Friday, October 14, 2016

Engines of Vengeance: Part 5 (Marvel)
All-New Ghost Rider #5 When: September 2014 Why: Felipe Smith How: Tradd Moore

The Story So Far...
Dr. Calvin Zabo has relocated to Los Angeles to use his skills in biochemistry to forge a new criminal empire away from the heroes and villains of New York!

He's selling drugs based on the Mr. Hyde formula that gives his alter-ego incredible size and strength, but when the batch goes bad - it's time for a recall!

Hired mercenaries attack a street race to retrieve the drugs from a dealer's dodge charger, killing the driver behind the haunted car's wheel: mechanic Robbie Reyes! Engulfed in flames, Robbie is revived as a spirit of vengeance!

Local dealer Grumpy has delusions of grandeur when the drugs mutate him, sparking a turf war between Zabo's mercenaries and Grumpy's gang! When the bullets threaten innocent suburban residents -- including Robbie's younger brother Gabe -- the new Ghost Rider drives in to take them all out! Vengeance is triumphant, but now Robbie faces his biggest threat: The one true Hyde!

Tale of the Tape...
Strength: Mr. Hyde 5 (Super-Human)
Intelligence: Mr. Hyde 3 (Straight A)
Speed: Draw 3 (Athlete)
Stamina: Ghost Rider 5 (Marathon)
Agility: Draw 2 (Average)
Fighting: Draw 3 (Street Wise)
Energy: Ghost Rider 5 (Lasers)

It's a battle of something old and something new as we delve into the All-New world of Marvel Now!

Dr. Calvin Zabo is a brilliant biochemist whose criminal career was influenced by Robert Louis Stevenson's story: The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. The classic literature inspired him to create a hormonal formula capable of transforming him into his own super-human alter-ego of Mr. Hyde!

As Hyde; the scientist undergoes a physical transformation that increases his size, strength, stamina and durability. Hyde has been shown to be strong enough to go toe-to-toe with the likes of Iron Man, Hulk, and Thor! He gains this strength at the expense of his intellect and personality. The Hyde persona is much more volatile, as seen when Batroc The Leaper was compelled to turn against him during a plot to defeat Captain America [Captain America #252].

Zabo's desire for criminal power eventually led him to Los Angeles, to create super-drugs for street sale away from the crowded super-population of NYC. When a bad batch of his pills got loose, he sent mercenaries to retrieve them from the dodge charger driven by his dealer. Unfortunately, LA mechanic Robbie Reyes had taken the car to compete in a street race at the time!

Riddled with bullets, Reyes was revived by the demonic spirit of his deceased devil worshipping uncle: Eli Morrow. Bonded to the dodge charger and now his nephew, Morrow transforms Reyes into the flame spewing driver: Ghost Rider!

At this early stage in his career, the all-new Ghost Rider is still learning to use his hellish powers. He wields infernal chains, and can manipulate his black dodge charger in a variety of ways - including physically merging and passing through it! Ghost Rider himself also possesses some degree of increased speed and strength, but must still fear the threat of death against stronger opponents!

Prior to this fight, Ghost Rider has battled gangsters using the defective Hyde formula. Even so, inexperience is still his greatest weakness against the veteran strength of the one true Mr. Hyde!

Fortunately, an unstoppable, flame spewing car is a great equalizer in the fight with Hyde. As we saw when The Punisher took Hyde on [Punisher #5], he can also be susceptible to inventive strategies that target natural physical weak spots. If Ghost Rider can turn up the heat, he might be in with a shot. It's a long shot - but any chance is better than no chance!

The Tape: Ghost Rider Ranking: Mr. Hyde (#351)

What Went Down...
An overturned school bus, frightened children, bullet holes... Consequences of a suburban gun fight between the wannabe gangsters selling Mr. Hyde's drugs and the mercenaries hired to work for him. Dead and beaten - the two sides lie around a smouldering new sentinel of vengeance: The Ghost Rider!

A chopper hovers overhead and one of the mercenaries sneers: "Here come the reinforcements." A hulking figure leaps from the helicopter and plummets to the street below with a spectacular crash: Mr. Hyde towers over Ghost Rider!

The Rider tosses his blade tipped chain, but Hyde snatches it with two hands in the air and yanks him off his feet! His demonically possessed body slices through the emptied school bus, and ruptures the street as Hyde brings him crashing down with devastating effect!

Hyde recognizes the rookie errors of his flaming foe - clumsy, unskilled and weak. He yanks him off the ground and into the waiting embrace of his chemically bulging biceps!

Trapped in the grip of a super-powered sleeper hold: Robbie Reyes consults his ghostly mentor on the case of mistaken identity and fatal peril. Eli has no desire to die with his host again -- summoning the flaming dodge charger for the save!

The card takes Hyde's legs out from behind and sends both spilling wildly into the air! The villain loses his grip on Ghost Rider's chain in the chaos - coming to land on his face with a hard thud.

Ghost Rider nimbly lands on his feet and uses speed to capitalize on the shift in the fight. He leaps into the air - landing boots-first on Mr. Hyde's facedown skull! He then quickly hops away, leaving the path clear for the super natural charger to run over Hyde's head!

Hyde's super-enhanced body is able to cope with the trauma, but his psyche is unwilling to accept defeat! Ignoring the internal cries of biochemist Calvin Zabo - the Hyde persona pinches at a bag of defective pills and swallows them!

The influx of formula sends Mr. Hyde's already impressive body into an explosive transformation! His muscles grow and stretch to gigantic proportions!

