Friday, March 30, 2018

Daredevil (1964) # 372

Cover Artist: Ariel Olivetti
Published: February 1998
Original Price: $1.95

Title: "Devil and the Demon"
Writer: Joe Kelly
Artist: Ariel Olivetti
Inker: Pier Britto
Letterers: Richard Starkings & Comicraft
Colorist: Christie Scheele
Editor: Jaye Gardner
Editor In Chief: Bob Harras

At Riker's Island Prison, Assistant District Attorney Kathy Malpher investigates a room that had been hidden following a riot in the prison, where several bloody bodies were discovered in connection to the villain Mr. Fear.  Across town, Daredevil drops his girlfriend Karen Page off at the radio station where she works, then he makes his way to his own law office as Matt Murdock.  Meanwhile, Danny Ketch is about to enjoy the beautiful day, but the Ghost Rider tells him that there is evil in the air and to "prepare" for him.

Matt runs into Malpher, who receives a phone call from Judge Chalmers telling her that she is not to interview the prison warden, which makes her furious.  Having overheard the phone call, Murdock changes into his Daredevil costume and enters Malpher's office through her window, offering to help her get the information they need from the warden.  At the warden's apartment, Daredevil crashes through the window and finds Ghost Rider about the give the man the Penance Stare, which will reduce him to an incoherent mess.  Needing to question him, Daredevil saves the warden and confronts Ghost Rider, asking if he can question the man before the Rider seeks vengeance.  Ghost Rider does not take kindly to the interruption and attacks, which also allows the warden to escape by stealing a car outside.  Ghost Rider takes off after him, forcing Daredevil to commandeer a motorcycle of his own, which nearly overwhelms his radar sense.  Ghost Rider catches up to the warden, crashes his car, and gives the man the Penance Stare just before Daredevil hits the Rider with his motorcycle, causing an explosion.  Daredevil realizes that the warden is now a mindless husk, which causes him to yell about the meaning of justice to the approaching Ghost Rider.  Having lost his patience, Ghost Rider grabs Daredevil by the sides of his head and gives him a taste of the Penance Stare, even though Murdock his blind.  He tells Daredevil that when he interrupted the Penance Stare it prevented him from discerning the truth about the evil forces unleashed at the prison.  Because of Daredevil's actions Ghost Rider will be unable to stop the shedding of more innocent blood, and the responsibly to stop what's coming will be on Murdock's shoulders alone.  Ghost Rider leaves Daredevil curled up on the floor, able to feel nothing but cold.

Ghost Rider last appeared in Venom: Sign of the Boss # 2 and appears next in Ghost Rider (1990) # 90.

Daredevil and Ghost Rider first crossed paths in Daredevil (1964) # 295 and last encountered one another in Double Edge: Omega.

Ghost Rider makes another late 1990s appearance in another Marvel title, which has some interesting material shoved between pages of boring, meandering subplots.

I'm perhaps being unfair to this comic, as I'm taking it completely out of context in the larger Daredevil run by writer Joe Kelly.  I've not read any of the issues prior to or after this issue in his run, and I am therefore completely in the dark about most of what's being referenced here.  I get that there's an ongoing plot involving Mr. Fear, a villain I remember from early day Daredevil stories, but everything in this issue is both vaguely obtuse and spilling over with exposition.  It's the craziest thing how Kelly is able to achieve both of those simultaneously, and it certainly makes this a difficult comic to read.  I found myself slogging through the subplot pages, which take up 2/3 of the issue, just to get to the interesting part at the end.  Again, though, I'm perhaps being unkind, and if I were a regular Daredevil reader all this exposition and dialogue might be riveting!

This, however, is a Ghost Rider blog, which means I only care about that character's guest-appearance.  This is late Ivan Velez era Ghost Rider, a character who shows very little patience or ability to suffer people getting in his way, and Kelly handles that interpretation of the Rider very well.  People who bring Ghost Rider in for guest spots often have a tendency of making him overly violent or obsessed with vengeance, an easy way to justify having him fight whatever hero has his name in the comic's title.  That's what it looks like is happening here, when Daredevil and Ghost Rider first lock horns, but the ending puts everything into a much clearer perspective.  Ghost Rider was the one in the right all along and it's Daredevil who screws everything up by interfering, allowing for the great bit at the end with the Rider giving DD a little taste of hellfire fingers in his brain.  Kelly's Daredevil is honestly a bit insufferable to read, with more quips and holier-than-thou attitude than usual, so seeing him crumpled on the floor in the fetal position after making Ghost Rider mad was a great touch.

The artwork is by Ariel Olivetti, who I believe was at the start of his career at Marvel with this series, going on to books like X-Man with Warren Ellis before totally reinventing his style in the 2000s.  I quite like his work here, it's got a raw, jagged quality to it that reminds me of a toned-down Sean Phillips.  He could use some perspective work, but he draws a great Ghost Rider.  The character oozes menace and intimidation, particularly in the sequence I mentioned above with Daredevil getting Penance Stared.  He's a bit inconsistent with how he was appearing in the regular Ghost Rider comic, as this isn't quite the Saltares leather 'n chains design.  It looks more like an amalgam of that look and the '70s Blaze leathers, if I'm being honest.  Still looks damn sharp, though.

Overall, this is certainly an appearance you can skip, but if you can make your way through the book's first half you'll find some good Ghost Rider material at the back.

Grade: B-