Ghost Rider #1
Issue(s): Ghost Rider #1
I did not read the 90s Ghost Rider in realtime and it wasn't a series i ever subsequently went back for (with some scattered exceptions). So i'm coming into this for the first time for this project, so this is one of the books where my reviews will be based entirely on the immediate issues in question, with no idea of what's coming up.
I was expecting a very grim and gritty series. And in some ways it is, especially in the art - Mark Texeira's heavy inks create a dark atmospheric effect complimented by the coloring (by Gregory Wright) - and in the violence perpetrated as much by the main character as the villains. But in many ways it's a very traditional, almost retro book. For one thing, it's much "safer" than the 1970s Ghost Rider series. There's no deal with the devil in this Ghost Rider's origin, and (so far) no occult trappings at all, a big contrast to the Satanist Seventies. And while the original series touched on biker culture, the motorcycle in this series looks like what you'd expect to find in, well, a comic book. This Ghost Rider's origin is a cliched "boy gets in trouble, boy finds thing that turns him into a super-hero" trope, although that's easily ignored when the super-hero in question is a guy with a flaming skull head.
I don't know if there is actually an age difference, but Johnny Blaze felt older than the protagonist, Danny Ketch, here. Blaze was orphaned and completely on his own after his adopted father died. Ketch lives with his mom, and sneaks out of his bedroom to transform into Ghost Rider - basically on demand, by touching the gas cap on his motorcycle - when there's trouble.
The story begins with Danny and his sister Barbara ("Babs") walking through the Cypress Hills cemetery on Halloween. They come across a three way confrontation between some goons of the Kingpin, a teenage gang called the Cypress Pool Jokers, and a guy named Deathwatch that is leading what appear to be (but aren't, as far as i can see) a group of Hand ninjas.
Babs cries out when she sees Deathwatch kill the Kingpin goon, and she's then shot by a crossbolt.
In the confusion, one of the Jokers steals the case that the adult gangs were fighting over.
Danny takes Babs to hide under some junked cars, and it's in there that he finds the bike that will transform him into Ghost Rider.
And here he is.
From the start, he is talking about innocents and using his penance stare (not named) to cause his victims to feel the pain that they've caused to innocents.
He has an early encounter with the police, but they're unable to keep him from his solemn duty to avenge the innocent blood that's been spilled.
They pursue him but are unable to keep up after he drives up an alley wall.
There are no references to the original series (and in the long run it will turn out that this is a different Ghost Rider, not Zarathos). Ghost Rider only says that he's awakened from a "long sleep", as he's transforming back into Danny.
As Danny makes his way to the hospital, we switch to Deathwatch, who we see has the ability to feel the memories of people he touches.
Based on that, he initiates a search for the Joker that took the case. We also check in on a pretty off model Kingpin...
...who also wants the case back.
The Jokers find out that the case just has some canisters in it, nothing that they can use.
So they hide the canisters in mausoleums in the cemetery.
Dan makes it to the hospital, he meets his mom and learns that Babs is in a coma. He's not able to help the police with their investigation; it's assumed that he blacked out during the attack. Also at the hospital is Danny's romantic interest, Stacy Dolan.
Her father is a captain on the police force. Something about all of this in particular feels very Silver Age.
Danny later goes back to his bike, sees the gas cap glowing, and touches it, becoming the Ghost Rider again.
Ghost Rider shows up to fight ninjas and Kingpin goons that were attacking the Cypress Hills Jokers.
Magic chain tricks:
One of the Jokers is injured, and Ghost Rider takes him to the hospital.
This is really all set-up - in 46 pages for $1.95 - but it's a clear and clean set-up. Keeping this character completely divorced from Johnny Blaze, at least at first, was probably the right move in terms of making the book accessible. Ghost Rider's visuals have always been awesome, but the original series floundered in a lot of ways, so a fresh start with a new character makes a lot of sense.
Quality Rating: B-
Historical Significance Rating: 3 - first published Danny Ketch Ghost Rider and supporting cast. First Deathwatch.
