Ghost Rider: Fear Itself #2 (October – 2011- Marvel)

Ghost Rider: Fear Itself #2

Mephisto needs some help, and he has come to John Blaze for that help, much to Blaze’s amusement.  After all, he has just gotten rid of the curse of the Ghost Rider that Mephisto tricked him into in the first place.  Things are serious though, and even though Blaze wants nothing to do with Mephisto, there seems to be nowhere, and no one, else to turn to.  The Ghost Rider has been moved into the body of young Alejandra who has been trained since birth to be the weapon of divine sin destroying justice.

The vision of the future isn’t pretty either.  In an effort to eradicate The Serpent, an Asgaurdian deity that is stomping a mud hole in the earth, Adam will wipe all sin from the earth.  Leaving the future a bland and lifeless place.  The implication is that sin is our flaws, and our flaws are what make us human, and creative.  They give us drive, and desire.  Inner and real demons to overcome.

Blaze signs on, and soon finds himself trekking through the rain forest on a motorcycle on his way to confront the new Ghost Rider.  Upon his arrival Adam is getting Ghost Rider to give the penance stare to the others that were in training with her, the eradication of sin from the world is going to start with his own people.  Blaze interrupts and while Adam and Ghosty are distracted Mephisto sends in one of his major demons illiciting an overwhelming response for the Ghost Rider.  A swarm of locust pours from her mouth.

The direction this incarnation of Ghost Rider takes is pretty interesting, but not fantastically engaging.  It seems a lot like the antagonism that existed between John Blaze and Dan Ketch Ghost Rider in the 90’s.  So some of this seems like a bit of a retread to me.  The introduction of new and crazy powers for someone that is trained in how to be Ghost Rider is really interesting though.  Rob Williams seems to have a pretty firm (if not incredibly creative) take on Ghost Rider.  Matthew Clark’s art is good too.  Again nothing to unpredictable or surprising, just kind of by the book Ghost Rider.

Next Time:  Beware: Formula X

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Ghost Rider/Blaze: Spirits of Vengeance #3 (October – 1992 – Marvel)

Ghost Rider/Blaze: Spirits of Vengeance #3

Ghost Rider and John Blaze are still on the hunt for Lilith, but she has plans to unleash some of her children on them in an effort to wipe them out.  As they hunt she uses Pilgrim’s ability to travel instantly in space to arrive on the door step of her child Skinner.  Skinner has moved on in his life, he no longer hunts humans and monsters, and he wants nothing to do with what he thinks is a dead religion.  Now he has a family; he has a wife and kids.  There is a deeper familial obligation at work when Lilith shows up on his door step.

Lilith commands him to go and hunt Ghosty and Blaze.  He eliminates his old family by killing them, and then the hunt is on.  Skinner, as far as horror villains go, is pretty interesting. He has a kind of bone spur thing going that allows giant blades to come out of his arms (sort of like Wolverine’s claws), the flesh on his body is another matter though.  The whole of his being is his bones, all of his flesh is gathered from the corpses of his victims, with his family being the last bits that he has placed on himself (and his only memento of them).  So when John Blaze burns all of the flesh off of Skinner, though Skinner lives he is even more enraged than he was before.  The last bits of his murdered family are gone.

Writer Howard Mackie paints a really bleak story here.  One that is punctuated by two fathers.  Blaze who is trying to save the world and thereby endangering his family, and Skinner who is torn between the Lilin and his new family.  Blaze contemplates that maybe the risk that he is putting his family in makes him no different than Skinner.  Something that Ghost Rider, in a rare moment of humanity, assures him he is not.

Artist Adam Kubert makes this story pop off of the page.  The bones that sprout from Skinner look painful and raw.  the rage on Blaze’s face when he realizes that Skinner murdered his own family is palpable.  This cover also happens to be one of my favorite Spirits of Vengeance covers.  I remember the first time I saw it at the newsstand that I was actually horrified that maybe Ghost Rider and Blaze were defeated in a battle with this new and bulky foe.  I really dig the whited out cover look too.

Next Time:  Whistling Skull #2

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Ghost Rider: Fear Itself #1 (September – 2011 – Marvel)

Ghost Rider: Fear Itself #1

The Fear Itself crossover was a company wide story line about the Norse god The Serpent attempting to take back the throne of Asguard.  With that said, the Ghost Rider titles within the Fear Itself story line, stand alone pretty well.

