Tuesday, 31 May 2016

Ghost Rider #19 (November 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 #19

Credits: Howard Mackie (writer), Mark Texeira (artist/inker), Gregory Wright (colourist).

Overview: Suicide, the man who cannot die, stalks Ghost Rider and pleads to be killed interfering with his second  hunt for Zodiak.

Cultural References: Zodiak destroys a nose before making a nod to the movie Chinatown.

Review: There is a distinct rumbling coming from beneath the floor of the room. I can hear it as I press my ear to the ground. I can feel it as I move around my room, pulling my hair out and trying to think of anything other than the dark and foreboding doom that is closing in with each passing day. Within me is a deep desire to give up. To quit writing and to abandon my reviewing duties which ultimately offer little more than meeting my word and the completion of a verbal contract.

I picked up the comic and stared at Mephisto who glared back at me with gleeful hatred and malice. I wonder if this will finally be the origin story that has been bugging me along with other readers for months on end. It wasn’t. That wasn’t surprising. What was surprising was this was actually a pretty good issue and one that was fun to read. 

It begins with a man whose life is falling apart for dozens of different reasons. His wife has left him and taken the kids. The kids didn’t like him anyway. Nobody talks to him. Every sentence in his thought bubbles begin with a negative; what he lacks, doesn’t own and can’t do. He points a gun to his head but tosses it away at the last minute causing it to go off near the wall blowing dusty shrapnel into his eyes. There’s something extremely comedic about how overly glum the character is; like Marvin from Hitchikers Guide or Neil from The Young Ones and, I have to admit, I like him already two pages in.

Mephisto appears and makes him an offer "the will to find a way to end his own life" in exchange for his soul, and I like how his reaction to this is an anecdote of his grandmother calling the devil the prince of liars. The man ultimately accepts and is displeased to discover he feels healthier and stronger than ever before. It turns out he is now immortal and if he wishes to die the only one capable of killing him is Ghost Rider.

So he tracks Ghost Rider down who is back hunting Zodiak again and demands to be killed. Unfortunately, Ghost Rider is no long taking human lives and when the man attacks he only throws him through walls. Zodiak, who seemingly wasn’t killed off in Dr Strange #28, is back to killing and torturing drug dealers and seemingly all out of his robot Gemini bodies. Therefore, this fight might very well be his last. But every time the two of them square off, Suicide – the name the comic ironically gives him - keeps jumping in the way and trying to get Ghost Rider to accidentally kill him.

I found myself chucking at so many things in this comic. There’s something unbelievably hilarious about Suicide saying “His chain. That’s it! I’ll wrap it round my neck” Only for Ghost Rider to rescue him from the hanging before punching him aside to focus on his quarry. Not even the main characters consider him anything more than a nuisance. And there’s almost an odd married couple dynamic between Zodiak and Ghost Rider as they battle with neither of them wanting Suicide to interfere with it and both seem entirely confused by his being here.

Throughout the comic, we see Suicide's interaction with other people. He lives in a reasonably average New York apartment and has an attractive neighbour who clearly likes him and both of them even look like they could make a good couple but every time something positive is happening his reaction is a melodramatic and over the top cry of “I want to die!” Incidentally he knocks on her door naked having failed to kill himself in a house fire. “You’re so…so…naked.” She says before inviting him in and fitting him in an ex boyfriends disco outfit. 

All of the characters in this issue bounce off each other well and it is great to see such chemistry between them and the best thing? Not once do we get a single mention of a mystery. Just like In issue 15 there is a real drive and energy to every scene with dark humour to even out the action. The issue ends with Ghost Rider chasing Zodiak into the subway with Suicide in hot pursuit and for the first time in a few months I’m genuinely excited to discover what’s going to happen next.

You know it's a good issue when the first complaint you have is with an eiditor on the letters page; unfortunately this seems to confirm my suspicions that the origin story is boulder dash spun together to help increase sales. A fan writes in with two questions.

1. Is the Ghost Rider spirit of the series the same one of the old series? and 2. If yes, why does  Dan have no memory of what occurs when he is Ghost Rider as Johnny Blaze and Zarathos shared the same memory. 

Answer: "As yet unrevealed. But keep reading…" and 2. Dan does remember some of his time as Ghost Rider and he is getting better at remembering more.

Due to this revelation I’ve decided to put no more time into mentioning the origin tie ins. It is already fast becoming a moot point and I could presumably be repeating it far into the future. I will instead focus on the overt story and,should a thought bubble or narration box bring up the point again I will simply write "origins plug."Nothing more, and carry on with the review.

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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