Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Marvel Comics Presents (1988) # 94

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

Title: Servants of the Dead, Part 5: "Pursuit"
Writer: Howard Mackie
Artist: Guang Yap
Inker: Bud LaRosa
Letterer: Janice Chiang
Colorist: Fernando Mendez
Editor: Terry Kavanagh
Editor in Chief: Tom DeFalco

A grave robber witnesses Ghost Rider, Cable, and the girl they've rescued emerge from beneath Cypress Hills Cemetery.  After they've left, the grave robber is then killed by the Warriors of the Dead.  In an abandoned warehouse in Brooklyn, Ghost Rider and Cable have brought the girl, who wakes up and attempts to run away.  Cable convinces her to tell them about the Grateful Undead, who she explains are assassins well-versed in the mystic and warrior arts, at war with countless other subterranean races.  She remembers being taken to a sacrificial place, but cannot remember her own name.  She realizes that they are flesh eaters, they eat the dead.  As she finishes her story, the three realize that the Warriors of the Dead have followed them and are about to attack.
This issue is reprinted in Ghost Rider and Cable: Servants of the Dead # 1.
This issue of MCP also contained stories featuring Wolverine, Nova, and the Thing.
"Servants of the Dead" gives us an info dump that really doesn't explain much of anything while still serving to mark time. 

This is one very frustrating storyline.  The serials that run in Marvel Comics Presents are naturally hampered by their 8-page limit, which means each installment needs to matter while at the same time both moving the story forward and providing at least a bit of action to keep it being 8 pages of talking heads.  The Ghost Rider and Cable storyline, so far at least, has been a text book example of how that format can hinder a creative team, with each chapter just devolving into "heroes fight villain, then cliffhanger". 

This issue at least slows things down enough to shed some light on the Grateful Undead, who are apparently one of a number of subterranean human races that have been at war for centuries?  They are also cannibals who engage in ritual sacrifice, which makes one wonder just where they got all their bazookas that they used back in the second chapter.  Anyway, the girl gets a bit of a personality upgrade, though she's now apparently a knife wielding gymnast on top of being a kidnap victim.  I suppose the race of underground dwellers isn't out of the ordinary for the Marvel Universe, but to make the Grateful Undead both modern and archaic at the same time seems like a confused mishmash. 

Guang Yap continues on artwork and remains perfectly serviceable, with a great escape scene at the chapter's start that features the heroes busting out of a grave on Ghost Rider's motorcycle.  Usually he's a very clear storyteller, going for clarity over style, but the two-page sequence of the girl giving the Undead's backstory is incredibly hard to follow with the way the panels and movements are placed on the page.  I'm still unsure how the order of the captions is supposed to flow and the placement of the girl doing yoga moves through the middle of the page doesn't help matters.

I'm about to give up and call "Servants of the Dead" a wash, but maybe the next three chapters will turn things around?
Grade: C-