Rise of the Midnight Sons (1992): Ghost Rider #28-31, Spirits of Vengeance #1-3, Morbius #1, Darkhold: Pages from the Book of Sins #1, Nightstalkers #1

Ghost Rider #28 marks the beginning of the Ghost Rider Extended Universe, with part one of the “Rise of the Midnight Sons” storyline that will produce multiple spin-off series. Well, technically they’re horror series–not all come from Ghost Rider. But let’s face it, if it weren’t for the huge (and thus far deserved) popularity of the Danny Ketch reboot, I doubt anyone would be thinking of comics about the Tomb of Dracula side characters or a book.

Last issue, Ghost Rider went to New Orleans to find Johnny Blaze, and the story starts with the two beating up some bad guys, with Johnny Blaze trying to stop Ghost Rider from killing them.  It’s been established already that this Ghost Rider beats the crap out of people and penance-stares them, but doesn’t kill, so the increasing violence appears to be a sign of the Danny Ketch personality’s hold declining.

Blaze reminds GR that the reason they’re together is to try to figure out how to let him change back into Danny Ketch, since Danny was seemingly killed by Blackout.

We then meet Caretaker for the first time as he steps out of the shadows in the cemetery where Blaze and Ghost Rider are talking.

Caretaker’s role appears to be a shepherd for supernatural beings on our planet—and he has an association with Dr. Strange.  He takes the two to a hideout, where Ghost Rider rests and has prescient visions of monsters who will be featured during this miniseries, including a female named Lilith.

In Ghost Rider: Spirits of Vengeance #1 we see Lilith for the first time.  She emerges in Greenland, frozen in ice and discovered by some explorers (who she kills, of course).  

Note that this is NOT Dracula’s daughter. For some reason, she has the same name though.

Over the course of the story, we learn that she is the mother of Blackout and can conjure other demons, which she calls her “Lilin.”

Lilith assembles her team (which also includes Blackout and guys like Meatmarket and Pilgrim).

Blaze and Ghost Rider go to Johnny Blaze’s home—a traveling circus featuring a bunch of freaks and performers, a clairvoyant named Clara (perfect name), as well as Red Fowler and Roxanne Simpson (Blaze’s wife) from the original Johnny Blaze comic, and Johnny’s two kids, Craig and Emma Blaze.

This is a “souped up” carnival that has people with powers. Not just Clara, who we’ve seen before, but also Wolf.

And at the end of the issue, Lilith’s Lilin attack the carnival, and Johnny Blaze kills one of the Lilin with his mystic shotgun.

As a result of the battle, Blaze and GR agree they need more help and go off to assemble their own team, while Dr. Strange keeps appearing in the background to talk to Caretaker and Clara the Clairvoyant.

Lilith doesn’t like heavy metal.

Lots of team-formation in this miniseries.  The first Rising Sons recruit is Morbius.

This happens in Morbius #1, which sets the stage for the series (which will continue after the Rising Sons event, of course), by re-introducing Martine the Vampire Hunter (from Morbius’ old series—who actually gets killed in this same issue), showing a conflicted Mobius eating people, etc.  By the time Blaze/GR find him, Morbius has changed his personality into an “eater of vengeance”…

Thus, making him similar to Ghost Rider and, since he only eats bad guys, making him a “good guy” for the purposes of 1990s Marvel.

Around the same time as Blaze and GR’s adventure, Ghost Rider, Beast and Wolverine fight some guys called the Next Wave. But it’s not the funny and cool NextWave that would be created by Warren Ellis. These are just some agents who…I really don’t know. I don’t understand what this is doing in the middle of the Midnight Sons event, other than to throw Wolverine in after it’s already a few issues underway, thereby forcing readers to buy a bunch of other comics.

I’ve read that the agents are meant to represent the Image Comics “traitors” who left Marvel to make money on their own, i.e., Jim Lee, Rob Liefeld and Todd McFarlane.

Also paralleling those events, Lilith finds more Lilin, most of whom are not important enough to tag, except for Bloodthirst.

Bloodthirst is another vampire, who will be a regular Morbius foe.

And the precog named Nakota.

In chapter 3, we meet Steel Vengeance, who is Steel Wind’s sister (Steel Wind was from the original Ghost Rider book).  I do like how they’re re-establishing chracters from that 1970/80s comic, even though it wasn’t very good.  I’m a comic nerd, so the “lore” appeals to me.  Steel Wind is the captive of the same scary priests, from earlier issues of the Danny Ketch Ghost Rider series, who kidnapped mama Ketch.  Steel Vengeance is being “forced” into evil action, I guess, in order to free her sister.  The evil priests have also freed Centurious the Soulless Man from the Johnny Blaze series.

Nightmare’s involved.

Chapter four is told in Darkhold #1, which is the third book launched during the Rise of the Midnight Sons event. 

The splash page promises we’ll love it.

We don’t. But that’s the Darkhold Dwarf.

The Book of Darkhold was featured in the earliest Morbius stories, as a mystical vampire tome.

Darkhold #1 is about the Montesi family (creators of the Montesi formula that Dr. Strange used to banish all vampires from our dimension), and specifically Victoria, who will be the star of this comic; the Darkholders, who are a group of bad demons who are on Lilith’s side; and Darkhold Redeemers, who will spend the rest of the issues of this book trying to find the missing paes of the book of Darkhold.  It looks like this book will be awful, and I really don’t want to have to read it.

Nightstalkers #1 introduces this new team, which stars Blade; Frank Drake (related to the original Dracula) who uses guns; and Hannibal King from the old Tomb of Dracula series.  Since the Montesi Formula is no longer working, Blade now wants to drink human blood again.  Hannibal does, too, since he’s become a vamp himself since we last saw him—over a decade ago.

This issue, like so many others in this storyline, is really just a series launch.  The ongoing Lilith storyline isn’t all that important.

We do meet Meatmarket, another Lilin, and Lilith hires the vampire-hunting crew to kill Blaze and Ghost Rider—but of course after fighting they realize it’s a trick and become pals.

Finally, we return to Ghost Rider #31 for the conclusion.

The two “teams” are pulled together, there’s a big fight, and Lilith gets the last word—coining the collection of “heroes” with the name Midnight Sons as she eats Nakota.

And Dr. Strange tells the group that they are in fact Midnight Sons, and he will be calling on them for future mystical missions.

And we are left with a greatly expanded Marvel Horroverse.

Overall, this was fine for what it was–a jam-packed (and overstuffed) launch of a new class of books.

Note: Ghost Rider #29 and 30, which feature Wolverine and Nightmare respectively, and Spirits of Vengeance #2-3, directly relate to this story but are not billed as part of the 6-issue Rise of the Midnight Sons event.  I can’t understand why, except that maybe Marvel wanted to focus on the launching of new books.

Ghost Rider: Howard Mackie and Andy Kubert
GR: Spirits of Vengeance: Mackie and Adam Kubert
Morbius: Len Kaminski, Ron Wagner
Darkhold: Chris Cooper and Richard Case
Nightstalkers: D.G. Chichester and Ron Garney

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