Issue(s): Darkhold #1
Morbius feature in Adventures Into Fear in the 1970s was relatively short lived and very weird, but it did show that a book about Morbius could exist. And in retrospect, the Nightstalkers book makes sense to me since it featured Blade (and to a lesser extent Hannibal King, who was also an interesting character). Not that you need to have had a book previously in order to get a new book, but i can see why Marvel would put out books featuring these characters. This Darkhold book, on the other hand, leaves me scratching my head.
I mean that from a marketing perspective. From a fan perspective, i really love the idea of introducing a new member of the Montesi lineage. I've always known about the Montesi Formula thanks to Roger Stern's Destroy All Vampires story in Dr. Strange, but it wasn't until i started doing this project that i realized how deep the Montesi history goes. It's an obscure part of the Marvel universe, but it's one that's pretty deeply woven, and that's even more true when you add in the larger Darkhold book that it was included in. And i love to see Marvel stretching out into other genres. But while the other books that were being launched as part of the "Midnight Sons" crossover are essentially super-hero books with horror trappings, this book is more purely a horror book, with characters that aren't even super-heroes to the extent that Blade or Johnny Blaze are. I guess there was a trend toward horror comics at this time. Next year, Marvel will launch Clive Barker's Razorline, and DC will officially create the Vertigo imprint (and had already been publishing Vertigo-like books). But this book doesn't have the draw of strong creators like those lines did. And this is actually what makes me a bit cynical about this. I liked Richard Case's cartoony, somewhat abstract, art on Dr. Strange but he wasn't a superstar. And Chris Cooper was editor Bobbie Chase's current assistant editor. I mean, maybe he got a job at Marvel hoping to eventually get his idea to make a book about the Darkhold published, but it seems more likely that someone decided that Marvel was going to launch a "Ghost Rider family" series of books and they were like, well holy crap, who are we going to get to write them? Still, i applaud Marvel for trying something different.
And how are you going to not read a book when this is the opening splash?
Actually, you probably shouldn't read something when someone like that is encouraging you to, because what happens is that you turn into worms.
But we'll get back to him. Here is Victoria Montesi and her roomate Nash.
Victoria is a med school student. Her father is Italian and her mother is American, and she's studying in Italy. Victoria is having day visions about the worms.
But she and Nash are also caught in a bomb blast that was detonated in their apartment.
Victoria's father comes to see her in the hospital. He is a priest, but the church has a special rule for the Montesis allowing them to marry so that the line can continue. Victoria says that her father is upset that he only had a daughter. She doesn't believe anything about the Darkhold.
Victoria learns that Nash is in bad shape, but Victoria is thought to be the target of the bomb because of her connection to the Darkhold. Interpol agent Sam Buchanan is assigned to protect her.
When Victoria leaves the hospital, she and Sam are attacked by Darkholder ninjas.
Meanwhile, in New York, Johnny Blaze and Ghost Rider contact a Professor Louise Hastings. Hastings initially confuses Ghost Rider with Zarathos.
Inspired by a vision, Victoria forces Sam to take her to New York to meet with Professor Hastings.
We also see that Lilith has allied herself with Darkholders.
Victoria, Sam, and Louise all meet up at the crime scene where the worm guy first claimed a victim. It turns out that Victoria and Louise know each other. We also learn what was in the envelope that the dwarf (who is tagged as Darkhold Dwarf) gave the worm guy. It turns out to be a missing page from the Darkhold.
Louise knew about Zarathos, but Victoria is much less versed in the Marvel universe. She thinks Dr. Strange is Mr. Weird.
I think the idea that the Catholic church can't handle the idea that the Darkhold has something to do with Ch'thon, because it doesn't fit with Christian doctrine, is interesting.
They meet the worm guy.
Luckily, Louise had Blaze and Ghost Rider waiting outside.
They collect all his worm components and put him in a jar and interrogate him.
He says that when he read the Darkhold page, a being called The Other offered him immortality, and he accepted it, not knowing that it would be in the form of turning him into worms. Now he kills because the sensation of filling another body with worms briefly makes him feel alive.
Worm guy gets free, but Louise has the brilliant idea of luring him to the park, where he's eaten by birds.
Lilith shows up at the park, but she's driven away by a single blast from Blaze's hellfire shotgun.
Again, Blaze and Ghost Rider don't collect these "Darkhold Redeemers" as part of an ongoing alliance against Lilith. Instead, this is just a set-up for this series. The idea is that if one mysterious missing page of the Darkhold has resurfaced, others will as well. And they have to stop and/or research them.
A few more set-ups at the end. A mysterious guy that kills a final worm missed by the birds.
And an arsonist is approached by Dwarf.
I actually thought this was a good story, at least until the end when they practically screamed to us in all caps "THIS IS THE PREMISE OF THE BOOK, OK? WE'RE GOING TO BE HUNTING DOWN MORE PAGES OF THE DARKHOLD, WHICH WE KNOW WILL SHOW UP!". But beyond that, it was pretty good, like a lightweight Lovecraft story. Case's art gives the story an almost comedic quality, which is probably not intentional but i think it makes for an interesting tone. The characters will need to get fleshed out more, but it's a good start.
