Friday, 27 May 2016

Ghost Rider #13 (May 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 #13

You'll Never See What's Coming Next!

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

Overview: Ghost Rider tracks a drug pusher immune to his pennance stare.

Cultural References: You'll easily see what's referenced this month.

Review: I began the second year of Ghost Rider halfway through my review cycle, and ever conscious of the time limit imposed on me. Perhaps just as conscious as I was that I wouldn’t be finding out what happens to Zodiak or how the drug pushing, serial killing, dragon summoning mess of a story concluded. That comic was not one I had in my collection. And, I wouldn't really care but I'm sure I wasn't the only one to miss out on this issue back in the 90s either. Whoever conceived of the idea to link a scavenger quest plot in a Dr Strange comic into a Ghost Rider narrative simply to drag that readership kicking and screaming over to the former comic was just as sinister as Abe and his contrived killer bee plot to keep me here.

Spring of 1991 was the period in which Teenage Mutant Hero turtles 2 hit the cinema. I don’t know whether Mackie disliked Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles 2. I don't know if he was told to subtly mention them. But, in this issue, a gang of vicious teenage crack heads give out turtle names just before they attempt to beat an old man to death with a baseball bat for pointing out this similarity. The none too subtle “fan tribute” is followed by a full page advert in the comic for turtle cereal. Boy, those brutal face pounding bat swings sure get your appetite worked up.

The gang also have a really jarring way of talking for teenagers “Yeah! Maybe he’s got some money” says one “Or we could kill him and trade the bike to Jorgio for some crack” asnwers the other. Ahhhhh, those innocent years of snorting crack and brutalizing senior citizens to the repeated sound of Vanilla Ice. Those were the days.

Chunkiness aside, the true strengths of Ghost Rider has always been the villains. The names alone are some of the best in any modern era comic. They perfectly establish the dark, pessimistic foundations of the book. Zodiak, Blackout, Death Watch, and now Snow Blind. Snow Blind is the name of the mysterious crack dealer who is causing insanity and animalistic violence in manhattan as a direct result of his drug. Consequently, Ghost Rider drives around the city scaring the hell out of every crack head for information, "My techniques...are not subtle, but they are effective" he states as he drives one onto the motorway. Though he gains the name of the building where the smuggler operates from he finds himself driving into a trap set up by a police hit squad.

After a short battle with the police resulting in the drug addicts death, Ghost Rider breaks into the named building only to find Snowblind sitting in a darkened office - waiting for him. Anticipating his assault, a mystery informant contacted Snowblind hours earlier giving him the chance to evacuate his staff and prepare himself. Snowblind is an ex assassin turned dealer who enjoys a luxurious lifestyle through his narcotics trade. He is also blind. This makes him immune to the penance stare and forces both characters into a battle of brute force. Before Ghost Rider can make a move, Snowlind sends out a wave of visible light which he explains gives him limited vision and increases his strength overtime - I’m guessing he's a mutant too. The moment Ghost Rider moves in for the penance stare, Snowblind simply deactivates his visible light and continues to beat and mock him.

The police arrive and we discover some of the forces are corrupt when Captain Hoffman executes one of his officers only to radio in blaming it on Ghost Rider. Finally we see the spider in the web holding all the threads together as the mystery informant is revealed to be Deathwatch who congratulates Linda Wei on her journalistic reporting of the events in his favour, before making another phone call to H.E.A.R.T. to arrange an assassination attempt. I like how Mackie is tying all of the loose threads to Deathwatch. What this book really needs is that overarching villain. Although I don’t understand why we had to see Death Watch hire H.E.A.R.T. a few issues ago. Surely they could have looked less pin headed if they had simply been working for Death Watch all along; appearing only at the town meeting to drum up more negative publicity for the Ghost Rider character before they hunted him.

Whatever. None of this detracts from how simplistic and cohesive the narrative is becoming. This is what makes an issue of Ghost Rider enjoyable. Not some age old, gigantic origin mystery to be or not to be revealed but a competently told corruption story with a figurehead running the city; Dan tackling the real villains one after another - whilst being hunted as a criminal by the authorities- and with a threat of losing his morality and mortality in the process. It’s a classic story cycle familiar to many readers growing up with tales of Robin Hood and Guy Fawkes and one that I would love to read more of in the comic. I hope this will be the year that Ghost Rider finally comes into its own.

As if in answer, Johnny Blaze - the mystery rider - finally catches up to Dan in the graveyard seconds after returning to human form and aims a double barrelled shotgun at his head.

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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