Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Ghost Rider (2006) # 26

Cover Artist: Marko Djurdjevic
Published: Oct. 2008
Original Price: $2.99

Title: The Former Things, Part 1: "The Second Coming of Daniel Ketch"
Writer: Jason Aaron
Artist: Tan Eng Huat
Letterer: Joe Caramagna
Colorist: Jose Villarrubia
Editor: Aubrey Sitterson
Executive Editor: Axel Alonso
Editor In Chief: Joe Quesada

At a church called the Sacred Heart Convent for the Sisters of the Holy Sepulcher, a nun named Sister Sara is leaving for the first time in her life. She tells her Mother Superior that she had a dream last night of her grandfather, that he's in trouble and she has to go to him. The Mother Superior tells her that she was an orphan who has lived in the convent her whole life, to which Sara replies that its all the more reason for her to go and then asks “which way is Tennessee?”.
Three days later, at a small shack in rural Tennessee, former Ghost Rider Danny Ketch arrives with four of his former enemies at his side. He has contracted Blackout, Doghead, Death Ninja, and the All-New Orb to work for Zadkiel, and their mission is to capture the man living in the shack. The villains advance on the shack's front door, and after the door is kicked open from the inside Doghead has his head blown off by the Caretaker, who is in possession of Blaze's old hellfire shotgun. Caretaker goes back into the shack with Death Ninja and the Orb following, while Blackout decides to sneak in the back way. Inside the shack, Death Ninja and the Orb find an impossibly long hallway filled with doors. They pick a door at random and enter a room that's filled with items from the Ghost Rider's past - a room that's been booby-trapped. After tripping a wire, a board with nails sticking out is fired onto the Orb's face, blinding the giant eyeball he has for a head. Caretaker comes into the room firing the shotgun, and though he's stabbed by his sword he manages to kill the Death Ninja. The lights in the room blink out, and Caretaker is stabbed by Blackout's claws. He returns the favor by stabbing Blackout in the groin with Death Ninja's sword. Before Blackout can kill the Caretaker, he's stopped by Danny, who repeats that Zadkiel wants the old man alive. Danny talks with the Caretaker, saying that he was supposed to have been his mentor and all he received was lies about the Ghost Rider's origins. Caretaker tells him that the truth is that Danny was an accident, he only became the Ghost Rider by mistake. Danny denounces it as a lie, but Caretaker tells him that he knows its true, just like he knows what will happen once the real Ghost Rider gets there. After this, Danny sets fire to the shack, burning all of the items inside, and goes back outside to meet Blackout. Danny says that they have to wait for the house to burn down, what they want is underneath it. Ketch stops mid-sentence, then tells Blackout that he just sensed a presence - “he's here”.
Not far away, Sister Sara arrives at the road to Caretaker's shack, having hitched a ride with a trucker. Since she's unable to pay for the ride, the truck driver tries to force her into sex, prompting Sara to fight her way free and run into the road - where she's nearly run down by the motorcycle of Johnny Blaze, who claims to have business in the hills.
Danny Ketch first became the Spirit of Vengeance way back in Ghost Rider (1990) # 1. He made his last appearance for several years in Peter Parker: Spider-Man (1990) # 93 following the cancellation of the 90's Ghost Rider series. He made his surprising reappearance in this series at the end of Ghost Rider (2006) # 23.
The events that led to Danny becoming an agent for Zadkiel are told in Ghost Rider: Danny Ketch (2008) # 1-5.
Danny has assembled four villains that all have ties to the Ghost Rider:
– Blackout first appeared in Ghost Rider (1990) # 2  and made his last appearance in Ghost Rider (1990) # 66.
– Death Ninja was killed by the Ghost Rider in Ghost Rider (1990) # 3, then resurrected by Centurious and sent out to get revenge in Ghost Rider (1990) # 34-35.
– Doghead was created to be one of Blackheart's false “Spirits of Vengeance” in Ghost Rider (1990) # 89 and was last seen in Hell in Ghost Rider: Finale.
– The Orb was an enemy of Johnny Blaze that first appeared in Marvel Team-Up # 15 and was killed off many years later in Avengers Spotlight (1987) # 21. This is the first appearance of the All-New Orb, who makes his return appearance in Ghost Riders: Heaven's On Fire (2009) # 1.
The Caretaker first appeared in Ghost Rider (1990) # 28 and told Blaze and Ketch the Ghost Rider's “origin” (now proved to be false) in Ghost Rider (1990) # 43. He last appeared in Ghost Rider (1990) # 61.
