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I’m not a person with a great memory – my childhood is a mixture of emotional tones, brief flashes of moments, specific media and toys, and stories I told myself. I don’t have a good idea of the order of events, I don’t remember who was in my classes, and I don’t remember November 1990.
I remember Ghost rider # 7.
Ghost rider # 7 is hard to forget.
Looking back, the issue is the first in the series to really hit, to undeniably feel the way the show was meant to feel; with the despicable duty of getting our tale finished, and a remarkably uneventful Punisher crossover to draw readers aside, number 7 is blessed with something utterly incredible: an almost tonal poem by horror, brutality, and loss, unfettered with overworked storytelling, teams, or flashy sets.
Instead, the problem begins to hammer home the third volume of Ghost Rider’s early themes and concerns. It’s often a series about having no control over your own life, not succeeding in the ways that really matters, and that holds true for both protagonist Danny Ketch and problem villain Ebenezer. Laughton, the low-level scarecrow supervillain.
The narrative, like much of the first issues in the series, unfolds over two threads – the world of Danny Ketch and the world of the Ghost Rider, each of which has a unique identity that is almost disconnected from each other. Danny, whose life has been turned upside down, is worried about his sister in a coma, frightened by the force that takes her body away overnight, and is unable to connect with loved ones.
Ghost Rider, meanwhile, is on his never-ending quest for revenge, and there is nothing more urgent than a series of gruesome murders committed by Scarecrow.
The issue opens in Laughton’s dark cell. Ebenezer is crouched in his bunk, naked except for his signature underwear and mask, gazing up at his cell’s screened window, from where moonlight streams over him and his padded walls. The page is black and the little moonlight instills a feeling of isolation, of terror. We don’t know anything about Ebenezer, here, and yet his pose – contorted, hands clutching the mask, eyes looking up to the night sky – suggests he’s off balance. The image effortlessly evokes Gothic Renfield, Stoker’s mad servant of Dracula, waiting for his master in his own cell. Like Renfield, Laughton will not stay locked up – a straight razor allows his murderous escape.
This is the first issue that Mark Texeira, who has inked each issue before, plays the role of pencil sketch, and that one flyleaf is enough to understand why his rough, thick work becomes iconic of both the series and the character. Thick blacks fill every page – there is darkness in every corner. The world of Danny and the Rider – and the world the Scarecrow lurks in – is bled with the vivid, vivid colors found elsewhere in the 1990 Marvel Universe. There is no bright blue sky like the one Spidey did. cross, no loud screaming Batroc the Leaping disguises. Texeira illustrates a truly visceral world full of terror, in which the victims of the scarecrow are hung from lampposts, where a young couple on a date, like Dan and his girlfriend, Stacy, might stumble upon the crime scene. bloody scene where a mother and her baby – torn from her stroller – have just been transported to the morgue.
It’s a world that doesn’t just need the phantom rider; it’s a world that deserved him. Danny, still terrified of the entity, cannot deny it. He cedes control to the Spirit of Vengeance, abandoning both his girlfriend and his own chance to lead a normal life at the crime scene.
Ghost rider is a book that seems to want you to pay attention to sight – or the lack of it. The issues involve villains named Death Watch, Snowblind, and Blackout. There is something hidden from us, as readers, and both from the Rider and from Danny; neither of them can see a bigger picture. In issue # 7, this larger narrative obscuration covers the actions of Blackout, the second madman in the issue.
Blackout – whose powers smother the sources of light around him, reinforcing the metaphor – attempted to feed off the Rider in a previous issue, and in doing so, disfigured himself in the flames of the Rider. Like Danny, Blackout’s own actions left him horribly changed. In his own revenge, Blackout has uncovered the Cavalier’s secret: A young man, tragically fatal, is the Cavalier’s ship, and he has identified the boy’s relatives. He sneaks into the basement of the hospital, his powers crushing the lights, and feasts on an innocent janitor. Its infiltration, we feel, is long – it quietly haunts the hospital, claiming victims as it goes. He is not in a hurry.
Ultimately, Blackout is the only force that succeeds – he’s darkness itself, infiltrating Danny’s life. Scarecrow’s failure stems from the fact that he caught the Rider in the first place: he murdered these people to get Captain America’s attention; even in its horrific brutality, it is under the watchful eye of the Freedom Sentinel. During the scuffle, realizing that the captain will not come for him, the Scarecrow throws himself on his own pitchfork, ending.
The Horseman, denied the vengeance that animates his very being, returns empty-handed. There is no justice, only disappointment, regret, an unfulfilled goal. It’s of course Danny who suffers the biggest loss: he left this opportunity to the rider and in doing so, left his sister hurt at the whims of Blackout.
Barbara is dead, murdered in her hospital bed.
The full moon, silhouetting the corpse of the scarecrow, does not illuminate the corners of the book, the corners of Danny’s life. In a world like this, there is no light.
It is not common for a comic book to be so rich in tragedies; the four-colored cohorts of the Cavalier suffer less, month after month, than their host suffers in this single issue. 90s Ghost rider # 7 is dark. It’s horrible. It’s haunting. And he stayed with me for three decades.
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