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“Circle of Four” Part 2
WRITER: Rob Williams
LETTERS: VC’s Clayton Cowles
Doctor Strange and Daimon Hellstrom convene at Las Vegas’s outskirts, where they find Johnny Blaze’s impenetrable invisible barrier preventing Hell from seeping past the city’s border. A civilian bystander utters the book’s funniest line: “How’s a working man supposed to make his living in this economy if the planet Earth is entirely overrun by the nefarious denizens of hell itself?”
Within Vegas, Blackheart commands his concubine, Gari Oyle, to destroy the barrier. Blackheart then orders that Venom, Ghost Rider, Red Hulk, and X-23 die at the hands of “The Antitheses,” four villains created to target the heroes’ weaknesses.
Ghost Rider rides after Gari Oyle, but her antithesis, Ichor, intercepts her. Venom’s antithesis is The Evangelist, who plagues him with visions of guilt. X-23 faces X-666, who claims to be “nuanced” whereas X-23 is a pure killer. Red Hulk’s antithesis, a giant brain named Encephalon, torments Red Hulk with emotion control.
Ghost Rider subdues Ichor, who then reverts to a human form. Blackheart offers to undo one one of Ghost Rider’s past mistakes in exchange for her joining Blackheart’s ranks.
The new Ghost Rider, Alejandra, is a dud. Two able writers, Rick Remender and Rob Williams, have failed to demonstrate that she even has a personality, let alone a good one. She mostly speaks in generic, emotionally flat catch phrases like “there is no forgiveness.” The only exceptions–her snide insults towards her teammates–utterly lack wit. I avoid resentful, uncharismatic people in real life, so why should I read a comic centered on one?
Perhaps ironically because Rob Williams regularly writes Ghost Rider, the scenes featuring the other three heroes in this crossover fare more interestingly. Each hero faces his or her antithesis, each of which reveals its counterpart’s innermost doubts in a fascinating way. The rhyme or reason behind how the Antitheses manifest themselves is not yet clear, but as a best guess each Antithesis represent’s a reversal of each hero’s inner and exterior selves. X-23 is good and pure on the inside but has a dark, murderous exterior. X-666, conversely, is a killer on the inside but superficially looks like a nice, all-American cheerleader. Red Hulk has a keen brain disguised within a monster; Encephalon is a monster that looks like a brain. I am not sure how this theory applies to Venom and the Evangelist. Anyway, just the fact that this comic provokes these thoughts earns it points.
Yet again, though, Ghost Rider remains the weakest link. Whatever the thematic dynamic between her and Ichor, it isn’t as interesting as it is with the other pairings. I get the good demon/evil angel connection, but is there more too it? Does this contrast say anything about what kind of person Alejandra is? Not really. Alejandra, as she delivers the knockout blow, does say something about how the human part of her has died and only the Ghost Rider remains. If that’s supposed to be an epiphany, than it’s a lame, cliched one. And it does not work anyway because we never see her acting “human” before this point other than when she calls Red Hulk “bossy.”
The art gets the job done and tells the story clearly. I usually prefer tighter lines than what Lee Garbett uses, and I dislike his rendition of Blackheart, but other than that there is not much to complain about. few artists could follow Tony Moore and come out looking spectacular.
3.0 eyeball snacks out of 5 (Adequate). I liked every scene of this book not featuring Ghost Rider. I like that he have gotten her spotlight issue behind us.
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