Friday, March 13, 2015


Reborn Again
Credits:  Howard Mackie (writer), Javier Saltares (penciler), Scott Hanna (inks), Gregory Wright (colors), Comicraft (letters)

The Plot:  Inside Cypress Hills cemetery, Ghost Rider emerges again.  Elsewhere in the city, Spider-Man is trying to fix his tattered reputation.  When Ghost Rider races past, his hellfire out of control, Spider-Man follows.  Ghost Rider and Spider-Man have a brief confrontation that ends when the street is ripped open, exposing a group of terrorists in the sewers.  Spider-Man confiscates their bomb, as Dan Ketch emerges from the crowd.  Ghost Rider convinces Dan that he’s incomplete without him.  They merge together once again, using their supernatural powers to deaden the impact of the bomb’s blast.  Spider-Man’s webbing insures that no bystanders are hurt.  The next morning, the Daily Bugle accuses Ghost Rider and Spider-Man of being terrorists.

The Subplots:  Spider-Man offers to discuss the details of George and Gwen Stacy’s deaths, but Arthur isn’t in the mood to hear it.  Paul Stacy is moving out of the Stacy home for unknown reasons.  Peter playfully snatches MJ out of the streets and takes her to a rooftop, but is called into action a few minutes later when Ghost Rider races by.

Web of Continuity:  Ghost Rider claims that the revelation that he’s Dan Ketch’s ancestor, Noble Kane, was a lie.  Apparently this ties into some controversial continuity from the final days of the ‘90s Ghost Rider series.

Forever Young:  Peter and MJ’s conversation is another forced reminder of how young they are.  “We're young, in love...”  “Let's start acting our age for a change.  Sometimes I feel like we act as though we've been married for a thousand years.”

How Did This Get Published?:  Heed the words of the world’s sleepiest terrorist:  “You are too late, Spider-Man.  The time has come for this city to be cleansed in fire.  No more mutant or super-normal aberrations such as yourself.  A new age is dawning.”

I Love the ‘90s:  Spider-Man to the terrorists:  “Give me a break! You're WAY too early for the millennium!”  (I guess the premise of the joke is that all terrorists in the late ‘90s have ties to the new millennium, but even in comics, was this very common?)

Production Note:  John Romita, Jr. is incorrectly credited as the penciler on the cover.  He did draw the cover, but not the interiors.

Original art compared to the printed page, from

Review:  I remember this issue getting more of a promotional push than usual from Marvel, since it reunited the original creative team of the popular ‘90s Ghost Rider revival.  I also recall that the online response to the issue was overwhelmingly negative.  Apparently, Howard Mackie viewed this issue as a means of clearing up Ghost Rider continuity, and as the Clone Saga taught us, Mackie’s solution for handling continuity problems is to toss out a few lines of dialogue and then brush his hands together and call it a day.  I’m assuming that his goal was to retcon the revelation that Ghost Rider was someone named Noble Kane, and to go back to the status quo of Dan Ketch and Ghost Rider sharing the same body.  This is accomplished by having Ghost Rider babble for a few pages about Mephisto lying, then Dan Ketch and a convenient group of poorly-defined terrorists literally appear out of nowhere, and finally in a heroic act of sacrifice, everything’s back to the old status quo.  Never mind that none of this has anything to do with Spider-Man, of course, and Mackie doesn’t even seem too fluent in the continuity he’s disrupting.  Ultimately, what was the point of this?

Can the subplots save this one?  What do you think?  We’re blessed with a few pages of Peter and MJ having the same repetitive conversation they always have in this title, a conversation scene that has MJ flip-flopping from nagging to supporting her husband over the course of one page.  Oh, and did you know that the Parkers are really young?  The rest of the issue deals with the Stacy family, which is always death.  Jill Stacy, we’re told this issue, is obsessed with Spider-Man and discovering his connection to her uncle and cousin’s deaths…information that has never come up before, or was buried so long ago I’ve totally forgotten it.  Jill is an absolute blank slate of a character, we don’t even know what her college major is, so if this obsession was the one thing we do know about her, shouldn’t it have played a role in any of her previous appearances?  Arthur Stacy, we know, is obsessed with George and Gwen Stacy’s deaths, which hasn’t really gone anywhere, but at least has been repeated enough times for the reader to get the idea.  This issue, he finally has an opportunity to learn the truth directly from Spider-Man, but he’s too depressed to speak.  He’s upset because his grown son, who’s so caustic and antagonistic he can’t make a single friend, is moving out…for mysterious reasons.  This title’s record for actually paying off storylines, and giving the Stacys anything to do, doesn’t give me a lot of hope for the future of Paul’s story.  (And if the goal of “Identity Crisis” was to have Spider-Man come around and embrace Arthur as an ally, that’s another plot point Mackie communicated very poorly.)