It looks bad for Ghost Rider and then - Mr. Hyde pukes!

Zabo's past warnings that the pills weren't for them come to pass. The perfect balance of ANA-XILLIK-32 is upset, sending his rapidly deforming body into shock as Hyde overdoses on the formula!

The beastly villain shrinks down to the meek, mild form of Dr. Calvin Zabo! Sweaty and cowering, he shrieks as residents of the neighbourhood warzone surround him. Sirens ring out in chorus with Zabo's cries as Ghost Rider blazes into the night.

The Hammer...
It looked hairy for a while there, but the all-new Ghost Rider picks up a big win in the first super-villain showdown of his heroic career!

If you were reading Hero of the Week about a month ago, you already know I've been a big fan of All-New Ghost Rider since it launched in 2014!

The battle with Mr. Hyde is just one piece of an appealing puzzle that exceeds several of Marvel's attempts to launch new versions of their classic characters.

He's a figure with a strong sense of identity, deviant from other better known versions like Johnny Blaze or Dan Ketch, but not so removed that there isn't great potential for legacy interaction. Indeed, Robbie Reyes was quickly confronted by the classic Blaze version of Ghost Rider in issues following this one. A clever order of events, allowing Reyes to be showcased in his own environment, with his own villain, before confronting the obvious comparisons.

Every hero needs good arch-villains, and tying the new Ghost Rider to Mr. Hyde is a wonderful way of feathering him into the living Marvel Universe.

It's a case of giving and creating all around. Mr. Hyde is a longstanding Marvel villain, but he hasn't been inescapably married to one particular arch-nemesis, nor been defined by one famous story. That gives Marvel, and writer Felipe Smith, a lot of room to shape their characters to suit the circumstances of the story, and high concept. That Hyde relocates to Los Angeles is easily forgiven, both for the in-fiction reason of escaping a crowded market place in Marvel's New York City, but also for the quality of Hyde's role in the story.

In All-New Ghost Rider: Hyde provides a larger-than-life personification and anchor for a story about the very real issue of gang violence and drug abuse in suburbia. This is a superhero comic through and through, so of course, it's nothing as mundane as crystal meth, or ice. Instead, a reduced street version of Hyde's formula is the demon in a pill. Too up front to be considered metaphor, but none the less superb in its balance between reality and hyper-fiction.

There are clich├ęs at work: Robbie Reyes is a good kid struggling to maintain his grades and his job, while also looking after an energetic younger brother with special needs.

These 'facts of life' provide all the usual short-hands to motivate the hero in his journey. Fortunately, the world on the page is heavy in contrast, and much too frenetic to make it feel rote. Behind the saccharin sibling moments of sharing ice cream, or putting a happy face on a hard life, is a real sense of authenticity.

It's no mean feat that a motorhead student who loves his brother can seem so real in a comic that defies the laws of reality!

Artist Tradd Moore is one of the high selling points for the series, laying down high-octane fuel injected pages! Does this guy have a flaming pencil from Hell, or what?! It's dizzying the way action spits off the page and characters bend in animation! The Comics Code Authority may be a decade behind us, but if this keeps up, there are going to be speed limits put on comics!

Colorists Val Staples, Nelson Daniel and Ester Sanz deserve a lot of credit. Their work is vital to supporting Moore's fast, furious, and maniacal pencils -- especially when Ghost Rider is in action! Blinding yellows and deep reds sell the heat of Ghost Rider's flames, and the face stretching momentum of his speed!

The arrangement of all its various pieces help make Robbie Reyes a success as a new Ghost Rider -- but it's without a doubt the visual identity of this first arc that made it a thrilling, exciting, instant success!

Individual panels like the ones featured in this post just don't do it credit. To get the full experience - you need to see the entire page. I'm not the biggest fan of digital comics at the best of times, but I really pity the fool who doesn't hold this comic in their hands when they're reading!

Perhaps the only drawback is that I could never recommend this for all readers. It looks and sounds like it should be a spectacle for everyone to enjoy, but the content and themes are strictly T for Teen. Even then - I would worry about a young mind taking the wrong message from the life of power fantasies, Faustian pacts, and stringbean wannabe gangsters hiding behind guns and threats.

If you want to be any one here kids, be Robbie Reyes. He's a nice guy with a strong skill (mechanics), a great work ethic, and a killer sense of style -- I love that skunk stripe, and the jet black leather with white!

This Ghost Rider is currently appearing on TV's Agents of SHIELD - a rare bright spark on an otherwise painfully boring show. The real money would be getting this character into animation. A slick production with a style similar to Moore's would be an instant, bona fide hit! Something Marvel haven't had in animation in a long, long time!

If you want to see what all the excitement is for yourself, I strongly recommend you swing by Amazon to pick up the collected trade! It's a great way to read it! Plus: If you use the link provided to the right, you'll help contribute to future entries of the site! I don't even need your soul!

If you're looking for more featured battles featuring Mr. Hyde or any of the other Ghost Riders, you should follow links throughout this post, or dive into the Issue Index Archive for other classic entries!

Secret Wars on Infinite Earths is really going to Hell this month, diving into demons and terrors for a big Halloween! Stay tuned for the next installment, which will feature some of those other Ghost Riders we mentioned! It'll be a blast!

Winner: Ghost Rider
#296 (new) Ghost Rider (Robbie Reyes)
#500 (new) Eli Morrow [+1 assist]
#359 (-8) Mr. Hyde

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