Ghost Rider and a woman named Norma are running with hopes on protecting the life of a young girl. They are being chased by armed thugs who claim to be servants of Blackheart. Ghost Rider succeeds in defeating this small team, but they leave him a "gift". The girl who is revealed to be Lucy doesn't exactly know why Blackheart is after her, but to assist Ghost Rider she mentally contacts Wolverine and Punisher. -summary
There's a very small group of fans out there who still remembers this forgotten story, yet they really don't know the reasons on why many people seem to have forgotten it. I can tell you my reason, it's because this story is very near complete garbage. It pretty much gives you an idea on why comics began to earn such a bad rep in the mid 90's. Written by Howard Mackie in 1994; Ghost Rider, Wolverine, & Punisher: Dark Design, is the sequel to the best selling Hearts of Darkness, in which the story is based around the three anti-heroes who narrowly walk the thin line between good & evil. Like its predecessor, the story really doesn't take advantage of such an interesting concept, hell, again it doesn't even explore it, instead it provides a very weak reason on teaming these three up again.
I always hated this story, and the re-read last night only made me despise it more. The story follows the three as they engage Blackheart's army called the Corrupt in violent battle, as Blackheart seeks to kidnap Lucy apparently to be his bride and kill these three for not helping him before. There is no type of backstory or why he chose her for his bride in the first place, one can only guess and it's actually kind of pervy to think about. There's this strong possibility though that Blackheart may be losing it and he's moving closer towards being insane. Unfortunately, there's just not enough story to feel for him. It's basically, "my father ruined me so I'm mad". Come on Mackie, you couldn't do better than this?
Seriously, nothing really happens in this book. Ghost Rider is infected by the Corrupt and it appears that he may turn to Blackheart's side, yet Mackie doesn't take advantage of this at all. Punisher and Wolverine engage in several battles and they are mostly boring. Lucy, the little girl from the last story who was kidnapped by Blackheart before is a plot device again for the most unimaginative reason. This story is a very lazy copy and paste to gather the three heroes for a throwdown, and they barely look cool doing it.
Now take note, around this time Ghost Rider had already long encountered Blaze, plus Wolverine had the adamantium ripped from his bones by Magneto; this story would have benefited more as a crossover. It's obvious Marvel wanted to turn Blackheart into some type of threat. Then why not go all out then? They should have stretched this thing into the characters books, bring in some guest stars, and take advantage of current storylines at the time. Around this time, Ghost Rider, Wolverine, and Punisher were among the most interesting characters in the Marvel U, they deserved much better than this by the numbers vanilla cash-in.
Ron Garney and Al Milgrom are behind the pencils and inks. The book could have probably passed for an X-Men story due to the character designs. For the most part everything does look pretty with some nice designs. There are some pretty cool moments with Ghost Rider looking like his demonic-self. Punisher probably looks the best when he first appears as a stone cold killer, who truly despises the wicked enough to kill them all. Wolverine and Punisher could have done without the red eyes on some occasions though, they just look silly like that. The action panels have some stale moments that tip-toe towards being decent. Nothing I will say that is worth going ape over.
This was a phoned in work by Howard Mackie that's much worse than the previous book; the story is bland with only the artwork showing some signs of life. In order to enjoy this book, one would have to be easy to please to the point where it's abnormal. If I want a Ghost Rider fix, then perhaps I'll re-read Rise of the Midnight Sons and I recommend others do the same. Unless you're a hardcore collector, save your money and skip this weak book.
Cons: -Lazy by the numbers narrative
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