John Blaze has once again been freed of the curse and the duty of being the Ghost Rider.  So he has moved into the desert to relax in his effective retirement.  Meanwhile across the country Sin (First Avatar of The Serpent) is stomping a mud hole into Dayton, Ohio while Blackout and Deathwatch pick up the spiritual scraps to give themselves more power.  Enter the new Rider, and this time the Ghost Rider is a woman.

After putting down Blackout and Deathwatch with the penance stare, she goes to confront Sin.  Sin looks like she is about to be defeated when the flames of the Ghost Rider are extinguisher just from touching Sin’s hammer.

Flash back to John Blaze’s home where as he is returning from gathering wood he is faced with Mephesito in his cabin waiting for him.

Flash again to a few hours before.  A temple in the Nicaraguan jungle, corpses laid out in ritual, and Adam (the man who helped lift the Ghost Rider from John Blaze) has brought The Seeker to life to grant the powers of The Ghost Rider to another person.  Alejandra touches the chains and bursts into the hell fire.  The female Ghost Rider revealed.

Overall this is an inaugural issue, so there is just a frame work to hang the rest of the issues on here, but at least that frame work is decently interesting.  Though the Fear Itself crossover wasn’t crazy successful this title seems to be pretty interesting, and a good chance for the Ghost Rider character to build its mythology in an interesting direction.   You have to give it to Rob Williams, this is a pretty creative turn for Ghost Rider, and an obvious one that I can’t believe someone hadn’t already thought of.

Matthew Clark, who also did Doom Patrol, has a slick style that reminds me of a lot of the 90’s Image titles (without the insane guns and millions of pouches on bandoleers).  This is a good looking comic to say the least, but it is very superheroish.  The Ghost Rider at its heart is a supernatural superhero title, and sometimes the best way to draw it, is just like any issue of The Avengers.  I don’t mind that most of the time, because I know what I’m in for.  A dark superhero tale.

It will be interesting to see where this goes (I have several of the issues, just haven’t read them yet).

Next Time:  Deadman: Exorcisim Book 1

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Ghost Rider & Blaze: Spirits of Vengeance #2 (September – 1992 – Marvel)

Spirits of Vengeance #2

Taking place between Morbius #1 and Darkhold #1 the second issue of Spirits of Vengeance is a bit of a one off.  Returning to the Quinten Carnival for a bit of a break.  When you are John Blaze you don’t get a break though, and on the way back they pick up a follower.  At the behest of her master, Styge, Steel Wind is on a mission to have her vengeance on Ghost Rider and Blaze.

She is going to look silly while enacting that vengeance too.  Looking like she walked right out of an issue of Youngblood she was clearly a nod to the idea that Image was putting out comics that scared Marvel to death.  At the time those Image titles looked so fresh and cutting edge, and there were some serious missteps in the Marvel Universe where they overcompensated to try and keep up.

Luckily John Blaze saves the shit out of this issue.  A midst a brutally pedestrian monologue from Steel Wind about vengeance and justice and the wrongs done to her and her sister.  Blaze, ever the tough guy biker bashes her up side the head and holds her to the ground with a boot knife.  There is something to be said about how awesome a guy can look in a trench coat with a giant knife standing next to a motorcycle.  This verges on a lot of the same problems that I have with Nightstalkers, but reigns itself in right when I think I’m going to get really irritate with it.

After Steel Wind gets put in her place and Blaze tells us about how much he loves his family (not just wife and kids but the carnival as well).  The Rider (who is in a coma for a lot of the book) tells Blaze that he knows what he needs to do to save Dan Ketch (who is trapped inside the Ghost Rider with mortal wounds), and that next step is finding the Darkhold Redeemers.  The interweaving of story lines was my favorite part of the Midnight Sons in the 90’s and it is still one of the coolest parts of all the books.  The issues stand up just fine on their own, but if you want to read the full scope of it, you have to pick up the other titles.  Pretty great marketing scheme now that I think on it for a little bit, and Marvel got the bulk of my allowance for my middle school years so it worked.

I feel like a lot of the issues of Spirits of Vengeance that are time lined between the other Midnight Sons issues feel like they are just there to tread water.  They are place holders while a bigger story is going on.  Good for fleshing out the back stories and personalities of the main characters.  Bad for becoming a place where stupid villains go to die.  Unfortunately Steel Wind is one of those stupid villains that thankfully is gone, for now.

Next Time:  Witch Doctor Volume 1: Under the Knife

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