Halloween Scene: Rise Of The Midnight Sons

As longtime readers might remember, I read the first five issues of this Ghost Rider volume for the first installment of The Box last year. To be honest, I haven’t gone through the boxes much until somewhat recently when I discovered a plethora of not just GR books, but also the first six issues or so of Morbius, Ghost Rider & Blaze: Spirits of Vengeance and Nightstalkers, the first issues of which along with Darkhold make up a crossover called “Rise Of The Midnight Sons” along with a few non consecutive issues of Ghost Rider (not sure how that worked). I had Parts 1-3, 5 and 6 all from the boxes, put together a vast Midnight Sons list and tracked down Darkhold #1 which I was missing at this weekend’s Big Apple Con.

I haven’t done a lot of research side from putting together the checklist, but it seems like Midnight Sons was the umbrella Marvel created under which to produce a series of horror based comics. You probably know what Ghost Rider is, Spirits of Vengeance teamed the current Ghost Rider (Danny Ketch) up with the previous one (Johnny Blaze) who was running around with a gun that could shoot hellfire, Darkhold seems to be about a group of people trying to keep a mystical book safe, Morbius is a scientist who accidentally turned himself into a vampire and now has demon blood mixed in and Nightstalkers reteams Blade, Hannibal King and Frank Drake (a vampire) as killers of supernatural things. Considering the crossover launched all these books except Ghost Rider, I’m just going by what those first issues told me, but I would assume they took off on these subjects after “Rise” wrapped.

As I mentioned, the crossover kicks off in Ghost Rider #28 which kind catches he reader up on what’s going on in the book: Blaze is back with his hellfire gun and Danny Ketch is floating around in some kind of demon realm. The issue is written by Howard Mackie, drawn by Andy Kubert and inked by Joe Kubert (which makes it look like it was drawn by pops) and mostly involves GR and Blaze holing up in a mausoleum that Ghost Rider keeps guys he used his penance stare on and have gone crazy. I’ll be honest, this issue was a little befuddling. If you’re not familiar with what’s been going on in the book, it’s hard to follow, but then again, this IS a Ghost Rider themed crossover, so who else would be reading it? There’s a guy named Caretaker who pops up and Doctor Strange is there too, but there is a fold out spread showing off all the new characters and who’s involved that’s pretty cool. All in all, it’s not a great issue, but it’s drawn awesomely and, if you’re willing to just jump in and thrash around a little blindly, the rest can be a fun ride. We also get the basics on what’s going on in the crossover: a demon called Lilith is returning and they need to stop her.

The action carries over into the first issue of Ghost Rider/Blaze: Spirits Of Vengeance which Mackie also wrote and Adam Kubert drew with a non-dad inker. I liked this issue because it helped to explain what Blaze had been up to: he’s married with kids and owns a carnival. He goes there with GR to see how things are with his family and to decide if he wants to go on this crusade against Lilith. Meanwhile, Lilith tracks down some more of her demon spawn to help her rule the world or something. As you might expect, the two stories cross with Lilith bringing some of her kids to the carnival, threatening Blaze’s family. As they say in the flicks, now it’s personal. As the kids might say, now it’s on.

Which brings us around to Morbius #1 which takes the down-and-out Spider-Man villain, throws in some demon blood and produces an S&M vampire who seems more focused and less ravenous. Written by Len Kaminski and drawn by Ron Wagner, this issue, more than any other, made me really curious about the ongoing series. The first page is written incredibly well, but there’s a lot of confusing stuff later on in the issue, like why one of Lilith’s kids drops some of his blood in Morbius’ blood. I think it was supposed to kill him, but it would up giving him powers. Why not just throw him out in the sun or something? Anyway, Blaze and GR wind up hanging out with Morbius’ girlfriend which leads them to the vamp in question, but they disappear for a large chunk of the issue. Of all the issues, this is the one that works best as both the kick off to a new series and a part of the crossover.

Darkhold on the other hand doesn’t work so well as both. It’s an interesting introduction to the characters written by Christian Cooper and drawn by Richard Case, but it definitely feels like more of a first issue than part of a crossover. The weird thing about “Rise of the Midnight Sons” is that it’s so different than the crossovers you’d come to expect nowadays. Instead of tying in with a lot of books, it launches new ones (now that I think about it, Marvel still does this, just look at all of the “Shadowland” spin-offs, but most of those seem to be minis if I’m not mistaken). If you’re a horror fan, you’ve probably seen the basic idea behind Darkhold: the last in a long line of mystic somethigorothers doesn’t like the gig, but finds herself confronted with it. Some cop joins her, they go to the US and run into an older mystic woman which also tangentially puts them on the path to meeting Ghost Rider and Lilth.

I also dug Nightstalkers which did a somewhat better job of tying things in to the larger story, but mostly just caught readers up on who Blade, Frank Drake and Hannibal King are and why they’re together. This time, they’re told thye need to go after Ghost Rider and Blaze because they’re demons and open their previously vampire-specific site up to a wider supernatural spectrum. This D.G. Chichester and Ron Garney jam sounds like a lot of fun, has some pretty good art and a story that makes me want to check out more of this book. It’s got kind of latter-season Buffy vibe because of it’s mix of remorseful vampires (not emo) and tech.

And everything comes to a head in Ghost Rider #31 (again, I’m not sure what happens in issues #29 and 30), but here’s the thing about this crossover: not a lot happened. Sure a lot of new characters were introduced, both heroes and villains, but as I’ve mentioned regarding the books launched from “Sons” they felt much more like new series’ as opposed to parts of a larger whole. By the time Lilith attacks our heroes (who are all transported from wherever they were to where she is, the land of the midnight sun, of course) we’re not quite sure why she’s doing it. Then, there’s a big fight between heroes and villains that’s kind of hard to follow, Ketch comes back, Lilth gets blasted and then the Nighstalkers try to attack GR and Blaze, but something happens. I don’t want to call the art sloppy, because that’s not really the case, but it’s not good storytelling. I had to keep flipping around and re-reading panels to try and understand what’s happening. I’m the last person to support the long winded, decompressed storytelling that has taken over comics today, but I also can’t really get behind this superfast kind that leaves the reader mostly confused.

All in all, I think my enjoyment of “Sons” will depend on how much I like the other series’. I do like the horror themes involved though. Demon hunters, super-vampires, evil book protectors and demons riding motorcycles all have a lot of potential and I’m excited to move on to those other issues I’ve got waiting for me in the box.