Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Dead Man's Tale (Marvel)
Ghost Rider/Blaze: Spirits of Vengeance #13 When: August 1993 Why: Howard Mackie How: Adam Kubert

The Story So Far...
When Blade receives a mysterious black envelope containing a page from the Darkhold book of magic, he unleashes a spell, once read, that embues him with the powers of a demogorge. So begins Blade's rampage on all things supernatural and occult.

Attracted like a moth to flame, Blade's powers to perceive and gravitate toward the supernatural only becomes greater as he absorbs the powers of all he kills. Hannibal King, John Blaze, Demogoblin, Werewolf by Night, Modred, Victoria Montesi, and Michael Morbius all contribute to Blade's amassing powers in their death.

Hellbent on the eradication of all things supernatural, Blade finally marches on the greatest source of mystic power in New York - Dr. Strange's Sanctum Sanctorum; home to the Darkhold! With time and opportunity fast running out, Ghost Rider must join the Nighstalkers and bring an end to the demogorge.

Tale of the Tape...
ARTWORK: ???ARTWORK: Mark DjurjevicStrength: Ghost Rider 4 (Enhanced)
Intelligence: Blade 4 (Tactician)
Speed: Draw 3 (Athlete)
Stamina: Ghost Rider 6 (Generator)
Agility: Blade 3 (Acrobat)
Fighting Ability: Blade 5 (Martial Arts)
Energy Power: Ghost Rider 5 (Lasers)

- When a man and his girlfriend are attacked by gangsters, they unknowingly seek refuge in a scraplot containing a rare artifact. Upon touching the mystic symbol on a motorcycle's tank cap, Dan Ketch is transformed into the flaming spirit of vengeance, inheriting the curse of the hellborne Ghost Rider!

GHOST RIDER at the feet of the power-absorbing BLADE!Like Johnny Blaze before him; Ketch's demon grants 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, mystic chains, and the penance stare; capable of rendering a dark soul inert by forcing them to relive the wrongs they have commited on others.

- In a whorehouse in London, a child was born into the world, destined for greatness. When the vampire Deacon Frost was to feast on the woman in labour, he inadvertently passed along certain enzymes that would eventually grant Eric Roberts the strengths of a vampire, with none of their weaknesses. Thus the young boy grows into legend; 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.

Additional: Having taken a page of the Darkhold, Blade has become possessed by the power of the Demogorge. His ability to sense the supernatural is enhanced, and he now absorbs the powers of the mystics he kills. It was while possessed by the Demogorge that Blade had a runin with Ghost Rider and Frank Drake in a previous entry in the Infinite Wars [Ghost Rider #40].
Aided by Demogoblin, Blade was able to fend off the heroes, to later overcome Ghost Rider alone. The intervention of Frank Drake saved Ghost Rider.

History: Draw (0-0-1)
The Math: Blade Ranking: Blade (#177)

What Went Down...
Having effortlessly penetrated the powerful spells cast by Earth's Sorceror Supreme, Dr. Strange; Blade enters the Sanctum Sanctorum, only to find the good doctor absent. His growing awareness of the supernatural draws Blade deeper into the Sanctum where he discovers the only weapon capable of reversing his devolution into darkness - the Darkhold!

The second Blade removes the book from it's pedestal, powerful spells launch it through the building toward the night sky and an interdimensional portal designed to protect the book in Strange's absence. With the luxury of time working against them, Ghost Rider aids Blade in ahcoring the book to the Earth with the use of his mystic chains. The protection of the book allows Blade to finally turn his attentions to the elusive spirit of vengeance.

Ghost Rider's vengeful charge is abruptly ended, as Blade draws the shotgun weapon once held by John Blaze. The mystic gun spews hellfire through Ghost Rider's body, inflicting maximum damage as Blade lordes his powers.

Blade summons a mighty wind with the elemental powers of Modred, using them to hold the Nightstalkers back from the Darkhold, while he draws his own close-quarters weapons to finish Ghost Rider off.

Engulfed in flame, Blade impales the Ghost Rider with his namesake, feeling no resistance from the powerful demon. He pulls his foe in twain, before driving a blade through the sprit of vengeance's flaming skull! So begins the transfer...

Unfortunately for Blade, he fails to anticipate the nature of the Ghost Rider's power. Absorbing the hellacious abilities of the spirit of vengeance comes at a startling cost as the penance stare is turned inward, forcing Blade to relive the many murders committed in his recent past as a demogorge.

The searing pain of his penance distracts Blade enough to stem the winds he'd summoned to prevent access to the Darkhold. Louise Hastings, of the Redeemers, springs quickly into action, reading from the book so as to resurrect those killed, and return their powers to them from Blade. So ends the Midnight Massacre...

ARTWORK: Marko DjurdjevicThe Hammer...
Despite having his ungodly powers stripped, I think it's safe to say a bitter victory goes to Blade! Despite being killed by the powered-up slayer, Ghost Rider is among those resurrected by the Darkhold spell.

