Midnight Sons Unlimited #3

Background

The character of Ghost Rider was resurrected in the 1990s. This Spirit of Vengeance was not Zarathos, nor did it possess Johnny Blaze. This was a different creature that used Daniel Ketch as a host.

The reappearance of Ghost Rider drew Johnny Blaze out of his retirement. Initially thinking him to be the demon that possessed him for so long, he tried to destroy Ghost Rider. Ghost Rider was ultimately able to convince Blaze that he was not "his" demon.

The return of the demon-queen Lilith brought more occult-characters back into the spotlight: Morbius, Nightstalkers (Hannibal King, Blade, and Frank Drake), and the Darkhold Redeemers (Victoria Montesi, Sam Buchanan, and stand- in member Jinx). They are collectively called the "Midnight Sons" and occasionally called upon to defeat various demons.

Story 'Sins Of Spider-X'

Prologue: Where Pounces The Paralyzer?: Late for an important photo assignment, Spider-Man swings toward the Daily Bugle in a panic. He's so preoccupied thinking of a good excuse that he ignores his spider-sense and gets zapped by the mutant known as Paralyzer.

He falls into a large pile of garbage that cushions his fall. The Paralyzer is not impressed with our webbed hero as he was too easy to defeat and runs away laughing at him.

Once the temporary paralysis wears off, he calls J. Jonah Jameson and promises that he's only five minutes away. Jonah tells him it's too late and not to bother showing up. Spider-Man returns home and finds Mary Jane is out rehearsing her part on "Secret Hospital". The Darkhold Dwarf (that's his name, honest) with an offer and a black envelope for him.

Chapter 1: Evil Web of Spider X: While out on patrol, Ghost Rider and Blaze encounter a giant spider web with many occupants. A man-spider hybrid complete with six eyes, mandibles, and four additional legs calling itself "Spider-X" emerges and begins his diatribe about a world lost to crime and violence and pledges to eliminate it. Spider-X denies Blaze's claim that he is a mutated Spider-Man.

In New Hope, Pennsylvania Victoria Montesi realizes that someone has used a page from the book of the Darkhold (this is her power) and leaves for New York with her teammate Jinx.

Back in New York, Blaze and Ghost Rider are unable to defeat Spider-X, who proves to be quite resistant to hellfire. Ghost Rider employs his penance stare, but is batted aside. GR claims it's because of the additional eyes.

Chapter 2: Battle On Broadway: The Nightstalkers travel to Manhattan to follow-up on a letter sent to them by Brian Kornfeld. They meet Brian's mother at their brownstone. She informs them that she was mugged recently and that sent her hero-obsessed son over the edge. She shows them a picture of Brian (in a Spider-Man costume) moments before Spider-X appears with the corpse of her mugger wrapped in webbing. After a lengthy fight, Spider-X escapes. The Nightstalkers also assume that Spider-Man has accepted a page from the Darkhold.

Chapter 3: Terror In Times Square: Vicki Montesi and Jinx arrive in New York and encounter Spider-X. They are almost eaten by their adversary when Ghost Rider and Blaze reappear and save them. Spider-X escapes again, but Blaze claims he knows where to find him.

Chapter 4: The Spider, The Sons, and ... Zzzax: Morbius drains the blood from a mugger and observes Spider-X swinging by. When he investigates he find two things: an explosion at the 14th Street power station and the real Spider-Man. They begin their typical exchange and get into a brief fight. Arriving at the power station, Spider-Man and Morbius are attacked by Spider-X. The remaining Midnight Sons converge on the power station. Then a huge melee begins.

Inside the plant, the Paralyzer recreates the electrical creature Zzzax. Morbius uses his hypnotic stare to convince Spider-X to help them destroy Zzzax. The resulting explosion kills Zzzax and Spider-X.

Once the dust settles, Spider-Man announces he's going to bring Morbius in. He has to be physically restrained while Morbius leaves.

Epilogue: Kiss Of The Spider's Woman: The Paralyzer emerges from the rubble and quickly surrenders when he sees that he is outnumbered and outclassed. Spider-Man returns home to Mary Jane who is very grateful to see him.

General Comments

By page two my head was already hurting. A light-hearted occult story - what was attempted here - is a contradiction in terms and fails miserably on every level. To mix comedy with the occult, you must use dark humor. This was an attempt to use Stan Lee-style dialog in a Midnight Sons book and it suffers as a result.

The red herring of Spider-Man as Spider-X was not believable. The premise of the Darkhold is that the contents of the black envelope grants its recipient anything they want in exchange for his/her soul. Peter was having a bad day but nothing that could possibly drive him to change it by using the occult. Why would Peter Parker sell his soul for absolutely no reason? (Insert "One More Day" joke here.)

Overall Rating

1/2 web. There's nothing redeeming about this story unless you're looking for a great example of how to stretch a weak idea into a worthless 51 page bomb.

All the main characters talked in the same over-the-top, half-wit tone. The throw-away villain could have been interesting, but was instead portrayed as a one-dimensional character with Venom-like tendencies toward drooling and eating internal organs.

Footnote

Mary Jane was hired by the producers of "Secret Hospital" in Amazing Spider- Man #326