This article contains SPOILERS for New Fantastic Four #4
Many fans consider ghost rider‘s Penance Stare is an incredibly powerful ability in the Marvel Universe, but it probably wouldn’t have any effect on Wolverine. A signature move of the Ghost Rider, the Penance Stare tortures its victims with remorse for the harm they have caused to others. Its effects range from rendering its target comatose to burning its soul. Given Wolverine’s bloody past, you’d think he’d be more sensitive to it, but a recent issue of New Fantastic Four indicates that this may not be the case.
Years ago, the Hulk in his Joe Fixit form along with Ghost Rider, Wolverine, and Spider-Man formed an all-new version of the Fantastic Four. Together, they pledged to fight a demon in Las Vegas that was taking possession of people and turning them into creatures. While Ghost Rider was separated from the rest of the group, the other three recruited Johnny Storm, also known as Human Torch from the original Fantastic Four.
Unfortunately, in New Fantastic Four #4 by Peter David and Alan Robinson, the Human Torch becomes demon-possessed and takes on an unholy new form with blue flame. The Human Torch cannot be killed in this form and Wolverine puts this to the test by digging his adamantium claws into his throat. Of course, the Human Torch doesn’t die and uses his new abilities to make Wolverine relive all his past sins and torment the souls he killed. However, Wolverine is perfectly happy with all the people he has killed and the power has no effect.
It’s odd that Ghost Rider is also a member of this team given that Human Torch’s new power is very similar in nature to Ghost Rider’s Penance Stare. When Ghost Rider looks into the eyes of a sinful person and uses the Penance Stare to revive them and feel the trauma of all their past sins, it can be catastrophic. This power is meant to drive a person insane, which is what Human Torch hopes to happen to Wolverine.
It has been shown in the past that the Penance Stare, while immensely powerful and effective, can sometimes not work depending on who it is being used against. Indeed, sins are largely subjective depending on the user. If someone commits sins against innocent people, then the penitent gaze will inflict that innocent trauma on its victim. But if someone’s sins are committed against a guilty people, then it stands to reason that the person will not feel much guilt when the power is deployed. This is where Wolverine falls. Wolverine has done terrible things in his life, but he’s perfectly content with the person he committed those sins against. So although Wolverine definitely has a high body count, it’s unlikely that ghost rider can make him feel guilty about it.
New Fantastic Four #4 is available now from Marvel Comics.