VENGEANCE UNBOUND
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GHOST RIDER # 6

SYNOPSIS
Ghost Rider and the Punisher are surrounded in a warehouse full of the Flag-Smasher's followers, the terrorists called Ultimatum. The Rider manages to disarm a few of the goons, but the fight is called off by the Flag-Smasher, who doesn't want to see his men get hurt in a pointless battle. The building clears out, and the Flag-Smasher escapes in a helicopter. As he escapes, he tells the two vigilantes that the warehouse is rigged with explosives, and in twenty seconds the entire building will be destroyed. The building begins to explode around them, but the two manage to escape on the Ghost Rider's bike. While on their way out, the Punisher sees one of the kids from the warehouse running down an alley. The Ghost Rider scares the kid into telling him the Flag-Smasher's plan, which is that he's going to provide the neighborhood kids with guns so they can hit Wall Street on the next night.

At daybreak, the Ghost Rider transforms back to Dan Ketch, who realizes he's almost late for work at his messenger service job. When he gets there, his co-workers are watching news footage of the warehouse fire from the previous night, which reporter Linda Wei suggests was caused by the Punisher and Ghost Rider. Dan calls his mother, who tells him that his sister has stabilized, but that she's still no closer to coming out of her coma.

Later that night, Danny is riding on his bike, thinking about the effect the Ghost Rider is having on his life. Without warning, the transformation is triggered and Danny is turned into his demon alter-ego. At Wall Street, the Punisher watches the Ultimatum troops hand out weapons to the thier teenage followers, and decides not to wait on the Ghost Rider any longer. At that moment, in New York Bay, ten men on flying rocket sleds shoot out of the water, the Flag-Smasher in the lead. He explains to his men that while his teenage army wreak havoc on Wall Street, he and his men will release an electro magnetic pulse in order to erase the computers of the Federal Reserve Bank, therefore taking them in the first steps of polictal anarchy in the country. Back on Wall Street, a large group of gun-toting kids are confronted by the Ghost Rider, who disarms them with his chain. The Punisher arrives and takes captive an Ultimatum soldier, who tells them all about the Flag-Smasher's plan after he is threatened.

While the police round up the kids on Wall Street, the two vigilantes make their way to the Flag-Smasher. Using a grenade launcher, the Punisher manages to shoot down three of the sleds, leaving the Ghost Rider to chase down the rest on his bike. The demon manages to destroy all of the sleds, while a well-placed shot by the Punisher knocks the Flag-Smasher out of the sky. The Rider grabs the anarchist and applies the penance stare, leaving him a whimpering wreck. The Punisher, however, believes that nothing will stop the madman from killing again, unless he's killed first. The Ghost Rider grabs the Punisher and breaks his gun, telling him that he serves vengeance, not death. The police arrive on the scene, but are unable to apprehend the two heroes, as they speed over the water of New York Bay on the Ghost Rider's motorcycle.

ANNOTATIONS
Ghost Rider and the Punisher will next cross paths in Punisher War Journal # 29.

As mentioned in Ghost Rider (1990) # 50, the Flag-Smasher was set to encounter Ghost Rider again, but the subplot was never followed up on.

This issue was reprinted in the Ghost Rider: Resurrected and Ghost Rider: Danny Ketch Classic vol. 1 trade paperbacks.

REVIEW
This issue concludes the team-up with the Punisher that started in the previous issue, giving us as close to a "super-hero fights super-villain" battle as the book's come so far.

I talked briefly in last issue's review about the villain of this story, Flag-Smasher, and about how inappropriate a character he is for a book with such a dark tone as this one. He's a four-color super-villain, complete with henchmen and the mandatory melodramatic speeches that couldn't be more out of place than in the pages of Ghost Rider. Even worse (and I hate this cliché with a passion), he gives the stereotypical "this building is going to blow up in 60 seconds, heroes!" speech that all comic villains seemingly feel obligated to make. If they'd just said nothing, the heroes wouldn't be able to prepare for the building exploding and...just, gah, I'm complaining about the motives of a comic book character. Never mind.

But now that we've had the mandatory fight scene between the heroes, Ghost Rider and Punisher get to have their team-up to take down Flag-Smasher (who has the greatest organization name ever, ULTIMATUM, which stands for something I can't remember but is nonetheless awesome). The two characters mesh well with each other, not surprising given the darker, more brutal tone both characters possess. The plot, however, needs a little work.

The plot with Flag-Smasher providing guns to the punk kids of Brooklyn is a good one that's rife with possibilities, such as Ghost Rider having to determine whether a young child with a gun could still be considered innocent. I wish Mackie would have run with that idea instead of abandoning it in favor of Flag-Smasher and his flying jet-skis. If it sounds like I'm being unduly harsh on this issue, I apologize. It has its problems to be sure, but I'd argue that even a mediocre issue of the Mackie/Saltares/Texeira Ghost Rider was still better than most of Marvel's other output at the time.

And while the plot may sag a little with this issue, both Mackie's script and the Saltares/Texeira artwork continue to sing. One thing I loved about the early issues of this book are all of the neat tricks the artists would show Ghost Rider's motorcycle performing, such as the battering ram used in this issue. Oh, I also want to note that this is the first issue for letterer Janice Chiang, who would become a mainstay for the book throughout the rest of Mackie's lengthy run. She was responsible for most of the unique fonts used in the series (other than Ghost Rider's speech bubbles, which were created by Michael Heisler), and the book really lost a lot when she departed.

So a good script and another dose of great artwork was able to keep a mediocre plot afloat, which goes to show just how much this book was able to coast along on style alone.

Grade: B


Ghost Rider # 6
Published: Oct. 1990
Original Price: $1.50
Cover: Mark Texeira

Title: "Do or Die!"
Writer: Howard Mackie
Artist: Javier Saltares
Inker: Mark Texeira
Letterer: Janice Chiang
Colorist: Gregory Wright
Editor: Bobbie Chase
Editor In Chief: Tom DeFalco