Characters Appearing: Bad Timing, Blade, Frank Drake, Ghost Rider (Danny Ketch), Ghost Rider (Johnny Blaze), Hannibal King, Lilith (Demon Mother), Louise Hastings, Modred the Mystic, Morbius, Noble Kale, Sam Buchanan, Victoria Montesi, Will 'Jinx' Hastings
Issue(s): Nightstalkers #14
The Midnight Sons books have been in constant crossover mode for more than half of 1993. Ghost Rider and Spirits of Vengeance have been nothing but crossovers, going from Midnight Massacre to Road to Vengeance to Siege of Darkness. The other Midnight Sons books at least got a formal break between Massacre and Siege, but during that break the Darkhold Redeemers and Ghost Rider appeared in Morbius' book. And just prior to Midnight Massacre there was a crossover between Morbius and Nightstalkers. So it's just been an ongoing series of crossovers and guest appearances.
This could be considered an admirable attempt to keep the Midnight Sons corner of the Marvel universe feeling cohesive, but the lack of coordination between titles works against that. One illustration of that is the lead in from the various titles into this crossover, which i'll describe further below. The individuals books also just don't leave any space for all their respective characters' appearances in other titles, leaving the guest appearances feeling generic at best and out of place at worst (a story in Midnight Sons Unlimited showing yet another gathering of the entire group, doesn't take into account the fact that everyone should be mad at Blade for trying to kill them during Midnight Massacre, for example). And on top of the coordination issues, the crossovers step on the themes and tones of the individual titles. The low scale horror stories of the Darkhold book in particular are ruined by the constant mega-threat interruptions. A group of non-powered investigators don't have any business fighting demons like the Lilin (who are effectively super-villains), and so they wind up getting pulled into these crossovers without having anything to contribute. Even the characters that have appropriate power levels, like Morbius and the Nightstalkers, see their unique story elements take a permanent back seat to plot elements from Ghost Rider's book.
Of course, the Catch-22 is sales. Darkhold had potential as a Vertigo-style series, but it was a harder sell to a Marvel universe fanbase, especially if Marvel execs were expecting Ghost Rider sized numbers from it. So the crossovers were the way to boost sales, but at the expense of the book's quality and even identity. I doubt anyone was convinced to buy Darkhold by seeing Sam Buchanan and Louise Hastings standing around in the back of the group scenes in these crossovers. Darkhold is canceled and its final issue is part of this crossover. Two of the other books don't make it much further, although with some caveats. Nighstalkers lasts three more issues but is replaced by a Blade solo series. Spirits of Vengeance lasts five issues but is replaced by a Johnny Blaze solo series (and a Blaze miniseries runs concurrently with this crossover). Another caveat is that we're getting to a point where cancellations are at least as much related to overall conditions in the comic book market as the merits of any individual series. But it's worth noting that Morbius manages to chug away for more than a year and Ghost Rider continues for several more. So it wasn't inevitable that some of the books got canceled.
Frankly after reading this crossover i would have canceled all the books. The protagonists include not only the entire Midnight Sons cast (nine of 'em), but also Dr. Strange, plus Vengeance, plus Caretaker, plus Jinx. Seer and Stacy Dolan are also part of the cast. And there are an equivalent amount of Lilin and other such demons. And then there are the tie-ins: Silver Sable and some of the Marvel Comics Presents stories feature additional characters acting on the periphery. So there are a HUGE number of characters running around. And "running around" is the best way to describe what they do. The plot is incoherent, so the characters really just do run somewhere, fight some super-demons, run somewhere else, fight some more, etc.. It's actually really incredible how bad Marvel was at maxi-sized crossovers at this point considering how many of them they were doing. I think back to the 12-part original Secret Wars which, for its faults, managed to juggle a large cast while providing quiet character moments and memorable scenes. This, by contrast, is chaotic and (if you're lucky) forgettable.
Zarathos is the main villain of the story. It feels a little like a bait and switch, in the sense that Lilith has been the uber-villain of the Midnight Sons line. At the start of this crossover, Zarathos is more like a powerful ally of Lilith than the main villain, but halfway through Lilith and the Lilin are banished and Zarathos becomes the main villain, with a group of demons called Fallen replacing the Lilin as the grunt villains (the Lilin and the Fallen are virtually indistinguishable). On top of all this, since the Darkhold book is ending, we also get revelations related to another uber-powerful demon, Ch'thon. Altogether it feels unfocused even if you manage to slog through all the chapters of mindless fighting. The story does have a few "important" developments, including the Darkhold revelations and a temporary death of Ghost Rider (he's replaced in his own book for Vengeance, but only for a few issues). The biggest thing to come out of this is a status quo change for Dr. Strange, but it's more the case that what happens to him was timed to take place during the crossover rather than the events of the crossover leading naturally to the changes.
