Ghost Rider (2nd series) #9

Issue Date: 
January 1991
Story Title: 

Howard Mackie (writer), Javier Saltares (penciler), Mark Texeria (inker), James Palmiotti (background inker), Janice Chiang (colorist), Gregory Wright (letterer), Bobbie Chase (editor), Tom DeFalco (editor-in-chief)

Brief Description: 

Dan Ketch is out for a night time ride on his motorcycle, while the deadly Blackout stalks him. The agents of HEART are also continuing their pursuit of Ghost Rider, and after Dan transforms, to protect a homeless person from Blackout, HEART attack him, firing at him, they lose him as out of the darkness, Ghost Rider is taken to safety by an unknown ally. Meanwhile, X-Factor are watching a news report about missing children in Cypress Hills. Concerned it may be one of their enemies, they depart to investigate. However, the children are being kept safe by Morlocks beneath the Cypress Hills cemetery, who want to keep them safe from the evil one, whom Ghost Rider assumes is Blackout. Ghost Rider agrees to help them, and departs as the sun rises. Later that day, Dan is having a picnic with his friends, unaware that Blackout is stalking him. He and Stacy catch up on recent events, and as night falls, Dan rushes away, ready to get into action as Ghost Rider. While X-Factor arrive in Cypress Hills, HEART are once again in pursuit of Ghost Rider. Ghost Rider reconnects with the Morlocks beneath the cemetery, while Blackout follows him down there. Ghost Rider finds the children safe under the care of Pixie, and learns that they are being kept safe from the evil Morlock Masque, who has transformed part of Pixie’s body. HEART locate Ghost Rider in the tunnels, and X-Factor hear the commotion, so they go to investigate, only to end up fighting HEART, while Blackout confronts Ghost Rider, who is with Pixie - only Blackout knocks Ghost Rider aside, and attacks Pixie. HEART retreat, unable to combat X-Factor, although they steal Ghost Rider’s motorcycle. As she dies in Ghost Rider’s arms, Pixie asks him to save the children, and he manages to rescue them as the tunnel collapses. He calls to his motorcycle, which drops out of the departing HEART chopper, and putting the kids on it, Ghost Rider sends them to safety, leaving just he and Blackout in the tunnel, as X-Factor return to the surface. Ghost Rider and Blackout battle, and the tunnel collapses around them. The surviving Morlocks promise X-Factor to return the children to their parents, while Ghost Rider bursts from the ground, and instantly departs on his motorcycle. X-Factor decide not to pursue him, and remind themselves that it is the deeds of a man that count, not the way he looks.

Full Summary: 

Cypress Hills Cemetery, in the still of the night. A graveyard may seem like an odd place in which to escape your nightmares, but this particular cemetery has always been a source of comfort for Dan Ketch. This comfort is derived from familiarity, as he and his sister, Barbara, grew up here and played childhood games, until recently, for Barb was mortally wounded, died, and was buried here. This cemetery has been the center of every significant event in Dan’s life, so it is only natural that he returns here when his very life is becoming a continuing nightmare. He speeds through the cemetery on his motorcycle.

People are dying around him. Demons are plaguing his sleep so much so that Dan chooses not to sleep much anymore. Everyone with whom he comes in contact is killed off by the manic responsible for his sister’s death. But demons don’t really exist - do they? Dan is unaware that one such demon is pursuing him through the graveyard. ‘That’s it, Daniel, my boy, lead on - lead me to my next victim!’ the savage brute cackles.

Nearby, inside a large vehicle, ‘HEART-1 to all units’ calls out Tyler Meagher, the leader of the Humans Engaging All Racial Terrorism organisation, a.k.a. HEART. She tells her squad that their helmet cams are all functioning and on her screens, and that motion detectors are picking up three individuals in sector 12. ‘All units recon’ she orders, before announcing ‘Hold on that command’, as she reports that heat sensors just picked up another source moving quickly from sector 10, but that it is vague and coming from beneath the cemetery. ‘Lock and load. Full clips. Be ready for engagement’ Tyler orders.

