Friday, March 30, 2007

Three Angels Fallen! (Marvel comics)
Avengers #214 When: December 1981
Why: Jim Shooter How: Bob Hall

The story so far...
Johnny Blaze is a man both cursed and privileged with the power to become a demonic spirit of vengeance called the Ghost Rider. As Ghost Rider his whim is unpredictable, and it's this volatile nature that has led him into isolation as a wandering soul without a home.

When he spots billionaire playboy Warren Worthington III speeding through the desert, the Ghost Rider takes over and challenges his former Champions teammate to a race which sees the winged mutant hospitalized with severe injury.

The Avengers are alerted of the demon's warpath, and thus they arrive in the desert area of Alakali Flats to investigate and bring the Ghost Rider to justice.
But the Ghost Rider is busy looking for Warren Worthington, and he intends to take anyone who would protect him to justice. Will the Avengers find him in time, or will he find them?!...

Previous Form:
Ghost Rider (#55): Ghost Rider earned his first victory teaming with Spidey against The Trapster.
Capain America (#6): Cap has victories against characters like MODOK, Baron Zemo, Bane, Wolverine & The Punisher.
Thor (#19): Recently suffered a defeat by way of the Symbiote and Avengers.
Iron Man (#4): Iron Man has victories over Diablo, Hulk, Captain America & She-Hulk.
The Avengers [#2]: The Avengers recently beat the Venom symbiote and She-Hulk.

Tale of the tape...
Strength: Thor 6 (Invincible)
Intelligence: Iron Man 5 (Professor)
Speed: Tigra 3 (Athlete)
Stamina: Thor 6 (Generator)
Agility: Tigra 5 (Cat-like)
Fighting Ability: Captain America 6 (Warrior)
Energy Powers: Iron Man 5 (Lasers)

I think I've always had a tendency to underestimate the Ghost Rider's abilities, perhaps because of my slant toward the street bound Dan Ketch host of the nineties. I think around this period of the seventies and eighties Ghost Rider was probably a more hopeful A-lister in waiting, and packed the power to match it.

His powers are certainly versatile, but then you have to take a look at the assemblage of heroes who are representing the Avengers on this occasion; Captain America, Thor, Iron Man and Tigra.

Thor and Iron Man are two heavy hitters here, and certainly each has a pretty hefty statistical advantage over Ghost Rider. As the tape shows, they outweigh him in terms of brute strength, and the bredth of their energy related powers dwarf even Ghost Rider's hellflame.

Iron Man as a man in machine is more vulnerable, particularly to the vengeful aspects of the character. Lord knows by now Tony Stark has enough sins to bury him, if Ghost Rider were to turn his penance stare on him today.

Thor, as a God, is presumably less vulnerable to Ghost Rider's attacks, assuming there would even be things to be capitalized on like the weighing guilt of sins.
Even if the Rider were able to roll through the more vulnerable tagerts of Captain America and Tigra, it may come down to Thor, if not the double team of Thor and Iron Man. Two guys who've gone head to head with the Hulk.

The Math: Avengers (Total) Ghost Rider (Average)
The Pick: The Avengers

What went down...
The menace of the hero presents itself long before the Civil War as a child dangles helplessly from a watertower dressed in a red cape in imitation of the mighty Thor! Fortunately Johnny Blaze is on the scene and gives in to the fantastic power of the Ghost Rider in order to save him!

Unfortunately... the indepedent will of the Ghost Rider demon isn't terribly interested in saving the foolish child, leaving the job to the red and gold visage of Iron Man, who happens to show on the scene just in the nick of time!
[Planting the seeds for the need for registration? I DIGRESS! -- Muckraking Mike]
Miles away on a freeway, a motorcycle riding Captain America (with Tigra entow) happens upon the Ghost Rider's flaming hellcycle!
Ghost Rider employs his daredevil riding skills to navigate the narrow gap between a semi-trailer and on-coming traffic, as he dares the Captain to pursue.

Tigra and he follow the Rider into to the desert, but find themselves facing rock in a box canyon as Ghost Rider defies gravity, driving vertically up the cliff face.
The two avengers spill onto the dirt, bailing from the crashing cycle, leaping out of the pan into the hellfire. They suffer the hellish freeze of Ghost Rider's vengeful burn.

The action of the flames alerts Iron Mans' sensors, and he sweeps in to investigate. The Ghost Rider is none too pleased to suffer another fool. He surfs his speeding hellcycle and uses it to launch himself into the air at the golden Avenger.

