Tuesday, 17 March 2015

X-Men #8/Ghost Rider #27-#28: Who ya gonna maul?

So, this story, which covers the end of X-Men #8, Ghost Rider #26, X-Men #9 and Ghost Rider #27 is, you can probably guess from the start of that sentence, a crossover.  Recently I started using a categorisation scheme for crossovers.  No, I've explained it yet. Got to have some mystery, after all. This is a new type, a category I didn’t realise I’d needed.  This is category WTF.

We've not met Ghost Rider yet in X-Men, so I shall maintain the conceit that this might be the only corner of the Marvel universe you've really heard of (like, seriously, why would you even be reading this if you aren’t a hardcore Marvel fan, I don’t know?) and introduce him.  Ghost Rider is a title about a demonic spirit of vengeance that has possessed a biker, called Ghost Rider.  He goes from town to town, righting wrongs and doing motorcycle tricks.  Originally Ghost Rider's human host was Johnny Blaze, who starred in the series from 1972 to 1983.  A relaunch in 1990 saw him replaced with Danny Ketch.

Ghost Rider has little thematically in common with the X-Men, and the incongruity of this team-up is only multiplied by the identity of the enemy: the alien Brood.  You know, nudge nudge, the alien Brood, making their return to X-Men after a protracted absence, at more or less exactly the same time that Alien 3 came out.  So, we have a literal Hell's Angel teaming up with a group of people who represent the next stage in human evolution, to fight a bunch of body-horror monsters from space.  And that's not even what the story is really about.

What it's about is Gambit, and his background.  We know very little of him.  He rescued Storm and has been sort of hanging around ever since, earning the trust of the X-Men through his actions in combat.  This works out quite well for him when his wife turns up at the end of X-Men #7.  She arrives with a problem, specifically that his backstory is unravelling.  See, it turns out that Gambit is from the LeBeau crime family (called the Thieves' Guild, presumably because some LeBeau senior had read too much David Eddings), and his wife, Bella Donna, is from their rivals, the Boudreaux clan, also known as the Assassins' Guild (which is, if anything, even less plausible than the Thieves' Guilds because you just wouldn't get enough trade.  Real life crime families tend to stick to more reliable flows of income, whether that be drugs, or rent-collection).   But in they're not a Romeo-and-Juliet.  Instead, it goes for the second most obvious direction you could take that - they were betrothed to each other to seal a peace deal.  This all went fine (they did like each other) until Bella Donna's brother objected, forcefully, leading to Gambit having to a) kill him and b) go into exile.  This gives Gambit a background that would make him a passable character in a work of adventure fiction even if he hadn't turned out to be a mutant with kinetopyrotic or whatever powers.  (There's no indication as to whether Gambit had his powers back then.  It makes a point that Bella Donna didn't have hers)

So, Gambit is able to persuade the X-Men, or at least those of them who see the X-Men uniform as blue (so, Cyclops, Wolverine, Beast, Rogue, Psylocke and Jubilee) to accompany him back to New Orleans to sort out whatever is threatening the peace between the two families.  They do so by car, with the scripter of Ghost Rider #27 snarking at the plotter for failing to draw the Blackbird.  (The credits have only a writer/artist split here, but I reckon I can see an invisible spaceship when it's not there.)

On arrival they faff around for some time and then try a sneak frontal attack on the Assassins's Guild.  There they discover Jean Martine and Michelle, a married couple from Gambit's faction of the New Orleans LARP community, the latest in the line of victims of the Brood-possessed Assassins.  This is not the Brood’s usual M.O. - they’re assimilators not killers, but it can't just get the puppets these days, and it's agent has its own agenda.  Oops?  Anyway, this is nothing compared to its real secret weapon, a Brood-assimilated Ghost Rider.

The X-Men immediately know who Ghost Rider is (although as far as I can tell none of the members of this half of the gang have actually met him before - I guess they have heard tales from Iceman and Angel, who had been in the Champions with him back in the 1970s, and are obviously more rubbish because they see the dress as gold).  Ghost Rider's attack separates them, and Gambit and Bella Donna have a long-awaited conversation about Gambit leaving.  Gambit ducked off quite precipitously, without even asking Bella Donna to to with him, something that she, unremarkably, holds against him.

Because that’s the type of guy Gambit is.  Fuck him.  Actually, no, don’t fuck him.  Of him and Rogue he’s the most dangerous to touch, because he’ll bugger off the moment you let you inside.  That’s why he’s into Rogue so much, he’s never going to have the ugly physical and emotional reality of her to deal with, he can just continue to hit on her without any thought of the consequences.  I’ve known people like Gambit.  So have you.  They are shits. We love them anyway, damn it.

Bella Donna ends up fridged.  I know, right?  Didn’t see that one coming, did you?  Elsewhere, we get some excellent banter (god, dare I call it that? but that’s what it is) between Logan and Hank, and really difficult scenes between Betsy and Scott that I don’t understand what the fuck they were thinking. Scott needs a sustained period of not being written as a monster.

I'm off to San Francisco tomorrow. I'm there for a week and then I'll be going to Seattle for ECCC. If anyone's there and wants to meet up, drop me a line. I've scheduled posts for while I'm gone.

1 comment:

  1. Many points for dress-related wittiness. Many more for your slapping around of Gambit. Will have to remember your arguments when he finally shows up at my manor.