VENGEANCE UNBOUND
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X-FORCE # 9

SYNOPSIS
Outside Camp Verde, an abandonded Native American reservation in Arizona, the X-Force member James "Warpath" Proudstar is attacked by an immense supernatural force called "The Demon Bear". Warpath attempts to fight, but finds that he is unable to touch the creature - the Bear, on the other hand, easily swats Proudstar onto a nearby cliff-face. Ninety-seven miles away, traveling by motorcycle across a desolate highway, John Blaze hears the Demon Bear's roar. Blaze puts the breaks on and transforms into the Ghost Rider.

Warpath continues his attempts to fight the Demon Bear, but is hopelessly outmatched. While pinned down between the beast's claws, he notices a skull-headed dagger sticking out of the Bear's shoulder. Before the Bear can kill the mutant, Ghost Rider speeds by, taking Proudstar along with him as he races towards the horizon.

Later that night, Proudstar wakes up in bandages, wondering why he is still alive. Sitting across from him on a fallen tree log is Ghost Rider, who tells Warpath to gather his strength. Tonight, he's going to show him how to kill a demon.

ANNOTATIONS
Ghost Rider last appeared in Ghost Rider Annual (2008) # 2.

This issue also included a parallel story-arc featuring X-Force attempting to recover a sample of the Legacy Virus, which began in X-Force # 7.

The Demon Bear first appeared in New Mutants # 18.

REVIEW
I'm going to go ahead and say this up front: I fucking love X-Force. I've been an X-Men fan for a long time, longer than I've been a Ghost Rider fan even, but I've not been too impressed with the line of X-titles lately. One of the very few I still pick up regularly is this series, which has taken an absolutely ridiculous premise (its an X-team, and they ALL HAVE CLAWS!) and turned it into a love-letter for nearly every random concept I've loved from decades past. Archangel, the Right, Magus, Domino...hell, this story-arc brought back the Demon Bear from the awesome Claremont/Sienkiewicz run on New Mutants in the early 80s! So, yeah, this book is unabashadly my guilty-pleasure read these days.

Naturally, when I saw Ghost Rider was guest-starring in this arc, I was stoked.

Of course, it would have be nice if the arc had been illustrated by the book's regular artist Clayton Crain, who has a history with ol' Flamehead. I imagine that had to have been the reason the Ghost Rider guest-appearance was approved in the first place, so that Crain could draw the character again, considering that Ghost Rider isn't exactly a character that will bring in sales to a flagging book these days. Whatever the reasons or intentions, though, we get artists Mike Choi and Sonia Oback on the art chores for this four-issue story. Choi's been popping up in places across the X-Men line of titles in the last year or so, and his art is always a welcome addition to a series for me. Likewise, his rendition of Ghost Rider here looks great, though with closer inspection I realized it really shouldn't work at all. Choi's art is very smooth and clean, suitable for superhero stories, but I wouldn't have guessed that his work looks equally as impressive on a horror story. One look at his depiction of the Demon Bear is enough to settle that argument, I think.

Yost and Kyle split their team into two parallel stories for this arc, and while X-Force deal with the more comfortable threat of the Marauders, Warpth is left to confront the Demon Bear alone. While both plot lines are pulled from the X-Men's history, I can't help but feel that the Demon Bear clashes hard against the rest of the series with its "real world black ops" feel. I love the original Demon Bear story and I'm glad to see the creature showing up again (and Warpth is a perfect opponent for it, given his heritage), but I wonder if it wouldn't have been better served as a one-shot story between arcs instead of running side-by-side with a more straight-forward plot?

If you're not already reading X-Force I doubt there's little I could say to convince you to pick it up, which is a shame. Once you get past the silly concept, the book is a helluva read.

Grade: B


X-Force # 9
Published: Dec. 2008 Original Price: $2.99
Cover: Mike Choi

Title: "Old Ghosts", Part 3 of 4
Writers: Craig Kyle & Christopher Yost
Artist: Mike Choi
Letterer: VC's Cory Petit
Colorist: Sonia Oback
Editor: John Barber
Executive Editor: Axel Alonso
Editor In Chief: Joe Quesada