Friday, October 26, 2007

versus BLADE

Hunters (Marvel comics)
Ghost Rider #40 When: August 1993
Why: Howard Mackie How: Ron Garney

The story so far...
When a black envelope containing a page of the legendary book of mysticism, the Darkhold, is read by Blade, he becomes a living vessel for the rebirth of the Demogorge.

With Blade's own hatred to spark the fire, he marches through the mystic underworld with the sole intent of eradicating all demons, magicks and supernaturally touched spirits that exist throughout the world -- absorbing their powers as they fall by his sword!

With Hannibal King and John Blaze having already fallen to Blade, their allies and fellow members of the fabled Nine; Daniel Ketch and Frank Drake; must chase their former ally and put an end to his unwavering massacre.

Previous Form:
Blade (#30): A defeat at the hands of Wolverine.
Ghost Rider/Frank Drake/Demogoblin: Each making their Infinite Wars debut.

Tale of the tape...
Strength: Ghost Rider 4 (Steroid Popper)
Intelligence: Blade 4 (Tactician)
Speed: Blade 3 (Athlete)
Stamina: Ghost Rider 6 (Generator)
Agility: Blade 3 (Acrobat)
Fighting Ability: Blade 5 (Martial Artist)
Energy Powers: Ghost Rider 5 (Lasers)

- Like Johnny Blaze before him, Daniel Ketch carries the curse of the Ghost Rider with him. These hellborne powers grant him fantastic powers that may be used in the pursuit of righteous vengeance. Powers that include; super strength, durability, speed, control over the hellcycle, hellfire, and mystic chains.

One of Ghost Rider's most unique weapons is the penance stare, a supernatural glare that allows him to inflict the suffering of an enemy's crimes back upon them.

- Frank Drake is descended from the legendary vampire lord, Count Dracula, from the bloodline started before Dracula became the vampire. The Drakes pursue the curse of their association throughout the generations, changing their name to Drake to remove the stink of Dracula's plague.

Though he does not possess any superhuman capabilities, Frank Drake is well versed in various hand-to-hand combat styles, and advanced weaponry. He is also intimately familiar with the supernatural, and thus not easily intimidated.

- In a whorehouse in London, a child was born into the world, destined for greatness. When the vampire Deacon Frost feasted on the woman in labour, he inadvertently passed along certain enzymes that would eventually granted Eric Roberts the strengths of a vampire, with none of their weaknesses as the Daywalker -- Blade!

Blade lives up to his name, highly skilled with various forms of weaponry and munitions. A dedicated vampire hunter, Blade is skilled in the martial arts, and a thorough tactician with an arsenal of weapons that compliment his acquired enhanced strength, speed, senses, durability and reflexes.

Having taken a page of the Darkhold from the black envelope, Blade has become possessed by the Demogorge. His ability to sense the supernatural is enhanced, as well as a new ability to absorb the powers of the mystics he kills.

- The Demogoblin is a demon who crossed over to Earth after a deal was made by Jason Macendale to gain enhanced powers in his battle with Spider-man.
Eventually split from the Hobgoblin, Demogoblin would go out on his own as a dark shade of his former host. Like Ghost Rider, Demogoblin claims the righteous path of vengeance, pledging to war against those he dubs sinner by his own twisted moral code.

Demogoblin possesses superhuman strength, speed, and a mystic arsenal modelled on the Hobgoblin including; a flaming bat-glider, flaming bats, and flaming pumpkin bombs.

The Math: Blade The Pick: Ghost Rider/Drake

What went down...
Drawn to The Crown Cafe nightclub; Blade, possessing the power of the Demogorge, follows the scent of the occult, stalking the mystic, Seer.
Not far behind, the Demogoblin wins the race with Ghost Rider to reach Blade, hoping to pledge himself to the Demogorge's extinction agenda of all things supernatural. The potential conflict of interests is lost on the demon, who pursues attempts to barter his usefulness.

