Ghost Rider #28
Issue(s): Ghost Rider #28
This issue launches the Rise of the Midnight Sons event which introduces four new books to what is now called the "Ghost Rider family". It's hard to understate how much Marvel was expanding its line in 1992. In some years, the addition of four new books would be a pretty big deal. But this year it's just one of three "families" being added. Big Guns (Cage, Nomad, Silver Sable, Terror, and Punisher War Zone) and Marvel UK are the other two i have in mind. Marvel also launched its 2099 line at this point, which takes place in the future and (mostly) won't be covered in my project, but definitely added more to Marvel's overall output. There is also Warlock and the Infinity Watch, and i wouldn't be surprised if i am forgetting something.
The Midnight Sons books are Spirits of Vengeance, Morbius, Darkhold, and Nightstalkers. Spirits of Vengeance can truly be considered part of a "Ghost Rider family"; it's a Ghost Rider/Johnny Blaze team-up book. The others aren't naturally related to Ghost Rider aside from this story that ties them together, but they're all horror books under the same editor and they'll basically constantly cross over with each other, so they do wind up being part of the same "family". It really is a sign of the strength of the Ghost Rider brand to see Marvel launching four more books off of it all at once, even considering the fact that Marvel was expanding. Morbius had a book before, and Nightstalkers is arguably Tomb of Dracula without Dracula (and Blade will become a break-out star), but the Darkhold book really seems like Marvel was taking a chance, and it does last the least amount of time (even before taking into account that Nightstalkers is replaced by Blade). But more on all of that in the entries for the individual books.
I should also note that all of the launch books (two issues of Ghost Rider and the four new #1s) all came poly-bagged and with posters. I have these issues in a trade that was published in 1993 (and even includes an ad for the 1993 Road to Vengeance crossover; kind of weird for a trade to have ads). I do also own an original copy of this issue, still sealed in its polybag. I must have bought it in a bargain bin, not realizing i had the issue in the trade already until i got home. No point in opening that polybag now; i'll just let it keep accruing value!
The trade did highlight for me something a little unusual about this crossover. The two issues of Ghost Rider that are included in this event, and this trade, are issue #28 and #31. So that means that Ghost Rider continues to have unrelated adventures after this event kicks off, even as he's appearing in every chapter of this event. The same is true of Spirits of Vengeance, which has issues explicitly taking place between chapters of this story. So i couldn't just read this trade straight through; i had to jump to other issues in between chapters. My personal format problems aside, this isn't a big deal; it's just the only case i can think of, certainly the only one i've encountered on the project so far, where there are non-crossover issues in between crossover issues of the same series (i'm talking Part X of Y crossovers, not something big and sprawling like Secret Wars II).
This story starts with Ghost Rider and Johnny Blaze having traveled from New Orleans to Brooklyn. Ghost Rider went to Blaze for help with the fact that Ghost Rider's human host, Danny Ketch, was seemingly killed by Blackout. At the start of this issue, Blaze isn't so much helping Ghost Rider as preventing his vengeance obsession from getting out of hand.
It turns out that Ghost Rider has been going after random criminals with, er, a vengeance. But in addition to using his penance stare on them, he's been holding them prisoner in the Cypress Hill cemetery, in the mausoleum where he's already imprisoned Blackout and Stern inside a coffin.
Ghost Rider tells Blaze that "something is slipping away from me", and that's clearly Danny Ketch's side, which is why he's becoming a pure vengeance entity. The conversation is interrupted by the cemetery's caretaker, who will literally be known as The Caretaker.
Caretaker *ptooey* tells Blaze and Ghost Rider that they've attracted the attention of the police. Blaze is already questioning why he's trying to help Ghost Rider, and now he really just wants to leave. So he follows Caretaker, who promises a way out. The police shoot at them. Meanwhile, Ghost Rider heads back to the mausoleum, where he finds that all the criminals have been killed.
Meanwhile, the spirit of Danny Ketch is still floating around in the darkness. He sees a light and goes to it, and gets a sample of the events of the upcoming crossover.
The dream affects Ghost Rider too, so he frees Blackout and Stern while in a trance.
Ghost Rider mutters the name "Lilith", which is the villain that Danny saw in his vision. Blackout seems to recognize the name and say, "Mother?" to himself. Then, since Ghost Rider is incapacitated, Blackout and Stern don't risk bothering with him. They leave the mausoleum to find it surrounded by the police. Blackout uses Stern's invulnerable (but not pain resistant) body as a shield to flee.
Blaze and Caretaker wind up at the mausoleum too, having crawled there through tunnels between the graves, and they leave the same way.
Ghost Rider then starts ranting what seems like nonsense but will turn out to be the names of the minions of Lilith.
Caretaker is leading Johnny Blaze to a place where a special motorcycle is being stored. But when they get there, Blackout is already trying to take it.
