Huh. Now here we have another weird case. While all Darkhold issues have bled into each other in some way, shape or form, issue #5 comes the closest to being a standalone issue thus far.
As mentioned in the epilogue of issue 4, it does feature the Ghost Rider villain Reverend Styge. Styge is a cannibal that, though mortal, tricks many (including children) into being killed by him with promises of getting them in contact with lost loved ones. In this story he gets a Darkhold page and is actually given the power to resurrect the dead for real.
This is a masterful plot device that is used correctly to make a preexisting marvel villain even more frightening. It also makes for an organic and compelling evolution of the Styge character.
The issue also features the Punisher, who was everywhere at the time. To try and fight the Ghost Rider, Styge tries to recruit the Punisher with the promise of resurrecting his family. Though the plan fails, it makes for good drama.
We also get a few pages devoted to the sub-plots that have been building since the series started, with Agatha Harkness and the Scalet Witch contacting Dr. Strange about the reemergence of the Darkhold pages.
But wait, isn’t this story about Viki Montessi, Louise Hastings and Sam Buchannan? And here we see where the issue fails. Too many guest stars mean that the lead character get very low page counts, line counts, and plot development. And once again, I place the blame squarely on the shoulders of Ghost Rider. Every other character has a reason for being there, even Punisher, who the episode revolves around. Once again GR could have been lifted from the plot and made it a lot better. Just because Styge is his villain is not reason enough for him to be here.
I’m actually a big fan of the Danny Ketch Ghost Rider, and look forward to reviewing his series when it comes time… But he hasn’t been handled well under writer Chris Cooper, and again smacks of editorial mandate.
The end result is not as jarring as it was in issue #1, but it’s still bad. Thankfully, the Punisher plot saves it. 3/5 for this adequate stand-alone issue.
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
3/5 for this adequate stand-alone issue.