Thursday, June 2, 2016

Marvel Comics Presents (1988) # 97

Cover Artist: Sam Keith
Published: Jan. 1992
Original Price: $1.25

Title: Servants of the Dead, Part 8: "Death's Servant"
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 Grateful Undead's Cathedral of the Dead far beneath Cypress Hills Cemetery, the underground race's god has formed a body from the multitude of skeletons on the ground.  Ghost Rider immediately attacks the god, saying that the girl they rescued will live.  As he advances toward the girl, the Undead god tosses Ghost Rider aside and shrugs off Cable's gunshots.  When the sole remaining Warrior of the Dead attempts to intervene, Ghost Rider punches him and Cable holds him at gunpoint.  Ghost Rider punches his fist through the god's chest, but that does nothing to stop him.  The god claims that the girl is one of the dead and is to be his bride.  Ghost Rider attacks again, causing a hairline fracture in the god's skull, which Cable exploits with a bullet to the head.  This reveals the god to be a human man, who stops the fight and wishes to understand why the heroes are attempting to prevent him from paying homage to the dead.  He calls forth the Warrior of the Dead and reads his mind, but is shocked and angry over what he learns.  He was once a necromancer who worshipped the dead; he came underground to live amongst the dead and became like a god to a race of people who lived there.  Unbeknownst to him, his followers have become assassins, misunderstanding what he attempted to teach them.  He tells Ghost Rider and Cable to leave him to his people, and when they ask about the girl the god tells her that her fate is her own.  She chooses to die, prompting Ghost Rider and Cable to escape the Cathedral on Ghost Rider's motorcycle.  They emerge on the surface in Cypress Hills Cemetery.  They depart as allies, aware that no one witnessed their conversation or one but the dead.
Ghost Rider appears next in Marvel Holiday Special # 1.

This issue of MCP also contained stories featuring Wolverine, Silver Surfer, and the Bar With No Name.
"Servants of the Dead" concludes in the strangest, most self-defeating way possible, leaving everyone from the readers to the characters themselves wondering what the point of it all was.

I'm really not sure what to say about this story now that it's over, other than it was literally an exercise in futility.  Ghost Rider and Cable meet to save a girl who didn't need to be saved, since she was just a reanimated corpse, and fought the Grateful Undead, who didn't want to fight them nor were really bad guys at all.  They encountered a "dweller of the deep", Cthulu analogue "god" beneath a chamber of bones, but said "god" turned out in this issue to be a man after all (how that works is beyond me, how the hell did the tentacle monster fit into all this?).  The "god" realizes that by worshipping death he accidently turned a race of subterranean people into assassins and...I dunno, erases them from existence, I guess?  This story is just a mess from start to finish, with a plot that alternates between too thin and lethargic through the first half and muddled with confusing back story in the second half. 

There were some good bits to "Servants of the Dead", it wasn't all bad.  I think this was the one time in MCP history that Ghost Rider will meet his co-star and not fight with them before teaming up.  The partnership between the two leads is easily the best part about the story, the mutual respect and teamwork they have feels natural.  That's surprising, considering how different the two characters are; they don't seem like they would fit together as easily as they do here.  I also liked the final page, after Ghost Rider and Cable have returned to the surface to go their separate ways.  The narration notes that no one witnessed their heroics except for the dead (which is literal as well as metaphorical in this instance), which goes to show that their actions were futile once the truth was revealed, but the fight was still worth it. 

Another bright spot was the artwork by Guang Yap, who despite some shaky storytelling in earlier chapters does a great job in this final installment.  His action sequences flow very well, and I love Ghost Rider's repeated attempts to stop the Undead's "god" by punching it over and over again.  The bit where GR punches his hand through the god's back and out his chest, only for the god to pull the Rider through his torso to face him was wonderful.

Still, despite the good parts I noted above, this arc was disjointed and ultimately pointless.  Too much relied on happenstance and coincidence, and there was an overemphasis on running battles with unseen bad guys in the opening chapters.  If the interaction between Ghost Rider and Cable hadn't been handled so well, I'd call this story a complete failure.
Grade: C-