Chronological Placement Considerations: Obviously this isn't the end of the canister plot, but a "week" passes between this and next issue.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Inbound References (6): show
"I am Deathwatch. I am your death!"
Sadly, that line is the highlight of Howard Mackie's career.
Posted by: Robert | May 20, 2015 7:46 PM
Oh god I just realized we might be getting close to quite possibly one of my first comic books. Well, at least the first one I bought with my own money and from a comic book store down the street that is sadly long gone.
Posted by: david banes | May 20, 2015 7:58 PM
I actually really enjoy a lot of Mackie's pre-boot Spider-Man work. I was never a Ghost Rider fan, though.
Posted by: TCP | May 20, 2015 8:04 PM
Yes, Johnny is indeed older than Danny Ketch. I don't want to spoil you if you don't already know what will be revealed about them.
Posted by: Michael | May 20, 2015 9:11 PM
This looks like quite the pointless series. And as I recall, it was indeed. Dany Ketch is even more of a 1990s poster boy than Cable.
Posted by: Luis Dantas | May 21, 2015 2:07 AM
Dan Ketch is the real Ghost Rider to me. I don't care for Johnny Blaze.
Posted by: Steven | May 21, 2015 2:53 AM
I did read this series in real time. Despite some problems, it did have "the magic". I was not surprised at how popular this character became. I read when Howard Mackie pitched the series, some people at Marvel ridiculed him since GR was considered a lame character. He proved them wrong.
Posted by: Chris | May 21, 2015 3:32 AM
The downplaying of supernatural elements in this series (at first) was touted as a selling point in places like Marvel Age. Mackie said this would be a realistic, gritty, street-level book. He didn't stick to that plan for long, though.
Posted by: Walter Lawson | May 21, 2015 6:48 AM
I read this book when I was at highschool. I admit that I wasn't too impressed with it even back then...
Unfortunately, the Mackie's Ghost Rider series shaped my perception of what horror comics should be like. So, when I tried doing horror comic of my own, I kind of emulated him... with dreadful results. Only after reading Gaiman and Moore I learned that you can do horror in comics in completely different way.
Posted by: Piotr W | May 21, 2015 3:23 PM
Stacy Dolan's name might be a double reference: there's Gwen Stacy, who was a Silver Age "policeman's daughter" love interest, but there's also the Will Eisner Spirit character Ellen Dolan, who was a Golden Age "police commissioner's daughter" love interest.
Posted by: Omar Karindu | November 15, 2015 2:55 PM
I'm interested in the reason for having Noble Kale listed as a character appearing here. Technically, he does, but it's not entirely consistent with the treatment of other unnamed appearances. Not being more specific so as not to spoil reading through the issues.
Posted by: Dave | March 28, 2017 4:21 AM
I haven't actually read the Noble Kale reveal yet, so i am following the MCP, who list him as an active (not behind-the-scenes) character in every Ghost Rider appearance. This is different than how they list, for example, Zarathos in the original Ghost Rider series, where he's usually listed as BTS.
I'm also trying to avoid spoilers, but my general policy is that if a character is active, i list them. If they're buried deep in someone's subconscious or the like, i don't. My (limited at this point) understanding is that the former applies here, but it will be easy enough for me to wipe out all the Noble Kale listings if i eventually discover that isn't the case (easier than retroactively adding them, in fact). I also know that Howard Mackie will eventually try to retcon away all of the Noble Kale stuff, and it's not clear what sticks. But it'll get all sorted out eventually, and it's relatively harmless to leave the character tag in the meantime.
Posted by: fnord12 | March 28, 2017 8:29 AM
Just read this in Watch Marvel Go from Awesome to Sucking in Just One Volume (though I think the technical title was Marvel Firsts: The 1990s Vol. 1). In it, the whole reason that Danny and his sister are at Cypress Hills Cemetery is so that Danny can take her to Houdini's gravesite. Except Cypress Hills is a non-denominational cemetery and Houdini is really buried in Machpelah Cemetery, which is a Jewish cemetery. Why use a real cemetery that's not the correct one? Certainly an odd choice from Mackie.
Posted by: Erik Beck | April 24, 2017 3:08 PM
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