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MARVEL SPOTLIGHT ON GHOST RIDER # 10

SYNOPSIS
The Ghost Rider races through the Arizona desert with the comatose Roxanne Simpson in his arms, desperate to get her to a hospital before the snake venom in her system kills her. Back at the Apache reservation, Snake Dance's followers turn against him, finally realizing that he's nothing but a charlatan. Sam Silvercloud strings the old medicine man up to a tree, preparing to hang him, but the men are stopped by several rifle shots. They turn to see a young woman, Linda Littletree, Snake Dance's daughter returned from college. Linda unties her father and convinces all the men to return to the reservation.

Meanwhile, Blaze races through the nearest city, the welfare of his girlfriend the only thing concerning him. He roars through the emergency room doors of the local hospital and demands a doctor to save Roxanne. After a little persuasion of the hellfire variety, the doctor agrees to help. After a quick examination, however, the doctor tells Johnny that she will still die, because the hospital has run out of snake bite serum. Back at the reservation, Linda is appalled that her father almost killed a girl because of superstitions. Snake Dance assures his daughter that Roxanne WILL die, because he knows the white men have no serum. He shows that he has the only vial of the serum, but accidently allows Linda to take it from him. The young girl runs out the door and hops on her motorcycle, praying to an unseen "master" that she reaches Roxanne in time.

At the hospital, the doctor tells Blaze that the only thing they can do is a complete blood transfusion, but it would be very dangerous and she may not live through the procedure. The Ghost Rider tells the doctor to do what he must, and walks out of the hospital. Johnny rides his bike away from the motorcycle, just missing the arrival of Linda with the serum. The police catch sight of the speeding Blaze and follow in pursuit. Linda, meanwhile, gets the serum to the doctor in the nick of time, saving Roxanne's life. The doctor tells Linda the girl's name, and it rings strangely familiar to the Apache.

Johnny is chased by two motorcycle cops, which he tries to stop with a few blasts of hellfire. The cops continue their chase, until Blaze manages to trap them behind a wall of flame. The police radio in an all-points bulletin on the Ghost Rider as he rides away. Elsewhere, Linda recalls why she recognized Roxanne's name. When she was a little girl, she was rescued from being run over by a motorcycle cop named Officer Crash Simpson, who she had heard started a motorcycle show a few years later. She goes back and talks to the doctor, who tells her that Johnny Blaze, the Ghost Rider, was the one that brought Roxanne to the hospital. Linda, thinking it ironic that the man her master sent her to kill is involved with the daughter of the man that once saved her life, walks outside the hospital in time to see Blaze speed by, several police cars on his tail. Realizing that she must rescue Johnny from the police so she can kill him herself, Linda jumps on her bike and gives chase. She easily passes the police cars, and takes a shortcut to a set of Indian cave ruins. Johnny is surprised when a police helicopter cuts off his escape route, but then a shimmering portal opens in front of him. The next thing Johnny knows, he's standing before the costumed Linda Littletrees, who refers to herself as...the Witch Woman!

ANNOTATIONS
This issue was reprinted in The Original Ghost Rider # 6 and Essential Ghost Rider vol. 1.

To see comments on Crash Simpson's history before Marvel Spotlight on Ghost RIder # 5, including his time as a policeman, check the entry for Ghost Rider # -1.

REVIEW
This issue debuts a new villain for the Ghost Rider, the Witch-Woman (that name's a bit on the nose, isn't it?), in an astounding example of cosmic coincidence.

The Witch-Woman was Linda Littletrees, the daughter of the Apache medicine man Snake Dance, who had been the book's villain for the two previous issues. Friedrich did something rare in this issue, something comic writers struggle with to this day: he introduced a new character and made her immediately likeable, so much so that her turn as a villain is pretty disheartening. Linda debuts as a smart, capable, and genuine young woman that's able to hold her own against her father and boyfriend as well as coming to the rescue as Roxanne's savior.

But right there is the cosmic coincidence I mentioned. Littletrees returned to Arizona at the behest of Satan, her master, to help gain the soul of Johnny Blaze. Roxanne Simpson is the one barrier standing in Satan's way of procuring said soul, and we just spent three issues of Satan trying to kill Miss Simpson. In this issue, Roxanne is dying from snake bites, and upon her death Blaze's soul would be forfeit. So instead of letting Roxanne die and succeeding in her mission, she instead saves her life? It's not quite a plot error, as Friedrich paces things just tight enough to make it a true coincidence in the story itself. In order to keep the government and police from bearing down on her father and her tribe for murdering an innocent white woman, she saves the day and Roxy's life. Only after she's delivered the snake bite serum does she realize who the woman is so she saved her father but made her own mission that much harder. And wait, the coincidence goes deeper; Roxanne's father, Crash Simpson, also saved Linda's life when she was a child, tying it all together in a giant figure eight maneuver. It's a clever plot that, at first, seems way too farfetched...and of course it is farfetched, but it makes sense within the story's own internal logic.

Friedrich also gives us some positives and negatives with this issue. He delivers more of the internal conflicts of the Apache tribe, who come close to killing Snake Dance for what he made them do, and that's a sequence that's written very well. But at the same time, we're also given both of the Ghost Rider Plot Clichés Roxanne in peril and Johnny chased by the cops. You know, for no bigger a crime than speeding on a motorcycle, the police sure have it out for poor ol' Johnny. I'd hate to see what the penalties for littering or jaywalking would be.

This is also the second issue for new artist Tom Sutton, who is paired with a much more compatible inker in Jim Mooney (soon to take over the regular art chores himself). Sutton's attention to detail coupled with Mooney's heavy blacks and dark lines really help to sell Friedrich's story. Something I appreciated about the early issues of the series is how the scenes meant to take place at night actually look like nighttime. That was a major problem for comics in this time, and Ghost Rider gets a horrible example of such poor coloring choices when he graduates to his own series in a few issues' time.

So Friedrich turns in a second excellent Ghost Rider issue in a row, despite the huge leap of faith the narrative calls for while it plays connect the dots with the plot.

Grade: A


Marvel Spotlight On Ghost Rider # 10 Published: June 1973 Original Price: $0.20
Cover: Rich Buckler

Title: "The Coming of...Witch-Woman!"
Writer: Gary Friedrich
Artist: Tom Sutton
Inker: Jim Mooney
Letterer: John Costanza
Colorist: Stan G.
Editor: Roy Thomas