At the sprawling cemetery, the female operatives of HEART follow Tyler’s orders. ‘Gee! Me Mum was hopin‘ I‘d be getting meself married!’ Fiona McCormick, the team’s demotion specialist, exclaims as she examines her surroundings. Marksman Danika Trevani tells her teammate to hush, and announces that they have got company. Luz Delgado, the team’s recon and electronics expert, and Mei Lin, HEART’s hand-to-hand combat specialist stand nearby, scoping their surroundings.

Dan’s motorcycle makes a loud screech as he spins it around, swiftly changing direction, when suddenly, ‘I don’t wanna do nothing! I swear, mister!’ a disheveled man exclaims as he leaps from the bushes. He declares that he will get out of here, and find someplace else to sleep. ‘Just leave me alone…I’m going…’ he utters. Dan watches the homeless man rush away. ‘Heading straight out…you don’t have to tell Eddie G nothing twice…no, siree…just cause I ain’t got any place to live don’t mean I’m stupid…someday I’ll get me a home and then I’ll show you all -’ he mutters as he rushes off. But at that moment, the demon stalking Dan appears before Eddie. Looming over the unfortunate man, the demon exclaims ‘It I said that “home is where the heart is”, Edward - allow me to show you your home!’, Eddie G just screams. Watching from the confines of the sewer, several eyes appear through a grate, ‘He’s as bad as Masque. He has to be stopped!’ a voice exclaims.

At that moment, the cap on Dan’s motorcycle glows. He slams his hand down on it, and in an instant, is engulfed by flaming energy that lights up the darkened cemetery.

‘What the -?’ Tyler gasps as her monitor sensors pick up a new reading. ‘All units! The heat sensors just blew a fuse! Move in and intercept everyone!’ she orders.

The demon is on top of Eddie G, strangling him. ‘Come now, Edward. Don’t fight so. It will be more expeditious if you would just let me remove your heart’ the demon tells him, adding ‘Don’t worry, I would never hurt your face. Never the face!’ he exclaims, as a glimpse of light reflects down on the demon’s own horrid face. At that moment, Dan, transformed into Ghost Rider, arrives, and drives his cycle right into the demon, whom he identifies as Blackout. ‘No more blood for you!’ Ghost Rider exclaims. ‘Tonight, you receive full payment for your crimes!’ he warns Blackout. ‘Tonight, you -’ Ghost Rider begins, only for a barrage of bullets to strike him, knocking him off his motorcycle. ‘Take him down before he kills those two!’ one of the HEART operatives shouts.

‘Keep hitting him! These special jackets are doing the trick!’ Danika shouts as they continue to fire at Ghost Rider, blasting him into a nearby building. ‘Pain. I’m feeling pain’ Ghost Rider thinks to himself. In the darkness of the building that Ghost Rider has landed in, a voice calls out to him: ‘Ghost Rider, come with us!’. ‘We can take you someplace safe. Somewhere no one will find you - trust us! We can take you to the children!’ the voice declares. ‘Trust?’ Ghost Rider asks himself, as someone comes up behind him from the darkness, and he vanishes. ‘Hmmm. Curiouser and curiouser’ Blackout remarks to himself as he watches Ghost Rider vanish. The women of HEART are just as perplexed. ‘The scrag is gone! We’ve lost him!’ Luz exclaims as they search the building. Reporting to Tyler, Danika informs her superior officer that they lost him, but she doesn’t know how. ‘Of course we’ll fan…right away, Tyler’ Danika replies. ‘She is peeved!’ Danika tells the other women.

