Brian C. Saunders:
Characters Appearing: Analisa Medina, Ghost Rider (Danny Ketch), Harmony Young, Linda Wei, Luke Cage, Noble Kale
Marvel Comics Presents #131-136 (Ghost Rider)
Issue(s): Marvel Comics Presents #131, Marvel Comics Presents #132, Marvel Comics Presents #133, Marvel Comics Presents #134, Marvel Comics Presents #135, Marvel Comics Presents #136 (Ghost Rider story only)
Ghost Rider's guest star for these issues is Luke Cage. This coincidentally comes at a time when Iron Fist was a regular feature in this book and it's kind of surprising that this didn't translate into a team-up between the two former partners.
This story starts off with Luke Cage's former girlfriend, Harmony Young, having been killed as part of a string of "bizarre serial killings".
Meanwhile, Danny Ketch is half-hitting on someone, half trying to help her with an abusive boyfriend.
Danny turns into Ghost Rider and chases after the razor-toothed boyfriend. He passes Luke Cage in a cab. Don't ask me about Ana telling Cage about how she's into Cage's hardcore porn videos.
Ghost Rider catches up with the boyfriend's car and grabs the woman, but she's also razor-toothed now.
The car crashes and is enveloped by this thing, which is called Darklove.
Cage and Ghost Rider investigate Darklove and the serial killings separately. They are both attacked by Darklove with waves of guilt and depression. They fight it off, and Ghost Rider, still weak, finds his way to Cage, saying that he was able to find Cage because he has a mysterious connection with Darklove. Ghost Rider says that when Darklove attacks, he feels the victims' pain.
Cage and Ghost Rider decide to pool resources.
It turns out that Darklove is powered by a page from the Darkhold. Darklove can possess humans and make them perform acts of evil (Harmony, like the woman that Danny met, was the victim of domestic abuse).
They track Darklove down and fight through his possessed minions.
But they are overwhelmed by goons, and in the confusion Cage finds that both Darklove and Ghost Rider have disappeared.
Cage sees that there's something going on at the World Trade Center.
Cage takes a cab to the towers, but the cabbie (the same one as before) is possessed by Darklove, and he slows Cage down by crashing the cab.
Meanwhile, Ghost Rider is at the top of one of the towers, having a very unproductive conversation with Darklove.
Apparently the demon inside Darklove was once in love with another demon, but Mephisto took her for himself. Darklove fought back, and Mephisto placed a curse on him, causing him to always produce the opposite of love, and placed that "love spell" in the Darkhold.
So now Darklove wants to possess all of Manhattan, to deny those souls to Mephisto.
Cage gets a ride to the top of the tower in a newscopter with Linda Wei. He jumps out and goes to Ghost Rider.
Ghost Rider is half-stuck in Danny Ketch form, and Darklove is possessing him and drawing power from him. Cage considers killing Danny to stop Darklove, but he's interrupted by the sound of his beeper going off, which alerts Darklove to the threat. So Darklove possesses Cage.
But this frees Ghost Rider, who zaps Darklove with a penance stare...
...and then flees the subsequent explosion with Cage by riding down the side of the tower.
Ghost Rider then turns back into Danny and passes out.
As is often the case with a Ghost Rider story, the best thing about this are the visuals. It's not really a great story for Cage. Darklove isn't the sort of villain that he can punch out, and the use of Darklove's powers to attack Cage with his subconscious guilt doesn't go very far, i guess because Karl Bollers didn't want to step on the toes of the main series. It should have been an opportunity to do more with Harmony Young, like maybe showing flashbacks or otherwise dealing with the fact that Cage was unable to re-connect with Harmony thanks to being on the run after being falsely accused of Iron Fist's death. But Harmony barely figures into the story; her death is just a quick way to get Cage involved (which seems like a classic Women In Refrigerators example).
Quality Rating: D+
Chronological Placement Considerations: Luke Cage's solo series ended with him severing ties from the Chicago Spectator and faking his death. This story was published before the end of Cage's series (this ends the same month as the first issue of Cage's final arc), and Cage gets a few calls from Analisa Medina of the Spectator (it's her on the beeper at the end). The first time she calls, it's said that he's been "gone over a week", and he's definitely meant to be working for the Spectator at this time.
Cage's next published appearance after the Cage series is in Secret Defenders, which doesn't acknowledge the status set up at the end of Cage. So this story could either go during Cage's series or afterwards with the idea that he faked his death for a while and then got back in touch with the Spectator. The MCP goes with the latter, but i'm going with the former based on placement for Ghost Rider, which i want to go before Road to Vengeance begins.
When Cage is attacked by Darklore, there is a line about Cage making a decision to join a gang, which cost his mother his life. We'll learn the details of that in Cage #17 (which was published during this run), but we knew at least as early as Cage #14 that Cage's brother considered him responsible for Cage's death, and Cage obviously knew about it prior to all of this. So that shouldn't be a placement consideration.
I've tagged Harmony Young because the beginning of the story takes place at her gravesite, but she doesn't otherwise appear in the story.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
I do admit the panel of Cage riding with Ghost Rider and his eyes bulging out is hilarious, in a "what the f*** did I just sign up for anyway!?" sort of way.
Posted by: Ataru320 | April 6, 2017 1:12 PM
At the time I first read this story, I had no idea that Harmony Young was an existing character. I just thought Karl Bollers made up an ex-girlfriend for Cage in order to give him a reason to get involved in this story. But now I see, via fnord's character tag for Harmony, that she actually had multiple appearances in the past. That's sort of tacky on the part of Bollers, having a long-running supporting character get murdered off-panel. I certainly understand why fnord cites this as an example of "women in refrigerators" syndrome.
I agree with fnord's opinion of this one: nice artwork, but an underwhelming story. But that was the case with most of the Ghost Rider team-up stories that ran in MCP.
Posted by: Ben Herman | April 6, 2017 1:39 PM
Historical significance for 1st bald Luke Cage? Since that seems to be the standard now. No? Just me? OK, I'll asee myself out.
Posted by: Jeff | April 6, 2017 2:35 PM
I think Cage is supposed to be on the phone with Ana and she's the one saying "they say hardcore doesn't sell"; note the lightning-bolt arrow attached to that balloon and how Cage seems to respond to that line to "Ana" in the next panel.
Judging by the lack of historical significance points, should I assume Harmony Young turns up alive later?
Posted by: Morgan Wick | April 6, 2017 4:23 PM
Thanks Morgan, you're right, it's Ana, not the cabbie. Got confused because i thought it was related to the cabbie asking if Luke was the "dude from 'Street Justice'" in the previous scene.
This is the last appearance of Harmony, i just didn't think that her death merited a HSR point. But i guess it should.
Posted by: fnord12 | April 6, 2017 4:38 PM
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