By: Victor Gischler (writer), Will Conrad (art), Brian Reber (color)

The Story: The X-Men go to a small town in the southern US to help out a shaman who is going to get rid of some demons. Not all goes according to plan, but a curvier Ghost Rider than the last shows up for an assist.

What’s Good: I don’t recall having seen the Conrad/Reber art combo before, but I liked it. Ghost Riderette riding in was a visual treat, and the opening sequence with Dani was beautifully detailed. The static poses seemed competent (although mildly artificial), but the action sequences, from the arrival of the demons onward, worked much better. Some artists make it hard to figure out what’s going on when the do the action sequence zoom-ins, but Conrad kept his panels clean and filled with momentum. Writing-wise, this was a quick, simple story with some dialogue gems and clever trash talk that had me laughing.

What’s Not So Good: While this is a complete little story in a single book, I don’t feel that it was a particularly powerful story. The biggest thing holding this book back was that no one grew or developed (other than Ghost Rider’s target and (a) he’s not a key cast member and (b) you could argue he already felt bad). This sapped meaning from the story, and I would go further and say this issue had no emotional heart. The X-Men are on a mission to help people they have no real investment in (not even Dani, despite the family connection…she shows no emotions in the book, only a bit of trivial irony) and in the end, they walk away unchanged. Even the commercial addition of Ghost Rider (I would think that this was an embedded marketing attempt to boost sales on the new Ghost Rider series) didn’t generate any genuine interactions or conflict. I small measure of how the story didn’t hold me was that I was more excited about two adds in the book: Marvel’s Princess of Mars series and the cover for X-Men #16 featuring Doctor Doom and the X-Men.

I think strike two, albeit a lesser one, is that this story has nothing to do with what the X-Men are about. An Iron Fist story has to have something to do with martial arts and secret societies. Anything else and you’re missing the whole under-the-water-part of the iceberg. And the X-Men are about isolation and persecution. This story made no sense for what the X-Men were about and could just as easily have been a story starring the Avengers or the Fantastic Four. A story about demons is perfect for Ghost Rider (who did not solve the problem or drive the story in this issue), Doctor Strange, Brother Voodoo, Satanna, Son of Satan, Dracula, and even the Golem. Any of them would have made this demon-possessed-town setting sparkle. Genetic mutants don’t fit.
Conclusion: If you must own every Ghost Rider or X-Men story, rush out now to buy this issue. I can’t believe you don’t have it yet. However, if you’re looking for a good X-Men story, or a good Ghost Rider story, I’d say pass on this one. It isn’t either.

Grade: C-

-DS Arsenault

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