Quality Rating: C+
Chronological Placement Considerations: This is part four of Rise of the Midnight Sons. Part five is in Nightstalkers #1. But Ghost Rider and Johnny Blaze (and Nakota, seen running away above) appear in Spirits of Vengeance #3 next. I'm treating the final scene, with the Dwarf giving the pyromaniac a light, as a flashforward. That scene continues directly at the beginning of issue #2, but issue #2 has to take place later. See #2's Considerations for details.
Crossover: Rise of the Midnight Sons
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: Rise of the Midnight Sons TPB
Inbound References (8): show
Actually, Richard Case was getting some attention due to his work with Grant Morrison on DC's Doom Patrol. As soon as Morrison left that book though, it sorta vanished.
Posted by: Mark Drummond | March 4, 2016 4:34 PM
Um, Ghost Rider, you've been facing accusations of being Zarathos for virtually your entire series, what makes you say "I do not know this 'Zarathos'" like this is the first you've heard of him? I'd think you know him pretty damn well at this point, even if you've never met the guy!
Posted by: Morgan Wick | March 4, 2016 10:49 PM
I was always a bit confused as to whether the Dwarf was supposed to be merely a servant / creation of Chthon, or an actual manifestation of him. I've heard him referred to as both in different places. I thought it was something worth bringing up because if the Dwarf *is* Chthon, then perhaps he should also be tagged as appearing? Well, it's your site, fnord, so you make the call.
Posted by: Ben Herman | March 5, 2016 1:06 AM
For now i'll follow the MCP in listing the Dwarf as a separate character, but as i read through these issues i'll look for evidence to do otherwise. I see that the MCP doesn't even list Ch'thon as behind-the-scenes in any of Dwarf's appearances.
Posted by: fnord12 | March 5, 2016 1:29 PM
It seems that everyone employs ninjas in the Mackie-verse... even the Darkholders. Heh.
Anyway, I think that the idea for this book is relatively interesting. I haven't read it, but the idea is sound.
Posted by: Piotr W | March 5, 2016 4:10 PM
I'm really surprised no attempt was made to bring over some of the Legion of Night. They would make some good characters who would want to investigate the Darkhold - which is essentially Marvel's Necronomicon.
The idea of this horror corner of the Marvel Universe I love, but the art, writing, and stories are just completely against what interested me. Darkholder ninjas?
Given how quickly all "ninjas" int he Marvel Universe are defeated; it is obvious almost none of them are ninjas. Instead, the real ninjas decided the best way to hide themselves was to set up a fake recruiting office where they trained "ninjas" as disposable goons who could work for anyone. They probably hired Taskmaster who came up with an easy ten step program. If you graduated from the Taskmaster Academy's six week course, your diploma says "ninja" so you call yourself that.
This allows the real ninjas to actually be competent.
I'm torn on the art. Some of it is effective, but it still doesn't seem quite right for a horror book. Still, of all the Midnight Sons books, this is the one that might have gotten me to buy it.
I have a real problem with how Lilith looks though. The V shaped forehead just does not work.
Posted by: Chris | March 5, 2016 5:12 PM
Do we ever find out who the mysterious guy that kills the final worm missed by the birds is?
@Chris: Legion of Night show up in Midnight Sons Unlimited:)
Posted by: Nathan Adler | March 5, 2016 7:45 PM
@Nathan Adler: The mysterious guy who kills the last work is Modred the Mystic.
I liked the artwork on Darkhold. Richard Case previously penciled some truly bizarre stories when Grant Morrison was writing Doom Patrol, so he was a good fit for drawing a weird horror-oriented series such as this. Certainly Caser was a better choice than some of the Image-lite artists that Marvel was sticking on various other titles around this time.
Posted by: Ben Herman | March 5, 2016 8:25 PM
This book could be really strong, but I think it suffers from association with the Midnight Sons brand. The art does not help either.
Interesting how unpleasant Father Montesi comes across as being. It may be a hint of things to come, although it is probably just a plot reason for he not to be a regular supporting character.
One of many odd things of many 1990s books such as this is that they glanced at interesting subjects but only to the point of plausible denial. Nash here is a perfect example.
Posted by: Luis Dantas | March 6, 2016 8:41 AM
Thinking of this Midnight Sons period, it occurs to me that it ends up hinting strongly of why the choice to have five different line editors in 1994 came to be. These books all but screamed that they want to be their own thing. They certainly craved for better editorial attention.
Posted by: Luis Dantas | March 6, 2016 7:32 PM
The leader of the Darkholders turns out to be Sam's boss DeGuzman, so he should be listed as a Character Appearing in this issue and issues 2-4.
Posted by: Michael | May 11, 2016 7:51 PM
Added the characters. Thanks.
Posted by: fnord12 | May 11, 2016 9:00 PM
This book has a good premise, but I suspect it's heavily inspired by Friday the 13th: The Series, https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Friday_the_13th:_The_Series , which has a trio of occult investigators trying to "catch 'me all"--in that case, not Darkhold pages (or Pokémon), but cursed antiques.
Posted by: Walter Lawson | February 22, 2017 11:58 PM
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