Halloween Scene: Ghost Rider/Captain America FEAR (1992)

I haven’t talked about it much on the blog here, but I’m a huge fan of Ed Brubaker’s run on Captain America. I think it’s one of those runs that people will (and some already do) look back on with the same awe as Frank Miller’s Daredevil or Chris Claremont and John Byrne’s X-Men (but, unlike those runs, I actually like reading this one). Outside of Brubaker’s Cap and his appearances in the Avengers, I don’t have a lot of experience with the Sentinel of Liberty so I’m always look for new trades read. And, after just reading those first five issues of the 90s Ghost Rider, I’m now also looking for Ghost Rider books. So, when I saw a book on Sequential Swap called Ghost Rider/Captain America FEAR, I was sold. Well, as it turned out, it’s not really a trade, it’s a 48-page prestige format book with a fold-out cover (I wish Swap was a little more discerning in what they consider trades, but I also should have done a little research). When I opened the package, I thought it was actually a bonus comic thrown in for good measure along with Walking Dead Vol. 10 until I went back and realized I swapped for it. No big deal, just a cautionary tale to do your research.

Anyway, I had a good time reading this book. The story, written by Howard Mackie and drawn by Lee Weeks, teams Ghost Rider and Captain America up against an enhanced Scarecrow. The one and only interaction I’ve had with Marvel’s Scarecrow is an appearance in DC Vs. Marvel when he appeared with the real Scarecrow, so I don’t know what he was like before, but after a series of surgeries he now has enhanced strength and he makes anyone within 20 feet of him feel scared. It’s a hormone thing. Oh, he also talks about his mommy a lot.

The story is pretty much a Ghost Rider one with Cap thrown in to make Ghost Rider feel like a hero and track down Scarecrow who’s obsessed with him. You’ve probably seen the moment before when a young/new hero talks to Cap, Cap says he’s doing a good job and they feel honored or vindicated. Well, Danny Ketch here has been Ghost Rider for roughly 25 issues (according to an editor’s note, I miss those things) and he’s feeling like everyone hates and is afraid of his alter ego (it’s probably the flaming skull), but Cap doesn’t judge him harshly. Cap says he’s doing a good job by only going after bad guys and that being a hero isn’t easy. Then they pretty easily go after Scarecrow and fight him and win.

I will admit, I’m still not clear on all of Ghost Riders abilities or how they work. I get that his bike can fly/jump/ride up walls, he’s strong and pretty much every part of his jacket can be used as a weapon, but what I don’t get is the Penance Stare. There’s a moment where he tries to give Scarecrow the Stare but he can’t because Scarecrow’s brain is so screwed up. Shouldn’t Hell trump craziness? I dunno, maybe it’s explained somewhere.

It might sound like this is just a stretched-out single issue, but Mackie handles the 48 pages really well without much drag. It’s like one of those rare annuals that is actually enjoyable and well-paced (I know you’ve got one or two in mind). And even though this is a Ghost Rider story mainly, it reminds me of how much fun Marvel’s NYC must have been in the 90s. Both Captain America and Ghost Rider were hanging out, fighting bad guys and occasionally crossing paths. I would hope that the Ghost Rider issues after this helped Danny get a little bit more comfortable in his vengeance-seeking skin and that the weird Scarecrow ending came back somewhere. I probably won’t be keeping this book in my collection but hope that when every comic book ever finally gets collected, this is included in it’s correct chronological order with the rest of the Ghost Rider books. Those I would keep.

The Box: Ghost Rider 1-5

My inlaws bought these two boxes of comics for me at an auction for $25. I’m guessing there’s 250-300 comics in there. The one on the left is all Marvel, the right a mix of stuff. In an effort to get through these boxes, I’m going to pull an issue or run out at random and give it a good read through and review it here. If the issues has one preceding or following it in the box, I’ll read those too, but only those.

This week it’ll be Ghost Rider Volume 2 #1-5 written by Howard Mackie and drawn by Javier Saltares from 1990. My interactions with Ghost Rider have been fairly limited, I’ve read random issues here and there, bought that Devin Grayson mini a few years back and saw the movie, but these are definitely the most consecutive issues of any Ghost Rider series I’ve ever read. And for the most part, I liked them.

As far as I can tell, this first issue is the first appearance of the second Ghost Rider Danny Ketch. I don’t really know what happened to the previous GR Johnny Blaze or how his motorcycle ended up in a dump in NYC, but it didn’t really hinder my enjoyment of these issues. These first five issues consist of a three part story in the, a one-off where Ketch fights Mr. Hyde and the first part of a two part story where The Punisher meets this new RIder for the first time. Of course, the box contains #7 and a few other random issues, but I’m trying to follow my own rules.

So, the first three issues deal with these three canisters that a gang kid grabs and hides thinking there’s money inside. Turns out that a dude named Deathwatch (he gets off on watching deaths through others’ eyes) who wants the canisters so he can get off big time when the biohazard inside gets released. He’s got a bunch of Hand-looking ninjas and a light-killing vampire thing called Blackout working for him, but he doesn’t succeed against Ghost Rider and the Kingpin, who also wants the vials for himself. I like that they threw Kingpin in there too, to make this solid Marvel New York comic. This is the kind of continuity I’ve always heard about in regards to Marvel, but haven’t really experienced for myself.

Following that strong sense of continuity, you get issue #4 which has Ghost Rider facing off against Mr. Hyde, who, according to some thought bubbles and an editor’s note, we know has recently run into Captain America and the Hulk, the latter giving him brain damage, which inhibits his ability to change. While I hoped this issue would be mostly two titans squaring off, we get a lot of Danny Ketch out of his leathers. In fact, pretty much every time Danny’s in his regular identity in these issues, he’s sitting next to his sister’s bed and wondering if he should keep changing into Ghost Rider. It’s kind of interesting and definitely necessary, and I’m sure if you were reading these things monthly, you might not notice, but reading five months’ worth of issues in one sitting it got a bit old. Once he does finally fight Hyde, it’s pretty cool, but it could have gone on longer in my opinion.

Finally, we end with the Punisher guest appearance. Turns out that Flag Smasher is trying to give away free guns to kids for some reason (guess I’ll have to get #6 to find out). Earlier in the issue we get a news reporter who wonders if GR and Punisher are one in the same, which is a pretty ridiculous concept when you think about it. Why would the dude dress up in two different costumes? Also, it doesn’t seem like anyone remembers that there already was a Ghost Rider, but whatever. Maybe he only operated in secret in the west, I dunno. This is definitely a set up issue and I’m sure the next is full of radness, but we do get a fun little fight between Punisher and Ghost Rider.

So, all in all, I liked these issues and would definitely not be opposed to delving deeper into Ghost Rider and this series. I have one random issue of Midnight Sons from back in the day and really want to check it out. Also, I know it’s totally 90s, but I love the design of the bike. I like how it changes from a regular motorcycle into this crazy mech-looking thing. Fun stuff.