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GHOST RIDER # 8

SYNOPSIS
Dan Ketch experiences a frighteningly vivid nightmare, in which he shares a Hamlet-inspired conversation with the Ghost Rider. In the dream, Daniel sees visions of Blackout, Deathwatch, and his sister. He agrees to join with the Ghost Rider in order to stop Blackout, but are unable to reach him atop his mountain of victims. They can never stop the killings, because according to Blackout, they are responsible for them. Danny awakens from the nightmare, and leaves the house to go pick up Stacy.

Meanwhile, at the Cypress Hills Community Action Group, several of the residents hold a meeting with a woman named Tyler Meagher, who represents the bounty hunting group H.E.A.R.T. The parents have contacted her in response to the increasing disappearances of the neighborhood's children, which they feel is being perpetrated by the Ghost Rider. After their conversation, Meagher goes outside to the van that houses the rest of her organization, and tells them that they will start the hunt for the Ghost Rider that night.

Elsewhere, Danny and Stacy are on a walk, upon which he runs into both a blind street vendor named Mr. Larsen, and the priest of his mother's church. Later that night, both men are brutally murdered by Blackout, who is continuing his revenge against Dan. The next evening, Dan sees reports on the murders on the local news, and decides to find out what's happening. As he rides around, he hears a scream from Cypress Hills Cemetery, triggering his transformation into the Ghost Rider. The demon encounters a monstrous creature that's trying to abduct a young girl. The girl runs away, but is immediately caught and killed by Blackout. The Rider fights the giant monster, but is taken down long enough for it to escape. Tyler Meagher, unaware to the Ghost Rider, has watched the battle through surveillance cameras. The other H.E.A.R.T. members ask about the course of action, to which Meagher responds they will, of course, kill the Rider.

ANNOTATIONS
Ghost Rider last appeared in Fantastic Four # 349.

The creature that the Ghost Rider rescues the young girl from is one of the people responsible for the disappearances of children across Brooklyn since Ghost Rider (1990) # 3. The families hired the H.E.A.R.T. organization to track down the Ghost Rider due to their belief that he is the one responsible for the disappearances.

Blackout has been stalking Danny since Ghost Rider (1990) # 7, where he killed Barbara Ketch in the hospital. He figured out the Ghost Rider's human identity after his face was mutilated in Ghost Rider (1990) # 3.

In his nightmare, Danny's father appears alongside Blackout and Deathwatch, with Blackout making the comments that his father made Danny what is and what he will become. Based on what came later, it can possibly be guessed that Blackout was referring to Danny's heritage as a host of the Medallion of Power. However, it is revealed in Ghost Rider (1990) # 33 that Dan and Barbara were adopted by the Ketch family, so the father that he recognizes in his dream would be his adopted father and not his biological one. Also, based on what was revealed in Ghost Rider # -1, the power of the Ghost Rider came not from his father, but from Danny's mother, Naomi Kale. Seeing as how Howard Mackie's plots seemed to meander quite a bit when it came to Ghost Rider's origin, it would be interesting to know what he meant by what was said in this issue.

Danny's recurring dreams are revealed to be the work of Nightmare in Ghost Rider (1990) # 11.

This issue was reprinted in the Ghost Rider: Danny Ketch Classic vol. 1 trade paperback.

REVIEW
We're only eight issues in and the series has already had its first major shake-up of the status quo following the death of Barbara Ketch in the issue before. This story is really nothing more than an aftermath of last month's tragic event, but it's a gripping tale that hints of things to come while giving us more insight into Danny's relationship with this new Ghost Rider.

At this time in the evolution of the series, Blackout was really stepping up to be the definitive arch-enemy that the Ghost Rider character needed. Following his murder of Barbara, Blackout's promise that Danny's life would become a "reeking wound around him" is made good here with the deaths of three innocent people who just had the bad luck of encountering Danny throughout the story. It really sets Blackout up as a credible threat and an overpowering force that is always hovering on the periphery of each story even if he's not the central focus. It's a shame that the character meandered off in such a bad way in future years, because right here he's easily one of the most frightening villains to come out in quite a long time.

We're also given a whole lot of insight into the Ghost Rider demon and his relationship with Danny in a hint of the old adversarial nature of Blaze and Zarathos. Based solely on the conversation held between the two and the Ghost Rider's thoughts near the issue's end, it's starting to become less evident that this demon is in fact Zarathos like most assumed. At the time, Mackie did a lot of teasing around at the identity of Dan's father and his ties to the Ghost Rider's origin, which is unfortunate given that Mackie never got around to revealing what this origin is. That task fell to the book's second writer, Ivan Velez, who instead tied the demon's curse to Danny's mother, Naomi Kale. It's unknown what Mackie planned regarding Dan's father, and all of the foreshadowing here does bog the series down when one knows what's coming up in the series years later. Of course, if you're reading it for the first time it gives the opposite effect of adding a layer of mystery to Dan's seemingly random happenstance that resulted in him being the demon's host.

Unfortunately, even the best of comics can sometimes have their faults, and this one's come in the form of characters I've never been fond of: H.E.A.R.T. A group of mercenaries that just happen to be women, this group of "chicks with guns" never once gave off a hint of credible threat toward our supernatural protagonist, and instead just come off as random "tough girl" cliches. These characters were unceremoniously slaughtered during the book's third year, and it couldn't have happened a moment sooner.

But even with H.E.A.R.T.'s introduction, this issue really exceeds at selling the darkness and misery that was starting to swallow Danny Ketch due to his newfound partnership with the Ghost Rider. Saltares and Texeira continue to turn in a stellar job on the artistic end, and it serves the readers up with a suitable follow-up to Barbara's death and the book's turning point in the issue before it.

Grade: B+


Ghost Rider # 8
Published: Dec. 1990
Original Price: $1.50
Cover: Javier Saltares

Title: "Living Nightmare"
Writer: Howard Mackie
Artist: Javier Saltares
Inker: Mark Texeira
Letterer: Janice Chiang
Colorist: Gregory Wright
Editor: Bobbie Chase
Editor In Chief: Tom DeFalco