VENGEANCE UNBOUND
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GHOST RIDER # 11

SYNOPSIS
Danny, dressed in the Ghost Rider's leather outfit, finds himself in a strange dimension, where he is confronted by a man on a large horse. The man introduces himself as Nightmare, ruler of the Dream Dimension, and that he wishes to speak to the boy's demonic counterpart, Zarathos. Danny tries to run, but is caught by the demon, who tells him that he only wishes to talk for a bit. Suddenly, a ringing telephone is heard, waking Danny from his dream. Dan gets dressed and leaves his house, telling his mom that it's Stacy's first day at police academy and he promised to drop her off. A little while later, Danny drops Stacy off at the academy, but she notices that he's acting strangely.

That afternoon, Danny goes to a basketball court to talk to a drug dealer named Stig that encountered the Ghost Rider a week earlier. Dan tells him that he wants to know where Zodiak is, or else he'll sic the Ghost Rider on him again. At the mention of the demon's name, Stig runs away in terror. Meanwhile, in the midwest, two brothers hassle a biker in a roadside diner. The biker pulls a gun and a knife on the two men, telling them that he wants to head East without making time to clean their blood off his boots.

That night, back in Brooklyn, Danny sits across from the basketball courts, waiting for any sign of Zodiak. After a while, a black limousine pulls up and the Zodiak exists, wanting to talk to Stig about him giving the Ghost Rider his location a week before. Dan triggers the transformation, but immediately finds himself and the Ghost Rider teleported back to the Dream Dimension. Nightmare tells the two that it took split second timing to grab them at the moment of their transformation. Nightmare turns his attention to the Ghost Rider, showing him visions of the demon Zarathos. Zarathos was a demon that was worshipped as a god, until Mephisto defeated him in battle. Stripping him of his hellfire, Mephisto toyed with Zarathos, placing him within various human hosts throughout the centuries. Eventually, the amnesiac demon was bonded to Johnny Blaze, and the nightmares he caused brought him to Nightmare's attention. Nightmare thought Zarathos lost after he was trapped in the Soul Crystal, but he now sees that he has returned. The Ghost Rider absorbs the memories given to him, but then rejects what Nightmare has said. He then threatens the demon lord, telling him that he must pay for the suffering of innocents that he has caused. Enraged, Nightmare sends a horde of demons to attack the Rider, nearly tearing him apart. Danny jumps on the Rider's motorcycle and rides forward, pulling his counterpart from the demons' clutches. The two then realize that the only way they can escape is if they merge totally into one being again, which they do. Knowing that he can't defeat Nightmare in his own realm, the Ghost Rider opts for escaping his realm.

The Rider returns to Earth at the same place and time he disappeared, and sees Zodiak across the street. He rides forward, determined to serve vengeance, but finds himself trapped by a mystical barrier. The Rider turns, expecting Nightmare, but instead finds Dr. Strange, Sorcerer Supreme of Earth.

ANNOTATIONS
Nightmare has been influencing Danny's dreams since Ghost Rider (1990) # 8 and he encounters Ghost Rider next in Marvel Comics Presents # 100.

Nightmare revealed to Zarathos his origins in Ghost Rider (1973) # 77. Zarathos was locked away in the Soul Crystal almost immediately after, in Ghost Rider (1973) # 81, and released only once by the Beyonder in Amazing Spider-Man # 274.

The Ghost Rider first encountered the drug dealer Stig in Ghost Rider (1990) # 10, when he gave the man his penance stare.

The biker in the diner is shown to be John Blaze in Ghost Rider (1990) # 13.

Ghost Rider and Dan merged into one being during their first time in a dream world, as shown in Ghost Rider (1990) # 8. Though not stated, one can probably assume that Nightmare was behind that incident as well.

This issue was reprinted in the Ghost Rider: Danny Ketch Classic vol. 2 trade paperback.

REVIEW
Just under a year into the new series, Howard Mackie brings us our first story connecting back to the Johnny Blaze Ghost Rider from the previous series by recapping the origin of Zarathos. A guest-artist joins him for the beginning of the book's first major mystery: is this new Ghost Rider the same as Zarathos or something completely different?

Wisely, Mackie had shied away from the previous Ghost Rider mythology until this point, allowing the series and characters to develop a life of their own without slaving them to what had come before. But this was also a time when Marvel was relatively consistent and dogmatic with their continuity, so it was only a matter of time before the end of the last Ghost Rider series would be mentioned. The fate of Zarathos, Johnny Blaze, Centurious, and the rest had been hanging since the previous volume's final issue, and with this issue Mackie has finally opened the large can of worms.

It was probably an obvious choice for him to use Nightmare as the catalyst for revisiting the end of the last series, as he was the character responsible for revealing the origin of Zarathos in that volume's final year. In both instances, Nightmare was an inspired choice for the narrator, as his power and status give him the ability to reveal such secrets without making him a deus ex machina in human form. He also has a credible motivation for his actions: the more power the Ghost Rider/Zarathos possesses, the more humans he'll drive to nightmares, which provide Nightmare with the power he craves. The origin recap for Blaze and Zarathos is handled well, brief but containing enough information to let newer readers know what happened without overwhelming them with exposition and back story. This is vitally important, since we're only a few issues away from Johnny Blaze's return to the series.

Mackie and Texeira are joined by a guest-artist this issue, Larry Stroman. Stroman would go on to the much higher profile gig as the artist on X-Factor (a book he's just recently returned to after a 15 year absence), but his work here is very strong despite lacking the quirkiness his later work would develop. I believe that Stroman's usually unique and distinct art style is reigned in - and almost overwhelmed - by Texeira's finishes, making the issue mesh perfectly with the previous Javier Saltares issues. In fact, the skull of the Ghost Rider looks like it was drawn completely by Texeira, given its similarity to Texeira's take on the character a few issues from this one.

So this issue is merely the tip of the iceberg that's laying beneath the surface, proving to be a solid reintroduction to the Ghost Rider's history. Not bad at all.

Grade: B


Ghost Rider # 11
Published: March 1991
Original Price: $1.50
Cover: Larry Stroman

Title: "Through A Nightmare Revealed..."
Writer: Howard Mackie
Artist: Larry Stroman
Inker: Mark Texeira
Letterer: Janice Chiang
Colorist: Gregory Wright
Editor: Bobbie Chase
Editor In Chief: Tom DeFalco