Sunday, April 24, 2016

Ghost Rider: Danny Ketch (2008) # 2

Cover Artist: Clint Langly
Published: Jan. 2009
Original Price: $3.99

Title: Addict, Part 2: "Whose Face Gives No Light"
Writer: Simon Spurrier
Artist: Javier Saltares
Inker: Tom Palmer
Letterer: Joe Caramagna
Colorist: Dan Brown
Editor: Daniel Ketchum
Executive Editor: Axel Alonso
Editor In Chief: Joe Quesada

After becoming the Ghost Rider again for a brief minute, Daniel Ketch finds himself powerless once more as one of the criminals he'd been fighting holds a shotgun to his head. Before the criminal can shoot, his cell phone rings. When he answers it, a girl says "tell Danny to duck", which he repeats out loud. Suddenly, a bolt of energy shoots from the cell phone to a streetlight, which releases a lightning spitting demon. When the rest of the criminals get up to check on their leader, Mary LeBow pulls up on her scooter and releases a horde of pixies that attach themselves to the men before exploding. Mary scoops Danny up, but he pushes her away and rides off on his bike.
The next morning, a very hung-over Dan is visited at his run-down apartment by Shoba Mirza, the Hindu woman who rebuked his drunken advancements the night before. She tells him to drop the loser façade, as she can taste his recently-used power. The others have been speaking of him as a great warrior; something is killing their kind and she needs his help to stop them from being slaughtered one by one. When Dan tells her that he has no idea what's talking about, she blows him through the apartment's door and leaves to face her stalkers alone.

That evening, Dan and Mary meet at a diner so he can apologize for the way he acted the night before. He tells her what happened, getting a taste of the power again only for it to go away and leave him craving more. She says that she hasn't seen him this bad since the week after the exorcism, when he tried to set himself on fire in Times Square. She offers to test him with an electronic séance to find out what's wrong, and goes into the diner's bathroom to prepare the spell. While she's gone, a man bumps into Dan's table and spills his coffee. When the man gives Dan attitude, he stabs his hand with a fork and punches him in the face. The mysterious talking crow arrives and teases Danny with another dose, prompting him to get on his bike and follow. When Mary comes out of the bathroom, Danny has left her behind.

Danny and the crow, who says his name is Mister Eleven, stop on a rooftop overlooking an alley. Walking down the alley is Shoba Mirza, who is attacked by a group of humanoid rat creatures. Dan begs Eleven to give him another dose of the power so he can help her, but Eleven says that its not up to him, he has to convince the "boss" that he's good for it. Dan yells that the girl "needs the Rider!", but a flash of light proves that she already has one: Mirza has transformed into a four-armed Spirit of Vengeance atop a flaming elephant!

This mini-series takes place between Ghost Rider (2006) Annual # 1 and Ghost Rider (2006) # 20.
Daniel Ketch was last seen in Peter Parker: Spider-Man (1990) # 93, where he merged with his ancestor Noble Kale to once again become the Ghost Rider. Dan's brother Johnny Blaze subsequently became the Spirit of Vengeance's host in Ghost Rider (2001) # 1 and Danny had seemingly disappeared.
Daniel finally reappeared as an agent of Zadkiel in Ghost Rider (2006) # 22. Though that issue was published several months before, it actually takes place after the Ghost Rider: Danny Ketch mini-series.
Mister Eleven first appeared in Ghost Rider (2006) Annual # 1.
Poor Danny Ketch's life gets thrown into the meat-grinder as the mini-series progresses and readers get their first look at a new Spirit of Vengeance.
While it was obvious from the first issue that Daniel has had a rough time of it since the Ghost Rider was exorcised from his soul, but the real gravity of the situation didn't hit home until the full-page newspaper spread of him soaked in gasoline trying to light himself on fire. Simon Spurrier is really driving hard the idea of Dan reacting like an addict when it comes to the Ghost Rider's power, desperate for any chance to get a "dose" from his newfound benefactor. While its certainly an overly dramatizing rendition of someone strung out on an addiction, this storyline is nonetheless speaking to me on various levels. As someone who, in his day job, has worked with a number of alcoholics and drug abusers, I've seen people in much similar states as Ketch is in this story. Perhaps that's what makes me feel such a heightened sense of empathy for the character, along with the uneasiness invoked by seeing one of my teenage comic book heroes drug down so far into the gutter.
Spurrier also gives us two nice connections to the present-day Ghost Rider series with the characters of Mister Eleven and Shoba Mirza. Eleven was a character introduced by Stuart Moore and Ben Oliver in last year's Ghost Rider Annual, whom you might recall as me saying in that issue review was a character we'd likely never see again. Looks like I'm eating crow over that one (pun intended, 'natch), and I liked Eleven enough in the Annual that I'm glad to see him make a return appearance here. Shoba, on the other hand, is a brand-new character introduced as our first glimpse of the international Spirits of Vengeance that Jason Aaron has been hinting at in the ongoing title (and will later show in great detail). Shoba's not really given enough of a personality here to be taken as a character in her own right, but she does provide a nice last-page hook of interest. Plus, a 4-armed Ghost Rider on a giant elephant is a pretty wicked visual.
Providing said wicked visual is Javier Saltares and Tom Palmer, the art team from the final issues of Daniel Way's run on the regular series. While I still feel that Palmer's finishes don't mesh as well with Saltares' pencils as Mark Texeira, they still provide a solid body of work in this issue that's aided considerably by Dan Brown's dark and moody coloring.
While I have to admit that this series is nothing like I expected it to be - its a lot more depressing, for one thing - I still find myself enjoying it. Its disheartening to see Danny Ketch as a strung-out junkie, and maybe Spurrier has taken it TOO far into extremes with his depiction. One thing I'm certain of, no matter the resolution things are not going to get better for Danny anytime soon.
Grade: B+