Ghost Rider #1-3 (1990): 1st Ketch Ghost Rider, 1st Deathwatch, Death Ninja, and Blackout

Welcome to the Danny Ketch era.

first appearance deathwatch

The action starts in a cemetery, with Danny and Barbara Ketch (brother and sister), getting into a conflict between a street gang, some hoods employed by Kingpin, and a ninja team-leader named Deathwatch, who we later learn has the power to absorb people’s memories by touching them. 

He also breaks peoples’ necks.

The crews are fighting over a briefcase when Danny and Babs happen upon them, on Halloween night no less.  They run away (Deathwatch wants no witnesses), and Danny touches an old motorcycle in a nearby junkyard.

He is transformed into Ghost Rider and beats up all the gang members and ninjas.  He saves Babs, but she’s in a coma.

Turns out the gangbangers, called Cypress Hill Jokers, got away with the case—so now Deathwatch and Kingpin’s teams are both looking for them.  In this equation, the teen gang are the “innocents,” so Ghost Rider spends the rest of the story brutally beating and killing the other two crews.

He drags them behind his bike.  He uses his new chain weapon in various ways—as a bludgeon, lasso, etc.

He can ride up and down the sides of buildings, and he has the penance stare that makes criminals’ minds burn from all the pain they’ve inflicted on others.

And Deathwatch has a partner named Blackout, who seems to be part demon/vampire, part albino.

The cannisters contain a chemical weapon that can kill in a radius of about a dozen miles, so Deathwatch is basically a terrorist.  But the added bonus for him is that, due to his powers, when the toxin is released and thousands die, he will experience a psychic “high”—he’s kind of like a drug addict whose pleasure centers are triggered by death.

Ultimately, Kingpin’s gang and Deathwatch’s ninja have a big showdown, with Ghost Rider joining in to prevent the release of the toxin.

During the fight, we learn that unlike the Blaze Rider, this Ghost Rider’s fire actually burns people.

He burns Blackout’s face off, forcing Blackout to run away.  I’m betting he’ll hold a grudge.

These are very, very violent issues.  But they’re also pretty well done.  This Ghost Rider, unlike the Johnny Blaze version, has a clear mission to “protect and avenge the innocent.”  The villains are interesting and mysterious—I want to know more about them.  There’s an established villain, Kingpin, who weaves the greater Marvel Universe into this mix.

I also like Danny Ketch’s introspection.

Johnny Blaze never wanted to release Zarathos’ violence on the world. Ketch, on the other hand, sees that there may be some value to it.

Also, this comic has the first appearance of Death Ninja.

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