Monday, January 30, 2017

Marvel Comics Presents (1988) # 104

Cover Artist: Sam Keith
Published: May1991
Original Price: $1.50

Title: "Doorway to Darkness, Part 4: The Other Side"
Writer: Howard Mackie
Artist: Rick Leonardi
Inker: Jimmy Palmiotti
Letterer: Janice Chiang
Colorist: Freddy Mendez
Editor: Terry Kavanagh
Editor in Chief: Tom DeFalco

Having fallen into his dimension, the demon Gorn torments young Kevin Moran with dozens of doors, promising to make the rest go away if Kevin chooses the right one.  Kevin remembers his father being set on fire by his mother, which Gorn tells him was Kevin's own fault.  Elsewhere in the realm, Ghost Rider and Dr. Strange have arrived and recognized their surroundings as the dimension ruled by Mephisto.  They locate Gorn's minions, Spike, Slick, and Pain, and confront them.  Pain jumps into a horde of damned souls, who mutate him into a further demonic form.  Ghost Rider and Dr. Strange fight back against the souls, knowing they must find Kevin.  Gorn, meanwhile, continues to tell Kevin that it was his fault his father died, that his mother knew what was right for him and his father interfered.  Kevin runs away from Gorn and finds Dr. Strange and Ghost Rider, having fought their way through the demons.
This issue of Marvel Comics Presents also contained stories featuring Wolverine/Nightcrawler, U.S.Agent, and the Young Gods.

The mysteries deepen as "Doorway to Darkness" continues.

I'm genuinely invested in where this storyline is going, mainly due to how many balls Mackie is keeping up in the air while teasing along the details.  You have Kevin and the events surrounding his father's death and his mother's involvement; there's Gorn and his motives for wanting Kevin to choose a door; and there's the curious revelation that Gorn's realm is actually Mephisto's, meaning Gorn probably isn't as all-powerful as he pretends to be. 

There are so many nice touches to this chapter, too, and it's where I think my love for this story really solidified.  Mackie lays on the doorway motif a bit too heavy, like he has in the previous chapters, but Gorn's blunt manipulation of Kevin feeds into that nicely.  There's also the evolution of Pain, a character that gets creepier with each chapter.  Pain's involvement is the only thing that makes Ghost Rider's involvement in this story relevant, unlike Dr. Strange whose role so far has just been to make characters float around.  The two lead heroes are starting to feel incidental, but not every plot has to be about them.  Sometimes the heroes can just be there to help out an ancillary character like Kevin and be big damn heroes.

Rick Leonardi and Jimmy Palmiotti continue to just crush the artwork on this storyline, too.  Pain already had a solid character design, if a bit on the bland side, so seeing him get a new ever-evolving look here was good to see.  He's a skeleton with a demon head and a skinny tie, that's brilliant!  The characters all look great, Gorn has a fantastic character design, and I really wish Leonardi had been given a crack at the regular Ghost Rider series.

This has been the best Ghost Rider serial in Marvel Comics Presents so far, by a long shot, so here's hoping it holds up through the concluding chapters.
Grade: A