Monday, March 21, 2016

The Original Ghost Rider (1992) # 14

Cover Artist: Bill Wylie
Published: Aug. 1993
Original Price: $1.75

Title: "Zodiac II"
Writer: Gary Friedrich & Tony Isabella
Artist: Jim Mooney
Inker: Sal Trapani
Letterer: Artie Simek
Colorist: Phil Rache
Editor: Roy Thomas

Late at night in San Francisco, an armored truck drives across a bridge on way to its destination. Inside, the drivers discuss how surprised they were when they learned their boss, Cornelius Van Lunt, was actually the villain Taurus of the Zodiac, unaware that they are being watched by a strange man that's hanging from the bridge's suspension cables. The man, dressed as a lion, drops down onto the top of the truck and proceeds to rip a large hole in the ceiling, the noise enough to force the drivers to pull over. They circle around to the back of the truck, but are attacked by the man, who is actually Leo of the Zodiac. The strangest thing, as the drivers say before they're knocked unconscious, is that the real Leo is still in jail with the rest of his group. Grabbing the money in the back of the truck, Leo signals to the pilot of his helicopter, Slifer, to come pick him up.
Meanwhile, in Las Vegas, Johnny Blaze goes to see Attorney General Barnett, who is waiting for him with both his son, Dave, and Roxanne Simpson. Congratulating him on the excellent job he did against Roulette, Barnett tells him that he has another assignment ready. Blaze refuses to do any more dirty work for him, and a fight nearly breaks out between him and Dave. Before Johnny can walk out, however, Dave pulls a gun on him and forces him to sit and listen. Barnett tells him that they need his help to stop the Zodiac, to which Johnny replies that the villains were put in jail weeks ago. The Attorney General explains that four different Zodiac members, Leo, Libra, Gemini, and Sagittarius, have struck San Francisco in the past 24 hours, each committing crimes directed against their leader, Cornelius Van Lunt. What makes the crimes so bizarre is the fact that none of the Zodiac have escaped and are all still in jail. Blaze again refuses to help, and he and Roxanne leave.
That evening, at sunset, Johnny stands in the center of an outdoor arena. As expected, his nightly curse activates and he transforms into the Ghost Rider. Roxanne emerges and embraces her lover, asking if they'll ever beat Satan's power. Blaze answers that by saying the only thing they can do at the moment is try and get their cycle show back on its feet. Straddling a motorcycle, Johnny takes off in an attempt to try and create some new stunts. He does get far, as a mysterious gunman takes aim and shoots at his bike, causing him to wreck. Emerging from the crash unharmed, the Ghost Rider finds Dave Barnett, who is pointing a gun at him. Blaze simply points his finger at the gun, and a stream of hellfire melts it out of Barnett's hands. Realizing that Johnny truly does have supernatural powers, Dave grabs Roxanne by the throat in order to force the Ghost Rider to help him defeat the Zodiac. The Attorney General arrives, having followed his son, and implores him to let the girl go. Using Roxanne as a shield, Dave drags her into the shadows. Mr. Barnett tells Johnny that his son has suffered a nervous breakdown due to his being captured by the Zodiac two years prior when he was an FBI agent. They tortured him, and when he broke he told them all about the defenses of New York City, allowing the villains to capture the city for a brief time.
Suddenly, a spotlight at the top of the arena is turned on, shining directly on Blaze and Barnett. Though they can't see him, they hear Dave's voice behind the light, telling them that either Johnny helps against the Zodiac or Roxanne dies. Creating his hellfire cycle, Johnny rides straight up the stands toward the light, but when he gets to the top he finds Dave is gone. A lasso is then thrown over him, trapping his arms. On the other end of the rope, Dave begins to pull him backward, but a burst of hellfire frees the Ghost Rider. A fight between the two men breaks out, and the outmatched Barnett finds himself hoisted into the air by Blaze, who is prepared to throw him down to his death. Roxanne appears in the spotlight below, however, and begs Johnny not to hurt him now that she's safe. Blaze lets the other man down, only to find that his mind has completely snapped. Feeling sympathy for Dave, Johnny finally agrees to hunt down the Zodiac for him.
Back in San Francisco, a bank is attacked by a motorcycle riding Taurus, who demands to be taken to Cornelius Van Lunt's safety deposit box. The bank manager, despite being utterly confused by the fact that Van Lunt and Taurus are supposed to be the same person, tells the villain that the vault is on a time lock and that it won't open until the next morning. Touching a button his bike, Taurus blasts the door with an energy beam, completely disintegrating it. In the vault, Taurus grabs a bunch of documents that contain incriminating evidence, enough to put Van Lunt away for life. As he rides out of the bike, he is confronted by the Ghost Rider...
This issue is a reprint of Ghost Rider (1973) # 6.
This issue also includes a pin-up of the Phantom Rider by Dick Ayers in place of the usual back-up story.