The Caretaker is in possession of Johnny Blaze's hellfire shotgun, which was last seen in Blaze's possession in X-Force/Champions Annual 1998.
The Caretaker's shack contains a Ghost Rider trophy room that holds numerous artifacts from the character's past, including:
– The hat and pistol-belt of Carter Slade, the Phantom Rider, confirmed to be a Spirit of Vengeance by his appearance in Heaven during Ghost Riders: Heaven's On Fire (2009) # 6.
– The mask of the Eel, who was murdered by the Gladiator in Ghost Rider (1973) # 21.
– The chain of ankhs used to shackle Daimon Hellstrom in Ghost Rider (1973) # 2.
– The Soul Crystal from Ghost Rider (1973) # 81.
– The skull and helmet of the Death Ryder from Ghost Rider (1973) # 35.
– The Medallion of Power, thought to be the source of Ghost Rider's power as told by the Caretaker in Ghost Rider (1990) # 43.
– Three motorcycles that all belonged to Vengeance, who first appeared as Michael Badilino in Ghost Rider (1990) # 21  and became a Ghost Rider in Ghost Rider/Blaze: Spirits of Vengeance (1992) # 9.
– A book labeled The Journals of Pastor Kale, the father of Ghost Rider Noble Kale, who last appeared in Ghost Rider (1990) # -1.
– Newspaper clippings about The Champions circa The Champions (1974) # 7 and the Legion of Monsters from Marvel Premiere # 28.
This issue was released with a special “Marvel Apes” variant cover by artist Nic Klein.
This issue is reprinted in the Ghost Rider: The Last Stand trade paperback and the Ghost Rider by Jason Aaron Omnibus.
Cover Artist: Nic Klein
Following two fairly straight-forward, stand-alone story-arcs, Jason Aaron dives into the deep end of the pool in regards to Ghost Rider's past continuity. This comic is an absolute love letter to Ghost Rider history, and it brings back a whole slew of old friends to help celebrate.
The big news, of course, is that this is the first real reappearance of Danny Ketch, discounting the cameo he made at the end of “Hell-Bent & Heaven-Bound”. And Dan's not content to come into the book by himself, no he's brought with him a gang of 90s Ghost Rider villains to help him kill yet another resurrected 90s character, the Caretaker. I loved Aaron's previous issues, but I admit that I was in no way prepared for what awaited me in this issue. Blackout and the Caretaker are back? Someone is actually using Doghead and Death Ninja? Care to play “spot the Ghost Rider artifact” on page 14? This comic was a gift to long-time Flameheads, with an overwhelming amount of nods to previous stories done in the classiest way possible, as a museum of Ghost Rider lore in the home of the Caretaker.
Aaron also brings us closer to understanding the Ghost Rider's origins, a topic I can't believe any writer would have the patience to try and wrap his head around. The entire Medallion of Power origin is completely disavowed in a clever way, considering the only source of knowledge for that “origin” was the Caretaker himself, a known liar and manipulator who finally gets called out by Danny in this issue. I will say that Danny's new outlook on life was a bit disturbing, seeing a childhood hero now teamed up with the very villains he fought against a decade earlier. But the important part of Danny's role in all this comes during his conversation with the Caretaker, where he says that he's doing what he's always done, “helping people”. It's easy to label Danny as a villain in Aaron's run, but he truly thought he was being a hero. Na├»ve and easily manipulated, sure (and that is certainly the Danny I remember from the 90s series), but certainly not evil.
Tan Eng Huat really gets to strut his stuff with this issue. His renditions of Death Ninja, Doghead, and the Caretaker were all excellent; and I love his take on the Orb (who is now a guy with a literal eyeball for a head, which is awesome). The one bit I didn't care for is his take on Blackout, a character who should be a walking nightmare but instead looks a bit effeminate. It's probably the pigtails that make me think that. But it's the little touches that make Huat's work so enjoyable in this issue, like seeing Danny's motorcycle in the background of the splash page or all the items in Caretaker's “Ghost Rider Showcase”. I can just imagine how much research Huat must have had to do to get all those elements correct.
So Danny Ketch is officially back, and next issue teases his first meeting with Johnny Blaze in a long time. If you were a reader during the 1990s, you absolutely must read this Ghost Rider issue, no bones about it.
Grade: A+