Overview

Ghost Rider #1

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Ghost Rider #1

Credits

  • Words: Daniel Way
  • Art: Javier Saltares and Mark Texeira
  • Inks: N/A
  • Colors: Dan Brown
  • Story Title: Vicious Cycle
  • Publisher: Marvel Comics
  • Price: $2.99
  • Release Date: Jul 12, 2006

The phrase "burn rubber" takes on new meaning as Ghost Rider, Johnny Blaze, attempts to escape from Hell. Is he prepared for the consequences if he succeeds?

Assistant Editor Michael O’Connor proudly proclaims on the letters pages that this series exists because fans demanded it. That is, unfortunately, perhaps the biggest problem this issue must overcome.

Johnny Blaze, Ghost Rider, is in Hell. Literally. His eternal torment is to be offered the chance to escape over and over again, only to be denied each time. Blaze seems doomed to this torture until he meets up with a lowly demon – one who offers an escape route if Johnny will protect him from Lucifer’s wrath. Is this Ghost Rider’s big break, or is the Devil still driving?

The character of Ghost Rider has long caught my eye and I often intended to start collecting back issues featuring the character. The unique visual design is one that has remained largely the same over the decades and really, how could someone improve over what always looked like a biker from Hell? When this new #1 was announced (and with a movie due in Winter 2007) I figured this would be a perfect jumping on point for a new reader. Well, it is, and it is not.

Writer Daniel Way avoids dredging up Ghost Rider’s often complex past, which certainly allows new readers to come aboard at a ground level, but he does not provide even basic hints of the character’s backstory to help new readers understand what is going on and why. I had a lot of questions while reading this issue, like, how and why Blaze is in Hell, why there is such animosity between Blaze and Lucifer (beyond just the fact that the villain is the Lord of Hell), and why Blaze is so desperate to leave Hell (aside from the obvious reasons)? Without this information it is difficult to get to know the man Blaze was (and still is?).

As it stands, Lucifer ends up overshadowing Blaze. There is a kind of frat-boy bully element to the character that is an interesting change from the Devil’s usual portrayals as suave, silver-tongued, dealmaker or evil and darkness incarnate. There is definitely a black and sadistic sense of humor at work here that fits well.

The one area where this comic puts absolutely every step right is in the art. Javier Saltares on breakdowns and Mark Texeira on the finishes create an iconic Ghost Rider that hits all the right notes of monster, nightmare, and biker tough. The comic book realistic art creates a dramatic landscape of Hell and gives a cinematic style to the action sequences – particularly the Evel Knievel ones.

On the whole, though, I really was let down by this opening issue. As a new reader to the character I felt like I had been dropped into the middle of an ongoing story arc. A single recap page, or a few nuggets of information dropped in the story would have helped. Even the Wikipedia entry on Ghost Rider really did not help me understand what was going on here. The strength of the art and the hope that Way will soon explain, is enough to make me pick up the next issue. If the plot remains murky and new reader unfriendly, however, I may yet turn to back issues in the quarter bins.

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