Friday, 3 June 2016

Ghost Rider #23 (March 1992)

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 #23

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

Overview: Ghost Rider struggles to free himself as Deathwatch flees the scene.

1 DAY UNTIL Beemageddon!

Exhaustion. Fatigue. Despair. I must go on. I must finish what I started. I have come too far alone on this journey to go back. I cannot let Abe win. Allow my conscience and pride to be reduced to a seething venom farm greater, far more potent than even a million stings. With less than 24 hours remaining on my clock, rest was not an option afforded to me. And so I moved.

Ghost Rider has been buried alive. Following the explosion at Deatwatch’s tower the villain has left him amid the charred rubble of a former seat of power. Mackie’s writing paints the fine details to accompany and compliment the utter misery of it all. The short burst sentences conveying the suffocating weight of all the earth. The pain in the heroes every movement. “So much death. It seeps through rock and debris. The innocent. Deathwatch’s killers. All buried together. All dead.” In just three pages the narration has summarised all a reader needs to know. In death we are all equal. Dirt in the earth. And as Ghost Rider slowly. Laboriously. Curdles over jagged, broken wood. All around him are the moans and wailings of the dying. All unidentifiable. Not since issue 7 has such emotion leapt from the pages of this comic.

Beneath the ground there is darkness, the unknown and slow movement. Above it there is light, the answers and a fast moving media. Linda wei begins her report and spin on the situation, the flames still burning in the background. The camera reflects the fire in her eye and for a moment maybe we see who she really is. The true demon in her heart as she reports, bodies wheeled past on emergency bedding bound for a hospital or morgue. Ghost Rider did this. He was the last person to enter it. The charitable organization has been destroyed by him. The basement filled to capacity with the homeless and the casualties are too high to be estimated.

“If there can be any solace found in a grievous time such as this, it is that witnesses report that the ghost rider was destroyed by his own hand.” Perhaps her sickest statement is referring to Deathwatch, last seen in a fit of ecstasy, as unable to be reached “but reports are that he is grief stricken at the loss of human life.”

By the time a reader has reached the 4th page and sees Ghost Rider rising to his feet and punching through the earth in rage shouting “NO!” the shift in the energy of the comic is immediately exhilarating. Never before in four pages have I been so determined, so invested to see a hero rise up and take control of his situation and destiny.

But Deathatch is already “tying up loose ends” he murders his secretary and with the help of two new characters named Hag and Troll he plans a raid on the prison holding all his men captured following the assault on Jack’s house. Not to liberate them. To kill them. The stations power is cut and the three work their way through slaughtering all. Tying Deathwatch’s escape in with Dan’s entrapment really makes for compelling reading in this issue.

Once more we also have none main characters becoming involved in the action. Badilinio equips his men with night vison goggles but they are too late to stop the three mutants who dodge all their shots, save one shot that strikes Deathwatch in the shoulder, before disappearing. Badilinio is still being sold to us this point as significant in some way and I still wonder how he will tie into the larger mythology of the book later.

Ghost Rider finds a dying woman who pleads with him to save her babies. He knows he can’t but he remains with her while she passes and this continues to fuel his desire to break free of the earth. Ghost Rider has really removed himself from heroics at times in this comic and it is good to see a more human side to him. Whether he is a demon, an elemental force or a personification of something we have had progression out of him. In the past he has slipped back into mindless “no escape” and “vengeance must be served” grand standings and acted callous of hostage situations but the comic has used this as a frmaing device for its humor. This issue is literally buried in agony and through it we have the keener sense of Ghost Rider as an actual super hero. You know, a character that we can care about.

He digs and digs until he finds a cove where survivors crawl away from him opting to risk their lives in the unsteady earth rather than face something the media has portrayed as a dangerous threat. The earth gives way and begins to drown a young girl and in an instant he moves in to save her. When he lifts her his mind flashes back to Barbra Ketch. He freezes. “You will be safe” he says.
Linda Wei continue to report on the surface - rescue workers are giving up – there is nothing but death here – the only comfortable thought for all at home is that Ghost Rider is gone. Suddenly the ground opens up and he appears carrying the young girl. Her report continues live from the scene: the ghost rider has “taken a young girl hostage. Police are moving in.”

Guns are aimed as he drives toward and ambulance and places her in the back before driving back and pulling all the survivors from the hole. The police are dumbfounded.
“Cut the live feed.” says Linda and shakes her finger across her throat. The camera man can’t. The studio is demanding more footage of this breaking news development. The fog is finally clearing.

Deathatch is at the airport and plans to head to the middle east where a dictator – Saddam Hussein – pays anyone who can support in the killing of men, women and children. But it turns out, through an informant that he has one more loose end to take care of. And it’s now Ghost Rider. Snowblind is still alive and in critical condition. Ghost Rider and beats him there. Lifting up the crippled man he demands to know where Deathwatch may be heading stating that he is going to make an exception in his vow to never kill. Only for Snowblind to drop a bombshell on him. Deathwatch has never been human

It’s never been officially stated in the series that Deathwatch was a mutant telepath so I suppose he could be a deamon telepath or alien telepath or whatever else he could be that would allow Mackie to remove him from the series without upsetting the Marvel image too much.
Even with such an abrupt and awkward ending it has to be said. What a fantastic issue.

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