Tuesday, 3 May 2016

Thirty Days of: Ghost Rider #1 (May 1990)

File:GhostRider vol 2 issue 1.jpg
In an effort to increase content on the site and in the spirit of G.Kendall and Captain Logan, I (Abe) have challenged J-Max of our Hourglass reviews to apply his trade to 30 issues of the original Ghost Rider run. To encourage him in this task failure will result in a attack by DEADLY BEES.

How long will J-Max last? Did I gather deadly (and angry) bees for no reason? lets join him as he reivews issue 1 of GHOST RIDER

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

Overview: Dan and Barbra Ketcher are strolling late one night through the cemetery when they are almost mugged by a gang of teenagers. Dan acts cowardly and compliant while Barbra attacks them in defence scaring them away. Moments later, a gunshot attracts both groups to the centre where armed men threaten a convey belonging to the Kingpin over a mysterious suitcase. One of these men is Deathwatch, a telepathic murderer who works in the World Trade Centre who seems to be involved in a power struggle for the city. His men murder the criminals and then, noticing they are being watched launch an attack which wounds Barbra. 

Dan pulls his sister away to hide in a nearby scrapyard and becomes scared when he believes he sees eyes observing him from the dark. Mysterious lights in the night illuminate a disused motorcycle which Dan promptly tries to hotwire to take his wounded sister to hospital. Suddenly, fire leaps from the bike transforming him into the titular character. After battling Deathwatch’s men and saving the teenagers, one of the youths uses the chance to escape with the suitcase in the belief that it may contain drugs. The Ghost Rider races Barbra to hospital beating off a police pursuit and destroying a road block. That night the teenage gang open the case and are confused by the strange capsules inside. Both the Kingpin and Deathwatch send their men to recover the contents. 

Pop Culture References: One of the children shouts “The boogeyman’s gonna get ya.”(Halloween). “You’ve been reading too much Stephen King little brother.” 
The scene inside the graveyard and the name Barbra is perhaps a reference to the movie Night of the Living Dead. All of these references seem firmly place us in the horror category.

Review: In the wake of the late 80s graphic novel craze, there was a sweeping change in the way the humble comic book was perceived across the world. Swamp Thing, Sandman and The Dark Knight Returns had pushed the medium in an entirely new more literary, sophisticated and gritty direction amongst other extremely overused adjectives. Ghost Rider does not. I repeat, it doesn not even attempt to do this. Ghost Rider knows exactly what it is. That is: it is a comic about a guy with a flaming skull for a head who drives a flaming motorcycle and attacks villains with his big, flaming chain. It’s a 90s comic.

Thankfully; instead of testosterone injected wrestlers spraying the world with bullets as big breasted, badly drawn women hurl through the air accompanied by broken glass, Ghost Rider takes a different approach to the young asult market, focusing on atmosphere, horror and some fantastically cheesy scenes that would make the average Van Damme fight sequence blush with shame.

The opening page informs us in B movie style “When innocent blood is spilled a spirit of vengeance is born and Daniel Ketch finds himself transformed into the ghost Rider.” Before we see Daniel and his sister as they traipse aimlessly through a twilit graveyard. With such careless abandonment for discretion this early on, I can only assume that atmosphere is going to be more important to this series than the story itself. And the captions do add an almost Twilight Zone/Tales from the Crypt serial knowingness as they set the scene “Here the spirits of the dead have found comfort and piece” I can almost taste Rod Stirling’s smoke as I read it.

The art direction and inking is easily the most defining element of the book and it would be impossible to go on without complimenting it. The redesign of Ghost Rider with leather, spikes and chains would forever become the popular image of the character from this point forward. Mark Texeira and Gregory Wright do a superb job of handling the environment; crafting in it as a dark entity of living breathing horror itself. Which is a good thing as the series has only just begun and already Mackie seems to have found some really ham fisted dialogue to give the goons who come across sounding like Rocky and Mugsy.

The first issue pushes the story along. We gain a sense of who Daniel Ketcher is as he jumps at every corner and allows others to intimidate and belittle him. We also have a good image of Ghost Rider who, rather than immediately take Dan’s wounded sister to hospital, assaults Deathwatch’s men whilst demanding vengeance. Even Death Watch himself isn’t above the Darth Vader trope of murdering his own men who, incidentally are all ninjas that work in the World Trade Centre.  
It’s silly, violent stuff but more importantly it is fun and with the chemical weapon storyline (which i'm pretty sure is where they are going with the briefcase), the Freudian way that Daniel refers to his police chief father as Captain Dolan, and the declaring of Ghost Rider as a menace (ala Spiderman 2002) leave enough additional ideas floating around in the mist to make me want to see what happens next.

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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