Ghost Rider #54-56
Issue(s): Ghost Rider #54, Ghost Rider #55, Ghost Rider #56
I don't know what caused the change in direction. Denny O'Neil is still editor (although he'll be replaced by David Anthony Kraft with issue #57). The book went monthly a little over a year ago, and at the time it was said in the lettercol that it was because the book was doing well and had become Marvel's #1 horror comic, which i guess was really just a process of elimination since Tomb of Dracula had been canceled and most (all?) other Marvel horror comics had been cancelled long before that. But the Statement of Ownership numbers printed in this issue are nearly identical to last year's (132,129 vs. last year's 135,107). Maybe the book didn't live up to sales expectations after the change to a monthly schedule. Quality wise, whatever you think of the book, there hasn't been any noticeable change in the past year. But obviously Marvel thought it was time for a change. After these issues we'll continue to see guest stars and super-villains, and the book will add a permanent supporting cast.
These are also the last issues to be fully drawn and inked by Don Perlin. He has been the regular artist on the book since issue #26 and inking himself since issue #30. Issue #56 here has him only doing layouts with "Esposito & Crew" doing finishes, and we'll see Perlin at similar limited capacity for the next few issues. He'll return a few more times, but in many ways Ghost Rider felt like his book for the past few years since he was the consistent force over three different writers, and that's no longer the case.
Johnny Blaze has been invited to perform at a casino in Las Vegas. On the way there, he's shot at by some people that have been hypnotized by the Orb (we learn that, but Johnny/Ghost Rider doesn't). Johnny transforms into Ghost Rider and dispatches the shooters with ease.
But instead of just turning back into Blaze when it's over, Ghost Rider rides into the nearest town and goes on a rampage.
This upsets the Orb, who hoped that Ghost Rider would have charged the shooters on the overpass instead of just throwing Johnny's cycle at them.
So the Orb didn't get a chance to attack and try out his "newly improved hypno-helmet".
Eventually the Ghost Rider is "sated" and he transforms back into Johnny Blaze, who compares trying to control Ghost Rider to "having a pack of killer Dobermans straining at the leash", but vows to never let him fully gain control. He then hitches a bus to Vegas.
Having lost his cycle, Johnny has to get an advance from the Casino owner to buy a new one. Here's the sort of stuff he does during his show.
During his first performance, Johnny is spotted by Gina Langtree, the woman that he spent time with while he had amnesia.
Johnny lost his memory of Gina when he got his memory back, but seeing and talking to her brings it back.
The Orb sees Johnny with Gina and realizes that she's his ticket to getting back at Ghost Rider. Gina is in town for a race, so Orb hypnotizes her father into sending her out into the desert alone for a test drive, not realizing that her fuel tank has been sabotaged. And Orb also leaves a note for Johnny sending her after Gina. Johnny leaves with barely any time to get back for his second night's performance. And when he gets out there he's attacked by the Orb and his cycle is destroyed. But it doesn't take long for Ghost Rider to utterly defeat the Orb again.
Gina stops Ghost Rider from killing him.
And we find that Ghost Rider's hellfire has melted the plastic surgery that fixed his face.
You'd think, having had your face fixed, you'd leave well enough alone and not bother going for "vengeance" against the Ghost Rider, but Orb obviously can't leave well enough alone. We don't get a full reaction from Gina to all of this yet, but you can see she's pretty appalled and seems to be leaving with Orb. Next issue opens "hours" afterwards, with Johnny letting Ghost Rider blow off steam in the desert. It seems likely Johnny didn't make his second performance (especially since Johnny will have to get a second advance to pay for another bike), but that's not said explicitly. Ghost Rider terrorizes one of Gina's racers while he's out in the desert, but eventually takes Johnny back to Vegas where Johnny hopes to just pass out until his first show of the next day.
On Johnny's way up to his room, though, he runs into the Tatterdemalion, who is bothering the guests with his anti-decadence activism.
Trailing Tatterdemalion is Werewolf By Night.
It's nice of Jack Russell to try to stop Tatterdemalion, but the problem is that he's losing control of his Werewolf form.
So Ghost Rider winds up fighting him instead of Tatterdemalion.
The Werewolf transforms back into Jack during the fight, and Jack and Johnny head to the diner for a talk.
There's an obvious parallel between the two.
Jack is in denial about his ability to control the Werewolf. Does he really have to stick around to stop Tatterdemalion from burning up rich people's tuxedos while he runs the risk of actually killing people while he's the Werewolf? Especially when he knows that Ghost Rider is around? Of course, Jack has never been a paragon of responsibility.
