Friday, March 18, 2016

Ghost Rider Special Edition (1995) # 6

Cover Artist: Paris Karounos
Published: 1995
Original Price: N/A

Title: "Zarathos Unbound"
Writer: Chris Cooper
Artist: Paris Karounos
Inker: Derek Fisher
Letterer: Janice Chiang
Colorist: Jim Hoston
Editor: Glenn Herdling

Ghost Rider and Vengeance have joined John Blaze in the hospital room of Linda Addams, whom Blaze has just saved from being killed by Skinner.  The three Spirits of Vengeance discuss the events of the last several issues, now with the knowledge that Linda's blood is the key to freeing Zarathos from his dimensional prison.  While they talk, the skeletal Skinner manages to cut Linda's arm with a blade before being stopped by Blaze, waking Linda up in a blast of mystical energy.  Above her bed a portal opens, from which enters Zarathos, now returned to Earth.  The Spirits of Vengeance put up a brief fight, but are all three defeated by the seemingly-triumphant Zarathos.
This mini-comic was the sixth in a series packaged with Toy Biz's line of Ghost Rider action figures. This issue came with the Ghost Rider figure.
There's really no place to fit this series into established continuity. It obviously takes place after "Siege of Darkness" and Ghost Rider (1990) # 50, but the relationships between Ghost Rider, Blaze, and Vengeance certainly don't fit the characters at the time.
If this follows the standard Marvel continuity (which is questionable, at best), then Zarathos was banished to another dimension at the conclusion of the "Siege of Darkness" crossover in Midnight Sons Unlimited (1993) # 4.
Ghost Rider Special Edition (1995) # 7, which would have featured the conclusion to this story, does not actually exist.  The first wave of action figures originally planned to have Zarathos as the seventh figure in the line, but the figure was pushed back to the second wave.  The mini-comics released with the second figure wave start with # 8 and the delayed Zarathos figure was packaged with random issues from the rest of the series.
Zarathos finally makes his return to Earth and the heroes all fail spectacularly at their job.  Way to go, Spirits of Vengeance!

Chris Cooper had what was probably both an easy yet unenvious job when it came to writing these comics.  He had to introduce characters in 6-page installments and keep them relatively kid friendly, which is tricky for a horror series like Ghost Rider.  Now that all of the characters (outside of Zarathos) have had their spotlight, this one turns into an extended recap.  That's due to this issue being packaged with the only other actual Ghost Rider figure in the line, so having it be mostly a rehash of "what's gone before" is probably intentional.  After all, how many kids would likely skip the Blackout and Skinner figures in favor of just the two Ghost Riders?  A good majority, I'd say.  So not much happens in this installment, though it also features the biggest event so far, Zarathos' return to Earth, which the whole series had been leading up to.  Zarathos gets to be the badass for two pages, stomping holes in the heroes' faces and making his victory speech...too bad we'll never know how he was defeated, since issue # 7 doesn't exist!

Paris Karounos continues as the artist for these mini-comics, and his work seems a lot sloppier here than in the previous installments.  I can't imagine the conditions these comics were produced under, I assume they had accountants waiting with censoring notices waiting beside the art tables, which would explain how Linda is cut by Skinner with no blood being produced.   Still, Karounos' art was sharper in the last few issues, which is a let down for the big Zarathos fight here.

So that's it, kids, Zarathos wins!  Forever! 

I hate stories without an ending, though luckily I wasn't waiting with baited breath to see how this one gets resolved.  We can imagine Ghost Rider was saved by, oh let's say...Moe.
Grade: C

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