Friday, June 2, 2017

Marvel Comics Presents (1988) # 114

Cover Artist: Shawn McManus
Published: September 1992
Original Price: $1.50

Title: "Legion of Vengeance, Part 2: If the Mind's Eye Offends Thee..."
Writer: Joey Cavalieri
Artist: Shawn McManus
Letterer: Kevin Sharpe & Steve Dutro
Colorist: Fred Mendez
Editor: Terry Kavanagh
Editor in Chief: Tom DeFalco

Ghost Rider has arrived at the burning church and is accused of setting the blaze by Iron Fist, who refuses to listen to Ghost Rider's claims of innocence.  Iron Fist uses his power to destroy Ghost Rider's motorcycle with one kick, but the Rider easily reassembles the bike.  The two heroes are approached by a dying man, who says that two costumed villains in Cyrpess Hills Cemetery are causing people to get sick.  The man dies and Ghost Rider realizes that his attention is needed at the cemetery, but when he drives away a furious Iron Fist jumps on the back of the motorcycle to tag along.

In the cemetery, a young couple are assaulted by the Mind's Eye and his partner, Bacillus, who is able to spread sickness with a touch.  He causes the boy to fall ill and die, but is caught by Ghost Rider's chain before he can kill the girl.  When he reaches for her, Iron Fist steps between them and is touched by Bacillus instead, causing him to grown extremely sick while the villains escape.  Ghost Rider attempts to save Iron Fist, saying that he will not call the cemetery his final resting place.  Meanwhile, a riot has broken out during a candlelight vigil for the victims of the church fire.  Out of the candle smoke comes Vesper, the woman responsible for the fire, and she attacks the mob with accusations of hypocrisy.  While she attacks the mob, a fourth villain waits on a nearby rooftop for his moment to make himself known and feared.

This issue of MCP also contained stories featuring Wolverine/Typhoid Mary, Giant-Man, and Arabian Knight.

This story was reprinted in the Iron Fist: The Book of Changes trade paperback.

Ghost Rider and Iron Fist have the obligatory fight scene before their team up can commence, and it's just as poor as the rest of the parts of this comic.

Joey Cavalieri was well known as an editor for Marvel, responsible mainly for the successful 2099 line of titles around this time, and for some reason he became the main person responsible for Iron Fist.  It could just be that no other writers were interested in picking the character up after John Byrne resurrected him, but all of Iron Fist's appearances in Marvel Comics Presents (and there were a LOT of Iron Fist stories in MCP after this one) were written by Cavalieri.  Unfortunately, as evidenced by this story, Cavalieri was not that great a writer.

I suppose plot-wise, this chapter hangs together okay, but it's in the characterization and dialogue that things fall apart.  I suppose if I were Iron Fist I would think the flaming skulled biker that just showed up to be a likely suspect for the church fire, that's logical.  But Iron Fist rants like a maniac at Ghost Rider, going so far as to kick his motorcycle to death (which, I admit, was pretty boss).  Ghost Rider is more like the Spirit of Patience here as he attempts over and over to calmly explain that he is there to protect and avenge the innocent victims, but Iron Fist just continues to rant and rave.  Even when Ghost Rider tries to leave, Iron Fist leaps on behind him screaming about no one escaping the Iron Fist.  Everyone in this comic, outside of Ghost Rider, reacts like a madman to everything.  There's no nuance to the characters here, everything is dialed up to 11 for no reason.

This issue also continues to roll out the villains, with the introduction of Bacillus and Vesper to join the previously introduced Mind's Eye.  So far these villains have some interesting ideas, but have no personality other than "evil".  The villains do, at least, have some neat gimmicks behind them, what with Vesper being powered by candlelight and Bacillus being able to infect people with plagues by touching them.  Still, I have no idea what their motivations are yet, and that could probably be forgiven considering this is only chapter two if the plot hadn't already hinged so much on coincidence and happenstance to justify the heroes' involvement.

The artwork, too, isn't up to par with what I consider a quality Ghost Rider story.  Shawn McManus had been working in the comics field for years, drawing stuff like Alan Moore's Swamp Thing and Neil Gaiman's Sandman.  This guy has pedigree that makes me wonder why he's phoning in work on a Marvel Comics Presents story, especially since he is not bringing his A game to this story.  The characters overact wildly, matching the hysterical scripting by Cavalieri, and the proportions are exaggerated to the extreme.  Vesper, for example, has breasts the size of watermelons, while Iron Fist has a mouth that could swallow a steering wheel.  I will admit, though, that McManus makes Bacillus' plague powers look absolutely disgusting, and the exaggeration works in that respect.

This story arc might be my least-favorite of the MCP Ghost Rider serials, and its certainly the worst one so far.  I don't have much hope that things are going to pick up from here.

Grade: D-