Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Longbox Junk - Ghost Rider 2099 Part 1: Issues 1 - 12

And now for something a little different, but sort of the same. . .

At one time, I wrote regular reviews of new comics for an established site that shall go unnamed. As time went on, I was also commissioned to do occasional reviews of older comics, eventually becoming one of the very few reviewers that would take on an entire series at a time (as far as I know, I still am).

Writing those older comic reviews led to the Longbox Junk blog after I got tired of the deadline grind for new comic reviews and quit writing for pay. I was more interested in the older comics anyway and stuck with that as my new (and continuing) labor of love.

So what we're going to have here in Longbox Junk for a while are some of those old reviews. I decided to not let them go to waste gathering dust in the search archive of a website that no longer really cares about comics.

You'll notice that they are a little different than other reviews here on Longbox Junk. I had a strict word count I was working under, so most of them are extremely short, compared to my long-winded ways of today. I've made changes, of course.

One of the biggest is that I was under a one image only requirement, so I've thrown in plenty of pretty pictures to fill things out a bit. I've also expanded some of the introduction and conclusion sections, moved things a bit to fit the different format here, and added creator credits and story titles to the issues, but other than those few tweaks, the reviews are pretty much the same as they were.


For a while, you're going to get some slightly expanded and modified versions of reviews I wrote years ago. It's not that I don't have new stuff to put in here, but I feel these were just going to waste. I have a saying that (for me) covers pretty much every kind of entertainment from books to movies to video games to comics. . .If I haven't read/seen/played it, it's new to me. Hopefully, you'll enjoy these older reviews in the same light.

SO. . .

This introduction is ALREADY half as long as the original review for this ENTIRE HALF OF THE SERIES. But in for a penny, in for a pound. Let's talk about the series at hand for a minute. . .because in the original review, I just gave a title and jumped right in on the first issue, due to word count restraints.

Just as a bit of background, the 2099 line of comics in general was a fairly short-lived attempt by Marvel to create a combination science fiction/superhero universe set 100 years in the future and featuring futuristic new versions of established characters, but still set in the same (future) universe as (then) present continuity. . .so that The Punisher (for example) was an actual historic figure in 2099 continuity.

The line was pretty well received by readers, with Spider-Man 2099 being the big hit of the bunch (and actually still an ongoing character), but other titles (such as X-Men 2099, Punisher 2099, and Doom 2099) also did quite well. There was even an original character created and scripted by Stan Lee as his last regular series for Marvel in the 2099 line, Ravage 2099!

But eventually the 2099 line ran out of steam after about 6 years and (except for occasional appearances and the still-popular Spider-Man 2099) the whole thing was quietly retired. Ghost Rider 2099 was one of the "second wave" 2099 titles, and never enjoyed the popularity of some of the other series.

I picked up the whole series on the cheap during a big dollar box sale at a comic shop in Florida about 10 years ago, intrigued by the idea of a cyberpunk version of Ghost Rider and drawn in by some great covers. This was my FIRST full series review. . .

Let's (re) Do This!

MARVEL (1994 - 1996)
PART 1: ISSUES 1 - 12


SCRIPTS: Len Kaminski
PENCILS: Chris Bachalo
COVER: Chris Bachalo

The story gets off to a fast start. . .Zero Cochran is a hacker in a futuristic city between cities made up of highways and exit ramps who is murdered by a rival gang for some stolen data. He wakes up in a strange area of cyberspace and is given another chance at "life" as an agent for beings who call themselves "The Ghostworks". First order of business? Avenging his own death.

The art by Bachalo, from the shiny 90's-Tastic Chromium cover to the final page is simply superb! His 90's vision of the future of the internet is especially interesting. . .

It holds up remarkably well for being an all-but forgotten part of a failed 90's experiment by Marvel to build a new science fiction-based superhero continuity. Some of the references are obviously 90's (David Letterman, Captain Picard) and would probably be long-forgotten in 2099, but this issue is a fantastic start to the series.



SCRIPTS: Len Kaminski
PENCILS: Chris Bachalo
COVER: Mark Buckingham

After the stellar first issue, the second calms down a bit and begins to build the world of Ghost Rider 2099 a bit more. We see that everything is ruled by giant corporations, one of which was behind the hiring of the gang that killed Zero. We also see Zero's girlfriend (Kylie) find someone (the inexperienced hacker Doctor Neon) to help her decode the final message Zero sent her before dying.

