Friday, 3 June 2016

Ghost Rider #27 (July 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 #27

Vengance: Pure and Simple.

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

Overview: Ghost Rider and the X-men fight the brainwashing aliens.

1 DAY UNTIL Beemageddon!

This issue was the first Ghost Rider comic I owned as a kid. I didn’t pick it up in the store because it looked good or because I was interested in Ghost Rider at the time or even out of curiosity - I’m sure many did. I picked it up because it had somehow became wedged in with the X titles that I was buying and purchased by accident. It's appropriate for both of these reasons that I end with it.

By The time Ghost Rider #27 was released, the comic was in trouble from heavy competition in the widening anti-hero market. Frank Miller's Sin City had just finished its run in Dark Horse Comics - offering a competitive vigilante styled suburban crime noir. Todd Mcfarlane had brought Spawn to massive commercial acclaim through Image comics – offering a competitive hell themed vigilante book. Both writers brought new readership to their prospective companies with their pop cultural lore and their willingness to remove inhibition from their heroic figure. 

There were no rules anymore.

Not only were these issues a problem, the comic was deeply struggling with its own sense of identity. Where before Ghost Rider would be attacking rapists in an alley or fighting city wide corruption with chains and hellfire he was now battling aliens and acting as a supporting cast member in his own comic.

It seems I had missed even more story as this issue follows on from X-men #9 so Ghost Rider is normal again and out for revenge but I don’t feel cheated in the slightest because once again all this issue offers is a wall to wall fight with uninteresting villains. The Brood are a note for note take on Ridley Scott’s Alien creatures. They have an insect like appearance, gunk people to walls and come out of the walls to attack. The heroes stumble through the hive and kill the queen before meeting up on the surface.

The Brood characters in this arc seem to sole be here to give Ghost Rider a legitimate excuse to become more violent and callous in his own comic which, for some reason, he is not allowed to be when real people are involved. Here he is free to go full Deathwish.

Everything is high octane, explosive daemon carnage porn cranked up to eleven with lots of shouting and flashy art that admitedly would look great on a wall but perhaps even better in the bin. Suddenly, I realised I wanted to stop reading. I was looking at splashy nothing. How Ghost Rider had finally arrived at this point was beyond me. 

Zap there’s an alien dead.

Tink there goes another.

If he had just had his origin story told years ago we wouldn’t need to reach the point where he is so stuck for villains that we need to have him in the earth fighting insects to see who has the bigger chain or mandible. Ghost Rider and the comic had lost its humanity but I was not about to lose mine. I couldn't stop. The insects couldn’t win.

This comic was clearly an example of fan service. Given the growing anti-hero climate. Cyclops, Beast, Jubilee, Rouge and Psylock just sit down somewhere in the hive while Wolverine, Ghost Rider and Gambit head off to have the big fight because it will look even better that way.

Ghost Rider occasionally comments hinting that Dan may not be as dead as we think he is so I’m guessing this is Marvel damage control as they try out what the comic would be like without human characters and going full daemon. The answer is self-evident.

Meanwhile, we have a splash page of Dan floating around in the ether with shattered mirror fragments dancing around him showing the X-men alien showdown. “What have you done to me?” wails Dan. What an appropriate thing to ask.

Slash “dis feels good.”

Crack “They bleed.”

“In your exhausted state, you will come to serve me.” says the insect queen.

The one good that is preventing me from feeling lost in the hive of action is Johnny Blaze coming back into the comic. He’ll move the plot forward! Hearing about a Ghost Rider sighting he rushes in and joins the daemon as he rips the alien’s skin off from the mouth down. Then he shoots it with hellfire to kill it. Then wolverine stabs it in the eye. Then Gambit throws an explosive card at its head – just to be sure. Then cyclops comes in and vaporizes the body. 

Then all the gritty, edgy heroes head to the surface and fist bump before wolverine has a cigar. Thus bringing the issue and insect menace to an end. 

The buzzing around me had stopped, and now there was stillness.

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