The former Scarlet Spider, believing that he is the one, true Peter Parker (to be fair, that’s what we were told too) has become the new Spider-Man. Hence the “Return of” on the cover, in case you were wondering. Assuming the name Ben Reilly and dying his hair blond, he gets a job at the Daily Grind, working for a hipster barista before hipster baristas were a thing.
Wondering what is up with Spidey, the Human Torch sends a message in skywriting, asking Spidey to meet him at their usually place. Along the way, Spidey runs into the Sandman and Silver Sable. Unaware that the Sandman has reformed and is totally a good guy, Spidey attacks, while Sable observes, suspecting that this is a different Spider-Man.
The Human Torch joins the brawl, and the party eventually settles down to talk. By the end of the heated conversation, Spidey finds himself on the Human Torch’s bad side, while Sandman tries to be all buddy-buddy. He reflects upon the irony that now that he has resumed the Spider-Man identity, he has the heroic Torch as an enemy and the villainous Sandman as an ally.
Later, Ben meets up with his new love interest only to discover that she appears to be obsessed with Spider-Man, like how Glen Close was obsessed with Michael Douglas in Fatal Attractions or like how Rick Santorum is obsessed with gay sex in real life.
Writer: Tom DeFalco
Artist: Mark Bagley
Colorist: Bob Sharen
Why I Kept This Issue:
Firstly, it has one of my favorite jokes in a Spider-Man comic that doesn’t even come from Spider-Man:
Fourteen year-old me that was hilarious.
Secondly, I love love love love love love love love love love love love love love love love love love love this costume, people! I did then, and I do now! If I could have had my way, I would have kept this costume in the comics, even after they returned Peter Parker. It was the perfect balance of looking “close enough to the original” but still looking “updated”. The costume stuck around for a while in the form of Spider-Girl, which did make me happy. Also, HOLY CRAP, you guys, Ben Reilly will be reappearing soon!
This may be a cringe-worthy statement, but at this point I didn’t find the Clone Saga to be all that bad. Of course I had not been reading the Spider-Man comics for the past 30 years in ’96, so I didn’t have that sense of betrayal. No, that would come later…
Also, Mark Bagley art. I keep anything that has Mark Bagley art.
When I look at this issue, I immediately remember my art table. It was a big, white, collapsible table for drawing, and I got it for Christmas in ’96. In fact, the first drawing I ever did on the table was a giant recreation on poster board of that exact Spider-Man that is up there on the cover. I have created a lot of shit on that table over the years, good lord. In later years, it held my computer which I used to write my book.
And, oh yeah, I totally still have that table. It is sitting in my apartment right now, unused, and I have been desperately trying to find a good home for it. Anyone out there looking for an art table? Eh? It’s been loved…come on, I know somebody out there could use an art table. Call me!
Condition of My Copy: Autographed by Mark Bagley, of course!
Favorite Ad: Diabetes never looked so heroic! This cereal wasn’t around for long, but heaven knows how many boxes I consumed.