Even with the world-building, a chunk of the issue is taken up with Ghost Rider eluding law enforcement by fleeing into a part of the city that's pretty much a war zone known as Detonation Boulevard.

All in all, this issue wasn't as good as the first issue, but it wasn't bad at all. The art is still the star here, including another fantastic cover.


SCRIPTS: Len Kaminski
PENCILS: Chris Bachalo, Mark Buckingham, Ken Sutherland & Peter Gross
COVER: Mark Buckingham

In this issue, Ghost Rider realizes that he needs to take his limitations into mind. . .he's in an incredibly destructive and powerful robotic body, but that body runs on a battery, and his power can get low if he doesn't watch it. So he decides to play it smart instead of tough, using a holofield disguise as Zero to find a place to lay low and charge up.

While he does, he runs into Warewolf, one of his partners on his last job he thought was dead, but doesn't realize that Warewolf has been transformed by the D/Monix corporation to hunt for Ghost Rider.

Not a bad issue, but not great. The writer is still world building and introducing characters. One thing I noticed, though. . .there's FOUR pencilers credited on this issue. The art is beginning to slip a bit. In particular the cover isn't great.



SCRIPTS: Len Kaminski
PENCILS: Peter Gross
COVER: Mark Buckingham

Most of this issue was taken up with a fight between Ghost Rider and his former friend, Warewolf, who has been transformed by D/Monix Corporation into a wolf-like robot meant to hunt and destroy Ghost Rider. Kylie and Doctor Neon are also taken prisoner by D/Monix and they learn that Zero is dead.

Didn't really like this issue that much. The art was better than the last issue, but the cover was no bueno. Also, D/Monix is baffled by Ghost Rider's technology, but they have the ability to create a giant wolf robot with a human's mind downloaded into it? WTF? Makes no sense.

One funny moment was when two underlings recover the information D/Monix is looking for and they're plotting to keep it for themselves. . .the information in question is on a floppy disc. Welcome back to 1994!



SCRIPTS: Len Kaminski
PENCILS: Mark Buckingham
COVER: Mark Buckingham

In this issue, we find out that the D/monix executive who sold Zero out and caused his death was actually his father.

Most of the issue is Ghost Rider infiltrating D/Monix headquarters to confront his father, steal the data (floppy disc, LOL), and rescue his girlfriend. Not a bad issue at all. The art is a little strange when it comes to human faces, but the close ups of Ghost Rider's face are fantastic and creepy. 

This issue seems like a final bit of introduction and bringing the team of Ghost Rider, Doctor Neon, and Kylie together. One of the stronger issues so far.



SCRIPTS: Len Kaminski
PENCILS: Kyle Hotz
COVER: Mark Buckingham

In order to save Kylie, Ghost Rider has to procure some rare drugs. His search sends him to several places before heading for New York at the end of the issue.  The cover for issue 7 has Spider Man 2099 on it, so I'm assuming that wall crawling hijinks will ensue in Ghost Rider's first crossover. It's Marvel. I knew it would happen sooner or later. Marvel has always been about the crossovers. That's why I don't normally read much Marvel.

ANYWAY. . .this issue.

This issue was pretty good, but seems like it was all a convenient reason to get Ghost Rider moving toward the mentioned crossover. I remember REALLY loving Kyle Hotz's art back in "The Day". I still like it, but don't love it. Sort of how I feel about my first wife. . .


SCRIPTS: Len Kaminski
PENCILS: Kyle Hotz
COVER: Mark Buckingham

Like I predicted last issue, this was Ghost Rider 2099's first crossover. Most of this issue was spent on a standard "They don't understand that they're really on the same side." comic book superhero fight between Ghost Rider and Spiderman.

Not the best issue of this series, but better than the Warewolf battle earlier on. I guess that since Spidey was (and still is) the big star of the 2099 universe, they needed him on the cover. Fair enough. A throwaway filler issue, though.

And about the art. I've noticed that Kyle Hotz isn't really able to draw feet or legs very well. Then again, I think maybe quite a few 90's artists suffered from the same thing.



SCRIPTS: Len Kaminski
PENCILS: Kyle Hotz
COVER: Chris Bachalo

An interesting issue where Ghost Rider has to link into Kylie's mind in order to find a memory that is keeping her from waking up. It's a strange trip through locked doors and repressed memories until he finds the one. . .it's the moment she learns he's dead and she's reliving it over and over. He helps her let go by being a massive jerk, then leaves to go find out more about Shadow Works, the strange beings who created him.

