Razing Mash-Up City in Cosmic Ghost Rider 3

by Patrick Ehlers

This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!

The very concept of “Cosmic Ghost Rider” is a great example of Writer Donny Cates  using disparate ideas from all around the Marvel universe as the building blocks for something wholly new and exciting. In my write-up of issue #1, I called it “Mythological Omnivorism”, a turn of phrase that I like, but which feels a least a little dishonest. Cates and artist Dylan Burnett weren’t consuming this mythology so much as they were shuffling, repackaging, and repurposing it. Issue three is where the consumption begins – and all of those jumbled-up building blocks are devoured to sate the gluttonous reader’s appetite.

It’s marvelous stuff, and Cates takes a second at the top of the issue to revel in excitement that stems from the novelty of it all. Uatu the Watcher stares directly at the camera in the opening splash page, jubilantly laying out the concrete details of this issue’s set-up. Uatu tags the whole thing with “…it is quite a lot of fun to watch.” That bit of narration plays out over a panel that is designed to be just that: fun to watch.

This is mash-up city, right here. There’s a Ms. Marvel + Captain America, a Juggernaut + Howard the duck, a Rocket + Groot + Iron Man! Oh and also Galactus, Cable and Jubilee, just for funsies. The is page two, by the way. This is baseline insanity for an issue that will take us all the way to crazytown.

“How?” You might ask. By razing all of these bat-shit inventions to the ground. We know this version of the Guardians of the Galaxy just long enough to see them identified and do one cool thing, and then Glactus blasts them off the face of the planet. It is an utterly disarming moment, one predicated by Cable’s “wait, what did you say?” It’s as though enough the time-traveling I’ve-seen-it-all-because-I’m-Cable can’t even keep up.

This is when Cable, armed with the ability to slide around timelines recruiting whatever alternate version of anyone he wants, initiates a chaotic carousel of carnage. It’s also where Burnett turns in four straight pages of violent brilliance, as Frank repeatedly wipes out every mash-up team Cable throws at him. I adore the pacing of this sequence, which finds one page dominated by energy blasts, and the next dominated by Frank’s infernal chains. Then the whole thing explodes, using energy blasts and chains simultaneously to depict untold full-team-wipes.

Burnett tries to guide the eye in a snaking path across the top of the page and back to the left before zigging back around. We can follow that chain connecting the various panels of the Wee Baby Thanos being traumatized. But order is hardly the point of this thing, right? All of the imagery from the rest of the issue is here, including colorist Antonio Fabela punctuating fiery red scenes with that otherworldy electric blue. This page essentially is the issue distilled into one beautifully incoherent image.

So if the death and destruction ends up being the thing that’s fun about the issue, what are we supposed to make of that final image? Frank is rescued by a very simple concept: teenage time-traveling Punisher-Thanos. The fireworks are over and all that’s left is one more terrifying mash-up.

The conversation doesn’t stop there. What do you wanna talk about from this issue?

One comment on “Razing Mash-Up City in Cosmic Ghost Rider 3

  1. What really makes it work is that this insanity works so well in selling the story. This issue had to sell one idea. Frank Castle raising Thanos would be such an gory orgy of violence that THanos would be raised to become even worse than he actually is. With such a premise, it had to be this insane. It had to reach a level of violence that went beyond any semblance of reality and turned farcical. Especially when filtered through the fact that this is Frank Castle as Cosmic Ghost Rider. The absurdity of everything up, of the mashups, of Cable, Marvel’s resident grizzled old man, getting older and older till, is the only way to express just how absurd it is. Absurdity is the only way to sell that what Castle is doing is not only a bad idea, but the WORST idea.

    Honestly, my only problem with the issue is that last page. After all that absurdity, Punisher Thanos feels remarkably tame. As a concept, Punisher Thanos doesn’t sound worse than the guy who killed half the universe, though with a bit of depth and exploration you could sell that idea (he should have the Infinity Gauntlet in the last page). And even concept aside, Thanos feels a little too goofy. This book should be funny, but it should balance that with the stakes. The fight scene was a fantastic example of something really goofy and really dark, which is the exact balance this book is heading for. Meanwhile, Punisher Thanos actually feels like a deescalation from Baby Thanos trying to kill Cable with his own metal arm.

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