Thursday, January 21, 2016

Ghost Rider (2006) # 8

Cover Artist: Arthur Suydam
Published: April 2007
Original Price: $2.99
 
Title: "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, Illinois", Part 1
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
In the small town of Sleepy Hollow, Illinois, a late night date between Cameron Fillardi and Emily Stouffer takes a sinister turn. Cameron drives Emily out into the countryside and demands that she have sex with him. He stops the car and gets out, but Emily locks her door and refuses to go with him. Suddenly, a bright light rushes by and Emily sees blood pouring down Cameron's body outside the car. The boy's body falls over, beheaded.
 
Early the next morning, three men in a large house discuss the boy's death and how the super-hero stuff in New York is a sign of the world getting more and more crazy. A casualty of the super-hero war in New York was Steven Levins, the son of a couple living in Sleepy Hollow, and his funeral had been held in secret a week ago because of the troubles he had had with the law. The discussion turns back to Cameron Fillardi's death, and how his godfather Harry, the town Sheriff, is handling things. At the hospital, Sheriff Harry checks in on Emily and her parents. Harry asks for three minutes alone with the distraught girl, where he tells her that Cameron had a history of raping girls, and if she defended herself from that it's okay to tell him. She denies that, then tells Harry that all she saw was a "flash of light" and she heard a "sound".
 
As he leaves the hospital, Harry calls Roger Greer, the town's District Attorney to talk about Cameron's death. Harry tells him that Emily knows nothing and that they need to leave her alone, prompting Greer to ask if Harry is covering for his godson. Harry warns him not to ask that again, then tells Greer that a grave was desecrated last night at St. Mary's Cemetery. Harry gets another call from a friend at the local country club golf course, who tells him that they found a man sleeping in the bushes, covered in blood. Harry turns his car around and speeds toward the golf course, where three golfers stand guard over the bloody and confused Johnny Blaze.
 
Harry picks Blaze up and takes him into the club's locker room, where he starts talking about how the golfers roughed him. Johnny tries to tell him that the men didn't do anything to him, but Harry produces a golf club and starts to hit him with it. Harry drops a knife in front of Blaze and tells him that he pulled it out and came at him with it, an obvious frame-up. Harry asks him about the blood, but Johnny has no memory of how it got on his clothes. Harry hits him with the club again, and Blaze warns him to stop before something bad happens. In a flash of light, Blaze transforms into the Ghost Rider, knocking Harry off his feet.
 
Harry wakes up in the hospital, where one of his deputies tells him that the entire locker room was set on fire - everything was destroyed, but Harry didn't have a mark on him. Harry gets up to leave, but the deputy tells him not to use the front doors due to all of the reporters outside. There have been two more murders, teenagers that were beheaded. The witnesses described the killer has male, with his head on fire. The deputy turns around to find Harry gone, escaped out the window. Meanwhile, at the home of the Levins' family, the older couple are tied up at the kitchen table, Marty dead and bleeding. Phyllis asks her son, Stevie, to untie her...but the Jack O' Lantern tells her "not now...I've had a really busy day".
 
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 was reprinted in the Ghost Rider: The Life & Death of Johnny Blaze and Ghost Rider by Daniel Way Ultimate Collection trade paperbacks.
 
REVIEW
Johnny Blaze enters the Civil War and begins his first encounter with an established super-villain...sort of.
 
Okay, I'm about to go into a long-winded rant about a few things concerning this comic - but first, I want to preface said rant with a general comment on the progress of Daniel Way's Ghost Rider. It's getting better, it really really is. The last four issues have steadily improved on one another following the disastrous opening arc, and I'm starting to come around more to Way's direction for the series. There are still some problems, to be sure, but the glaring plot holes are starting to become less obvious and the characterization is getting a lot more believable.
 
My problem with this issue concerns Marvel's advance solicitations, which the company send out three months in advance for readers and shop owners to order with. These solicitations are usually fun to look at it, giving peaks at upcoming comics, but on occasion they can prove to be an annoyance. Case in point, the solicits for the next few months of Ghost Rider. Because of these advance previews, readers have known about the Jack O' Lantern's return for several months now, and normally that wouldn't be a problem. But upon reading this issue, it's obvious that Daniel Way was intending on Jack's appearance to be a major surprise for the readers at the issue's end...a surprise spoiled months ago by Marvel. It bleeds all dramatic tension out of the mystery Way is trying to set up, because everyone that frequents the internet comic community was already in on the secret. We knew that Johnny Blaze wasn't the murderer, because the Lucifer-possessed Jack O' Lantern was on the preview cover to # 9. It's just frustrating, and I'd imagine especially so for Way.
 
But as for the story itself, like I said - things are getting better. Someone on the SuperHero Hype board mentioned that issue reminded them of the first Scarecrow story from volume 2, and I agree with that to a point. Jack O' Lantern is not a villain normally associated with the Ghost Rider, and this is the first time an established super-villain (even if it's one possessed by Satan) has appeared in the new series. It's a good way to break up the potential monotony of having Lucifer be the villain in every single issue, because as they say variety is the spice of life.
 
Something else that this issue reminds me of is the original Man-Thing series by Steve Gerber. Gerber's stories in that book mainly revolved around different supporting characters as the leads, with the Man-Thing itself acting more as a background catalyst for the plots. That's what we get here with Johnny Blaze and the Ghost Rider (who only makes a one page appearance), acting as part of the mystery left to the Sheriff to solve. Harry is not a likeable character, especially considering his role as the lead in this issue, but I believe that's the point. We've all seen crooked cops in stories, to the point where they've become clichés, but Harry's not crooked - he's just determined to get his job done regardless of collateral damage. His anger at what happened to his godson causes him to jump to the conclusion that Johnny is the killer he's looking for, pushing him to violent extremes to extract a confession. Harry easily could have been a caricature of the "corrupt cop" archetype, but Way manages to sidestep that...now we just have to wait and see where the character is taken from here.
 
To the relief of a good number of fans, Javier Saltares and Mark Texeira are back this month on the art duties. Despite not having many otherworldly things to illustrate - one splash page and one panel for Ghost Rider and Jack O' Lantern, respectively - the artists still do their jobs well. In fact, these two could probably illustrate the phone book and make it seem exciting. It's good to have them back after their two-issue break.
 
Even though the mystery had long been spoiled by events out of the creative team's control, this was still a good set-up for the book's second extended story arc. Here's hoping the rest of the story is just as good.
 
Grade: B+