Saturday, January 23, 2016

Ghost Rider (2006) # 10

Cover Artist: Arthur Suydam
Published: June 2007
Original Price: $2.99
 
Title: "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, Illinois", Part 3
Writer: Daniel Way
Breakdowns: Javier Saltares
Finishes: Mark Texeira
Letterer: Joe Caramagna
Colorist: Dan Brown
Editor: Michael O'Connor
Supervising Editor: Axel Alonso
Editor In Chief: Joe Quesada
 
 
SYNOPSIS
Halloween night: the Lucifer-possessed Jack O' Lantern rings the doorbell of a house, his army of zombies standing in the yard behind him. As the door opens, Jack's head is blown apart by a shotgun held by Sheriff Harry O'Connor.
 
Earlier that night, O'Connor has the Ghost Rider pinned under his car in the ruins of a wrecked building. Ghost Rider frees himself and threatens O'Connor not to delay him again, then throws the Sheriff out of the building moments before the gas-tank of his car explodes. Ghost Rider approaches Harry outside, but transforms into an exhausted Johnny Blaze, who collapses at O'Connor's feet. Elsewhere, at that same moment, the Jack O' Lantern raises his reanimated army of zombies from the cemetery, but becomes frustrated at their lack of intelligence.
 
Later, Blaze wakes up tied to a chair in Harry's basement. Harry tells him to think twice about catching on fire, as their surrounded by boxes of guns and explosives. Harry demands to know who Johnny is and why he's here, prompting Blaze to tell him his story and that he's chasing the devil, who has brought to life and possessed the bodies of the recently deceased. Harry asks what the devil looks like, and Johnny tells him he remembers a pumpkin and fire. This causes Harry to get up and make a phone call to Ned, the caretaker of the cemetery, who tells him that the first of many bodies that were dug up was that of Steven Levins. Ned then screams in pain and the phone disconnects. Harry explains to Johnny that Levins was a local boy that had been a super-villain named the Jack O' Lantern, but had recently been killed in New York by the Punisher. His body had been shipped back to Sleepy Hollow for burial, but now his body is gone. Harry unties Blaze and tells him that the two of them are going to set a trap for Jack. Johnny says that Lucifer gets off on pain and defiling people's beliefs, giving Harry an idea of where he may go next. Harry and Blaze go to the house of man named Darryl, whose home is covered with religious icons and a large neon sign that reads "REPENT". Darryl and his family leave, while Harry and Blaze start to lay their trap with the boxes of explosives from the Sheriff's basement.
 
In the present, after being shot by Harry on the front porch of the house, Jack O' Lantern reforms his head and orders his zombie horde to attack. Harry starts to shoot the zombies, then shouts that they're nothing to worry about, useless without orders. Jack says that he already knew that, to which Harry replies "I wasn't talking to you". Behind Jack, the Ghost Rider approaches, reaching for the chain across his chest.
 
ANNOTATIONS 
This issue is a "Casualties of War" tie-in to Marvel's crossover event Civil War.
 
The Jack O' Lantern was murdered by the Punisher in Civil War # 5.
 
Lucifer's plan to invade Earth by inhabiting the bodies of the recently deceased was revealed in Ghost Rider (2006) # 4.
 
This issue's cover by artist Arthur Suydam is an homage to Marvel Spotlight on Ghost Rider # 5, Ghost Rider's first appearance.
 
This issue was reprinted in the Ghost Rider: The Life & Death of Johnny Blaze and Ghost Rider by Daniel Way Ultimate Collection trade paperbacks.
 
REVIEW
A story-arc published in the summer time but is set during Halloween...something tells me the marketing department missed out on an opportunity to cash in here. Regardless, "Sleepy Hollow" builds to its climax in its third chapter while simultaneously spinning its wheels.
 
If there's been one major problem with Daniel Way's run so far, it's that at times he has a horrible problem with story pacing. That major flaw is evident in this issue, which features a flashback as the main thrust of the story between a framing sequence that had no significance other than to give a dynamic splash page. With a story that's so far been linear in nature, why introduce a flashback - a flashback to just a few hours previous, for that matter - into the story to needlessly confuse things? Yes, the information in the flashback is crucial to the story, but it was completely unnecessary in relation to the framing sequence, which would have been just as dynamic when placed as the chronological end sequence. It's a small nit-pick, sure, but it's one that pulled me out of the story as I was reading.
 
Despite that, I'm still enjoying Way's second arc on the series, and I'm getting a kick out of the story's villain, the Jack O' Lantern. While he still has the tone of voice of Lucifer, he seems to go about things with a bit more of a sadistic sense of humor that adds to the skewed tone of the story. Of course, no explanation is given as to how he was able to raise an army of zombies (other than "he's the Devil"), and so far said army hardly seems to be a threat against Johnny and Harry.
 
Speaking of Harry, we get a little more insight into his character here via his interactions with Blaze and the Ghost Rider. Way has pained Harry as an unlikable character, but with an honorable streak that also makes him endearing. I like Harry, even though I feel like I'm not supposed to. It's a thin line Way's walking with the character, who could so easily fall into the "haggard tough guy" cliché.
 
With the Ghost Rider himself, am I the only one who finds him immensely more fascinating when Blaze is out of the driver's seat in favor of the Spirit of Vengeance taking over? The Ghost Rider presented in this story feels more real, closer to the Ghost Rider that I enjoyed reading in the 90's. Of course, his attitude in this story makes me believe that's it NOT Zarathos inhabiting Blaze's body and is instead Noble Kale, and that's a mystery that Way is building very well. I'm hanging on in anticipation of what's coming next in that subplot.
 
Saltares and Texeira do their usual stellar job on this issue's artwork. Their work mixed with Dan Brown's colors paints the story in a hazy, almost dream-like aspect that helps tremendously toward selling the horrific aspects of the story. In particular, I loved the splash image of Jack O' Lantern on page 2, with the army of zombies behind him. Great, great stuff.
 
So "Sleepy Hollow" is maintaining its quality, despite what I feel is a huge misstep with the flashback sequence. Looking forward to the conclusion.
 
Grade: B-