VENGEANCE UNBOUND
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MARVEL TEAM-UP # 15

SYNOPSIS
At Madison Square Garden in New York City, Peter Parker (also known as the amazing Spider-Man) and Mary Jane Watson attend a show called "The Ghost Rider's Motorcycle Extravaganza." The show begins just as the couple take their seats, and Johnny Blaze, the flaming skulled Ghost Rider, roars into the open floor on his motorcycle, causing the crowd to go wild with excitement. The cyclist performs an amazing stunt with four other riders, one of which is Roxanne Simpson, Blaze's girlfriend and the daughter of Crash Simpson, former owner of the cycle show. Suddenly, a group of bikers bust into the arena, and ride past the security guards. The leader of the group has a helmet shaped like a giant eyeball and calls himself the Orb. The gang rides in circles around the arena, the Orb's eye hypnotizing the crowd. Only Parker evades being mesmerized, his spider-sense warning him to look away at the last moment. Peter shoots his web onto the rafters, where he climbs up and changes into his Spider-Man costume. On the arena floor, the Orb grabs Roxanne by the waist and rides off with her, leaving the Ghost Rider to be dealt with by his men. Spider-Man swings down and assists in defeating a few of the gang, but their pursuit of the Orb is stopped when he commands the hypnotized crowd to form a barrier between him and the heroes. The mesmerized crowd then deliver Blaze a message in one unified voice, saying that the Orb will return Roxanne to him in exchange for ownership of the cycle show.

Meanwhile, the Orb and his gang arrive at his lair, where he awakens the hypnotized Roxanne. he tells her that his name is Drake Shannon, and that he used to be her father's partner in starting the cycle show. Shannon was a reckless person, and when he realized he couldn't get along with Crash, he challenged him to a cross-country race, the winner of which would get sole ownership of the show. During the race, Shannon attempted to run his former partner off the road, but instead caused himself to wreck, his cycle flipping at 95 miles an hour, throwing him into a skid across the tarmac for more than 25 yards...on his face. He's wanted nothing but revenge ever since, and he was approached by an organization called "They", who gave him his hypnotic helmet. He then removes the helmet and shows Roxanne his hideously disfigured face. Blaze then enters the lair with the ownership papers to the cycle show, demanding that he and Roxanne be allowed to leave. The Orb instead commands his men to open fire on the two, but the gang is stopped by the entrance of Spider-Man. The Orb jumps on his cycle and again kidnaps Roxanne, forcing the Ghost Rider and Spider-Man to jump on cycles of their own and give chase. The chase leads them out of the lair, which is the power room to an abandoned subway rail, and into Grand Central Station. Spider-Man shoots a strand of web that grabs hold of Roxanne, freeing the girl from the Orb's grasp. With Spidey making sure the girl is safe, Blaze chases the Orb back onto the subway rails, but the villain fails to see an oncoming train. The subway train crushes the villain, and Blaze narrowly avoids the same fate by grabbing onto a railing attached to the ceiling. He then returns to the platform, the ownership papers in his hand. He sets the papers afire with his hellfire, saying that he's almost glad the Orb didn't live long enough to find that the papers were worthless forgeries. Blaze and Roxanne then part company with Spider-Man, saying that perhaps they will meet again.

ANNOTATIONS
This story takes place between pages 17 and 18 of Ghost Rider (1973) # 4, during the two-month span of time Johnny took to recover from injuries.

The Orb made a return appearance in Ghost Rider (1973) # 14, and would make several subsequent appearances throughout the seventies GR series. The Orb seemingly met his end in an issue of Avengers Spotlight years later, killed by the Plant-Man. An "all-new" Orb made his first appearance in Ghost Rider (2006) # 26, but it was established to be a new character, not Drake Shannon.

Spider-Man and the Ghost Rider meet next in Marvel Team-Up # 58.

The organization known as "They" were a frequent supplier of equipment to super-villains in the 1970s, and this issue was the first mention of them. Click here for more information: "They"

This issue is reprinted in Marvel Tales # 254.

REVIEW
This issue marks the Ghost Rider's first real interaction with the proper Marvel Universe with the first of many guest-appearances that he'll make. It's also the introduction of one of Johnny Blaze's few long-term villains outside of Satan, the Orb.

The Orb has always been one of my favorite villains from the first volume of Ghost Rider, and until Centurious was introduced in the last year he was pretty much the only real recurring foe that Blaze had (sure, an attempt was made for Asmodeus and Moondark, but they never really reached the level that the Orb maintained). It's odd, then, that the Ghost Rider's first real "arch-enemy" made his debut in a guest-appearance and not one of the proper issues in the Ghost Rider series. The thing that makes the Orb stand out amongst the crowd is twofold: a) an origin sequence that's tied in with Blaze's back-story and b) an origin that's tragic, unique, and honestly wince-inducing.

Sure, Drake Shannon was a villain, but he was a villain that I, at least, could empathize with. Formerly the partner of Crash Simpson, Shannon's attempt to sabotage the race that would determine the cycle show's ownership goes horribly awry and leaves Shannon with a permanently disfigured face. While it's true that Shannon did try to knock his partner out of the race, it's not stated that he tried to kill Crash - he just wanted to win the race. So it strikes me as the ultimate in harsh penalties that Shannon was left so scarred - honestly, who can blame him for being bitter and just a little bit insane?

The script in this issue is provided by Len Wein, not a writer commonly associated with Ghost Rider but who nonetheless was able to make his mark on the character by creating such an interesting villain. Wein crafts a good story here, but the true apex of the script comes during the Orb's origin flashback, with the narration just totally rocking out. "At 95 miles an hour, my motorcycle threw me, Roxanne -- and my momentum sent me scuttering along the tarmac for more than 25 yards -- on my FACE!" That, my friends, is so disturbing that it's awesome.

Wein also does a good job handling Blaze's first interaction with a super-hero, namely Spider-Man. In a trend continued in all of the subsequent meetings of the character, I think it's great that Spider-Man is obviously visually shaken by his team-up with Blaze, ending the issue humorously by thinking to himself - "Waitaminnit -- d...did he say h...he's NOT wearing a mask? - while Blaze and Roxanne calmly walk away.

The artwork is handled by one of the truly great artists of the silver age that never really got his due: Ross Andru. Ghost Rider isn't an easy character to transpose into a superhero story - something essential at this time for Spider-Man - but Andru pulls it off superbly while flat-out nailing the Ghost Rider's visual. Andru also gives us the ultimate dramatic shock at the end of the Orb's origin, when he removes his helmet to show Roxanne his twisted, mangled face.

While the Orb kind of degenerated into a joke by the time his final fight with Blaze came around years later, his debut here in Marvel Team-Up is one of the true classic stories of the early Ghost Rider years.

Grade: A


Marvel Team-Up # 15
Published: Nov. 1973 Original Price: $0.20
Cover: Gil Kane

Title: "If An Eye Offend Thee..."
Writer: Len Wein
Artist: Ross Andru
Inker: Don Perlin
Letterer: John Costanza
Colorist: Glynis Wein
Editor: Roy Thomas