Last year’s Spider-Man annual was a fairly major story that ended the life and career of Jackpot, one of the more promising members of the new Spider-Man cast. It’s always a pity when story opportunities get taken away by a character’s death, so it’s fitting, then, that this year’s annual should make a fair stab at turning a dead character into a story opportunity.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. Technically, the annual is a lead-in to the wedding of J. Jonah Jameson Snr. and Aunt May. It sees the Parker and Jameson families hitting Boston for an engagement party, and in addition to meeting Aunt May’s extended family, Peter also manages to come into conflict with Raptor, a not-really-a-supervillain character who’s out to bring a member of the Reilly family to justice. With some decent art from Spider-Girl’s Patrick Olliffe, and some rather unconvincing attempts at transcribing a Boston accept from Marc Guggenheim, it’s all fairly standard stuff in the Spider-Man formula.
Except, of course, the moment two-thirds of the way through, when we discover exactly why Raptor mistook Peter for the criminal he was looking for. It’s because he’s actually looking for Ben Reilly, Peter’s clone.
Now here’s something I never expected to see referenced ever again – material from just about the most maligned Spider-Man story in ever. Just last week, we pointed out how not good the Clone Saga was. However, it’s easy to forget, but for virtually a generation of Spider-Man readers, this wasn’t just a Spider-Man story. It WAS Spider-Man. Month in, month out, it was all about Peter Parker quitting, losing his powers, having a baby and – yep – Ben Reilly taking over the mantle. Except, of course, when it was about the opposite of all that. So to see it come back – well, it’s not all that surprising.
And, call me a ridiculous optimist, but I’m glad. Ben Reilly himself was never the problem with the clone saga – in fact, truth be told, we’re actually quite fond of him here at Comics Daily Towers – so seeing that the Spider-titles are willing to reference those stories, even going so far as to reprint artwork from them wholesale, is enough to give me a warm, nostalgic feeling.
Now, I’m not for a second saying that Ben Reilly should definitely be brought back – but as I said at the start of this review, it’s good to see a character’s death being turned into a story opportunity. In all honesty, I can’t wait to see where it’s going.