Blade invites Demogoblin to serve him by throwing himself on his sword, but is soon distracted by the priority of the fleeing Seer. When she narrowly escapes the tip of his katana, Demogoblin again pledges his use when Ghost Rider and Frank Drake finally arrive on the scene!

Ghost Rider snags Blade in the coil of his mystic chain, while Frank Drake turns the non-lethal blast of his plasma cannon on their former ally, hoping to pacify him without lethality. It is Drake's hope the Demogorge's actions may be reversed.

Demogoblin comes to Blade's rescue, hurling several exploding demonic pumpkin bombs at the spirits of vengeance. He snatches Blade up, making an airborne escape to pursue the fleeing young female.

Determined to protect Seer, Ghost Rider summons his hellcycle outside the nightclub and speeds ahead of Drake to catch up to Demogoblin and Blade.
The two homicidal demons are found atop a skyscraper, where Demogoblin continues to pursue an alliance with the Demogorge, offering to sacrifice Seer as a tribute.

The Demogorge again refuses, turning on Demogoblin with the intent to make both mystics his victims. Before he can do so, the flaming wheels of the Ghost Rider's hellcycle cut a path that snatches Seer from Demogoblin's grip, and pulls her to safety.

Drawing his sword, Blade stalks toward the Ghost Rider. He notes an oversight in not coming after him after killing his fellows, Blaze and King, something Ghost Rider no doubt takes an exception to.

Despite the desire for vengeance, Ghost Rider is swatted with ease by Blade, who grows increasingly powerful with each confrontation. Blade declares a death-feud on members of the mystical Nine, starting with the Rider!

Ghost Rider steadys himself and declares his strength great enough to resist Blade at his current power level. Again hoping to engender goodwill from the slaughtering possessor of the Demogorge, Demogoblin leaps up to snag Ghost Rider in a sleeper hold -- noting their combined powers great enough to defeat the spirit of vengeance!

Demogoblin is finally forced to 'take the hint', suffering the Demogorge's uncompromising mission, impaled upon Blade's sword along with Daniel Ketch; the Ghost Rider. The demon smoulders with hellfire in death, as Blade's body absorbs the hellacious powers.

As Seer teleports to gather reenforcements; Blade turns his newly acquired powers on the Ghost Rider. His enhanced strength appears to give him the upperhand as he blasts the already battered Rider with bursts of flame.

The Demogorge chains Ghost Rider to a radio tower, taking his mystic shotgun to use Ghost Rider's powers against him in a literal sense. He turns the gun on him, blasting him with streams of hellfire that burn even the spirit of vengeance.
Unable to risk turning back to his human form of Dan Ketch, the Ghost Rider has no choice to endure the pain until --

-- Drake finally catches up with his partner, foregoing any attempts to talk reason into Blade to instead turn his weapon on him. With a burst of green energy, Drake stuns Blade long enough to retrieve Ghost Rider from the bonds of his own chains, and see him safely escape to summon the aid of others.

Slumped over his hellcycle, Ghost Rider flies on a path to find Louise Hastings of the Darkhold Redeemers, with a promise to stop Blade. A promise the further mutating possessor of the Demogorge denies, with a wag of his newly acquired demonic tongue.

The hammer...
On the strength of the physical dominance Blade showed over Ghost Rider and Demogoblin, I very nearly gave it to the Daywalker on points. On review, I think it's got to be a draw, given Drake went unscathed, and Ghost Rider managed to make a getaway.
A surprise loss for Demogoblin, however, with the kill to Blade.

So, when it came to quickly grabbing a stack of titles to choose from for Halloween, there were two characters that immediately jumped to mind: Ghost Rider and Blade! I mean, what would any good Halloween theme be without a dose of demons and vampires?

Typically when people refer to the variant/gimmick cover craze of the nineties, it's a title like Ghost Rider that gets harsh disapproval, sporting an array of metallic, blacks, and glow-in-the-dark specials. I, some would say fortunately, didn't spend much of my time with the Midnight Sons in the nineteen nineties, so was never particularly affected by this, or any other gimmick cover scam.
Still, I look back on those missed opportunities with some disappointment, because I'd really love to be able to browse over this corner of the Marvel universe.

