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Thursday, August 4, 2016

X-amining Marvel Comics Presents #90-97: Servants of the Dead

"Life Underground" / "Chase in the Dark" / "In the Cathedral of the Dead" / "Nothing to Fear..." / "Pursuit" / "Shadows" / "The Bride" / "Death's Servant"
December 1991 - March 1992

In a Nutshell
Ghost Rider & Cable team-up to save a young woman from a death cult.

Writer: Howard Mackie
Penciler: Guang Yap
Inker; Bud La Rosa
Letterer: Janice Chiang
Colorist: Freddy Mendez
Editor: Bob Harras
Editor-in-Chief: Terry Kavangh

Investigating the Morlock Tunnels, Cable rescues a woman being pursued by the Grateful Undead, which draws the attention of Ghost Rider. Together, the two battle the Undead and the apparent god who leads them for the life of the woman, until it's revealed that the woman is one of the Undead as well, and their god a human necromancer. Learning that his people have become assassins, he puts an end to the Grateful Undead, and allows the woman to choose her own fate. She decides to return to death, after which Cable and Ghost Rider go their separate ways.

Firsts and Other Notables
This story overlaps with both the Wolverine "Blood Hungry" and Beast "Just Friends" stories on the front end, and a Wolverine story drawn by Tim Truman on the back end, which we won't be covering (it doesn't really have much of an impact on Wolverine, and most of the details in it ultimately get retconned out).

This story was later collected into a squarebound oneshot.

Comics journalist Augie de Blieck has a letter printed in issue #90.

Creator Central 
Regular Ghost Rider and future X-Factor writer Howard Mackie pens this story, and it's drawn by Guang Yap, who filled in for Rob Liefeld on the New Mutants chapters of "X-Tinction Agenda" but whose work seems less Liefeldian (if still unremarkable) here.

The Chronology Corner
Cable appears here between issues #4 and #5 of X-Force, prior to the Brotherhood/Morlock team-up and attack on X-Force.

A Work in Progress
As the story opens, Cable is in the Morlock Tunnels, mentioning that Masque has the Morlocks whipped into a frenzy of late.

Confronted with representations of death, Cable says the only thing that scares him about it is the failure it represents: the death of his charges in X-Force.

The Cable Guy 
Emerging from water, Cable notes that he's thankfully avoided any short circuits in his bionic appendages.

The Grim 'n' Gritty 90s
A Ghost Rider/Cable team-up is pretty much a 90s-only thing.

Austin's Analysis
This is one of the earliest solo outings for Cable ("solo" meaning "operating independent of X-Force, outside the X-universe), and while the character will soon receive his own solo series that will run for a surprisingly long time (and a few more series after that), this story highlights one of Cable's problems at this point in his development: everything that makes him interesting goes away when he's cutoff from the X-universe. Cable works best as a mirror for the rest of X-Force, either in reflecting the more extreme members like Shatterstar or Feral, or contrasting the more traditional characters like Cannonball and Boom-Boom who are more slowly coming to share his worldview, while the most intriguing thing about him - the question about any possible relation to other characters, notably Cyclops - goes away when he's lifted out of the X-universe. Left on his own, at this point in time, he's just a Wolverine/Punisher hybrid/clone.

Of course, that's really what audiences wanted in 1991, so I'm sure a Ghost Rider/Cable team-up was well-received back in the day, but this story certainly has problems outside of the Cable factor, notably the fact that it's almost laughably generic: the plot is generic (at best), the villain(s) is generic, the dialogue is generic, the art is generic, Ghost Rider and Cable say and do generic tough guy things throughout. There's almost nothing about this story that stands out and leaves an impression in any way, outside of the fact that it features Ghost Rider and Cable (and has some neat Sam Keith covers). Which, I guess, is pretty typical for Marvel Comics Presents as a series, the occasional "Weapon X" or "Blood Hungry" aside.

Next Issue
Next week: Bishop returns in Uncanny X-Men #287, X-Force is still fighting the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants in X-Force #9, and a not-at-all dead Cannonball makes an appearance in X-Factor #77.


  1. Howard Mackie and the word "generic" go together like chocolate and peanut butter.

    A few years ago I got out my prized Ghost Rider comics from the 90's and aside from the cool artwork by TEX, the stories were mind numbingly dull and 90's Ghost Rider was basically Skeletor from He-Man but instead of shouting, "I'll get you Heeeeeeeee-Maaaaaaaaaan!" he shouts "The blood of innocents has spilled! Nooooooooooooo!"

