Portland Oregon. Ben Reilly (the clone of Peter Parker, dontchaknow) is fighting some other, as-yet-unidentified guy in a burning building. The other guy begs Ben to let his family live, but Ben just batters him to a standstill and then walks away.
Cut to current times and Peter Parker, the spitting image of Ben Reilly, is at the "Top of the Hub Restaurant" in Boston with May Parker, with MJ's Aunt Anna Watson, J. Jonah Jameson, J. Jonah Jameson, Sr. and a few other assorted folks. Then comes the surprise, May's fiance JJJ, Sr. has tracked down the rest of the Reilly family and invited them too.
The family all arrives, May's Uncle Horace Reilly, her Uncle Bill Reilly, Bill's wife Aunt Claudia Reilly, cousin Sam Reilly, cousin Julia Reilly, and Julia's three daughters (Peter's second cousins if my maths is correct) Alexa Reilly, and two others as yet to be named. There's also May's sister Jan Reilly, and reference is made to the black sheep of the family, their third sister April Reilly.
Enough with the introductions, there's a bad guy in a high-tech suit waiting outside. He's observing from a distance, after six months of surveillance he's found his target. He crashes in and attacks Peter. Peter "accidentally" falls out of the window clutching the bad guy, survives the joint crash, and does an instant change into Spidey.
The bad guy pulls out a machine gun and sprays some bullets. Then he feels bad about having wounded the bystanders, so clearly we're supposed to feel that this guy isn't 100% bad. I'm a far way from sympathy mind you. Keep trying, Guggenheim. The bystanders cheer on Spidey, as the villain extrudes some bone spikes from out of his arm and goes slashing at Spider-Man again. The civilians speak in ghastly exaggerate "Bhastan" (Boston) accents to help reinforce some stereotypes.
The fight moves into a bus, where the villain finally gives himself a name - "Raptor". As in "Velociraptor", and he extrudes some giant fangs just to prove the point. Fight for three more pages, and Raptor attempts to flee (he wanted Peter, not Spider-Man). But Spidey follows him onto the top of a speeding truck and unmasks him, and... he's just some unrecognized guy with brown hair and Caucasian skin. Yeah, he's the guy from the flashback, naturally.
Raptor says he was chasing Ben Reilly, Spider-Man naturally responds that the guy he was after was Peter Parker, nothing to do with Ben Reilly. Two page flashback summary of Ben's origin in Amazing Spider-Man #149 through to his demise in Spider-Man (Vol. 1) #75. Spidey tells Raptor again that he's after the wrong guy, but Raptor doesn't believe him, lashes out and manages to escape.
Peter then sneaks back (complete with stab wounds to the stomach) and claims to have been attacked by Raptor before Raptor ran away. One party engagement party ruined.
Peter spends three days in hospital, then gets out to search up the name that the cops attached to the fingerprints they found in the back of a truck that Raptor presumably used to escape in. The name is "Damon Ryder", and the story Peter finds in the Front Line archives is of the death of Ryders family years ago in Portland. There's also a police sketch photo of the believed culprit. It looks just like Ben.
Well, look, it's perfectly serviceable. But sadly, the entire tale underestimates our intelligence. Ben and Damon are similar age, similar hair color and facial structure. It's instantly obvious that Damon killed his own family but clearly doesn't remember it. It was a total "D'UH" by the time I read the first two page flashback. Just because we read comics doesn't mean we're dim, Guggenheim.
The scene change to Boston is mildly gratuitous, and kind of raises the question why May never went to visit her family before? She was always off to Florida, and Boston is miles closer. Introducing the Reilly family after 45 years of Spider-Man comics seems a little bit of a "rabbit out of a hat".
Maybe I'm nitpicking. The story makes a real effort to work within current continuity. It tries to introduce new characters as well as enriching the relationships of the old stalwarts. There's plenty of action, combined with some back-history and a bit of a guessing game. So all the components are there. I don't know then why I'm not feeling the magic as everything comes together.
I just can't help shake the feeling that the whole thing is a little sterile and contrived. In fact, the whole thing reminds me uncannily of the five-part Scarlet Spider Super-Special story arc that ran in the 1995 Super Special Annuals. I didn't really enjoy that, and I'm not enamored with this story either, Sorry.
Three webs. Does plenty, but doesn't sparkle.