Thursday, March 31, 2016

Marvel Comics Presents (1988) # 90

Cover Artist: Sam Keith
Published: Sep. 1991
Original Price: $1.25

Title: Servants of the Dead, Part 1: "Live Underground"
Writer: Howard Mackie
Artist: Guang Yap
Inker: Bud LaRosa
Letterer: Janice Chiang
Colorist: Fernando Mendez
Editor: Terry Kavanagh
Editor in Chief: Tom DeFalco

In the tunnels that run beneath Manhattan, mutant soldier Cable is investigating the movements of the sewer dwelling Morlocks. When the Morlocks spot him, Cable drops to the floor, only to have the ground collapse beneath him. Elsewhere, at Cypress Hills Cemetery, Dan Ketch is visiting the grave of his sister, Barbara.

Cable makes his way through an underground stream, miles away from his previous location. When he goes further into the caverns he comes across a young woman that's running for her life. She tells Cable that her pursuers are the Grateful Undead, two of whom attack Cable with throwing knives. Cable kills the two assassins, though the girl tells them they are not killed quite so easily. The girl leads Cable through the tunnels, eventually bringing them beneath Cypress Hills. Cable is attacked by two giant hands that come up from the ground, belonging to a "guardian" that Cable swiftly kills. Cable shoots the ceiling with his rifle, hoping to blow a way to the surface. This results in Dan seeing an explosion in the cemetery, followed by the girl's screams. Danny touches the gas cap of his motorcycle, transforming him into Ghost Rider. The Rider descends into the tunnel, where he finds the girl being carried away by the Grateful Undead and Cable pinned to the wall by a net. Cable tells Ghost Rider to cut him down because they're about to be attacked.

Ghost Rider last appeared in Quasar # 24.

This issue is reprinted in Ghost Rider and Cable: Servants of the Dead # 1.

This issue of MCP also contained stories featuring Wolverine, Nightmare, and the Beast.

Ghost Rider's popularity has awarded him the lead slot (sort of) in Marvel Comics Presents and his first task is to team up with another recent Marvel phenomenon, Cable.

Wolverine had long been the lead character in MCP, and Marvel was not about to change that. But they also had Ghost Rider, whose popularity had gone through the roof following his revamp and would also sell tons of copies were he the lead story. So they split the difference, literally, by making the series a flip book: on one side would be the Wolverine cover and story and the other would be Ghost Rider's (with two other random character stories, of course).

Thankfully, at least at the beginning, Howard Mackie was brought on to write this second Ghost Rider series, which at least kept things consistent with the regular series. Naturally, the stories in MCP couldn't be that important to the character (otherwise they'd appear in the regular series), so this series was essentially billed as "Ghost Rider Team-Up". As with most anthology titles, the results were a few excellent stories and quite a few terrible ones. This one, luckily, is one of the decent ones.

At this point, Cable had only been around about a year or so - I'm not even sure if X-Force had launched yet. He was, nevertheless, incredibly popular and had been one of the many reasons for Rob Liefeld's hugely successful run on New Mutants. He was not, however, a character that one would think of as a natural partner for Ghost Rider. As with many of the random team-up stories, this one hinges on coincidence to bring the characters together. Not much else happens, with the characters meeting only on the last page of the story. Taken by itself, this first chapter sets up a reasonably interesting mystery involving the Grateful Undead (groan, really Howard?). The artwork is by Guang Yap, who I have absolutely no recollection of other than this story. He has a good, solid grip on the characters - nothing flashy, which is why he probably didn't go far in his career, but he tells the story well.

Ghost Rider has been franchised off into a second ongoing title, and at least it had its own identity that marked it as different from the regular Ghost Rider series. This opening chapter of "Servants of the Dead" is a good start to what could be a solid team-up story.

Grade: B