    All done in Janice Chiang's overly heavy and graceless lettering. I'm sure she's a wonderful person and has help put many a deadline-challenged issue out on time, but her lettering is tough to look at. She lettered a few issues of Uncanny X-Men in the 80's (Orz must have been sick?) and it sticks out like a sore thumb.

    Thanks for reading this particular MCP story so I don't have to. (I recently gave in to the completist bug and bought up every issue of MCP up to Weapon X. For some reason.)

  2. a Wolverine story drawn by Tim Truman on the back end, which we won't be covering (it doesn't really have much of an impact on Wolverine, and most of the details in it ultimately get retconned out)

    Boo, boo! "Wild Frontiers" is one of the more though-provoking Wolverine stories they have put out in MCP, especially at this time of history; the costume they dress Logan into is awesome, the ending is a total "Woah!" and all in all I'll take the Skunk-Bear over the Jamed Howlett nonsense any day of week. I was really waiting for this one.

    1. Sorry. We'll have to agree to disagree on this one. Nothing in the "Native American Wolverine" story impressed me half as much as ORIGIN, and Truman is capable of much better art.

    2. Truman was credited as the writer for that one though, it's Todd Foxx for pencils and Gary Kwapisz for tracing.

      I mainly think for the publication time it certainly was a nice tease of Wolverine's still-hidden background. There were the discarded plans of amnesiac Wolverine becoming Hand assassin after he had lost his head or something and then had his brains regenerate... like, maybe something like that happened to post-Wild Frontier Skunk-Bear and Wolverine really has a looong back-history he just can't remember because technically it wasn't him but another person with the same genes and the same regenerating body but different brain.

      The Native American angle may have something to do with an Oscar-hogging film called Dances with Wolves, and it's kind of hilarious that Leo DiCaprio finally got his long-evading Oscar from a role not unlike Logan there.

  3. I love Mackie disbarraging the 90's mongrel ninjas after he himself has had Deathwatch have his own set of 90's ninjas since GR #1.

    Plus, I've been binging on the Midnight Sons imprint stuff lately, and it's impossible there'd be earthquakes in Cypress Hills cemetery. With all the various caverns under the place there (all under Mackie's watch...) there absolutely can't be enough earth to quake.

    Other than that, I've gained whole new appreciation for 90's GR and Mackie with how he ties it up with the original 70's Johnny Blaze GR shenanigans. Of course when the Blood is introduced it all turns into completely other sort of moronic, but at least there was an end, of sorts.

  4. Teebore, for your sanity, I don't think anyone will blame you if you skip Mackie's X-Factor/Mutant X.

    1. I will definitely cover Mackie's X-FACTOR, just to finish out the series (and I seem to remember not hating at least the issues with Epting on art, mostly because Eptin was doing the art).

      MUTANT X I'm still not sure about. On the one hand, it's kind-of a sequel to X-FACTOR, and it does feature the "real" Havok. Plus, I've never read the very end. On the other hand, from what I have read, it's awful.

    2. If you do cover Mutant X, keep a bottle or 2 of wine handy. Or something stronger, even.

  5. The Mackie/ Tex Ghost Rider comics were dumb fun. I bought a bunch from quarter bins and had a good time reading them. They're not lost classics by any means, but they're respectable time-wasters. Take away Mark Texiera's art and the "fun" goes away, however.

    - Mike Loughlin

    1. Oh come on, #24 was Tex's last, and directly after that we get the Brood cross-over with the X-Men, the near-offensive Midnight Sons shenanigans with Morbius picking up his new costume from the rack of a SM store and the Tomb of Dracula gang staking the 90's and all in the middle of the crossover two generations of Kuberts show up to tell what they think of Image in #29... wrong sort of "fun"? :D

      I think I've heard badmouthing that Mackie was winging it like Lost writers for a lengthy period in the beginning of the GR vol 2 and didn't have an idea where it was supposed to be going. Things later revealed to be from the GR vol 1 start showing up about a year or so in the vol 2.

    2. I have come to realize that, sadly and inexplicably, far too many professional writers approach long-form storytelling the way the LOST writers did, ie making shit up as they went along while creating a pretense that it was all part of a grand plan. I simply can't imagine writing that way.

  6. Was the Cable logo seen here in use much before the reverse(ish) variation on the X-Force logo used for that upcoming solo title?

    1. I don't think so - I certainly don't recall seeing it anywhere else. Which doesn't mean it wasn't used ANYWHERE else, but it definitely wasn't common.


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