Meantime, on the tip of Manhattan, near Battery Park, an immense alien spaceship towers over the city. The Ship serves as the home and headquarters for the mutant heroes known as X-Factor, some of whom are right now gathered in one of the living areas, watching a news report from Linda Wei, one of Ghost Rider’s companions, who announces that police are still attempting to apprehend the person or people behind the rash of child abductions plaguing the Brooklyn / Queens area. ‘All the abductions occurred in or around the cemeteries in the…’. ‘Hee hee hee!’ Nathan Christopher Summers exclaims as Dr Henry McCoy a.k.a. the Beast holds the young boy up in the air, using his large feet. ‘Have no fear, progeny of my best friend’s loins - Uncle Henry McCoy will protect you from those yucky kidnappers’ the Beast tells the boy. ‘It does my heart good to see that you know you’re in good hands - or whatever spare appendage I might have’ the Beast jokes.

Bobby “Iceman” Drake tells Jean Grey a.k.a. Marvel Girl that she looks worried. Sitting on the sofa, Jean turns to her younger friend and replies ‘Of course I’m worried, Bobby! Anyone of those children despite the Beast’s soothing words, could be dead!’ Jean then suggests that what if this is Nanny, or even one of the Inferno demons. Scott “Cyclops” Summers tells Bobby that Jean is correct, and decides that this is something they should investigate as X-Factor. ‘And what of this frisky young pup, Scott?’ the Beast enquires. Scott points out that it is past Nathan’s bedtime, and decides that they should tuck him in to bed, as Ship can look after him while they are gone.

Beneath the Cypress Hills Cemetery, ‘It is safe down here. No one will be able to find us. We’re all safe and sound’ a figure tells Ghost Rider, who reminds his rescuers that they spoke of the children - the missing children. ‘You must take me to their abductor. They must be avenged’ Ghost Rider tells them. Deformed faces are seen in the flickering lights, ‘No! No! You misunderstand. The children are safe. They won’t be harmed. They are being protected from the evil one. We could use your help! One of the unfortunates tells Ghost Rider, who gets on his motorcycle, and informs his rescuers that, if they speak the truth, they will have his assistance, but that the night is almost at an end, and so he must leave. Ghost Rider speeds out of the tunnels, and as the sun rises over the cemetery, he returns to the form of Dan Ketch, who thinks to himself ‘But can they be trusted? Can Ghost Rider?’

Forest Park, later that day, ‘My life seems to be constantly connected with this cemetery - not the average life of a nineteen year old male’ Dan thinks to himself as he stands on the hill of Forest Park, looking down at the cemetery below. Behind him, his friend Jack D’Auria and his girlfriend Pia are setting up a picnic. ‘Yuck, Jack! Do we have to ear looking out over the graveyard? It gives me the heeby-jeebies!’ Pia exclaims. Jack explains to Pia that it is the best view in the park, while Dan’s girlfriend, Stacy Dolan, goes over to him and tells him that they should eat, and then head on over to the carousel. ‘Be right there, Stace!’ Dan replies. He watches Stacy walk away and thinks to himself that Stacy and Jack are his best friends in the world, and that it scares him to think of anything happening to either of them. That is why he knows he has to find out if the recent killings that have been coming so close to him are really the work of Blackout, or if it is all in his mind.

An hour later, Jack and Pia are riding the carousel, but Pia asks Jack to make it stop, as she thinks she is going to be sick. Watching nearby, Stacy asks Dan how it is tht a guy like Jack always winds up with such ditsy women. ‘It’s been a curse that’s plagued Jack and me ever since we were kids - ditsy women just keep throwing themselves at us’ Dan replies. ‘Throw this, buddy!’ Stacy exclaims as she trips Dan up, causing him to fall to the ground. Jack and Pia are off the carousel now, and walk over to Dan and Stacy. ‘Nice move, Stace! What are you going to do when the police academy gives her a gun, Dan?’ Jack asks, unaware that someone is watching from nearby, ‘If she lives that long, my boy. If she lives that long’ he whispers.

