Tuesday, 24 May 2016

Ghost Rider #11 (March 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 #11

Through a Nightmare Revealed...

Credits: Howard Mackie (writer), Larry Stroman (artist), Gregory Wright (colourist), Mark Texeira (inker)

Overview: The creature known as Nightmare unveils most of Ghost Rider's origins while a mysterious figure heads for New York.
Cultural references: The cover tagline is a reference to the movie Sex, Lies and Videotapes.
Stacy likens Dan's apperance to George Michael.

"I'm heading east. I'm in a hurry and I don't have time to clean your blood off my boots." 

Review: This is the first issue where we finally see the full affect the penance stare has on its victims as Stig (not a Top Gear reference), the knife wielder from last issue is seen dishevelled, misshaped and in a state of decline. Furthermore we see the micro effects of Ghost Riders action in the city. This man was once something of a small figurehead in this area of the city. Now, due to his humiliation he is being replaced by another criminal. Dan begins threatening these minor street villains for Zodiak’s location but the villain shows up regardless hunting down Stig for giving his location up. Dan begins to morph into the Ghost Rider only to be sucked into another dimension.

In this realm he is greeted by nightmare, a creature that has been plaguing Dan for weeks on end, effecting his sleep and giving him bazaar dreams about his sister and the creatures he has faced so far. Finally having a transformed Dan in its realm it divulges through exposition some of the comic’s history and the background of the character.

It turns out the Ghost Rider is a demon named Zarathos, the same monster as in the original comic. In a brief exposition scene,  we are provided its backstory. Zarathos was a demon devourer of souls worshipped and idolized as a god that began a fierce slaughter of other demons presumably for food. Eventually, it drew the attention of Mephisto (Marvel’s answer to Lucifer) who, seeing it as a threat to hell defeated the creature and transfered its soul – literally a living flame – into a series of human hosts presumably so that it could be controlled as a slave and bent to his will.

One of the last bodies it was placed in was the body of Johnny Blaze who made a deal with Mephisto to save his terminally ill father. Ghost Rider then is simply the soul of this once powerful soul eater that instinctively desires conflict and is sensing the evil around it both in demons and those whose actions are pure evil. Perhaps the penance stare is a means of stealing souls then? It's entierly possible from what we've seen.

However, there is a problem with all this soul stealing, penance staring business. The main badguy of this issue is a creature known as Nightmare which has been haunting Dan’s dreams ever since issue eight and trying to use him to bring out Zarathos. This demon profits by Ghost Rider using the penance stare as it leaves its victims in an endless cycle of catatonic nightmares allowing it to capture slaves in the waking world. The creature looks pretty much note for note like Dream from Neil Gaiman's sandman only only a horse and with a green cloak. 

In the past nightmare, made the demon aware of its true heritage as a soul eater enslaved by Mephisto and then separated it from Johnny Blaze in the hopes of utilising its full force on earth as the demon would be free to hunt the souls of evil unhinged from its prison. This unfortunatly never came to be and, for whatever reason, Zarathos was trapped in a crystal with his arch enemy Centaurious

This is all working fine for me but one of the biggest glaring questions is obviously where did the notion of justice and vengeance come from within the ghost rider? Was this once a demon of justice or vengeance? Did it suddenly develop a moral code because of its human hosts? This area could easily have been given to us in this exposition and it is entirely left out.

Zarathos response to all of this is really funny and in typical style “I will not be a servant of you or anyone else. When innocent blood is spilled…!” Only to be told to "Silence" and blasted out of the way by Nightmare. Seeing that the demon is fighting a greater threat Dan continues to be convinced that it is a force for good and sets out to help it. Before Zarathos can be destroyed in the dream dimension, they bond together and fight back. When it turns out Nightmare is unaffected by the penance stare Zarathos states is vengance will be evasion and drives out of the realm Meat Loaf style.

I was hoping through this encounter the characters might have learned something meaningful or developed a strategy and it certainly seemed like this was the issues point. Unfortunately however, Zarathos clumsily states “I still do not know any more about myself.” Really? Come on. We've clearly learnt someting today. hen, just to irritate me more he angrily declares “Zodiac you will feel my penance stare!” 

WHAT? I can’t believe what I have just read. He only moments ago discovered Nightmare feeds off his use of the penance stare, now he is going to use it on a mass murdering covert assassin? Can he possibly get any stupider? Before my question is answered, Dr Strange shows up and blocks his advances by casting a barrier over him.

Well, I'm going to have to infer that Zarathos is a nutcase. We also see more of the myserious biker this issue who is still travelling to New York, ocassionally stopping in bars for a drink and to threaten some nutjobs with a shotgun. Until next time!

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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