During Johnny's next performance, Jack has an involuntary transformation and freaks out again, with Johnny having to transform into Ghost Rider to stop him (after the audience runs out of the room, luckily). At this point Jack agrees to be locked up at night.
For that, they go to Gina Langtree, and you have to love that the situation is Johnny introducing a friend to Gina that also turns into a monster.
But Gina has something else on her mind. She wants him to drive in the race, replacing the driver that Ghost Rider injured during his desert rampage.
Like, seriously, Gina? I'm a demon, my friend's a werewolf, the Tatterdemalion is on the loose, i've got my own show to perform in, and the most important thing on your mind is me learning how to drive a race car? But Johnny agrees in return for the use of the garage to lock up Jack.
Of course, locking up the Werewolf is about as effective as it always is, and Tatterdemalion considers race car driving to be a form of decadence, so soon we have a big three-way battle. I am somewhat surprised by the fact that Tatterdemalion is able to knock the Werewolf out with just a lead-weighted scarf and a bad odor. But only "somewhat", since it's not like the Werewolf's vulnerabilities are ever handled that consistently.
Ghost Rider stops Tatterdemalion. But since all Tatterdemalion intended to do was drive the race car off the nearest cliff, the fact that Ghost Rider stops Tatterdemalion by destroying the car makes it a bit of a Pyrrhic victory.
After the battle, Jack admits that he has a problem and says he's going to go back to LA to figure things out.
And then Gina breaks up with Johnny.
Johnny then goes back to the casino to find that he's being let go because Flagg Fargo is working at a rival casino and the owner doesn't want to be number two at anything. He offers to pay Johnny for the rest of the promised time, but Johnny just takes the advance for the two motorcycles as payment. Johnny goes to Flagg and sets up a rematch for the championship title, in two months.
On his way out of Vegas, Johnny is attacked by magic vultures.
The birds were send by Moondark the magician.
Meanwhile, Hamilton Slade, the great-great grandson of Lincoln Slade, the second Night Rider, explores his great-great grandfather's burial grounds.
And he finds himself transformed into Night Rider.
According to the lettercols, Ghost Rider #50, featuring Ghost Rider traveling back in time to team up with the Night Rider (Carter, not Lincoln), was very well received.
Night Rider goes after Moondark, first fighting some magic desert cats.
Even his horse Banshee gets in on the action.
He then shows up to distract Moondark...
...long enough for Ghost Rider to get free.
Ghost Rider turns around to find that Night Rider is gone, and Hamilton Slade wakes up not aware of what just happened but feeling exhausted.
Johnny Blaze then rides off thinking to himself that "somehow I have the feeling that sometime soon I'll be meeting up with [Night Rider] again". That won't actually happen but this story does result in a modern Night Rider that later joins the Rangers and then has a number of West Coast Avengers appearances.
Just by comparing the Characters Appearing and References of this entry to the past two or so years' worth of issues, it's clear that there's a major shift here. Ghost Rider doesn't have a huge rogues gallery which is why we're seeing characters from Marvel Team-Up and the like, but even the reappearance of characters like Gina Langtree and Flagg Fargo is a change for this book. I can't say the book is actually better, qualitatively, and any book featuring Moondark is not exactly on any top ten list of mine, but i do prefer it when characters interact more with the larger Marvel universe.
Statement of Ownership Total Paid Circulation: Average of Past 12 months = 132,129. Single issue closest to filing date = 125,936.
Quality Rating: C
Chronological Placement Considerations: These three issues are really only loosely related but they do continue directly from each other (a few hours between issues #54-55, and the goodbye scene with Gina continuing directly from #55-56) and all take place while Johnny Blaze is in Vegas.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: Essential Ghost Rider vol. 3
Inbound References (3): showBanshee (Horse), Flagg Fargo, Ghost Rider (Johnny Blaze), Gina Langtree, Moondark, Night Rider (Carter Slade), Night Rider (Hamilton Slade), Orb, Tatterdemalion, Werewolf By Night, Zarathos
To be fair, we saw in Marvel Team-Up 91 that Tatterdemalion's coat was lined with silver, so maybe the scarf is too.
Posted by: Michael | February 23, 2015 8:21 PM
Note that Hamilton says Lincoln died after "decades" of service as the Phantom Rider- as opposed to the later revelation that he died a few years after becoming the Phantom Rider.
Posted by: Michael | February 23, 2015 11:15 PM
You could argue that Jack losing control of the Werewolf merits at least a note in the Historical Significance, if not actually increasing the rating any.
Posted by: Morgan Wick | February 4, 2017 7:35 PM
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