Thursday, 5 May 2016

Ghost Rider #2 (June 1990)

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 #2

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

Overview: While Daniel’s sister remains in critical condition, he seeks answers as to what was contained within the briefcase. Meanwhile, The Kingpin and Deathwatch’s men hunt for its location with orders to kill all witnesses. 

Cultural References: A poster on the wall of the attacked child's bedroom for The Terminator; a movie which also includes multiple scenes of home invasion. The boy is presumably playing a Nintendo Entertainment System.

Review: In this issue, we are introduced to a new character, Blackout, a mercenary vampire who indiscriminately and sadistically butchers anyone in his path on his quest to retrive the canisters stolen in the last issue. Apparently, Deathwatch has sent him after the goods due to the slow progress his own men are making on recovering them. He says, “Had my men brought any one of the children present at the junkyard that night to me last week…none of this would have been necessary.” Has it already been a week? And are we really expected to believe a high powered businessman working in The World Trade Centre and, presumably, The Kingpin haven’t been able to track down a gang of teenagers? This is a little farfetched.

None the less, Blackout is brutal in his slayings and is also one of the few villains so far to have his own voice in this comic; coming across as a suave and sophisticated aristocrat - the perfect archetype of a vampire. I’m almost left wondering how The Comic Code could accept some of the things that happen in this issue. The horror tone is pushed to full effect when the monster gloats, “Sssssh now or you’ll wake your parents,” to a small child before letting him run into their bedroom where he finds their bodies lifeless on the floor.

Just as brutal is the Ghost Rider himself who beats down The Kingpin's hired goons in his search for information. It seems that same brutality is coming out in Dan’s home life as well. When noticing the headlines about his nightly actions, he throws the paper across the room startling Stacy. Later, he almost blows his identity with a Freudian slip saying, “You don’t understand I can…I’ve got to do something!” This proactive and emotional response is not like him given how passive he was in the first issue and we begin to consider how these two different lives he leads and competing identities are beginning to overlap.

Some of the changes in the story are begining to come across naturally while others are simply hard to make out. Stacy is a good example of this. In the last issue, this woman appeared in the hospital with Dan and Barb's parents and, I assumed, she was his older sister. This assumption was helped in no small part by her calling Captain Dolan “Daddy.” In this issue, she is seemingly a friend of the family and I really don’t know whether to take her previous reference to Captain Dolan as a mistake, a retcon or perhaps a sign of how close her relationship is to the family because the comic simply hasn’t told me how I should take it. 

Perhaps Captain Dolan isn’t Dan’s stepfather at all but rather Stacy’s dad. In fact, that makes a hell of a lot more sense. It’s so difficult to pinpoint because, as readers, we’ve travelled from graveyard to hospital, to alleyway, to hospital in the first issue while Dan’s interactions with human characters remained, at best, shallow. Thankfully, this issue addresses that problem slightly and we see more of Dan’s humanity. He lives with his mother. He has a close friend who cares for him. He visits his sister and jokes about her situation before guiltily confessing he is lost without her guidance. We begin to have a clearer understanding of his life. We also see the toll his nightly escapades are taking on his health.

Eventually, Ghost Rider tracks down one of the gang just in time to battle Blackout, but not in time to save the child’s family. The rider states he tracked Blackout via “the stench of innocent blood” that clings to him. I buy this, and if this vampire can create said stench in a city being run by The Kingpin we can only assume the damage he has delivered in this one comic are minutiae in his work history. They battle, Blackout flees and Ghost Rider stubbornly refuses to follow. Why? Perhaps because it is the end of the issue.

Quote of the issue: “Enough about your skin condition, Blackout. The cannisters. Have you located them?” - Deathwatch gets straight to the point.

The way we were: A spread showcases the soon to be realeased Forgotten Realms Dungeons and Dragons campaign setting. The series would later go on to spawn multiple literary works such as R.A. Salvatore's Drizzt series.

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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