Current Reviews


Marvel Milestones: Ghost Rider, Black Widow, & Iceman

Posted: Wednesday, September 28, 2005
By: Michael Deeley

Publisher: Marvel Comics
Price: $3.99 USD

Reprinting stories from:

Marvel Spotlight #5 (Writer: Gary Friedrich; Artist: Mike Ploog)

Daredevil #81 (Writer: Gerry Conway; Artist: Gene Colan)

Uncanny X-Men #47 (Writer: Stan Lee & Arnold Drake; Artists: Werner Roth & John Verpoorten)

Promoting upcoming trade paperbacks, (and a possible revival of The Champions, of which all the lead characters were members), this Marvel Milestones reprints the first appearance and origin of Ghost Rider; the issue of Daredevil where the Black Widow becomes his partner; and Iceman explaining how his powers work.

The first appearance of Ghost Rider was voted by fans as one of the 100 greatest Marvel moments. Apparently, Flamehead still has fans even though his series was cancelled over five years ago. I wonít argue he has appeal. A dammed biker whose head catches fire every night has lots of story potential. Heís starred in two monthly series spanning 25 years, thus ensuring his place in Marvel history. The upcoming movie and mini-series are a testament to Ghost Riderís continued appeal for the future.

None of this changes the fact his first appearance is pretty lame.

Mike Ploogís art practically drips off the page. It shows a strong Kirby influence, especially in peopleís faces. Sadly, his Ghost Rider just isnít as scary as later artistsí renditions. Mark Texeria drew the best Spirit of Vengence I ever saw, and thatís a high standard to meet.

Gary Friedrichís writing is in that overwrought, melodramatic, over-the-top emotional style normally found only in romance comics. Every panel describes the terrible burden Johnny Blaze carries in his heart. Everything is written in the first person to make the reader feel itís happening to him. The sheer tragedy and doom of Johnnyís life is emphasized in every panel. By the end of the story, itís a wonder he hasnít killed himself or turned to Christ.

Hereís the origin of Marvelís demon, vengeful, bike-riding, chain-whipping anti-hero: Johnnyís an orphan taken in by a family of stunt cyclists. One day, while practicing, he accidentally kills his stepmother with an exploding bike. Before she dies, he promises never to ride again. His refusal to ride a bike makes his foster family think heís chicken. Rather than tell them about the vow he made to their wife & mother on her deathbed, he lets them think heís a coward. Somehow, this leads Johnny to learning about Satan. So when his adopted dad is diagnosed with a fatal illness, Johnny sells his soul for his dadís life. (You know Satan screws Johnny over; itís what he does.) When Satan comes to collect Johnny, his stepsister/girlfriend drives the devil away with her pure heart and love. Sadly, Johnny is still cursed to transform into an emissary of hell every night.

So the bike from Hell is really just an angst-ridden kid with lots of guilt and a semi-incestuous love life. Lame. No wonder they created a new one in 1990.

I bought this for the Daredevil reprint. In issue #81, DD is nearly killed by the Owl, the criminal mastermind with the amazing ability to float on air and congratulate himself. Daredevil is rescued by the Black Widow. No one knows theyíre all being manipulated by an android called MK-9. DD and BW team up to bring the Owl down. Black Widow has to tell herself not to fall in love with Daredevil, "lest he die like her last two lovers." She becomes Daredevilís partner beginning with the next issue.

Gerry Conway did a decent job on Daredevil in the 70ís. His stories werenít too much like Spider-Manís; They had less navel gazing. Gene Colanís beautiful art is badly obscured by the coloring techniques of the time. His work really looks better in black & white. The bright solid colors take away much of the depth and mood created by his pencils and inks.

Finally, Iceman explains how he can create ice out of the moisture in the air, grow ice sculptures for any task, and beat up the Human Torch. Itís a fun little gem that you donít see anymore. When was the last time a comic book character spoke directly to the audience to answer their questions?

Once again, Marvel Milestones has limited appeal. If youíre a Ghost Rider or Daredevil fan, youíll like the shiny reprints of classic comics. But there are better ways to spend $4 if you have higher standards.

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