Tuesday, March 8, 2016

The Mighty Thor (1966) # 429

Cover Artist: Ron Frenz
Published: Feb. 1991
Original Price: $1.00

Title: "This World Is Mine!"
Writer: Tom DeFalco
Artist: Ron Frenz
Inker: Joe Sinnott
Colorist: Mike Rockwitz
Lettering: Mike Heisler
Editor: Ralph Macchio
Editor-in-Chief: Tom DeFalco

In an abandoned Brooklyn tenement building, the Wrecking Crew (the Wrecker, Thunderball, and Piledriver), argue amongst themselves about the fate of their fourth member, Bulldozer, who was captured by the NYPD's superhuman task force, Code B.L.U.E. Sick of the constant in-fighting, the Wrecker tells the other two that they're going to bust Bulldozer free, but only when he feels it's safe to do so. Meanwhile, in a Manhattan police station, Bulldozer is being watched by Mad Dog and Rigger, two Code B.L.U.E. officers. Rigger tells Mad Dog they're going to be escorting their prisoner to Kennedy Airport, from which he'll be transported to the Vault. Mad Dog complains about the assignment being boring, but Rigger tells him that the route will take them through Cypress Hills, where the Ghost Rider is rumored to haunt.

That night, during their transport of Bulldozer, the two police officers make their way past the gate to Cypress Hills Cemetery. Suddenly, the rest of the Wrecking Crew attack the armored truck, and the Wrecker's energy blast knocks the truck into the cemetery. The two cops escape the truck, but both are stunned by the Crew's attack. In another part of the cemetery, however, Dan Ketch is visiting the grave of his deceased sister and sees the fight erupting. He runs to his motorcycle and touches the gas cap, triggering his transformation. While the Wrecking Crew - including the newly freed Bulldozer - prepare to kill the Mad Dog and Rigger, the Ghost Rider rides over the hill. The Crew recognize the Rider from television reports, but are nonetheless surprised by the brutality of the demon's attack. He successfully evades the Crew's blows, but Piledriver believes the Rider to be simply a glorified athlete with a few fancy special effects. The Wrecker gets tired of the Ghost Rider's interference, and blasts him with the Asgardian power contained in his crowbar. The magical energy that strikes the Rider accidentally rips open a dimensional gate, from which emerges the lord of Hell, Mephisto. While Mephisto demands to know who has dared summon him, the Ghost Rider frantically questions why he finds the demon lord so familiar. Elsewhere in the city, the Asgardian trickster god, Loki, senses what has transpired. Cursing the Wrecker for finally attracting the notice of an powerful being, Loki realizes that he must step in and take care of the matter personally.

This issue also contained a parallel, but unrelated, story of Thor and Excalibur fighting the Juggernaut on a distant alien planet.

Tom DeFalco, who doubled as just not the regular writer on Thor but was also Marvel's Editor-in-Chief for the first half of the 1990s, brings Ghost Rider into his series for a guest-appearance that feels strangely appropriate despite all the reasons why it shouldn't.

Of all the books Marvel was publishing in 1991, it could be said without pretty much absolute certainty that The Mighty Thor by DeFalco and Ron Frenz was unabashedly the one series that still read like a Marvel comic from the Lee/Kirby days. The influence of the 1960s is blatantly apparent when reading this comic, from the old school superhero slugfests to the retro-feel of Frenz's artwork. So, in theory, bringing in a character like Ghost Rider, who was very much a product of the 1990s, seems like something that would be shockingly out of place here. Surprisingly, it doesn't come off as weird or forced at all, with Ghost Rider slipping into the creative team's style quite nicely.

There are two odd things about Ghost Rider's appearance in this issue of Thor, though. For one thing, he makes a guest-appearance while Thor himself is off in another galaxy involved in a totally separate storyline. The pages with Ghost Rider fighting the Wrecking Crew read and look like pages from Ghost Rider's comic, and you do get a bit of a style clash when you go from big Kirby Thor/Juggernaut fight scenes on one page to the dark horror of Cypress Hills Cemetery on the next. Also, unlike most guest-appearance the character makes around this time, his role here actually affects the character in his own series. This issue is the first time that Mephisto is made aware of the new Ghost Rider, and that's a huge moment when you think about the presence Mephisto has in Ghost Rider's title in the second and third years. I suppose DeFalco being the Editor-in-Chief allowed him to tie things so closely to Mackie's series, as he would have doubtlessly been aware of what was to come in Ghost Rider. It makes the character's appearances in Thor so much stronger than his appearances in books like Darkhawk or Sleepwalker, because this story actually has long-term ramifications.

I've always had a soft spot for the artwork of Ron Frenz, whose work looks like it came not from the 90s but the 60s or 70s. He's great on old school superheroes like Thor, but I was worried that his style wouldn't translate well on a horror character like Ghost Rider. Well, I was needlessly worried because his Ghost Rider looks great. The Cypress Hills pages have such a dark, ominous feel to them, and the contrast between them and the Juggernaut sequences only make them that much more striking.

The real payoff comes in the next issue when Ghost Rider and Thor actually meet for the first time, but this comic here is surprisingly pretty important to the ongoing Ghost Rider saga. Plus, if you're a fan of old school Marvel comics, its got a rocking fight between Thor and the Juggernaut to boot.

Grade: B