Thursday, February 4, 2016

Ghost Rider (2011) # 2

Cover Artist: Adam Kubert
Published: Oct. 2011
Original Price: $2.99

Title: "Give Up the Ghost", Part 3
Writer: Rob Williams
Artist: Matthew Clark
Inker: Sean Parsons
Letterer: VC's Clayton Cowles
Colorist: Robert Schwager
Editor: Stephen Wacker
Editor In Chief: Axel Alonso

Mephisto transports himself and John Blaze to Hell's motorcycle garage, where the demon lord attempts to talk Johnny into signing a contract that will give him the bike of his choice and the chance to save the world from the fate his actions have doomed it to. Blaze punches Mephisto, but the demonic Servicer steps in and lifts Johnny from the ground. Blaze tells Mephisto that he can forget him ever becoming the Ghost Rider again, but Mephisto replies that Johnny can never be the Ghost Rider's host again anyway. Mephisto asks the man for help (even saying please!), but Blaze just laughs him off. The two are then transported to the base of the Asgardian Serpent, where they are invisible, and Mephisto explains that the Serpent's war of fear against humanity was the signal that Adam was waiting on to purge the world of all sin. The Serpent senses their presence, so Mephisto and Johnny return to Hell, where Blaze is shown a vision of the future: the human race, their sin burned from them by Adam and the Ghost Rider, live as emotionless zombies with no desires, flaws, or creativity. Mephisto needs Blaze because no one else alive has more experience controlling the Spirit of Vengeance and he must rescue the current host and get her away from Adam.

In Nicaragua, Alejandra has returned from her failed attack on Sin and her soldiers. Adam tells her to judge her fellow students in the temple, the people she was raised alongside, and free them from their sins. The Seeker, a reanimated corpse that chose Alejandra as the next Ghost Rider, tries to step in to stop Adam, but his armed bodyguards keep him at bay with gunfire. When Alejandra transforms into the Rider, she refuses to heed Adam's orders, so the two begin to fight. Adam grabs the Rider and forces her to comply.

Outside, Johnny Blaze arrives at the temple on his new motorcycle, blasting his way inside with his hellfire shotgun. Blaze shoots Adam in the shoulder, then partners up with the Seeker to power Alejandra down. However, the Servicer smashes into the temple and attacks; in response, the Ghost Rider unleashes a horde of demonic locusts from her mouth, which devours the Servicer in moments. When Johnny steps in and attempts to talk her down, the Rider turns on him and puts her scythe to his throat, declaring that she will wipe out all sin, starting with his.

The Servicer, the demon in charge of Hell's garage, made his first appearance in Amazing Spider-Man/Ghost Rider: Motorstorm # 1.

In Marvel Spotlight on Ghost Rider (1972) # 5 it was Satan who cursed Johnny Blaze. This was changed to Mephisto in Ghost Rider (1973) # 68 and remained until Ghost Rider (2006) # 1, where it was changed back to Satan. As of this issue, we're back to having Mephisto as the original demon that cursed Blaze. By the next series, I'm sure this will change yet again.

Of course, Mephisto was totally wrong when he said Blaze could never become the Ghost Rider again, because that's exactly what happens to Johnny in Ghost Rider (2011) # 9.

Johnny Blaze is once again wielding his hellfire shotgun, which he first used in Ghost Rider (1990) # 14. It was last seen in the possession of Kowalski in Ghost Rider (2006) # 32. Blaze is also wearing the leather jumpsuit that he wore when he first transformed into the Ghost Rider, way back in Marvel Spotlight on Ghost Rider (1972) # 5.

This issue is a tie-in to the "Fear Itself" crossover and takes place during the events of Fear Itself # 3.

This issue was reprinted in the Fear Itself: Ghost Rider and Ghost Rider: The Complete Series by Rob Williams trade paperbacks.

"Give Up the Ghost" turns the spotlight back on to Johnny Blaze, while Alejandra is just happy to go outside.

Despite the direct tie-in to "Fear Itself" in the first issue, this story is obviously just using the crossover as a springboard for its own storyline under fairly tenuous circumstances. So, after all the catastrophic events in Marvel Universe history, it was THIS one that spurred Adam to trigger his plan? Fair enough, fair enough. I'm less concerned with the Serpent and all that than I am with this comic's principle players, most of which don't get the greatest treatment here. Every time Blaze shows up in this series, I just grit my teeth and suffer through it, because Rob Williams' dialogue is atrocious. I get that Williams is portraying Johnny as a country boy and that's fine, but I happen to be from the south (Kentucky, in fact), and I'm pretty sure Williams is just winging this dialogue. Other characters get the short end of the stick as well: Adam is so one-dimensionally evil that it gets to the point of cliche, and the Seeker has an extremely obnoxious English accent (that, at least, gets flagged up in the dialogue). I don't get the point of the Seeker, it's yet another needless addition to Ghost Rider's backstory. If Zadkiel was the person responsible for giving out the Spirits of Vengeance to their hosts, where does this Seeker come into play?

Not everything about this comic is bad, though; in fact, there's a lot of good floating around in here, too. I like Williams' take on Mephisto being the ultimate shady used car salesman, it fits the character and works well on a comedic level. I also like that Alejandra gets her first actual bits of characterization in this issue, though she's still so much of a cipher that I had trouble caring about whether she gets rescued or not. She's an innocent girl that is super stoked to see the outside of the temple she was raised in, that's cute and it helps to sell her as a victim pulled between numerous powerful forces. There's also the nods to the past that I enjoyed, with Blaze running around in his 1970s jumpsuit (for some reason?) and using the hellfire shotgun again.

In comparison to the last two issues, Matthew Clark's artwork looks a bit rushed here (I assume he was pressed for time, considering he takes the next issue off before returning in # 4). I still like his portrayal of Blaze, though I think the character looks much better before he goes back to the blue jumpsuit. I'm disappointed that Clark reverts back to the 1960s design for Mephisto, because he did such an awesome job rendering him in John Romita Jr.'s style last issue. I also like the sleepy-eyed, blissfully ignorant facial expressions he gives to Alejandra during her few brief pages in her human form. The action scenes are still a bit stiff and he's still drawing the Ghost Rider's head much bigger than her body, but I'm content with the work he's turned out here.

There seems to be as much good as there is bad mixed into this Ghost Rider series, but it's not really selling me on the new status quo.

Grade: B-