Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Zodiac - To Hell With Astrology!

The Zodiac reappears in of all places in the pages of Ghost Rider. Johnny Blaze famously sold his soul to the Satan in this series which was yet another effort by Marvel to take advantage of popular trends in the industry, the growth of horror comics as well as the popularity generally of motorcycle demonstrations by the likes of Evel Knieval and others.

This story even guest-stars Marvel's other cycle hero - The Stunt-Master, who debuted in the pages of Daredevil.

The story of the Zodiac II is quite a peculiar one. The city of San Francisco comes under siege by a battery of robberies and assassination committed by members of the Zodiac Cartel, but since the Zodiac had been famously imprisoned by the Avengers only a few weeks before, this series of crimes befuddles everyone. Johnny Blaze is brought into the case by a District Attorney whose unhinged son had been complicit in the kidnapping of Manhattan. His guilt over that event and the torture he suffered before he gave up important secrets which enabled Aries to commit the crime have made him a madman. He threatens Roxanne, Blaze's loyal girlfriend and Johnny wants nothing to do with the situation.

But he is forced to and soon investigates. He along with Stunt-Master who tags along after seeing Ghost Rider roll through the city, discover that this second Zodiac is actually the work of one member - Aquarius. Enraged at Cornelius Van Lunt when he was not bailed out of jail, he sold his soul to the demon Slifer for a year in which he had access to all the powers of the Zodiac cartel. He has been the one in the various guises of his former comrades who has been committing the brutal crimes which have ravaged the city. But he is foiled in his ultimate scheme when Slifer appears and claims his soul after he had assumed the role of all twelve of the Zoadic members, completing a Zodical year so to speak. (Those devils are tricky.) Despite his protests Aquarius is hauled away to Hell as the Ghost Rider stands by.

At about this same time Aries of the Zodiac cartel turns up in Captain America and The Falcon in a two-part tale featuring the villain Lucifer.

This comes at the time when Steve Rogers had stepped away from his role as Captain America after the Secret Empire affair and the Falcon was left to carry the superheroic load for a short time. His old foe a small-time hood named Rafe Michael is possessed by the alien Lucifer, a member of race called the Quist who has battled the X-Men and Iron Man in previous outings.

He grants Michael powers but at a great cost and soon it's apparent that the need is there to share the power, and they find Grover Raymond (Aries) in jail and the two villains split the power.

Now Falcon has to fight two Lucifers and does so with gusto and  eventually is victorious in a manner of speaking when the energy of the alien is too much and the two villainous humas die and Lucifer loses his connection to Earth. It didn't really work out for anyone. Later of course Captain America returns, but we already knew that.

All in all a very peculiar outings, though the direction connection in the Ghost Rider story to the Avengers was nifty.

Next though it might get even stranger when Scorpio returns. Or does he?

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