The crossover starts in a way that seems maximized to make you think you've already missed something.
But it may actually be worse if you've read the issues prior to this crossover. Road to Vengeance ended with Ghost Rider and Johnny Blaze seemingly defeating and killing Lilith, and that's what Blade and Blaze are arguing about. Blaze is claiming that Lilith is dead, but Blade wants to see the body (which doesn't exist; she was sucked into a fissure).
The last issue of Darkhold prior to this crossover, in what was intended as a lead-in to this crossover, Johnny Blaze called the Darkhold Redeemers to tell them at Lilith was alive. The Nightstalkers, meanwhile, had a vision about Ghost Rider and Blaze last issue that was also meant to be a lead in to this story. And Dr. Strange had to abandon his apprentice to another dimension because of tears in the fabric of reality that were supposedly being created by Lilith. But we start here with Blaze and Ghost Rider having summoned the Midnight Sons to tell them that the threat of Lilith is over, and the first several pages are devoted to them fighting about whether or not to accept Blaze's word on the subject.
(Relatedly, it's a bit unclear whether or not the audience was supposed to believe Blaze. At the same time as Road to Vengeance, Lilith was appearing in Morbius' book, although not visible to the heroes. Ghost Rider was a guest star, but he didn't think to tell Morbius about Lilith. The continuity is murky and it's unclear whether Lilith was supposed to be appearing in Morbius' book before, during, or after Road to Vengeance, or if any thought was put into it at all. But the end result is that it's another book where the prior issues don't lead into the crossover very well.)
About half of this issue has the characters squabbling with each other about Lilith's death, and then the Nightstalker's breaking off to inspect the Cypress Hill Cemetary - where Lilith was seemingly killed - for themselves. When they get to Queens they find an unnatural fog and some poorly drawn demons.
One of the demons - and i am not making this up - is called Bad Timing.
The Nightstalker are unable to beat Bad Timing, but they are rescued by Ghost Rider, who has followed the group to apologize and admit that he might be wrong about Lilith. Bad Timing escapes. The Midnight Sons then agree to split up, with half the group investigating the fog and half going to "check on Lilith". Group 1 is Ghost Rider, Blaze, Hannibal King, Vicky Montesi, and Sam Buchanan. Group 2 is Blade, Frank Drake, Louise Hastings, Jinx, Modred, and Morbius.
In a sign of the lack of coordination between titles, the summary of this issue in Ghost Rider #44 (chapter two) says that the Nightstalkers were met by Lilith and Zarathos in this issue. In reality, Zarathos doesn't appear in this issue at all, and Lilith only appears at the very end as a reveal to the readers. The "recap" also provides some clarity on the plot and the title of the series. It says, as if we should already know it, that the fog is a result of the dimension that Lilith and her brood had been banished to, which is called the Shadowside. The mist leaks out of the fissure, and the mist is also spread wherever the Lilin go.
So you may just be better off reading the summaries of each issue, since they're more coherent and provide more information than the actual issues.
Quality Rating: D
Chronological Placement Considerations: This is part one of Siege of Darkness. Part two is in Ghost Rider #44. Dr. Strange's appearance in this storyline places it after Blood and Thunder. Secret Defenders #11, which is part three of Starblast, takes place after this crossover.
As noted above, previous Midnight Sons issues seemingly led into this series, but the lead-ins are not very connected to what actually happens here, and this doesn't need to follow those books directly. Supporting that is the fact that Frank Drake shows up late to this meeting because he wanted to spend some time with his family first. So clearly time has passed since last issue.
Crossover: Siege of Darkness
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Blaze is also angry that Blade killed him and Dan- which is at least an attempt to acknowledge that not everybody forgave Blade.
Posted by: Michael | March 27, 2017 11:05 PM
There are also two issues of Spectacular Spider-Man that loosely tie in with the "Siege of Darkness" crossover.
Posted by: Ben Herman | March 28, 2017 1:48 PM
Steven Grant talks a little bit about his experience writing Nightstalkers in this interview: https://magazinesandmonsters.com/2015/07/24/cbuh-sgrant2/
The relevant section is between the pictures of Marvel Fanfare and Challengers of the Unknown covers but there's also another section below that where he discusses the knock-on effects the Midnight Sons line had on his Spectacular Spider-Man run.
Fun fact: the editor of Nightstalkers also edited the Barbie comics line.
Posted by: Garuda | October 29, 2017 5:23 AM
Curious enough, for sure. And that is probably an explanation for why a former Barbie writer wrote Morbius' book from #21 (as Fnord pointed out in the review for #20).
Posted by: Luis Dantas | October 29, 2017 6:23 AM
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