First off, I'd like to wish everyone a happy memorial day out there. Also, a big thanks to our fighting men and women. So as I continue my trip down comic book lane, I'm going to look at the year 1996. Ol' HBK Shawn Michaels had won his first WWE, then WWF, Championship. I was torn betweem HBK and my idol Bret "Hitman" Hart. Don't tell anybody but I was really hoping that HBK would pull out the win. With my interest in wrestling fading I turned buck to comic books. To me this seemed like a great time to be a reader. I was 12 years old at the time and I saw this comic (Sensational Spider-Man #5) on a newsstand. I cried like a baby until my grandmother agreed to spend the $1.50 on this book. And just like that I was hooked. I was so happy to see that Ben Reilly had taken over as Spider-Man. I still liked Peter Parker but Ben really had a hold on me. He lived in a really crappy apartment, just like me and he had to choose between a raven haired goth chick and a blonde bombshell (unlike me). Ben really came into his own with these books. I was once again buying all four Spider-Man books on a monthly basis. Way back on The Verbal Mosh: Episode 98, I got to interview Dan Jurgens, and I got to tell him how much fun I had reading his stories when he launched his monthly spidey book called "The Sensational Spider-Man.
Can anybody tell me why the normal "Spider-Man" title cost almost $2.00? Jurgens' stuff was good but I would spend hours on end looking at the artwork from the book that Mark Bagley was drawing, "Amazing Spider-Man". That book really stands out, even the test of time has shown that Marvel Comics had some really great in-house coloring in the mid 1990's. I felt it was cool to have Peter lose his powers and make Ben the one true Spidey. This was something that unlike most readers at the time I did not complain about. Yes, I did enjoy Ben's blonde hair style. I was blown away by the stuff in "Spider-Man" by Howard Mackie and John Romita Jr. For just a little bit the books would go off in their own directions but somehow they would connect for a big monthly story like "Blood Brothers" and one that I really loved was "The Return Of Kaine". (I can hear Olivia sigh right about now).
The last two books I want to talk about are Spider-Man Redemption by J.M. DeMatteis and Mike Zeck, and Spider-Man #75 by Howard Mackie and John Romita Jr. Spider-Man Redemption is a 4 issue mini series. It takes a look at the long standing feud between Ben and Kaine. This has the return of Ben's lost love in Janine whose real name is Elizabeth Tyne. The story sheds light on Janine's relationship with both Ben and Kaine. Kaine knew that Janine had killed her father because of abuse, knowing this Kaine forced her to break up with Ben and leave without giving a reason. Ben and Janine are reuntied but it's not to be as Kaine spills the beans to the cops about what Janine has done. Ben in a fit of rage won't allow her to be taken from him again, and breaks her out of jail. The end battle has Kaine coming to terms with what he is, knowing that he will die soon. He turns himself in and so does Janine, knowing that she can't live the lie any longer. Ben tells her that he will wait for her.
In Spider-Man #75 we get the end to the Clone saga. Peter gets his powers back and has been told that he was the one true Spider-Man all along. Turns out that Norman Osborn was pulling the strings the whole time. Ben gets cut pretty badly when he saves the whole Spidey supporting cast from goblin bombs in the Daily Bugle building. Mary Jane goes into labor because this whole time she was knocked up with Parkers' kid. The baby is stolen or killed, we never find out which. Ben gets gutted with the goblin glider and then he dies because he is a clone. Spidey hit the goblin with a bag full of goblin bombs to take this one home. All in all, I was really sad to see Ben die. I cried when I read this issue. I remember sitting on my top bunk bed re-reading this making sure I didn't miss anything. How could Ben be gone. A man who I spent a great deal of my youth with. Ben had been my comfort since the days I spent living in the slums of Newark and now he was dead and gone. This was no doubt a great comic by Mackie and Romita Jr. But it really turned me off to comics for the next year. I was so upset that I threw my comics in my closet and didn't look at them until I started reading them again in the year 2001. But gang that's another story for another time.