In a reversal from earlier in the issue, Ghost Rider prevents Blaze from killing Blackout.
Blackout gets away. And notice that Blaze's hellfire shotgun has caused the bike to light up in flames. But that's normal for it.
We next see Caretaker with Dr. Strange. Strange will play a behind-the-scenes manipulator role throughout this event.
Having read over two years of Howard Mackie's Ghost Rider at this point, i have a low tolerance for mysteries being introduced, such as the nature of the Caretaker, his relationship to Dr. Strange, and the bike he gave Blaze. But to less jaded readers it probably seemed intriguing, and at least we know that the details about Lilith will be addressed in short order. It's kind of a slow start for this event, with most of the plot having nothing to do with it. But it does create some build-up.
I want to say something about Andy Kubert's art. This isn't Kubert's first Marvel universe work, but the fact that his father is inking him is what brought this to mind for me (not that this is the first time Joe has inked Andy at Marvel either). Kubert is following the model that Mark Texeira established for this title. Big dramatic panels. Very nice looking. But the storytelling is absolute crap. I really had to guess from panel to panel what was supposed to be happening. God knows where the police are when they are shooting at Blaze and Caretaker. The sequence of Ghost Rider opening the coffin isn't very clear. Blackout's escape at the end of the issue is weirdly done; if it wasn't for the dialogue i wouldn't know that he wasn't just falling down after getting shot. And it occurred to me that Joe Kubert knows how to tell a story with art, and at this point he's been running a school for comic artists, and Andy attended that school (and will later teach at it). So, i would think, this isn't like some random fan artist that gets a lucky assignment and then continues to get work. This is someone that actually studied comic book art. And this is what we get. And then Andy becomes a teacher at this school, and a whole new generation of artists are trained without the emphasis on sequential storytelling. I'm not knocking the Kubert school. I'm really just noting how styles have changed at this point. Again, the art is nice to look at. And you can figure out the story with help from the script. Maybe that's enough. But it's not my preference. We've definitely reached a point where this is the norm, though.
Quality Rating: C
Chronological Placement Considerations: This is part one of Rise of the Midnight Sons. Part two is in Spirits of Vengeance #1. And in this case that does mean that Ghost Rider and Blaze next appear in that issue. But the next issue of Ghost Rider, #29, has Wolverine and the Beast on the trail of Ghost Rider after the events of last issue, #27. So all of this takes place in a relatively short period of time, and Wolverine and the Beast shouldn't have appearances in other books until after Ghost Rider #29.
Crossover: Rise of the Midnight Sons
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: Rise of the Midnight Sons TPB
Inbound References (4): showBlackout (Demon), Caretaker, Doris Ketch, Dr. Strange, Ghost Rider (Danny Ketch), Ghost Rider (Johnny Blaze), Noble Kale, Stacy Dolan, Stern, Thomas Dolan, Vengeance
I'm glad I'm not the only one that noticed Andy Kubert's bad storytelling and awkward poses. There was a panel above where I wondered why Ghost Rider was screaming out for George Michael's musical duo from the 80's....until I saw the shovel in the previous panel.
To this day, Andy STILL suffers from awkward poses quite often.
Posted by: Vincent Valenti | March 4, 2016 5:15 PM
Shouldn't the Historical Significance Rating be raised to 2 for the Caretaker's first appearance? He becomes a recurring supporting character, albeit one that drove most readers crazy because of his inability to reveal anything in plain English.
Posted by: Michael | March 4, 2016 7:44 PM
Caretaker epitomizes the type of character that I grew to loathe in 1990s comic books, as well as in genre TV such as The X-Files. He is someone who supposedly possesses a tremendous amount of knowledge about the innumerable mysteries that the protagonists have been attempting to solve, but who repeatedly refuses to provide any straight answers, instead doling out tantalizing hints over an extended period of time, always offering the rationale that the main characters aren't yet ready to know the whole truth, thereby keeping them (and, by default, the audience) in the dark for years at a time. It's a lazy, aggravating method of sustaining a mystery in an ongoing series.
Posted by: Ben Herman | March 5, 2016 12:26 AM
Regarding the historical significance, i've actually raised it to a 3 considering the number of different series he appears in and therefore the number of different creative teams that use him. Granted they're almost all in the "Ghost Rider family" but still. Thanks for pointing it out.
Posted by: fnord12 | March 5, 2016 12:48 AM
@Ben Herman, I agree with you about a billion percent. That's a very annoying device and one that is still being used today. The Blacklist is one current example that immediately springs to mind. Good show but a frustrating "I know but I can't tell you" mystery at the heart of it that, 3 seasons in, is making me care less and less about ever getting an answer.
Posted by: Robert | March 5, 2016 2:31 AM
Seems like Andy Kubert only has about 5 poses in his toolbox.
And he really can't draw hands.
Posted by: MindlessOne | July 3, 2017 9:49 AM
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