VENGEANCE UNBOUND
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GHOST RIDER # 9

SYNOPSIS
Dan Ketch rides his motorcycle through Cypress Hills Cemetery, unaware that he's being hunted by Blackout. Danny's motorcycle startles a homeless man, who runs deeper into the cemetery. He comes across Blackout, who rips the man's throat out. Upon hearing the screams, Danny transforms into the Ghost Rider. This catches the attention of H.E.A.R.T., the mercenaries hired to killed the Rider who are watching the cemetery. The Rider confronts Blackout, but is blown into one of the mausoleums by the female soldiers. A person in the dark crypt tells the Ghost Rider to come with him, that he can take him to the missing children. Blackout overhears this, while H.E.A.R.T. search the now-empty tomb. Beneath the cemetery, the Ghost Rider speaks with the disfigured people that live underground. They tell the Rider that they took the children to keep them safe, to protect them. Because the night is almost over, the Ghost Rider takes his leave, but vows to return. Meanwhile, in their giant living ship, the mutant team known as X-Factor watch a newscast about the disappearance of children throughout Brooklyn. Thinking that it could perhaps be the result of demons left behind after the Inferno incident, they decide it should be investigated.

The next night, Ghost Rider returns to cemetery, followed closely by a helicopter that houses the women of H.E.A.R.T. Despite their tracking equipment, they lose track of the Rider when he descends into the underground tunnels. The Ghost Rider is taken into a large cavern, where he meets a mutant named Pixie. She's responsible for the children disappearances, saying she's keeping them safe from the Morlock leader, Masque. Suddenly, H.E.A.R.T. bursts into the cavern, firing on the Rider. Immediately after, X-Factor make their way into the tunnels and proceed to help the children escape, forcing H.E.A.R.T. to withdraw. Blackout, who followed the Rider, gets his hands on Pixie and rips her throat out. As the cavern begins to collapse, Ghost Rider calls for his motorcycle, which busts through the ground and returns to his side. He places the remaining children upon it and sends them to safety, but then turns his attention toward Blackout. The two battle fiercely as the tunnels collapse. On the surface, X-Factor help the children onto their aircraft, thinking the Rider to be dead. Suddenly, the Ghost Rider erupts from the ground and makes his way to his motorcycle, quickly riding off into the night.

ANNOTATIONS
Ghost Rider makes his next appearance in The Mighty Thor # 429.

This issue wrapped up the subplot about the disappearing children in Brooklyn, which started in Ghost Rider (1990) # 3.

Masque, a mutant with the ability to shape human flesh like clay, first appeared with the rest of the Morlocks in Uncanny X-Men # 169. He took control of the tunnel dwelling mutants in Uncanny X-Men # 254, and was eventually killed in X-Force # 9. Masque has since returned to life and has made several appearances in various X-Men titles.

Despite being on the cover, Archangel is the only member of X-Factor not to appear in this issue. Archangel later makes a solo appearance in Ghost Rider (1990) # 37.

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

REVIEW
Up until this point, the Ghost Rider series had done well with its relatively few guest-stars (such as the Punisher) and guest-appearances in other magazines (such as Spider-Man and the hilarious Simonson/Adams Fantastic Four arc). Then, seemingly at random, we get bloody X-Factor.

Now obviously, even in 1990, the X-Men franchise of titles were a sales juggernaut for Marvel, and understandably guest-appearances by the mutant characters almost always drove sales up for books. But Ghost Rider was already a hit - a very successful, unexpected hit - and it doesn't seem likely that X-Factor was mandated an appearance to drive up sales. But, on the other hand, the characters don't really fit the plot at all except for the connection with the Morlocks that were responsible for abducting children all through the first eight issues of the series. This was the resolution to one of the book's long-simmering subplots, and the X-Factor appearance just feels, well, forced.

Regardless, on the surface this appears to be an important issue in the continuing Ghost Rider series. We get the convergence of several storylines: Blackout, H.E.A.R.T., and the child abductions. In actuality, however, only the abduction plot is truly resolved here, as both Blackout and H.E.A.R.T. return five issues later for their true resolutions. But be that is it may, when this issue was released it seemed like a break from the plotlines of the past year and a way for Mackie to move forward with new villains and new subplots (which he did, actually, with Zodiak and John Blaze entering the book in the next issue).

So, Blackout gets a false "death", H.E.A.R.T. continue to be ridiculous, and X-Factor do absolutely nothing during their guest-appearance. It's amazing that, with all of these things against it, the issue still reads as well as it does. Mackie gets a lot of mileage out of Pixie and her comments to the Rider about saving the children over vengeance against Blackout, and the missing children plot is resolved in a satisfying manner. I do have to wonder about why Mackie chose the Morlocks as the abductors, with their motivations being to protect the children from Masque - an X-Men villain that doesn't even make an appearance here. It seems like a tenuous link made to support the perfunctory X-Factor appearance.

Where the issue really holds up is in the artwork, as Saltares and Texeira (aided by James Palmiotti on background inks) turn in yet another stellar art job. X-Factor, in their day-glo superhero outfits, stick out like sore thumbs, but the artists do their best to make them fit in with the dark surroundings. In fact, they turn in one of the most chilling panels in the series yet: when Blackout kills the Morlock Pixie by ripping out her throat, colored in a silhouette of black and red that still looks absolutely vicious.

All in all, this is the first major misstep of the Ghost Rider series with the completely unnecessary X-Factor guest-appearance. But even then, the issue is far, far from being bad and I'd still recommend picking it up just to see how the long-lingering abduction subplot is resolved.

Grade: B-


Ghost Rider # 9
Published: Jan. 1991
Original Price: $1.50
Cover: Javier Saltares

Title: "Pursuit"
Writer: Howard Mackie
Artist: Javier Saltares
Inkers: Mark Texeira & James Palmiotti
Letterer: Janice Chiang
Colorist: Gregory Wright
Editor: Bobbie Chase
Editor In Chief: Tom DeFalco