If you haven't been reading the latest volume of Ghost Rider, Issue 5 is a good place to start. Johnny Blaze is nowhere to be seen in this comic, as it focuses instead on the newest Spirit of Vengeance, a young woman named Alejandra. Alejandra is an orphan, raised in a temple and cut off from the rest of the world, trained to someday become the Ghost Rider. However, her upbringing left her unprepared for what it really meant to be the Ghost Rider, and as she leaves her past and the temple behind her, she's discovering not only her own abilities but the world itself.
As someone with absolutely no real world experience and a skewed upbringing, Alejandra is an interesting narrator, and one that Williams utilizes well. She has a level of innocence and naiveté, her lack of knowledge about anything outside the temple giving her an almost childlike quality. However, she also sees the world through the eyes of a demon, and is living with the guilt of missteps she made when she originally took on the powers of the Ghost Rider, and is on a quest to redeem herself for the lives she took when she shouldn't have.
This issue shows Alejandra's first step towards that redemption as she strives to save children from human traffickers in Mexico. Alejandra can relate to the children, remembering how she felt growing up adopted by the fanatical Adam and without a "happily-ever-after secret waiting to be revealed." Like she was, these children are lost innocents, and as she works towards freeing them, she realizes for the first time, it feels good for her to say she's the Ghost Rider. What she's always wanted to do is save people, and as she begins to find her footing, she takes the first steps towards learning what that really means.
Though he lacks a flaming skull, the real horror in this comic comes from the nearly silent Jones, the smuggler Alejandra is hunting down. A man willing to sell children, he's a dark figure with nothing redeeming about him. Where in the past, Alejandra turned her powers on everyone, no matter what their "sin" may be, Jones is a true sinner and the sort of man the Ghost Rider should go against. He's someone she can feel justified in fighting against, and by stopping him, she can move further on the path of redemption. However, Jones is also a connection to a secret Alejandra has long wanted to know, and facing him means more than she expected. Still, she demonstrates that she has the makings to be the sort of heroine who can stand up to adversity and tap into an inner strength beyond only that of her Ghost Rider powers.
Ultimately, Ghost Rider #5 is a slick blend of western and horror, and a comic that offers a strong set up for what's sure to be a wild and entertaining journey.
Sara McDonald started reading comics in the third grade, and now puts her English degree to good use talking about them on the Internet. She currently resides in Western Massachusetts with a roommate, three cats, and an action figure collection and spends the time she isn’t reading comics working for a non-profit. You can visit her blog at Ms. Snarky’s Awesometastic Comics Blog.