Thursday, March 31, 2016

Ghost Rider (2006) # 19

Cover Artist: Mike Deodato Jr.
Published: March 2008
Original Price: $2.99

Title: "Revelations", Part 6
Writer: Daniel Way
Artist: Javier Saltares
Inker: Tom Palmer
Letterer: Joe Caramagna
Colorist: Dan Brown
Editor: Aubrey Sitterson
Executive Editor: Axel Alonso
Editor In Chief: Joe Quesada

Johnny Blaze's partner, truck driver Dixie, is held up inside a motel room with a body.  When the police attempt to enter the room, she fires a pistol at them, telling them to come back in half an hour, "it'll all be over by then!".  Elsewhere, Ghost Rider returns to the bridge where he had left the now-last Lucifer avatar chained.  He arrives to find that Lucifer has escaped and is in full demonic form, ready to fight.  Back at the hotel, the police attempt to use tear gas to flush Dixie out of the room, but wind up gassing themselves instead.

Ghost Rider and Lucifer have a brief fight, with the Devil seemingly getting the upper hand.  Blaze lets loose a massive blast of hellfire that strikes Lucifer in the chest.  The police bust into the motel room and find Dixie waiting beside the unconscious demonic body, a gearshift sticking out of its head.  She tells the cops that the body is that of the Devil.  Back on the bridge, the hellfire has started to eat away at Lucifer's body, and Ghost Rider explains that the Devil is only half as powerful as he thinks he is.  Dixie attempts to explain to the cops that the body on the bed is braindead, but still alive and containing half of Lucifer's power.  In two minutes she needs to kill it in order to save the world.  On the bridge, Johnny explains to Lucifer that he left one of the avatars braindead but alive, so Lucifer couldn't sense it, in order to siphon away half of the Devil's power.  Ghost Rider kills Lucifer with his chain, which causes the comatose body in the motel to wake up screaming.  The cops open fire in the room, killing both the Lucifer host and Dixie, who is caught in the crossfire.  Johnny Blaze, unaware of her death, has now set his desire for vengeance on the angel Zadkiel, who was responsible for cursing him to become the Ghost Rider.
After a very long search, Johnny will finally get to confront the angel Zadkiel in Ghost Riders: Heaven's On Fire # 6.
Johnny captured the brain-dead Lucifer host at the beginning of this arc in Ghost Rider (2006) # 14.
"Revelations" ends, bringing to a close Daniel Way's extremely hit-or-miss run on the series.  This one is a "miss", by the way.

To say that I've not been kind to "Revelations" would be a massive understatement, but at least the previous issues have had a few redeeming qualities, few and far between they may have been.  This issue, though, is terrible from start to finish and it all falls on Daniel Way's inability to write characters as anything but bumbling incompetents.  The scenes with the police at the motel are some of the most cringe-worthy panels this series have ever seen, and that's saying something.  "Ah done read through the manual one time when I's on the turlet."  That's how a Dan Way character talks, everyone, right before gassing the assembled police force with tear gas.  I can't tell if he's trying to ape Garth Ennis (who does this type of thing so much better) or is trying for parody of the same, but it fails spectacularly.  It's not funny, it's stupid and it wastes valuable comic space.

Though so little happens in this comic that "wasting space" may very well have been what Way was going for.  Johnny has an anticlimactic fight with Lucifer and his "big plan" is revealed and executed without Ghost Rider's participation, leaving the one sympathetic character, Dixie, in the lurch for character execution.  Johnny's plan isn't bad, but it's been telegraphed since issue # 14 and isn't the surprise that I'm sure the writer intended it to be.  It's painfully obvious what's going on, even from that that first issue of the arc, and letting it be Johnny's "a-ha!" moment doesn't feel particularly earned.  As for Dixie, our Johnny Blaze got her killed, there's no other way to look at it.  He left her alone to murder the Devil, brain damaged or not, in a small motel room.  A bullet to the chest is about the best outcome she could have had.  Even the final fight with Lucifer is spent with pages and pages of talking, with two whole pages devoted to the Devil saying "you're dumb!", Johnny replying "am not!", and the Lucifer continuing with "are too!" for what seems like a million panels. 

The artwork doesn't even seem particularly inspired this time, though like last issue the Saltares/Palmer team does a serviceable job.  They do a particularly great two-page splash of Ghost Rider hitting Lucifer with hellfire, that looks fantastic.  But when given such uninspired stuff to draw, page after page of redneck doofus cops and the Devil acting like a first grader, how can anyone expect them to bring their A-game?  The Saltares/Palmer art team will be back for the Ghost Rider: Danny Ketch mini-series about a year later, and it's amazing how much better they look when given a good story to work on.

I wasn't much of a fan of Dan Way's run on this series as it was being released, but upon re-reading it recently I've come to appreciate it a whole lot more.  The series started out with the nigh-unreadable "Vicious Cycle" arc, but issues 5 through 13 were good to even great at times (seriously people, that "World War Hulk" tie-in arc is amazing!).  The series ends even worse than it began, though, with a storyarc that could have seriously damaged the character irreparably had a lesser writer than Jason Aaron came on board to follow-through on the angel backstory.   
If it wasn't for that damn awful Mangaverse one-shot, this would easily be my pick for worst Ghost Rider comic of all time.  It's so bad I actually feel personally insulted for having to review it at all.   
Grade: F