Comics : Ghost Rider (Vol. 2) #16

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This story is part of an Arc: "Church And State Of Mind"
     Part 1 / Part 2

This story is part of a Lookback Series: Filling Gaps

This review was first published on: 2006.

Background...

Dan Ketch has become the new Ghost Rider after witnessing the death of his sister and finding a mystical motorcycle that transforms him into the spirit of vengeance. John Blaze, the previous Ghost Rider, has discovered that his alter ego has returned. Thinking him to be Zarathos, the destructive demon to which he was bound, he has temporarily abandoned his now-normal life to prevent any more lives from being ruined.

He has successfully tracked down Dan in an effort to either free him from Zarathos or kill him. Upon hearing a report of the vampryic Blackout's slaughter in Central Park, Ketch transformed into Ghost Rider. A combination of Blaze's black magic and direct contact with the new GR have given Blaze the ability to channel hellfire through his shotgun, which he used to severely injure Ghost Rider. He managed to escape Blaze's revenge and ultimately capture Blackout. Blaze allowed the Ghost Rider to leave when he heard the police sirens. He doesn't want anyone interfering with his mission.

In Detail...

"Changes"
Ghost Rider (Vol. 2) #16
Aug 1991 : SM Guest
Summary: Spider-Man & Hobgoblin
Arc: Part 1 of "Church And State Of Mind"
Editor:  Bobbie Chase
Writer:  Howard Mackie
Pencils:  Mark Texeira
Inker:  Mark Texeira
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Articles: Hobgoblin IV (Macendale)

The Ghost Rider is reeling from the injuries he has received from Blaze's hellfire shotgun. Thinking he can recuperate in the Cypress Hills cemetery, he is caught off-guard from another attack by Blaze. He is forced to change back to Dan Ketch, who quickly passes out due to the extreme pain.

Dan wakes up in a hospital room with Blaze is standing watch over him. In his delirious state he jumps out of bed and takes a swing at him, screaming that Blaze is trying to kill him but is too weak to continue his efforts. His mother and girlfriend hear the noise and inform him that Blaze "found" him in the cemetery and flagged down a police car that brought him to the hospital. Blaze whispers that Dan should keep quiet unless he wants to explain his "night life" to them.

A week later, Dan is released from the hospital. Blaze has decided to stay around for a while longer because he is still not convinced that this Ghost Rider isn't Zarathos. After Blaze lectures Dan about his inability to control the forces he's dealing with and the importance of being able to take care of himself sans demon, he gives him a crash course in self-defense and motorcycle repair.

Weeks later a black stretch limousine pulls up in front of the Ketch house and takes his mother to church. Daniel is suspicious because of the limo, the fact that she's supposed to be at work, and the fact that there are no Catholic Masses scheduled at this time. He follows her with Blaze close behind. They arrive at an abandoned Methodist church, reinforcing Dan's opinion that something is wrong. They sneak in during a sermon delivered by Reverend Styge who has singled out Dan's mother for special help. He offers to reunite her with her deceased daughter Barbara. Dan interrupts the service and is taken - at gunpoint - to be questioned and eliminated, per Reverend Styge.

A gunfight ensues followed by the appearance of the Hobgoblin, now a religious zealot obsessed with killing sinners in the name of God. He throws pumpkin bombs at Styge's "deacons" killing them instantly. While Blaze protects Mrs. Ketch, Daniel manages to transform into Ghost Rider. Hobgoblin recognizes him from their previous encounter and plans on smiting him for the Lord. GR attacks first but it is stopped by Spider-Man, making a sudden appearance.

While Spider-Man tangles with Ghost Rider, Hobgoblin notices Mrs. Ketch on the floor scared beyond belief, praying her rosary. He reasons that he was brought to this place to save her from the "den of demons" and "teach her the way". He knocks Blaze aside and takes her away for his brand of old-time religion.

Ghost Rider realizes he's put Mrs. Ketch in additional jeopardy and knocks Spider-Man aside, warning him to stay away from him; he'll stop the Hobgoblin.

A weary Spider-Man looks around the room and notices John Blaze. He is surprised because he had thought (incorrectly) that Blaze was the Ghost Rider. After Blaze assures him he's not, they agree to combine their efforts to save Mrs. Ketch from the Hobgoblin and stop both demons if necessary.

In General...

Despite the fact that it was never explained how the demonic Hobgoblin discovered Styge's church or why Spider-Man appeared all of a sudden, the issue is enjoyable. I assume this will be explained next issue, so I will reserve full judgement until I have more facts.

Overall Rating...

3.5 webs. This arc involving the return of John Blaze is very good. His presence adds to the mystery surrounding the identity of the new Ghost Rider, who despite his amnesia is certain that he is not Zarathos.

The gritty style of Mark Texeira is perfectly suited for this series and Mackie does a good job of pacing the story.

Footnote...