Spirits of Vengeance #16
Issue(s): Spirits of Vengeance #16
However, Zarathos doesn't have any memories, and he expends all of his energy in a rage. Caretaker has the Ghost Riders withdraw, and he continues his history, focusing on more recent events.
This all seems unclear, and even a little inaccurate. Caretaker is saying that Mephisto used the power of the medallion to turn Blaze into Ghost Rider so that he (Mephisto) could get the rest of the medallion. Not only do i not think someone at Mephisto's power level would care about some Earth trinket, but it's not like we ever saw Mephisto making a move to bring Ghost Rider to the other two pieces of the amulet. I could also have used some footnotes. When did Ghost Rider fry Balidino's father? The answer seems to be that this is new information. And Barbara Ketch didn't die when she was shot by the crossbow bolt in Ghost Rider #1 (she was killed in Ghost Rider #7, well after Danny became Ghost Rider).
I dunno, i'll admit to not having the patience to try to sort through it any better, but it all seems very clumsily delivered in snippets from Caretaker instead of developing as a story. That's in a large part because Mackie didn't seem to have any of this (or anything) in mind when he started the new Ghost Rider series.
A related development is that Danny Ketch and Johnny Blaze are siblings. We don't explicitly learn that yet, but we learn that the medallion pieces were given to a male and female member of each family. Balidino got his sister's when his father killer her (per the flashback above). Danny's medallion was actually meant for his sister but unlike Balidino he didn't get two. So who has the other one? Johnny Blaze. Doris Ketch tries to make this explicit by shouting that Caretaker should tell them about "my babies", but she passes out and Caretaker - of course - says that there isn't time.
Meanwhile, Lilith approaches the amnesiac Zarathos and brings him over to her side.
Caretaker leads the Ghost Riders back to Zarathos, where they fight him. Caretaker won't let them tap into the power of the medallion, but he does tell Ghost Rider to touch it, and Zarathos is blasted away, along with Lilith and her Lilin. Supposedly forever (fact check: false).
It's at the end that it's confirmed that Danny and Johnny are brothers.
We don't learn as much in this story as we should (for example, there's still a mystery around the use/purpose of the medallion, and we don't know how Centurious/Zarathos got out of the crystal that was held by Mephisto), and what we do learn is garbage, really. The original Zarathos origin was better than this and the way that was casually reversed is pretty sloppy. Frankly, i'm a fan of the original original origin that just said that Mephisto turned Johnny Blaze into a demon when he traded his soul for his step father. The idea that Blaze always had the Ghost Rider in him because of a "medallion" and something about a centuries old tribe called the Blood led by the doofus Caretaker, and the glomming on of the third rate imitation Ghost Rider, Vengeance... it all seems poorly thought out and diluting, trivializing the sacrifice that Blaze originally made. I suppose something was necessary since i think the idea was to avoid associating Danny Ketch with Satanism (people were much more chill about Satanism in the 70s than the 90s!), so you couldn't just have him inheriting Zarathos with his original origin or making his own deal with Mephisto (although Michael Badilino did, even though that's basically inoperative now too).
(I should also observe that there are more revisions to come after Mackie leaves, e.g. Noble Kale.)
This crossover started off fairly decently, with some fun fights and a promise to tell Ghost Rider's origin. Even accepting that the origin itself was a dud, the event falls flat, with the "final" confrontations with Centurious and Zarathos being over way too quickly. Major anti-climaxes. Most of the final two chapters are filled with... well, i can't even call it exposition because we don't really learn that much. But with the characters kind of running back and forth from the battlefield while Caretaker talks cryptically.
I should also note the art. Ok, the truth is that Ghost Rider stories are never that great and what really matters are the visuals. But Adam Kubert is off the book at this point. Mike Manley did the first two parts of the Spirits of Vengeance side, and Henry Martinez did this issue. So we kind of had two issues of art fill-ins during what was arguably the most important storyline in this series. Martinez will continue as the regular artist, but it's a step down from Kubert (the Ghost Rider book at least continued to have Ron Garney).