Later, Dan and Stacy walk towards Stacy’s home, with Dan asking Stacy how her fad is, as he hasn’t seen him in a while. ‘You know my father’ Stacy replies. ‘The ever overworked police captain…he just can’t rest while this Ghost Rider is on the loose. He’s determined to put him away!’ Stacy exclaims. ‘How about you? After you go into the police academy, are you going to help your dad put the Ghost Rider away? What if he turns out not to be a bad guy?’ Dan asks. Stacy tells Dan that he has been listening to Jack too much, and leans in to kiss him.

They wrap their arms around each other, before Stacy pulls away, smiling, she tells Dan that it has been months since they have had time to be that close. ‘Thank God things are settling down’ she declares. ‘How can you say that, Stacy? People are dying all around us!’ Dan declares, annoyed. He then walks away from Stacy, telling her that he has somewhere he has to be, and that he will call her. He waves goodbye, while a confused Stacy calls out to him. The young lovers are unaware that they were being watched, ‘How touchingly sweet. Soon it will be your turn, girl - but not tonight’.

The evening breeze stirs the fallen leaves in one of the many cemeteries of Cypress Hills. As X-Factor descends onto one of the cemeteries, leaves scatter at the force of their jet’s thrusters. Cyclops announces that they are at the location of the last kidnapping, and Iceman declares that this could certainly be the place, as it is creepy enough. ‘Anybody ever seen the movie “Night of the Living Dead”?’ Iceman asks. ‘Anybody?’ he calls out when he gets no response. The Beast asks his frozen friend if ice crystals have invaded his frontal lobe. ‘Don’t you remember what Jeanie was forced to endure at the hands of N’astirh in a cemetery?’ Hank asks. ‘Geez! I’m sorry, Hank! I wasn’t thinking! I’ll cool the jokes’ Bobby replies.

Elsewhere, over the same cemetery, the women of HEART are in a high-tech chopper. ‘Infrared’s working perfectly. We’re over the cemetery…no powerlines…all systems go!’ one of them reports. An instant later, another of the women spies their target in the sprawling cemetery below. ‘Let’s take him down!’ one of them exclaims as the chopper speeds up, to maintain the same pace as Ghost Rider, who is speeding along down below. ‘He’s on to us - picking up speed’ one of the women exclaims as the chopper descends while following Ghost Rider.

Suddenly, the women of HEART lose visuals, but he is still appearing on the heat sensors. ‘This guy’s ours tonight!’ one of the women boasts. ‘All instruments show the bike’s stopped’ another reports, before Tyler declares that she wants everyone ready to engage. ‘And this time, let’s not let him get - away!’ she exclaims, but as they shine a light down below, they find that Ghost Rider has vanished, leaving only his motorcycle behind. ‘We’ll get him later. Without the bike, he isn’t going anywhere. And I want that bike - NOW!’ Tyler exclaims.

Beneath the cemetery, the darkness feels strangely familiar to Ghost Rider as he marches through the tunnels. Comfortable, as though he belongs here - with the dead. Suddenly, ‘Mr Ghost Rider! Over here!’ a voice calls out. ‘I told them you’d come back. I told them!’ the deformed being exclaims. Ghost Rider goes over to him and asks where the children are. ‘Don’t you worry. They’re safe and sound. Yes, siree. Safe and happy as bugs in a rug. Pixie is seeing to that!’ he assures Ghost Rider, although as they continue on through the tunnels, they are unaware that they are being stalked, ‘Not safe for long, my disfigured friend’ Blackout utters, smiling.

Ghost Rider follows his deformed companion into a cave, where a woman rests against the side of the cave, and children play around her. ‘Pixie! Pixie! He’s here! He’s here! I told you! I told you!’ the Morlock calls out to the Molock known as Pixie. Pixie calls the deformed Morlock Bertram, and asks him to calm down and show their guest in. A little girl rushes towards Ghost Rider and exclaims ‘Wow! It’s you again! Haven’t seen you since the night they brought me here. The night of that Blackout guy tried to…I’m glad to see ya, Flame Head!’ the girl exclaims. Pixie calls the girl Pauline and remarks that it would appear Mr Ghost Rider has already met her. ‘You seem to have a great deal of admirers amongst our young charges’ Pixie tells him.

