Friday, 3 June 2016

Ghost Rider #26 (June 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 #26

Blood Feud!

Credits: Howard Mackie (writer), Ron Wagner (artist), Gregory Wright (colourist), Mike Witherby (inker).

Overview: Ghost Rider is captured and brainwashed by aliens.

1 DAY UNTIL Beemageddon!

Review: Never before have I found it so hard to continue with my 30 days review as I have as I have at the point of finishing this issue. It almost seems a cruel joke that the worst is left till last. With less than three hours to go the buzzing sound below has moved to the very walls around me and the ceiling far above. I can hear the vibration humming as I type. Humming like the roaring motor of Ghost Rider hell bound motorcycle as he moves into an unknown future without his villains, his human cast or his human identity. 

Ghost Rider drives to a graveyard, ends up in hell and is attacked by aliens. The end. Oh, how I really wish I could end it there. How I wish I could give you everything the comic offers as shallow as it stands. But I can’t because I have to talk about X-men. 

The story is a through and through X-men tail about the mutants tracking down the aliens who are being worshipped by a clan that has apparently murdered Gambits bother. None of this adds anything to the series at all other than being an opportunity to have the X-men appear – who had recently had their animated series showcased on television. Why was Ghost Rider suddenly playing second fiddle to other Marvel titles? It was still selling rather strongly at this point. I already feel like I’m talking about an x-men comic book and not a Ghost Rider one.

This is a story crossover than began in X-men #8, if you haven’t read X-men #8 – which I haven’t - you’re supposed to think you’re in trouble but, I’ll save you the concern by telling you it’s about aliens and them punching aliens.

So how do we get to this point? I hear you ask. Ghost Rider is in New Orleans during Mardi Gras for some reason – perhaps explained in another marvel comic, perhaps not. I suppose now that Dan is dead there really isn’t much of a reason for him to remain in New York but there’s really no reason for him to be at a Mardi Gras festival either. He drives to a church. A shadowy figure bursts from the stained glass window and kills someone right in front of him. He follows this person into the church which is apparently a portal to hell, and he winds up in a room filled with daemon aliens and daemon alien cultists. They completely overwhelm him and leave him in a position where he needs rescuing by the x-men. The x-men show up and begin wiping out the demons but are too late and Ghost Rider has been possessed and is now the villain in his own comic needing to be taken down by the heroes.

With issue #25 we saw the hero loose his identity as Dan Ketch was finally, cold bloodedly murdered by Blackout and left abandoned on the cold earth. With issue #26 we have the only logical outcome to this: the comic losing its identity. Sure Ghost Rider has fought strange foes in the past with perhaps Zodiak being the strangest, stupidest and purest of these but he’s never fought aliens and alien cults. And here he does: in hell. We have no returning characters, a completely foreign environment, a narrative continuing over from another comic book, demon aliens, and, in the end, Ghost Rider isn’t even the hero – let alone the main character.

The thing that had really worked for the series issue to issue was the gritty suburbanite feel to it with Ghost Rider playing the role of vigilante against a rouge gallery of psychopaths and eccentric action villains. The hero was an underdog who gradually became more confident and active as time went on and when issues were too dark we had the humanity brought out by the family and friends in the main characters life. All of these elements created or could create scenes that were funny and quirky, tense or horrific and allowed the comic to move in different directions at once.

All we have here.  All that’s left is hollow action without any personality or colour or entertainment beyond the admittedly excellent drawings. The only consistency to this comic and all the comics that came before it are the creative team and the fact that still, three years in, the comic is dropping hints at some large scale origin story. Only now, it is far beyond being annoying it is simply boring. And I was ultimatly bored by this issue. And no mind controlling daemon alien could convince me otherwise.

I was nearly there, nearly finished. One more review, and I was free. I closed my word document down to find a pop up had emerged on my screen. It was Nicholas Cage, his eyes glowing wildly with madness.

2 hours to go.

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