Ghost Rider #34

April 24, 2009

Hell on wheels

Hell on wheels

Ghost Rider #34

Jason Aaron
Tony Moore

Jason Aaron’s run on Ghost Rider seems to have been building toward an epic conflict between good and evil. It happened two issues ago, off panel, and good lost. The characters in-the-know know that the end is coming now, the trickle-down effects of a lost war in Heaven. So, as they wait, they set out to put their affairs in order.

What worked: Lots of other characters in other genres might put their affairs in order by searching sould and making amends. But this is Ghost Rider. This is rock-a-billy-horror on the open road. Those are the rules these people live by. If you want to find answers, you find them out on the road. And that is exactly where disgraced Ghost Rider Dan Ketch finds himself. Himself and the newly bad-assed, dusted-off, Marvel villain “The Highwayman”.
Maybe The Highwayman was a regular villain at some point, but in this book he is reincarnated as a long-haul boogey-man who haunts the by-ways and back roads being just plain evil. He is really the best/worst kind of spectral bad guy, the kind where you don’t have to do a damn thing wrong to catch his wrath. All you have to do is be unlucky enough to cross his path. And, being an unlucky highway dweller at the unluckiest moment in his unlucky life (can’t talk about this tuff without startingto sound like a country song) Dan Ketch does exactly that, he crosses the path of The Highwayman.
I know this is supposed to be the “what worked” section and it is turning in to a recap. But everything worked.
This story is balls-out, kick-ass, hill-billy-horror, awesomeness. It is like if the Crypt Keeper listened to Motorhead.
It isn’t a tale of redemption (except in a meta sort of way, in that a previously cast off character is redeemed as a brand new villain), it isn’t a story shining light on the dark underbelly of society, or the hidden corners of our collective psychology. Nope. it is just a cool horror story. And, in what he believes to be the last days of the world on men, that is all Dan Ketch gets, a cool horror story. Awesome, full-blown, scary, cool, but ultimately a bit pointless…and you get the sense that Dan knows that.
As part of a larger story, this makes a great spacer. Don’t think of it as a filler story, think of it as a tension builder. The characters know that they have already lost, and that the world is cooming to an end. But we know that this is not what is going to happen. we know that something cool is going to happen and that Ghost Rider (or Ghost Riders) is going to somehow save everything. But until that happens, we are just bristling for it. Something is going to happen. Something big. And these “filler” issues just make us want it more.
Oh, and Tony Moore’s art tells the story perfectly. It is brutal and comedic at the same time. The Highwayman and his story are funny, but never played for ironic laughs. This is not hipsters in trucker hats laughing at “Smokey and the Bandit”. This is the understanding that humor and horror never really get too far apart.

What did not work: The story was essentially a chase and a fight. It could have been longer, deeper, and darker. It could have been more of a struggle. But, it wasn’t

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Uncanny X-Men #508

April 18, 2009

ex-women

ex-women


Uncanny X-Men #508
Matt Fraction
Greg Land

The Fraction/Brubaker run on Marvel’s flagship X-title continues. Messiah Complex and Manifest Destiny have left the X-Men with a strange new status-quo, but strange has always been the status quo for them.

What worked: Fraction’s fast paced story telling is wonderful. Even in very talky moments, the story just clips along. He introduces each character with a quick intro caption that tell sthe name, the powers, and gives and adjective or two to describe them. No, I don’t know every character from the X-Men’s checkered history who shows up in the book, but thanks to these captions I know enough to get what is going on in the scene. Sure, I still have some questions, but I trust that anything I NEED to know will be told when the time comes for me to know it.
In the past, Greg Land’s artwork has looked a little too static, too posed. Simply, the drawings looked a little too much like the photos they were referencing. I don’t know what changed, but that quality is gone. Now all we have a lush, elegant, detailed renderings that look as vibrant as any comic on the stands today.

What did not work: Though there were some great reveals in this chapter of the story, it feels like it might be moving just a tad too slowly. Or, maybe it is just that I don’t quite know enough about what is going on to sink the hook in.
Also, there is a scene where a seemingly shocking revelation is made to s certain character, but the next time we see him, he has not reacted to it at all, and seems to be busy on an unrelated errand. Nothing terribly unrealistic, but it does take some of the weight from the conflict when even the characters it is affecting don’t really let it interrupt their schedules.