Characters Appearing: Ba'al-Hadad, Clara Menninger, Craig Blaze, Emma Blaze, Ghost Rider (Johnny Blaze), Holden Blevins, Kodiak, Man-Thing, Princess Python, Ringmaster, Wolff
Issue(s): Blaze #1, Blaze #2, Blaze #3
I know that he's a cyborg who shoots Hellfire through a shotgun, and i know the fact that i'm to-be-sureing that shows how blase i've become, but i have to be honest. Johnny Blaze acting as a veteran former Ghost Rider, showing Danny Ketch the ropes, made sense as a theoretical premise for the Spirits of Vengeance series (even if it never worked out that way in practice). But Blaze on his own? Nah. And halfway through this first issue, he's not a cyborg anymore anyway.
This new series also doesn't seem to have anything fresh to do with the character. Larry Hama has Blaze still with his circus, and his driving quest at least for these issues is searching down his children, who were taken from him in Ghost Rider #50. So the distinction between this series and Spirits of Vengeance, especially since Ghost Rider stopped appearing there, is window dressing only.
This series even begins with Ghost Rider, who drops a kid, Holden Blevins, off with Blaze because he doesn't want to deal with the kid's problem himself.
Holden wants help with an "Ice Box Bob" (later Icebox Bob), and he seems to be casting Bob's shadow.
Glad to see Larry Hama borrowing Tom DeFalco's "that stuff only happens in comic books" line. As if Blaze's whole life hasn't been one weird supernatural thing after another.
Meanwhile, Blaze's carny friends are out shopping for some items to help the plot along.
You might think that this was setting up a subplot for future issues, but that's not the case. It's directly related to the main plot.
Ok, this is pretty weird:
Things you wished you remembered a few seconds earlier:
And the other thing at the grocery:
While Blaze is debating whether to look into Icebox Bob or search for his kids, he finds out that his face has miraculously healed.
Blaze investigates Bob, and fights the grocery store guy, who was like possessed by Bob or something. Then it turns out that there really wasn't a need to debate fighting Bob vs. finding Blaze's kids.
Larry Hama definitely doesn't want to clutter things up with subplots.
I also want to mention that Blaze initially assumed that the grocer was some new serial killer who wanted to follow in the footsteps of Icebox Bob, who was a serial killer who was executed in an electric chair. The idea that Icebox Bob is a ghost of the executed killer - despite the creepy boy and his creepy shadow - doesn't cross his mind. After all, it's not like he's ever encountered anything like that before (certainly not in Ghost Rider #57, and surely the Nightstalkers never told him about the one from Nightstalkers #12-13, and i guess the highly publicized prison riot in Moon Knight #45-46 featuring Deadzone never caught his attention).
Speaking of not remembering even his own experiences, Blaze hops on his motorcycle on the trail of Icebox Bob, and encounters the Man-Thing.
Since that's a two-page spread that doesn't merit an expanded image, the text says, "What's that up ahead? Somebody's standing in the middle of the levee road -- WHAT IS THAT THING?? Whatever it is, it's a threat to my carnival -- and I don't take that lightly."
Never mind Blaze's 'shoot first ask questions later' attitude despite having friends like Kodiak and Ghost Rider...
...or the fact that Blaze's carnival is currently just driving down a road; it's not like they've put up stakes and the monster has entered their proximity. They're driving down the road and the Man-Thing is just crossing the street. There's been no demonstrable threat to his carnival. Never mind that. The bigger issue is that Blaze has met Man-Thing before. He was in the Legion of Monsters with him in Marvel Premiere #28. People have joked that the Johnny Blaze in the 90s Ghost Rider series was a different character than the 70s version, but now i'm wondering if that's literally true.
Ghost Rider's carny menagerie helps him drive off Man-Thing. Clara Menninger detects that Man-Thing is guarding a portal to other dimensions. Wolff gets suspicious because Clara is describing things as if she is sighted (and he's pretty perceptive; i would never have assumed that just from the way she talks).
Blaze says there's no time for in-fighting (this is at least the second time he's ignored the fact that something is up with Clara). So with the "threat" taken care of, they get back into their caravan and continue to their destination. There's a local freakshow in the area that gets word about Blaze's carnival. Among their members are Princess Python and a down-on-his-luck Ringmaster.
How many times have you gone to a job interview and heard, "I'm sorry... we don't have any openings for a human pincushion."? Princess Pythons, on the other hand, always seem to be in demand.
Note that she says that her ability to control her snake(s) is a psychic ability.
Meanwhile, the creepy kid Holden continues to badger Blaze about going after Icebox Bob. And Clara continues to have visions about the Man-Thing. The freak show owners want to capture the Man-Thing for their exhibit, so they steal Clara's magic eyes. And once again this all winds up being related directly to the main plot: Icebox Bob wants to use the Nexus of Reality to escape back to our world. And he does come out during the confrontation with the Man-Thing and the show owners.
But the portal closes up, and the Man-Thing shuffles off.
Since an encounter with the Man-Thing was the most potentially interesting thing about this story and it turned out to be a complete bust, let me just quickly run through issue #3. Clara's eyes turn out to come from the boss of whatever dimension Bob is from, and they definitely make her mean, if not evil.
Holden is the ghost of Bob's son, who died when Bob killed his pregnant wife. And Bob's boss is some kind of green-armed demon thing. Holden kills Bob...
...but the demonic thing don't give back Blaze's kids.
In between all of that is a lot of characters screaming at each other. Wolff screaming at Blaze for being mean to Clara about her eyes, and then Blaze screaming at Wolff for being mean to Clara about her eyes a page later, etc.. I can't really see this series getting any better. I mean, it can't really get any worse but these issues don't exactly lay the groundwork for a successful series. But the next arc features Warpath, Wyatt Wingfoot, and a Wendigo, so i guess we'll at least have to stick around for that.
Quality Rating: D
Chronological Placement Considerations: The scene with Ghost Rider is a flashback and Holden Blevins says it took him a "long time" to find Blaze after that, so i haven't listed Ghost Rider as a Character Appearing. But this definitely takes place after Ghost Rider's return in Ghost Rider #50. Blaze's carnival moves from western Pennsylvania to Florida between issues #1-2, meaning that some time passes, but i've kept the issues in the same entry.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
In Ghost Rider 50, Anton Hellgate blows up a car that Roxanne and the kids are hiding behind, killing Roxanne. The kids then disappear. In this issue, they're prisoners of Ba'al in another dimension. It's not clear how they got from point A to point B. The handoff between Ghost Rider 50 and this series wasn't handled very well.
Posted by: Michael | December 20, 2017 8:42 PM
I like that panel of a happily-drunk Ringmaster. He's probably thinking of the good old days, when he could make a god steal him a golden bull.
Like with Falcon & Redwing, I don't particularly like the idea of Princess Python having a psychic ability to communicate with her snake. It seems to turn the characters from being incredibly good at training to having incredibly limited mutant powers.
Posted by: Mortificator | December 20, 2017 9:17 PM
@Michael: The only explanation I can think of here is that Ba'al saw an opportunity to get one over on Mephisto by having two reasons (Johnny's children) to control his rival demon's Ghost Rider by stealing the children at the moment of the explosion and holding them in his dimension.
Posted by: D09 | December 20, 2017 10:27 PM
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