** (two of five stars)
Favorite Quote: "Later, bro!" -- Peter to JJJ, Sr.
The issue opens with Peter Parker seemingly burning down a guy's house with his family in it in Portland, Oregon "several years ago." It then moves to the present day (and Boston), where Peter is at Aunt May and JJJ, Sr.'s rehearsal dinner. JJJ, Sr. reveals a surprise, that he's found Aunt May's long-lost sister, Jan, and her family. Pete excuses himself to the bathroom (after Jan judges him for being "directionless" and alone and he realizes that he has the hots for his three new cousins), where he's attacked by some guy calling himself the Raptor. Since he's in his civies, he maneuvers the fight outside the building, where he changes into his Spidey costume. The two fight, and Raptor reveals that he was attacking Peter Parker because he thought he was Ben Reilly, the man who killed his family. After recovering from his shock of hearing the name, Spidey tells the Raptor Ben's dead, only to have the Raptor punch him, call him a liar, and escape. The issue ends with Peter checking the Raptor's story on-line and finding the newspaper articles about the fire, which show a sketch of Ben as the prime suspect.
As I will mention in my review of the upcoming "Red-Headed Stranger" arc, I was surprised when the Reillys suddenly appeared in issue #601. I also had no idea who the Raptor guy was who was spying on Peter. Eventually, in issue #605, Wacker lets us know both the Reillys and the Raptor were introduced in Annual #36. So, here we are. I actually enjoyed this issue more than two stars imply. When I first read it, I just enjoyed the fact that it's well written, well drawn, and fast-paced. But, it raised some questions that don't make a lot of sense from a continuity stand-point, and I found myself distracted by them after I read it.
As I mentioned above, the issue is fun, continuity-questions aside. The art is well done (and invokes a 90s kind of feel that fits perfectly with a book that resurrects the Clone Saga) and the plot moves at a nice pace.
For those of us unfortunate enough to remember the Clone Saga, Peter Parker was, indeed, in Portland, Oregon "several years ago," though I have no memory of Ben Reilly ever being there. We don't exactly know everything Ben Reilly did during his five years "on the road," so it's certainly possible he passed through Portland at some point. However, I thought Marvel had purged the Clone Saga from its history. Although it would still technically be part of Spidey's history (it wasn't really connected to Mary Jane and Peter's marriage), I thought the editors just didn't ever want it mentioned again. I have to admit, I'm nervous by it being re-introduced here. The Clone Saga pretty much ruined Spider-Man for me, and I'm scared we're going to be forced to relive it at some point. That said, it fills in part of the questions remaining from "One More Day," adding one more event to the "yes, it really did happen" side of the ledger. Many of us may have wished it hadn't, but I give Marvel credit for not taking the cop-out and ret-conning it away.
1) The Raptor character is a little all over the place. I mean, his arm spikes and sharp teeth are cool and he's the perfect villain for Spider-Man, power-wise, since his strengths are in hand-to-hand combat. I think we're more or less left to assume (until we get an origin issue written about him) that he got his powers after his confrontation with Ben, possibly to use them against Ben. But, since it's clear that he didn't know Ben was Spider-Man (or else he wouldn't have been surprised when Spidey appeared on the scene), then I wonder why exactly he needed superpowers to attack him. Also, why'd he wait all this time? We'll presumably get answers eventually, but both those questions are unlikely, to my mind, to be answered in a way that makes sense.
2) Aunt May had a long-lost sister. It seems kind of weird for that to be revealed now. I mean, Peter seems surprised by their existence, so Aunt May apparently has never mentioned them? But, I mean, didn't she have access to the Internet? Plus, Jan says that they don't like talking about their sister, April, because she stopped speaking to them years ago. Well, I mean, it's not like Aunt May and Jan were actually in touch during that time, either. Anyway, it's a weird plot point.