Ghost Rider asks Pixie why she holds these children here, to which Pixie, a regular-looking woman, save for the antenna on her forehead, and wings growing out of her back, explains that the children are quite safe, and that they have been taken from the surface for their protection. ‘There is an evil person - a mutant like myself - Morlocks we are called - he, Masque, wishes to…to…do more of this!’ Pixie exclaims as she pulls up part of her dress, revealing that one of her legs has been hideously transformed.

Pixie explains that Masque did this to her because she alone opposed him, and the others that brought Ghost Rider to her were once normal humans that Masque disfigured. ‘He planned to start on the children of the surface’ she reveals, explaining why she kidnapped the children before Masque could. ‘As you can see, all are quite safe and happy -’ Pixie begins, when suddenly, gunfire can be heard down the tunnel. ‘The children!’ Pixie gasps, while the agents of HEART appear in the cavern. Tyler orders the women to fan out, and to take down Ghost Rider quick and easy.

Directly above, inside X-Factor’s hovercraft, Cyclops announces that the instruments are picking up low-end seismic disturbances directly below the surface - the type caused by a fire fight. He adds that if there is a tunnel down there, his optic blasts will blow a path through for them. He releases an optic blast, shaping a circle below, and while Jean telekinetically lowers herself down towards it, Iceman creates an ice-sled, which he, Cyclops and the Beast slide down on towards the ground, which gives way as they step on the area Cyclops used his optic blast on.

As X-Factor appear in the tunnel, Mei Lin sees them, and calls out to Tyler: ‘We’ve got some more freaks joining in - and they look like muties! Better scrag them all just to be safe!’ she exclaims before opening fire, however Jean creates a telekinetic force field, which she uses to deflect the bullets away from herself and the children. Jean suggests to her teammates that she disarm the women, while at the edge of the tunnel, the stalker-figure appears - it‘s Blackout and he calls out to the children, telling them to come with Uncle Blackout, that they will be safe with him. ‘No, children, don’t go back there. Come with me. I’ll protect you all’ Pixie assures them. ‘And who will protect you, my little fairy queen?’ Blackout asks as he lunges forward.

‘I will protect and avenge all these innocent lives, murderer!’ Ghost Rider exclaims as he lunges towards Blackout - who knocks him aside, and grabs Pixie. ‘Oh, you do frighten me so’ Blackout mocks, before telling Pixie that hers will be the first mutant blood to touch his lips. ‘Mmmmm’ he utters as he bites down on Pixie’s neck.

Above, the agents of HEART are rushing back towards their chopper. ‘These mutant’s weren’t in the planed scenario!’ Tyler exclaims, adding that it looks like the missing kids are getting away safely. ‘We’ve done our job and got the Ghost Rider’s bike in the deal’ she points out.

Back below, ‘You must save the children, Ghost Rider’ Pixie tells him with her dying breath as he holds her blood-stained body. ‘I must avenge your blood!’ Ghost Rider declares. ‘Listen to me - what good will your vengeance serve if more innocent blood is spilled - the children’s blood - while claiming it?’ Pixie asks him. ‘Please save them - please…’ she utters. There is a loud rumble, as the tunnel begins to collapse towards the children, who cry out for help. ‘Ghost Rider! Help us! Please!’ Pauline exclaims. Ghost Rider gets to his feet as the tunnel collapses, and an unearthly scream pierces the night.

The scream vibrates all that it touches - the fleeing chopper containing the HEART agents, and Ghost Rider’s motorcycle, which answers the scream. It is the Spirit of Vengeance, which breaks free from the speeding helicopter, the mystical motorcycle plunges earthward, to answer its master’s call. ‘Heads up, everyone!’ Iceman exclaims the cycle speeds past X-Factor. ‘What is that thing?’ Jean enquires. ‘What in blue blazes?’ the Beast asks as he leaps out of the way.

