Monday, 23 May 2016

Ghost Rider #10 (February 1991)

J-Max was challenged to review 30 issues of Ghost Rider in (roughly) 30 days. Should J-Max succeed he shall earn his freedom (probably not). However should he fail in this task then he shall be subjected to an attack by Bees... DEADLY BEES.

So let's join him for his review of Ghost Rider #10

Stars of Blood

Credits: Howard Mackie (writer), Javier Saltares (artist), Gregory Wright (colourist), Mark Texeira (inker)

Overview: Ghost Rider tracks a serial killer.
Cultural references:  A victim of the penance stare references the  tagline of Hellraiser.

Review: Today we have another interesting villain thrown at us: Zodiak, a serial killer who murders youths and leaves astrological markings at the crime scene. I think he is perhaps named after the Zodiac Killer although the similarity between the two ends at the name. Ghost Rider is always more interesting when he takes on street crime and giving him a serial killer to go toe to toe with is a fantastic idea.

Although Dan accepted The Ghost Rider as a necessary force for good in the world he still doesn’t fully understand what motivates it. Seemingly nor does the Rider which has begun questioning its own actions since the Obsessions issue. So, what do we know, as readers, so far? Well, it is a conscious being compelled by urges to seek revenge for reasons that have been made mysterious and endowed with powers from an unknown force. I was fine with there being no explanation for any of this before and simply considered the monster/creature /whatever it could be called an elemental force, but it is presented here as some complex mystery. I don’t really understand why it needs to be one. But, here, the narration boxes promise me there will be a payoff for it as soon as distractions like this serial killer are taken care of. It seems the serial killer is merely the sugar-coating for an up and coming potentially revealing origins plot.

Unfortunately for Dan, he is still struggling to understand how exactly his powers work and, frankly, so am I. Now he can't even transform into Ghost Rider at a murder scene. Instead, the daemon possesses him when he passes by a less interesting, albeit volatile, event involving a gang of teenagers in an alley. When he tackles them - doing his usual thing of dragging the knife wielding leader up the side of a building to the roofs - he discovers the thug teenager knows where Zodiak is hiding seemingly by happenstance.

Did the daemon take over him sensing that this criminal knew the killers location or because it sensed a murder was about to take place? Perhaps more the former, we’ve already seen it waits until a death or mutilation has happened like in issue three before fully possessing its host. I hope to have a concrete explanation for this handed to me soon because it’s really starting to bug me. At the very least, I should be thankful that even Dan is confused here. I know it helps to create the sense of the Rider as a competing identity that acts on its own agenda seemingly at will. But, even in the Spider-man comic we have had it unloading a beating on a seemingly random criminal to find out this criminal knows the headquarters or hangouts of the big bad. Do all the villains, even the minor ones, just know everything about each other?

As if you answer my question, Deathwatch contacts and hires H.E.A.R.T. because - I assume - they display aptitude for being the perfect goons given how brain dead, violent and reactionary they’ve been behaving since their introduction - I’m sure every overlord in town is lining up single file to sign them at this point - and Linda Wei continues linking the Ghost Rider with every major crime in the city whilst delving into the history of the original character. We see a strange, shadowy figure watching the report who makes it his own personal mission to hunt Dan down. At the end of the issue, we see him again, only now he is riding a bike. I’m going to assume this is Johnny Blaze and, if it is, those letter pages need to start saying spoiler alert.

Dan talks a lot about being changed by his experiences in recent issues and I believe him now that he has become more involved in the comic. He tried to remove the bike from his life, reluctantly used his power to end the weapons threat in the city and finally came to terms with what he had become and accepted his role as host; I hope he will begin to answer some of the secrets the writer is keeping from us soon after this serial killer arc has ended. Becase, ten months in, we really need to be beyond the origin story soon.

Speaking of the killer, we find out his only a smaller part of a bigger conspiracy. It turns out he only masquerades as a lunatic with an astrology themed modus operandi and, in actuality, is attempting to misdirect police of his covert assassinations of drug smugglers for his and their employer. And it doesn’t say who that is here but I’m guessing it’s Deathwatch again who is gradally becoming the Red Skull or Ra’s al Ghul of this series. While all of this sounds good the killer does look kind of crummy, rather than a human character it seems Mackie has gone for a Scooby-Doo type villain in a mask or some sort of alien.

He is armed with an array of astrology themed gadgets such as his Sagittarius arrows and his robot bodies of Gemini – which he can apparently only create in June – this comics version of the Doom bots. I guess they ran out of ideas when it came to thinking up Aquarius as all he does is spray the Ghost Rider with a hose. Incidentally, the Gemini body is what Ghost Rider was actually fighting the whole issue, while the real killer leaves the scene on a flying platform.

Odd moments aside, this was surprisingly a fun and enjoyable issue.

Editor Note: Hey Guys hope you're enjoyed J-Max's review, Why not drop him an encouraging message below (he REALLY doesn't like bees), Please check out the rest of the reviews HERE or if you're feeling brave why not join in his adventure HERE.

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