Perhaps the only greater shame to come from the popularity of the 'darkside' in the nineties, is the way it's been defined and overshadowed by it's lesser qualities. I did one of my occasional google searches before delivering this entry, disappointed to find mostly ebay merchants, outdated sites, and the odd cult reference to something from these books.

In their own way, these books connect with me in a way I wish more titles did.
Behind awkward cut-off references to story chapters to come in other series and convoluted magic: a sensibility that pays careful attention to it's characters and the rules within which they operate. Like the allure of Daredevil and Marvel's criminal underworld, the supernatural equivalent is filled with interesting characters all too often overlooked.

Recent efforts to relaunch titles like Blade and Ghost Rider have been, well, to put it politely, destined for failure. Blade in particular was a series that had a very successful model to work off from the first feature film, but instead played a card that committed neither to the pop-references of Marvel's superhero universe, or the independent culture of the vampire/magic scene.

Ghost Rider succeeded, at least in it's initial issues, in steering closer to it's origins as a supernatural-western thriller, but did so with meandering plot, and disengaging familiarities from Johnny Blaze/Satan stories past. That was, of course, before devolving in ways similar to Blade, getting wrapped up in crossovers like World War Hulk, which to be honest, attracted my attentions far more than the bland Satan stories.

You have to admire a commitment to direction by Marvel, but why it would be those particular directions that would garner such favour, I'll never know.
Even on a visual asthetic, Howard Chaykin's Blade grossly removed itself from the contemporary chic of the Blade films, bogging themselves down in ugly jawlines, and dated looking pencils, designs and washed out eighties colours.
The stake/gun-hand didn't help matters much, either.

From today's stack of talent, it's almost too obvious to talk about your Maleevs, Larks and Ajas for something like Blade, Ghost Rider, or the Midnight Sons; but in contrast to what we have seen, they remain the overlooked obvious.
Mind you, I have to mention, the style of these particular issues from the nineties remains something that stands out as something unique. Not so much the pencils, which don't differ greatly from standard superhero work, but the inks!

The old artistic edict 'when in doubt, black it out' is left behind as the darkness of this world is visually represented by a wanton use of flat blacks. Chris Ivy slathers black both in and out of panels, blurring the lines between where the action begins and ends, lending a stylistic difference to the style more commonly seen in hyperactive sprawls of panel-to-panel wall breaking.

A lot of this stuff, as far as I know, remains uncollected.
Sprouting icicles on the end of what's hot, and what's not, these books get kicked back in favour of the vogue of seventies back issues. Dan Ketch is absent, while Johnny Blaze again takes the reigns of the Ghost Rider franchise.

Maybe I'm looking at this stuff through rose coloured glasses, or maybe the goggles of confusion that sprout several hours after midnight, but with the success of these franchises on film every fanboys must ponder the same question: Why aren't they being made to work on the page?

It's worth mentioning that, although David Goyer's first Blade script distilled the character to much of what makes him so fantastic in a contemporary setting -- the character had already evolved much to this point in the comics themselves.
Those inclined to argue against a fictional drastic revamp would do well to remember this, as would the movie-going kids out there under the impression Blade was a jive-talking 'fro flinger until Hollywood got a hold of him.

No doubt the answers to secrets such as these, and many others, remain under the cosmic guard of Bahlactus! Like a giant purple urban legend, Bahlactus is said to scour the infinite webspace every Friday, seeking out suckers who would be punched, on this night of fights! Dare you risk hellfire, damnation and a Ghost Rider movie sequel by clicking his link to know for sure? ~SPOOKY!!!~

The Fight: 3.5 The Issue: 4.5

[Not surprising of a fledgling comics writer and superhero fanboy, I can't seem to stop grumbling about the imagined promise of a regular Marvel comic that would give a platform to the goings on of the urban underworld. Punisher, Daredevil, Deadpool, Sabretooth, Morbius, Dr. Strange, Blade, Ghost Rider, Cloak & Dagger... The list of characters that could find new life is endless!]

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