Back up above, one of the HEART operatives reports that one of their stabilizers is shot. ‘Get us out of here -’ she exclaims. ‘We’ll regroup and come back for the muties, the motorcycle and Ghost Rider!’ Tyler orders.

Down below, Ghost Rider puts the children onto his motorcycle and tells them that it will take them to safety. ‘No more innocent blood will be spilled here tonight’ he declares. ‘What kind of blood runs through your veins, demon? Surely one that looks like you must have a soul as black as mine!’ Blackout exclaims as he leaps towards Ghost Rider. ‘What are you about, Ghost Rider?’ Blackout enquires. Ghost Rider turns around and replies that he is about vengeance. ‘No! That’s where you are wrong! Tonight vengeance is mine!’ Blackout exclaims as he punches Ghost Rider. ’No’ Ghost Rider replies, but Blackout continues: ‘Vengeance for what you’ve done to my face - to my life - the vengeance that started with the slaughter of your sister, Barb! You remember Barb, don’t you, demon?’ Blackout exclaims.

‘Yes’ Ghost Rider replies as he smashes Blackout hard in the face, sending the demon reeling backwards. ‘Yes, demon, try and kill me!’ Blackout declares as Ghost Rider goes over to him. They grab each other’s throats, and Blackout boasts that he will not die alone. There is another rumble, and the tunnel begins to cave in on the them. ‘Two as ugly as we deserve to die together! Goodbye, demon!’ Blackout exclaims as the tunnel falls around them.

Outside, ‘Ghost Rider saved us. Yes, siree. Are you friends of his?’ Bertram asks Marvel Girl, who replies ‘No, I’m afraid not’. ‘Well, that’s okay! You helped, too - didn’t you?’ Beast, Iceman and Cyclops help the rest of the children out of the ground, and Bertram adds that his friends will see that the remaining children are returned to their parents, for that is what Pixie would have wanted them to do. ‘Meanwhile, we’ll keep protecting them from Masque’ he adds. ‘Masque is behind this?’ Jean asks, concerned. Beast points to the motorcycle and asks ‘What do we do with this doohickie? It appears that its former owner is lost to the tunnels below.

Cyclops replies that he has always wanted a bike, although he is not too sure about this tires, when suddenly, there is yet another rumble, and Ghost Rider bursts up through the ground. He immediately gets on his motorcycle, while Iceman asks Cyclops if they should stop him. ‘No, bobby. I don’t know that we could if we wanted to’ Scott replies. X-Factor watch as Ghost Rider speeds off into the night, and Cyclops adds ‘Besides, who are we to judge a man on the way he looks? Tonight it’s the Ghost Rider’s deeds that count’….

Characters Involved: 

Ghost Rider III / Dan Ketch

Beast, Cyclops, Iceman, Marvel Girl (all X-Factor)

Nathan Christopher Summers

Stacy Dolan
Jack D’Auria
Linda Wei

Luz Delgado, Mei Lin, Fiona McCormick, Tyler Meagher, Danika Trevani (all HEART)

Blackout II

Bertram, Pixie II and other Morlocks
Pauline and other children

Eddie G

Story Notes: 

This issue takes place between X-Factor (1st series) #62 and #63.

The women in the HEART organization debuted in Ghost Rider (2nd series) #8, hired by the Cypress Hills community to take down Ghost Rider. HEART fail in their mission, and the Firm kill all of the women in Ghost Rider (2nd series) #33, except for Tyler Meagher who is transformed into the being called Heart Attack.

“Night of the Living Dead” is a famous zombie film by George Romero.

Pauline was kidnapped in Ghost Rider (2nd series) #9.

Archangel appears on the cover to this issue, but not within the actual story itself.

Cyclops’ hair is miscolored blond on the cover of this issue.

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