Quality Rating: D
Chronological Placement Considerations: This is the sixth and final part of Road to Vengeance.
Crossover: Road to Vengeance: The Missing Link
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Inbound References (3): showCaretaker, Centurious the Soulless Man, Clara Menninger, Doris Ketch, Ghost Rider (Danny Ketch), Ghost Rider (Johnny Blaze), Kodiak, Lilith (Demon Mother), Miranda Woods, Nakota, Noble Kale, Pilgrim, Seer, Vengeance, Wolff, Zarathos
At this point in the timeline I'd like to put forth the theory that Johnny Blaze always had the "potential" to become a Ghost Rider like Danny and Barbara Ketch and possibly hundreds of other candidates before them and that the Medallion of Power is only one such method to becoming a Spirit of Vengeance. I would also like to theorize that Mephisto hijacked both Johnny and Zarathos (the Native American Demon-God bit is probably his day job so to speak while his hunting the Medallion of Power was most likely a hobby to get more power for himself) in order to create his own pet Ghost Rider for his own dirty work. Finally I get the feeling that the reason that Zarathos got out of his crystal prison is that the Medallion pieces were in one location for the first time since they were separated and that, coupled with the fact that one of the Medallion piece holders was his former vessel, was able to transfer enough energy to him to manifest back on Earth long enough to finally try and get the Medallion for his own purposes.
Posted by: D09 | February 21, 2017 5:23 PM
If the medallion pieces should never be brought together and even bringing two of them together is a step too far, why the hell were all the pieces divvied up among pairs of siblings?!? It would seem to be effectively cutting the number of vectors that would need to be brought together nearly in half! AND WHY ARE THEY ALL IN AMERICA?!? All in the same city even, I think! God, these Blood doofuses are complete idiots!
Posted by: Morgan Wick | February 21, 2017 6:31 PM
Johnny Blaze had a pretty strong origin, especially once Roger Stern cleaned it up in issue 68 of the first volume. I totally agree that the medallion stuff clashes terribly with the original's Faustian bargain, as well as not making much sense in and of itself. (and I'm criticizing Mackie here, not D09's admirable attempt at fitting the backstories together)
Something I'm mostly fine with is giving Johnny some younger half-siblings; his birth mother's life after she left hadn't been elaborated on. But Danny Ketch is a dull character, almost indistinguishable to me from Chris Powell or Rick Sheridan, so making him part of Johnny's family isn't compelling.
On the positive side, I like this redesign of Zarathos' true form much better than the versions from GR76 or 77.
Posted by: Mortificator | February 21, 2017 7:57 PM
Well, I'll admit that I'm no Nathan Adler, but I'm willing to give it the old college try every so often.
Posted by: D09 | February 21, 2017 8:42 PM
Note that it's not clear here that Dan and Johnny are half-brothers- that seems to be a later retcon- Mackie seems to have intended them to be full brothers.
Posted by: Michael | February 21, 2017 8:42 PM
Not a great payout for years of teasing, but I guess it is an attempt at an origin for the Danny Ketch Ghost Rider. Sloppy and flawed as heck, but I can't claim to have expected anything better, nor to have ever cared for Danny Ketch in the first place.
Still, I can't help but notice that there seems to be a particularly glaring inconsistency, or probably just sloppiness, regarding the number of pieces of the medallion.
There seem to be exactly three - Danny's, Vengeance's and Johnny's (the last one apparently working strictly behind the scenes up to this point). Yet the Blood, whose whole reason for being is to protect those pieces, does not seem to be aware of that basic piece of info until this storyline.
Also, how is it that there is (as we will later learn) a whole tradition of various generations of Ghost Riders, but not of duos or trios operating at the same time? As noted above by Morgan Wick, it is not even clear whether the Blood wants to keep the fragments together or apart from each other nor from their hosts; their actions and claims, sporadic and vague as they are, still manage to be all over the place.
Posted by: Luis Dantas | February 22, 2017 2:19 AM
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