Visually, the issue is an improvement over the majority of the fill-ins of this era.  Javier Saltares, not surprisingly, draws an excellent interpretation of Ghost Rider and his Spider-Man feels like a nice callback to guys like Gil Kane (although Saltares seems unable to draw Spidey’s eyes consistently throughout the issue, a common problem in this era for some reason.)  I’m not sure what was going in Sensational #30, but the combination of Saltares’ pencils and Scott Hanna’s inks this issue creates on-model, attractive versions of the supporting cast.  No ape-people this time.  The visuals actually do a lot to sell the story, which on a very basic level isn’t even that bad.  Ghost Rider’s powers out of control, with Spider-Man caught in his wake, rescuing the innocent civilians…that’s a fine starting point for an issue.  Once you throw in the garbled continuity, stilted dialogue, lame subplots, and half-hearted ending, that’s a disappointing comic.


Anonymous said...

On the sub-plots I seem to remember Mackie already being given the reboot gig at this point. I distinctly remember noticing he wasn't wrapping up his sub-plots and always assumed it was because they'd carry into the rebooted titles. I could be wrong but I remember having that thought. My theory has always been that Mackie did believe he could bring the Stacys over when writing this issue but was later told he couldn’t.

On Ghost Rider, and this I'm certain of, you're right on Mackie’s knowledge but probably wrong on his intent. It is actually a funny story. Mackie was on Ghost Rider for a long time and left as sales were falling off. He was replaced by Ivan Velez Jr who took the book in a vastly different direction. That included a new origin for the Ketch version of Ghost Rider (Mackie had never really given a full origin but Velez contradicted what clues had been given).

This made things worse and the book tanked (with help from new artist Pop Mhan who took the book in a very different visual direction). Tom Brevoort became editor and tried to turn things around. He brought back Javier Saltares as penciler and a little later managed to get Mark Texeira back on inks reuniting the original Ghost Rider team.

I don’t know that anyone has ever detailed where the series was going under Brevoort’s editorship. All we know is he told Velez Jr to wrap up the current story fast so they could move on. But Marvel, in the midst of bankruptcy, couldn’t wait. They cancelled the series leaving the last issue of the Velez Jr’s story half finished (the book was eventually published 9 years later in 2007 and half the pages are inked by Texeira giving a pretty good indication of where the last issue was in production when the cancellation order came down)

Anyway, after the cancellation there was some hope of reviving the series. But the idea was to do a reset where the Ghost Rider went back to being a mysterious entity and completely ignored the Velez Jr stuff. Spider-Man #93 (published about 6 months after the Ghost Rider series was cancelled) was an attempt to do that. Many took it as Mackie hating Velez Jr’s run and rewriting the character’s history back to where he left it. Mackie was asked at a convention and he said resetting the Ghost Rider origin was an editorial mandate and that he hadn't even read Velez Jr’s run.

kerry said...

I've long felt that Ghost Rider is a great visual in search of a character (an opinion which hasn't stopped me from buying hundreds of Ghost Rider comics), but I think the damage Velez did to the character is incalculable. The baggage of that run--making Johnny and Dan brothers, that Noble Kale nonsense, turning Blaze's wife into a demon, etc.--hsunts the character even now.

Anonymous said...

The John/Dan brothers plot was actually from a Spirits of Vengeance issue written by Mackie. I support Velez's run as it gave answers where Mackie seemed only to be treading water or making things up as he went. The damage to Ghost Rider feels to me to be more of an unfortunate confluence of uncaring editors than one writer's fault, as there was an opportunity to knit all these contradictory continuity issues with each successive series and nothing was done until Jason Aaron came on board.

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