Though shielded from principle attack, Tony Stark does not have the foresight to seal the gaps on his helmet, allowing him to succum to the unrelenting fire of Ghost Rider's fury.

He plummets to the ground as Thor arrives on the scene.

Thor talks a big game and Ghost Rider isn't buying into it, impatiently spraying the Norse god of thunder with fire from his eyes. The magical pyre does little to the hull of the mighty Thor of Asgard, who attacks in kind with the tossing of his worthy hammer -- Mjolnir!

Ghost Rider, aware of the threat, leaps atop his hellcycle and flees from the airborne hammer. As he builds momentum he finds himself putting distance between he and the hammer, until it appears to reach the apex of it's flight.

As the enchanted hammer turns to reach he summon of it's possessor, the cunning demon snatches the handle and allows himself and his cycle to be dragged behind!

Unable to control the hammer himself, he pops his wheel, riding the flaming bike up into the face of the waiting Thor. The two heroes spill into the air, but Ghost Rider is the one nimble enough to land in stride on his cycle, leaving the thunder god to suffer his bruises.

The Avengers regroup from the attack as Ghost Rider rides into the desert.
Captain America inspires the troops, lending support to Tigra and Iron Man, each fearful of the Rider's touch, having felt first hand the effects of his flames.

The team cuts the spirit of vengeance off at the pass, and Iron Man springs the attack with an uncompromising repulsor ray to the face that dismounts the demon from his hellish vehicle.

Shaken but not stirred, Ghost Rider hurls flame at the fearful Tigra, but Captain America is ready, anticipating the attack to the weakest link!
He defends the feline heroine, and collides with the fiend in a thunderous exchange!

Furious, Ghost Rider pursues the attack, but an unlikely individual steps into the battlefield. Bandaged and in a sling, Warren Worthington approaches his former teammate from the short-lived Champions.

He supposes that the Ghost Rider's lust for vengeance becomes lest caring as Johnny Blaze finds himself increasingly depressed and dissatisfied with his life.
The Angel reaches out to the demon, and pleads for the courage of the man inside to reemerge and quell the demon's rage.

And once again, Johnny Blaze returns.

The hammer...
Despite the peaceful resolution, I'm going to give this one to Ghost Rider based on points. He pretty well manhandled each member of the Avengers, including Thor -- a god!
The assist goes to Angel too, for his participation in ending the fray.

Well, if you've been with us at the time on the site you'll know I've been unwell, and then blogspot ate my Wednesday post.
I'm going to endeavor to rewrite the exciting entry from What If Wednesday, but I'm still a bit under the weather, so if it doesn't get done before the Punch-Up, my sincerest apologies.

The Angel: Continuing to highlight how useless he is in a fight...I have to admit to mixed feelings about this particular issue. It's almost the perfect action comic for this site, and yet, it lacks the charm of some of the other unauspicious superhero fights we've had previously.

I guess part of what's awful about it is that it centers around highlighting the fact that the Angel is utterly hopeless when it comes to a fight.

When writers were handing out secondary mutations in the X-Men books, how this guy got healing blood over some sort of offensive attack completely escapes me. I guess it's kinda fitting.
Put aside any clever Angel/pacifist-martyr connections for a moment, and just think about the fact that his body is continuing to go with what it knows.

The worse he gets injured, the more the team around him benefits!
'Wow, open up an artery Warren! The Beast just got a concussion! If we heal him, we might still stand a chance!'
Way to send a positive message to the kids, guys.

Jokes aside, this is one of the few encounters I've actually had with Jim Shooter as a writer. Somehow, despite his alleged reign of terror, I've run afoul the guy's writing very rarely. It's safe to say you would believe he started writing as a kid... I joke, I joke!

It's a simple comic from a simpler time, and it shouldn't be judged too harsh.
This was a time when Ghost Rider was hopping around the place like a pseudo-Wolverine. A nomadic character without a home, who was popular, and was inherently capable of being thrown into a fight with just about anyone!

In the seventies and eighties, Ghost Rider made even Namor look level-headed!

This book comes amidst the infamous story about the divorce of Hank Pym and his wife, the Wasp, after he assaulted her.
I've never actually read the story in any kind of complete capacity, and as hokey and out of place as it seems in a universe of fisticuffs, I still think it's fairly regarded as a key moment in Avengers history.

So, with something that heavy going on, maybe it was a good time for an issue like this. Maybe contemporary comics could benefit from the odd issue like this!

Or not...

The Fight: 4 The Issue: 3.5

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