Marvel Comics Presents #123-130 (Ghost Rider)
Issue(s): Marvel Comics Presents #123, Marvel Comics Presents #124, Marvel Comics Presents #125, Marvel Comics Presents #126, Marvel Comics Presents #127, Marvel Comics Presents #128, Marvel Comics Presents #129, Marvel Comics Presents #130 (Ghost Rider / Typhoid Mary story only)
Not long after they did a story with Typhoid Mary co-headlining with Wolverine, Ann Nocenti and Steve Lightle do the same with Ghost Rider. I've often said that the best Nocenti stories are the ones where the characters can be assumed to be insane. An appearance of Typhoid Mary is enough to qualify, but this story goes further and introduces a literal Realm of Insanity. So Nocenti is playing to her strengths. It might even be that for the last two issues of this story, which actually take place in the Realm, Nocenti just told Lightle to go crazy and do whatever he wanted, which is why he got a co-story credit.
The last Typhoid Mary story revealed that Mary was part of a government program that messed with her head, so there was at least a grounded basis behind her. So it's surprising to see this story go entirely in the other direction and introduce insanity demons. But i guess when Ghost Rider is the co-star, you want demons.
The story starts right in with the insanity...
...but luckily it turns out to be a dream, because i wasn't ready for that yet. You need to let me work up to something like that.
Danny Ketch says that he doesn't need to sleep anymore, but lately he's been finding himself in "hypnagogic states". He finds himself drawn to a shopping mall in upstate New York. Meanwhile, Mary is off her meds.
Inside the mall, Danny finds a demonstration organized by the Women's Action Movement (WAM).
Danny's super-modelish good looks and vague hostility towards feminism win over one of the organizers. Her partner is Mary.
Danny makes Mary swoon, too.
I've read a lot of Ghost Rider stories. Had no idea Danny was so attractive.
Mary suppresses an urge to let her Typhoid side out. But she gets in trouble when she passes some rapist security guards. Mary is dressed like a nun, but they decide that based on the way she's dressed she's "askin' for something".
Danny is turned into Ghost Rider and heads towards Mary. But Mary also transforms, and kills the security guards just as Ghost Rider is arriving.
Ghost Rider uses his penance stare on Mary, but he's stopped by a priest.
Ghost Rider looks back at Typhoid Mary, who has transformed back into just Mary. She's passed out on the floor. Ghost Rider says that now he's spilled innocent blood, and then the crazy shit starts happening for real.
Meanwhile, one of the security guards has actually survived, and he freaks out and starts shooting up the mall.
Danny is wracked with guilt.
Mary and Typhoid somehow get separated.
Typhoid reduces the guard to a wimpering quiver, but then she decides to go after Ghost Rider because he "violated" her. The guard recovers his composure, relatively speaking, and continues to chase women around with his gun. The entire mall seemingly starts to sink into Hell.
When Typhoid reaches Danny, he turns into Ghost Rider, which causes Typhoid to cease her attack, saying that he's just like her. Then the security guard turns up to shoot them. Typhoid burns him, prompting Ghost Rider to attack her again. We're definitely moving into insanity territory now. I mean, moreso.
Ghost Rider seems to have a better idea of what's going on than i do.
Whatever's gong on, all your favorite characters are here.
And this thing.
Things just get crazier and crazier. There's a political/feminist angle, but it's hard to take anything seriously when everyone's affected by madness. And Typhoid Mary is probably the most counter-productive advocate for feminism in the best of circumstances.
The main demon in the Realm of Insanity is Dusk, but Ghost Rider also has to deal with another demon called Necromancer, who takes a form similar to Ghost Rider's.
I'm not even sure exactly what happens to Necromancer, but he seems to be defeated. Ghost Rider then finds Typhoid and tries to get her to release her hold on Mary. But Typhoid throws herself off a cliff instead, and "dies". Ghost Rider then confronts Dusk.
He's helped by the priest from earlier, who turns toilet water into holy water, allowing Ghost Rider to give Dusk the mother of all swirlies.
In the end we see Mary taking her pills again.
I always want to give credit to Nocenti for trying to do something beyond regular super-hero fights. The subject matter and themes that she attempts to explore here are admirable and worthy of mature, adult-oriented comics. But it's all so chaotically delivered, with characters talking like no humans ever would - which is especially a problem for a character like Ghost Rider. Normally when Nocenti characters in stories involving madness act out of character, i can blame it on the madness. But it's harder to do that with Ghost Rider; he just doesn't seem the type to succumb to it. And it's not like he's explicitly mad. He's mostly just whiny, unsure of how to deal with Typhoid without harming Mary, which doesn't seem like the sort of problem that would normally give him much pause. So as usual i just find the thing intolerable.
I also have to wonder with Nocenti: why is it always madness? This Realm of Insanity and Dusk character will be used again by Nocenti in a Venom series called, appropriately enough, Venom: The Madness. And both of these stories could just as easily have been part of the Inferno issues of Daredevil. Did editors recognize that Nocenti's style worked best when there was a reason for them to be acting crazy and so they steered her in that direction?
Steve Lightle's art is appropriate for the tone of the story, but that's not necessarily a complement. It's chaotic and messy, and it makes things harder to follow. There are also elements of crass commercialism, like where Ghost Rider fights all the Hot heroes of the 90s. There are also several full page splashes where Lightle includes his stylized signature and i can't help thinking, "Ok, so you plan to sell that page in the original art market".
It may not sound like it after all i've said, but i'd still rather see something like this in Marvel Comics Presents than the vast majority of stories that got published here. I don't think this was successful, but it was as least an attempt at something beyond, "Hey, here's Solo. You remember Solo! Here's Solo punching a villain! Ok, story's over!". We seem to have mostly gotten away from the early days of this book with, like, Steve Gerber doing a Man-Thing story: creators doing stories in their own voices with signature characters. This being a Typhoid Mary story, it falls in that category, although it's kind of diluted by Ghost Rider co-starring and the general 90s-ness of it all.
Typhoid Mary will appear in one more story by Nocenti and Lightle in Marvel Comics Presents.
Statement of Ownership Total Paid Circulation: Average of Past 12 months = 219,000. Single issue closest to filing date = 168,800.
Quality Rating: D
Chronological Placement Considerations: This can go in any regular gap for Ghost Rider. It has to go before Venom: The Madness #1-3, which feature the insanity demons and references these events.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Inbound References (2): showDusk (Demon), Ghost Rider (Danny Ketch), Necromancer (Demon), Noble Kale, Typhoid Mary
"Andrea" is probably Andrea Dworkin.
Posted by: Michael | April 5, 2017 7:58 PM
Steve Lightle working on a Marvel book was such a rarity, I could easily see either the editors, Nocenti, or Lightle himself wanting to use the opportunity to illustrate a bunch of their characters in an "official" capacity.
Posted by: cullen | April 6, 2017 12:39 AM
The priest should have gotten his own book for blessing toilet water and turning it into a weapon. Or at least a supporting role in Hellstorm.
Posted by: Clutch | April 6, 2017 5:41 AM
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