Plot: Johnny Blaze is on the revenge trail. This time against the fallen angel who had a hand in making him the Ghost Rider.
Commentary: Ghost Rider as an angel is a lame idea, right? That's the sentiment new writer Jason Aaron (and I'm sure many Ghost Rider readers including myself) had at the end of Daniel Way's run on the relaunch of Ghost Rider. I picked the book up sporadically because darn it, Ghost Rider is just a cool visual. However, I was disappointed at every turn. Way's Ghost Rider was lame or rather the story that dominated the bulk of his run. Johnny hunting down Lucifer himself as his scattered essence possessed different hosts was lame. For me, any story where an enhanced mortal fights the devil or God is lame. Yes, I am a Christian and I do believe in God and the devil, so I naturally come to these stories with a prejudice. However, even if you are not a believer, the idea of these characters combating the supreme forces of good and evil and prevailing is just stupid. I'm sorry, it is. Beyond all that, Ghost Rider's history had become so muddled and headache inducing over the years that reading this new take just turned me off even more. And now of all things he's an angel.
However, I liked this issue. Here's why. Jason Aaron came onboard with the same attitude toward what's gone before that a lot of us readers had, but he's determined to make it work! That is daring and peaks my curiosity to no end; that a writer would take the lamest of ideas and attempt to make something readable out of it. I say kudos to you, Mr. Aaron. I experienced Jason Aaron's writing for the first time in last week's Wolverine and I dug it. When I saw he was the writer on another of Marvel's grittiest characters, I decided to give it a shot and as much as I wanted to hate it, I can't honestly say that I did. The second reason I liked it was because Ghost Rider finally has nemeses at his level. He's not fighting street thugs which he can easily overpower or ultimate divine and infernal forces which outmatch him in power by far. He's an angel, so he's looking to fight other fallen angels in their war against heaven. The battlefield has been leveled and Aaron promises to bring as much savagery to the proceedings as if it was all the devils in hell Blaze was combating.
Zadkiel is making the same mistake the Biblical Lucifer did in the beginning and the idea of Ghost Rider being the instrument of vengeance against this upstart angel (though Johnny's motives are selfish at this point in time) is compelling stuff indeed. From a theological standpoint it raises the question: "What if a fallen angel decided to take up arms against other fallen angels and fight on Godís behalf?" In the context of the spiritual world, it is a totally conceivable thought. Thirdly, I liked the atmosphere Aaron brings to the proceedings. He's brought back the subversive, grind-house feel Ghost Rider had back in the 1970s. Aaron gives us long stretches of road, lonely towns with dark secrets, a desperate anti-hero and bizarre adversaries. Aaron had me hooked from the opening scene where Johnny confronts a priest in a confessional to find the way to heaven. This scene reminded me of the first Ghost Rider story I ever read as a kid where Johnny in a confessional corners a priest guilty of his own brand of horrible sins. Johnny turns into the Ghost Rider and thrusts his hand through the lattice separating he and the priest and does him in with his penance stare. I can't help but believe Aaron got his inspiration for his scene from there. If Aaron continues to mine the best of Ghost Rider history (there's not a lot of it) he'll keep me on board.
The art by Roland Boschi is very good for the series all around with strangely, one exception; Ghost Rider himself. He does fear, dread, desperation and tension very well and his backgrounds and secondary human characters are great too. Boschi reminds me a lot of the legendary Gene Colan mixed with a bit of Ron Garney. But his Ghost Rider just lacks presence on the page. I started out by saying Ghost Rider is a cool visual. Boschi needs to step it up and impress us with a definitive Ghost Rider. His Ghost Rider looks... well... ghostly and indistinct under the flames at times. We are used to seeing the hard-boned features of the Ghost Rider in all his blazing glory.
Final Word: This book has got guts. If you were thinking of kicking Ghost Rider by the side of the road, stick around for the ride.
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