Like I said, interesting in the way Zero compares the human mind to the internet, but not great. And Hotz's art still makes me wonder if he ever really LOOKED at a human leg. . .



SCRIPTS: Len Kaminski
PENCILS: Mark Buckingham
COVER: Kyle Hotz

When Zero returns to an old hideout in Little Calcutta, he stumbles into a final confrontation with Warlord Jeter (from the first couple of issues). After he gets done killing his old enemy, he discovers that something is killing residents of his old neighborhood and decides to do something about it.

Another filler issue that's basically an excuse for Ghost Rider to get into a fight. Hotz wasn't on art this time, and the issue was better for it. I really liked the first few pages, showing the artist's vision of Zero searching cyberspace for The Ghostworks as a literal "Ghost in The Machine". The cover, on the other hand. . .not good.


SCRIPTS: Len Kaminski
PENCILS: Kyle Hotz
COVER: Tom Taggart

Ghost Rider spends the first part of this issue trying to find information about who or what is killing people in his old neighborhood. Finally he decides to disguise himself as Warlord Jeter and draw them out.

When he does, he finds out that it is a custom killer robot being remotely controlled. We find out that it's part of some sort of bloodsport being played by a group of rich people.

At the end, Ghost Rider finds himself facing a half dozen killer robots. Also, a new villain? Hero? Not sure. . .is revealed. Coda, a self-aware combat robot working for Securicorps.

10 issues in and this series is starting to become "Monster of The Month." I still have 15 issues to go, God help me. I hope it starts getting better again. There's been a distinct downward slide.

One other thing. The cover. I can't tell if it's a really detailed painting or a photographed sculpture. Either way, it's fantastic!


SCRIPTS: Len Kaminski
PENCILS: Kyle Hotz
COVER: Kyle Hotz

Continuing from the previous issue, Ghost Rider finds himself fighting a half-dozen remote controlled combat robots used in bloodsport games by a group of wealthy citizens.

We also get to meet Zero's broadcast-addicted mother, a reporter (Willis Adams) goes on the hunt for Ghost Rider, and the Securicorps combat droid Coda does the same as Ghost Rider sets out to find who was controlling the combat games after he defeats their robots.

Not a great issue at all. It's interesting in that it shows a vision of virtual reality that may yet exist someday, as well as the consequences of media addiction that also may come to pass.

It's strange to read a vision of the future that doesn't include social media, but Zero's mother being addicted to television to the point that she becomes distressed and sick when the broadcast is interrupted, touches on what the future may hold a bit.



SCRIPTS: Len Kaminski
PENCILS: Kyle Hotz
COVER: Unknown (But credited as the first Marvel comic ever to have an entirely computer-generated cover in the letter page)

This was a pretty poor issue, but once again, there were interesting points to it.

The first is the role of media in this dystopian future as Willis Adams tracks down Ghost Rider as he's getting ready to kill the last remaining member of the rich gaming club who have been killing the poor in Zero's old neighborhood. He condemns Ghost Rider as thinking he's judge, jury, and executioner, so Ghost Rider leaves the woman (now an insane cannibal from mental overload) alone with the reporter, who is forced to kill her live on camera to save himself.

The second interesting part is at the end of the issue with an appearance by Doom 2099 using a techno/magic ritual to force his way into the cyberspace hiding place of The Ghostworks. There's a saying that any advanced technology will be seen as magic (I paraphrase) and this was a great representation of that theory.

Other than that, the rest of the issue is taken up with a ho-hum battle between Coda and Ghost Rider that sees Coda the winner through superior tactics and GR supposedly blown to pieces. But since there's still 11 issues left, I doubt he's down for good.


I really liked a lot of the IDEAS Marvel was trying out here. Unfortunately, the execution wasn't the best. It just feels like after the first few issues, everything was a bit half-hearted. Basically, it turned from being a great cyberpunk adventure into a typical superhero comic with a science fiction backdrop.

Overall, this is an enjoyable series, but I'd really like to explore more of the world surrounding Ghost Rider than read about the "monster of the month".

Up Next. . .

Ghost Rider 2099 Issues 13-25.

Be there or be square!

1 comment:

  1. I have all but two issues of this series, and haven't read them yet. I pick them up whenever I find them in quarter boxes, and I've got a pretty sizable 2099 collection now, on the cheap. For some reason, it's become one of my collecting goals. I was happy to see your review of this series since it's something I have an interest in. Thanks so much!