spreading the talent

Hearts of Darkness

Issue: Ghost Rider / Punisher / Wolverine : Hearts Of Darkness

Published: December 1991 Marvel Comics

Reviewed by Rick Pipito for plot

I chose this issue to review because these are three of my favorite Marvel characters from my youth.  All three have something in common… bad movies (although I really loved the most recent 2 Punisher movies, they got less than perfect reviews).  This issue is short, but shows what the characters are all about.  There are spoilers, so be warned.

It begins with Dan Ketch arriving in a town called “Christ’s Cross”.  He has been contacted by a mystery person to meet at a bed and breakfast.  The B & B is run by a woman who has a young daughter named Lucy.  He settles in and washes up and then arrives in the dining room to eat dinner with the owner and the other two guests (Frank and Logan).  Yes, the three of them are eating an awfully silent dinner together and all are suspicious.  This scene is very good at making the reader feel as though the tension in the room is uncomfortable.

Afterwards, Logan knocks on Frank’s room door to confront him.  The phony mustache that Frank was wearing did not fool Logan’s heightened sense of smell as to who the visitor was.  They realize each other are the Punisher and Wolverine.  They have both been contacted by a mystery man as well.  Okay, this is a little predictable from the get go, but I like how they get right into trying to figure out who it is.

Suddenly, all three are confronted by Blackheart and made an offer.  Their mystery contact has been revealed and he offers them extended power to eliminate his father Mephisto.  Hmmm, make a deal with a devil to take out the devil?  None of them will forfeit their souls to do so.  I like Blackheart’s explanation as to why he chose them.  He knows their emotions won’t get in the way of doing what needs to be done.

Since they won’t cooperate, Blackheart places the entire town in a trance and kidnaps the little girl Lucy.  This is a key issue for the Dan Ketch Ghost Rider.  Until this point he has believed that he needs his motorcycle to transform to the spirit of vengeance.  When the innocents are threatened however, he changes even though Blackheart has stolen his bike.  I love the way John Romita Jr did the art for the transformation.  It is only across three frames, but it is effective.

The trio of heroes pushes past a wall of thorns and demon souls to follow the demon into Hell itself.  There, the dark one attempts to kill the child, but Ghost Rider takes his gloves off.  With flaming fists, he beats Blackheart around and even tears off part of his face.  Wolverine doesn’t do a whole lot more than cutting off the demon’s arm.  The least likely of the heroes who could battle Blackheart then steps in.  Punisher unloads so much ammo into his enemy that he is perforated into pieces and explodes.

A final scene of the three heroes with Lucy is portrayed atop a hill overlooking the town.  Everything has returned to normal and while this is predictable as well, Ghost Rider makes a memorable statement.  “It doesn’t matter if there is an edge or we occasionally cross it.  As long as the innocent are protected our cause is just.”  He puts the Punisher’s motives out of doubt and reassures them all that they are doing the right thing.  It is nice to see the slightly human side to them when they realize that they are so violent in their ways that a demon would actually choose them as his pawns.

Overall, I give this a 7 out of 10.  I enjoyed the story a lot, but would have liked more meat to it.  Everything happened so fast, and I would have been a little better with more content.

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