In a month supposedly dedicated to Iron Man, you might be wondering what brought on this unlikely Midnight Sons feature.
It was recent discussion on the message boards that posed the question of whether or not Blade could, or already had, defeated Ghost Rider as his Wikipedia entry claimed. Since contextually absent or poorly described events from Wikipedia style entries are exactly what the Infinite Wars intends to elaborate upon, it seemed like a great opportunity to contribute!

Top 25 Devils/Mystics
#1 Dhalsim (Capcom)
#2 Dr. Doom (Marvel)
#3 Zatanna (DC)
#4 The Demon (DC)
#5 Ghost Rider (Marvel)
#6 Morbius (Marvel)
#7 Hellcat (Marvel)
#8 The Spectre (DC)
#9 Dr. Strange (Marvel)
#10 Blazing Skull (Marvel)
#11 Mephisto (Marvel)
#12 Phantom Stranger (DC)
#13 Dr. Fate (DC)
#14 Deadman (DC)
#15 Dr. Occult (DC)
#16 The Hood (Marvel)
#17 Hellboy (Dark Horse)
#18 Jin Kazama (Namco)
#19 Dr. Fate (DC)
#20 Lyta (DC)
#21 Blade (Marvel)
#22 Captain Marvel (DC)
#23 Scarlet Witch (Marvel)
#24 Scorpion (Midway)
#25 Ghost Rider (Marvel)
The gang was able to find their way to the Infinite Wars for the previous throwdown between these characters [Ghost Rider #40], where only the intervention of Frank Drake prevented a recorded loss. For the purposes of that discussion [BBS: Blade nearly won a fight against Ghost Rider?] you might argue that Blade did indeed defeat Ghost Rider in that issue, but it's here that the lethal victory described on Wikipedia occurs.

Unfortunately I can't elaborate much further than this encounter, but it's nice to be able to accomodate Infinite Wars readers even that far. If you're a member of the boards, be sure to let the lads know new information has emerged!

Last time we featured these characters, the recurring subject of Marvel's struggle to find a lasting treatment in comics for the characters was a hot topic. Speculation that the recently relaunched Blade and Ghost Rider titles were destined for cancellation proves, at this point, to be half true.

The Guggenheim/Chaykin Blade series fizzled to an end with issue twelve. Working against the title were painfully obvious factors like Chaykin's decidedly unattractive pencil work, inconsequential guest appearances, and uninvolving storylines. Like so many post-movie comics, this quite deliberately butted against the slick, modern urbana of the Stephen Norrington success, opting instead for an experience apparently unintentionally eighties-style in it's presentation and palette.

Despite steering gleefully toward it's seventies origins, Ghost Rider has fared much better. Stale story telling kept me away from early issues of the title, but while not terribly interested, I have to at least applaud the precedent for recent stories pandering to a grindhouse quality of horror.
The detached nature of buzz-writer Jason Aaron's take on the character is about to collide with more familiar topics. Fans can look forward to recognisable features such as, the hellfire shotgun, and former-Ghost Rider, Dan Ketch!

I couldn't possibly deny the affection I have for these nineties stories.
Though not typically looked upon with admiration, they represent a type of storytelling that allowed these characters to fill a very specific niche, while representing the Marvel Universe mentality of characters operating and clashing within a certain space. Though fond of the strong visual of this character, I can't say I've ever had a particular affection for the western/horror vibe of a desert wandering Ghost Rider.

I hope this coming return of Ketch (and the gun feature in our review) will offer more than just a familiar skull-face. I hope very much this can be the beginning of stories not necessarily designed to establish a universe, but to at least build on some of the recent traditions of these characters. Though not of a terribly high standard, I did get a thrill seeing Morbius in the illfated Blade series.

It's those characters, often identified for their supporting roles, that I enjoy seeing in this larger context. The versimilitude of Doppelganger, Demogoblin, Blade, Ghost Rider, Morbius, Dr. Strange, and various other occult heroes, all mingling in the same section, fills me with a comic book sensical joy.

Keep an eye on weekly shipping list updates for more on upcoming Ghost Rider, but in the mean time, I leave you with the promise of updates to come! Be sure also to stay tuned for the Monthly Punch-Up on the first of the month!

The Fight: 4.5 The Issue: 5

Alas, to the best of my knowledge, Midnight Massacre is not available in collected format. You can find plenty of other exciting reads, starring Ghost Rider and other, in the Infinite Wars Amazonian Gift Shoppe! Amazon has a wide range of Marvel titles, and every time you use purchase links from the Infinite Wars, you help sponsor future entries! While you're splashing around the cash, also be sure to take full advantage of the recent $1.99 price reduction on Mike Haseloff's The Kirby Martin Inquest! Available online; the series introduces the White Ghost, a vigilante seeking justice in an urban environment!

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