Jan 12, 2017

The 40 Years of Comics Project - Day 687: Ghost Rider #5, September 1990

http://www.comics.org/issue/85492/

When we next encounter the Rider, it's possessing a new host, the conveniently-named Danny Ketch. Over the course of this issue, some of the concerns I brought up about the previous issues are resolved. Ketch, musing upon the nature of the being that inhabits him, notes that it's basically a force for good, and that it never kills, only punishes, the guilty. This is a bit different from Johnny Blaze's understanding of the character, and of that iteration of the character, who purports not to care if it kills innocents or not.

Perhaps this is why we see such characters as Ghost Rider and the Hulk undergo such significant changes in this era of Marvel. Once Bruce Banner gains control over his monstrous alter-ego, or once the Rider becomes more like the Spectre and less a demon, the characters fit more comfortably into a superhero universe, and, indeed, a superhero comic book. The current television version of Ghost Rider, the Robbie Reyes iteration on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., shares some of Ketch's qualities, in that is pays little attention to the innocent. It does, however, kill the guilty, putting the character much more on a footing with the Punisher.

Speaking of whom - the Punisher guests in this issue, and it's an interesting juxtaposition to see two distinct spirits of vengeance, so to speak. One is fueled by his desire to keep anyone from undergoing the pain he endured, a more psychopathic version of Batman in some ways, and one acts as a fundamental law of the universe, punishing those who somehow are "deserving" of punishment. These two takes on the vengeance motif quite nicely sum up a spiritual versus rational take on the nature of reality. If you're a spiritual person, one who believes in purpose, destiny, providence, then there are immutable ethical laws of the universe. If you're a rationalist, then you believe that we make our own ethical strictures, our own best ideas of how to live in the world, and follow them.

I think there's probably something to be said about the three iterations of Ghost Rider, the varied mores by which it conducts itself, and the time periods in which each character comes into existence. But knowing as little about the character as I do, I don't feel quite qualified to comment. One more look at Ghost Rider tomorrow, and then Onward! to something else.

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