Thursday, 19 May 2016

Ghost Rider #9 (January 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...

So let's join him for his review of Ghost Rider #9

Featuring X-Factor and The Morlocks!

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

Overview: Ghost Rider continues his search for the missing children as H.E.A.R.T. launch their assault and Blackout stalks the night.
                                                       Cultural references:  Another Night of the Living Dead                                                            reference this time by Jean Gray.

Review: I've began to notice a trend going on with the covers and things looming over the main character. I don’t know if this is intentional or what to make of it but here there’s something’s literally on top of him! And it’s Beast! From X-Factor! Perhaps it's a pressure metaphor? Perhaps looming things just look cool in horror themed comics? I began to wonder what would hover over Ghost Rider next month just to keep myself sane. All the time hoping, praying that it would not be a giant bee.
We begin in the cemetery with Dan driving around while the captions inform us of how he came here to escape his inner conflicts. This place has become very important in his life. He grew up playing here as a local child, he witnessed his sister’s attack here and, ultimately, he saw her buried beneath its grounds. I can see why this place is a focal point but why would coming here offer an escape? Surely he would be better off someplace more cheery? The nightmares that happened last issue are beginning to plague him and now the violence in his life is preventing him from getting any comfortable sleep. He is becoming paranoid and irritable. When a bush moves, he assumes it is Blackout and drives up to it shouting madly; making the homeless man, who had been hiding inside, panic and flee. Dan’s eyes convey all the sorrow necessary to sell me on what his character is going through. He is at an emotional breaking point.

 Not missing a beat, Blackout launches an attack on the homeless man. Since his appearance in issue two, Blackout has killed a priest, a dog, a blind man, a family, a comatose woman in intensive care, and a child. I really don’t think it’s possible for any sane person to be any more invested in seeing Blackout get his grand comeuppance at this point. And I REALLY hope he does soon. Blackout starts banging the homeless man’s head against the earth saying “Home is where the heart is, Edward…allow me to show you your home.” Blackout. Die now. Just, bloody, die. My prayers are finally answered, Dan transforms into Ghost Rider and slams into Blackout with his motorbike. YES! At this point, just because I didn’t love them enough earlier, H.E.A.R.T. show up and shoot Ghost Rider through the chest and into a mausoleum door. Blackout runs away. And I throw my comic across the room and stubbornly refuse to pick it up for around twenty minutes.

I never thought when I picked up the comic of a motorcycle riding skeleton that I would be examining gender politics but - boy - was I wrong. From a male perspective, which is sadly - ladies - all I can provide in these write ups, until very recently this book has handled its female characters reasonably well. We’ve had Stacy who has pushed Dan to come out of his shell, been there to support him after the accident and, in this issue, playfully pushes Dan onto the ground and mocks him when he makes a comment about other girls who have liked him. And, of course we have had his sister, Barbra who was a brave and fearless woman who attacked muggers and made Dan look slightly underwhelming by comparison. For all the good development in those characters, H.E.A.R.T. is little more than a caricature joke. In the last issue, they talked about themselves and how professional they were. Here, they are hot-headed Colonial Marines who shoot first and ask questions later. Much later.

X-Factor’s appearance here is entirely pointless. More pointless than The Punisher's apperance which, at the very least, served as a plot retcon when Ghost Rider decided he couldn’t shoot people in the face pointlessly. Here's a summary of everything that X-Factor archives in the space of their one shot appearance. They see a news report about child abductions. They wrongly attribute this to something happening in their comic. They travel to the graveyard. They see children leaving a hole. They realise the issue is about to end. Scott considers stealing Ghost Rider’s bike. He doesn’t. And I thought H.E.A.R.T. was bad? God help anyone who picked up this issue hoping for some X-Action. Speaking of which, Beast has some of the most awkward dialogue ever. Before descending into the catacombs, he dives in the air and demands “Allow X-Factor to enter the nether regions.” This only makes Scott’s reply worse “Lower yourself in and take up the rear.” No. Maybe it’s just that front cover doing something to my head.

When X-Factor aren’t appearing, this issue manages to round up some of the story quite well. It seems the kidnappings have been organized by a Morlock named Pixie who was bringing the children to safety from the threat of one of their own - Masque - who has gone rogue and is disfiguring children. The reasons why aren’t covered here, and I couldn’t help but consider if we had less pages of X-Factor messing around in the nethers we might have had more on this story. We also finally have an explanation as to why Ghost Rider has simply been refusing to pursue criminals conveniently at the end of the issue: daylight transforms him back into human form. Each issue must occur in a single night. Showing this happen sometime in the first three issues would have been so much simpler. But, I'm glad they've tied it up all the same.

At issues end, Blackout enters the catacombs to kill all the mutants. He throws Ghost Rider out of his way and savages Pixie before escaping into darkness. H.E.A.R.T., continue to make me invest in them by stealing Dan’s bike; tricking me into believing they were thinking, before blowing a hole in the earth only to open fire on children they should be saving because “they look like muties.” See...much later! Just what sort of stock, tactless soldiers are these? Newt could even turn Hudson into a hero. 

The resulting cave in traps the Ghost Rider in a logic loop. It is his essence, as a spirit of vengeance, to avenge Pixie. However, she requests he save the children stating "What good will your vengeance serve if more innocent blood is spilled while claiming it?” The fantastic art fully demonstrating his agony as he wrestles his very fibre. Finally, he summons his bike from the female soldiers, it takes all the children to the surface, allowing him to face Blackout. As they battle, the killer attempts to jog the daemons memory of Barbra. The Rider responds to this (indicating that both personalities within are struggling for supremacy?) The cavern collapses and only Ghost Rider emerges. H.E.A.R.T. go yaaaaay we rescued the children, shout girl power, and quickly depart. 

I take back my Colonial Marines comments. These dames are dimmer than Die Hard FBI agents. I suppose D.A.D.T.D.H.F.B.I.A. just didn't have that ring to it.

Quote of the 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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