VENGEANCE UNBOUND
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GHOST RIDER # 39

SYNOPSIS
On a pier off the coast of Brooklyn, a gang of thugs attack a couple, beating the man savagely. As they continue their assault, they see a horrifying being speeding across the water toward them. Vengeance arrives in New York and quickly kills each member of the gang before telling the couple to go home. Not long after, Vengeance is contacted by Mephisto, who tells him that to find the Ghost Rider he must first seek out the Caretaker. Mephisto then orders Vengeance to bring him the medallion that rests on the Ghost Rider's motorcycle.

Meanwhile, in Greenwich Village, a truck driven by John Blaze arrives outside Dan Ketch's apartment building. Inside the truck are the remaining members of the Quentin Carnival (Wolf, Kody, Clara, and Miranda) and the Ghost Rider. Ghost Rider transforms back into Dan as Blaze tells his friends that he didn't like leaving the Carnival to the Army anymore than the rest of them, but he had to get whoever he could out of the area as quickly as possible. After they enter Dan's apartment, John tries to figure out the meaning of the note given to him by his dead friend, Eli, while Dan volunteers to go pick up some food. In Cypress Hills Cemetery, Dan's mother is approached by the Caretaker at Barbara Ketch's grave. He tells her that Dan was never supposed to get "it", and that "it" was supposed to go to the girl instead. Mrs. Ketch says that she would do anything to get her daughter back, to which the Caretaker replies that she should never have bothered with the thing with Styge. She begins to cry, saying to him that she's sorry for him because their lives are not a game.

Elsewhere, the supermarket that Dan is shopping in is invaded by three gunmen who begin shooting employees while they rob the establishment. Dan immediately transforms into the Ghost Rider, who quickly and easily takes out the three murderers. Back in the Cemetery, Caretaker is attacked by Vengeance, who begins to beat him mercilessly. Mephisto said that the Caretaker's blood is what will lead him to the Ghost Rider, and as the old man starts to bleed Vengeance comments "there's a start".

At the market, Ghost Rider finds himself surrounded by police, who once again view him as a menace. While the police question the whereabouts of Michael Badilino and Captain Gerry Dolan, the police equipped to handle the Ghost Rider, Vengeance appears with the unconscious Caretaker in his hands. Ghost Rider quickly attacks Vengeance, swearing to make him pay for the role he played in the destruction of the Quentin Carnival. As the two demons fight, Vengeance states that his family has endured too much pain at the hands of Zarathos, and that he's stronger now than he was before. Before Vengeance can ultimately defeat the Ghost Rider, Caretaker revives and downs the villain with mystical energy. Blaze arrives, having seen the fight from Dan's apartment across the street, but Caretaker tells him to get Ghost Rider out of there before Vengeance comes to. Blaze drags the Ghost Rider away while Vengeance recovers. Turning to the Caretaker, Vengeance strikes the old man, who explodes and seemingly dies. Blaze and the Ghost Rider escape, with John saying that they're going to Eli's cabin in the mountains to get the answers to the riddles in his letter.

ANNOTATIONS
This issue continues from Ghost Rider/Blaze: Spirits of Vengeance # 10 and continues into Ghost Rider/Blaze: Spirits of Vengeance # 12.

The man that became Vengeance made his deal with Mephisto in Ghost Rider/Blaze: Spirits of Vengeance # 9 . His true identity will be revealed in Ghost Rider/Blaze: Spirits of Vengeance # 15 and his reasons for hating Ghost Rider/Zarathos will be told in Ghost Rider/Blaze: Spirits of Vengeance # 16.

Francis Ketch tried to get Reverend Styge to resurrect Barbara in Ghost Rider (1990) # 18.

REVIEW
For the first time, now that a lot of the previous subplots have been either wrapped up for forgotten, the events in Spirits of Vengeance are addressed in the ongoing Ghost Rider series. Vengeance is brought along for the ride, further cementing the character as the Rider's new arch-enemy.

Due to the rather non-stop storyline running from Spirits of Vengeance # 4-10, the Ghost Rider series had been plugging away with stories that were ultimately less consequential to writer Howard Mackie's overall goals leading up to the "Road to Vengeance: The Missing Link" crossover. Naturally, because of this, Spirits was quickly being regarded as the more important of the two series, not to mention it having both better stories and artwork in its pages. With this issue bringing both a collision of those Spirits stories and characters into Ghost Rider and the debut of new regular artist Ron Garney, this series is finally taking a step back in the right direction after the many missteps of the last several months.

This story is hugely important to the ongoing saga for many reasons, giving us huge strides forward in a few of the mysteries that had been bogging the books down. The Caretaker, previously just a mystery guide, is given more of a spotlight as he gets his ass handed to him by Vengeance. Dan Ketch finally makes an appearance in the midst of the Quentin Carnival story, and we get the first mention of the Medallion of Power in Mephisto's orders to Vengeance. Everything is starting to get tied together, and at this point it truly looks like Mackie has a clear plan for the characters (though, as we'll soon find out, that's pretty far from the case). We're also given the first hints that Mrs. Ketch is aware of her son's dual identity, which comes a bit out of left field given her characterization in the series' early issues.

Mackie does continue to ramp up just how big a threat Vengeance is with this issue, starting with his brutal attack on the Caretaker. Before this, the Caretaker had been hinted at being fairly powerful and near omnipotent, and seeing him so casually knocked down by Vengeance did a lot to showcase just how powerful this new villain really was. We also get more teases toward Vengeance's true identity, narrowing it down pretty conclusively to either Captain Gerry Dolan or Lt. Michael Badilino (and it won't be long before we get the answer to this question).

This marks Ron Garney's first issue as the new regular artist, coming directly off a stint on another Midnight Sons title, Nightstalkers. Garney makes a damn good showing in his first issue, and his clear and dynamic pencils help to bring the book back to visual excellence following the disastrous run by Bret Blevins. Although Garney stays on this title a bit too long, effectively wearing out his welcome, his art in this and subsequent early issues are really, really good.

This issue, despite being an interlude chapter in the ongoing Spirits of Vengeance series, doesn't forget which series its written for. The developing plotlines of the Ghost Rider series are furthered nicely here, wrapped around a great fight sequence between Ghost Rider and Vengeance.

Grade: B+


Ghost Rider # 39
Published: July 1993
Original Price: $1.75
Cover: Ron Garney

Title: "...Vengeance!"
Writer: Howard Mackie
Artist: Ron Garney
Inker: Chris Ivy
Letterer: Janice Chiang
Colorist: Gregory Wright
Editor: Bobbie Chase
Editor In Chief: Tom DeFalco