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Ghost Rider #22

Posted: Tuesday, April 15, 2008
By: Bryant Frattalone

Jason Aaron
Roland Boschi
Marvel Comics
Editor's Note: Ghost Rider #22 arrives in stores tomorrow, April 16.

Plot: Ghost Rider continues to blaze and battle his way through nightmare nurses and ghoulish ghosts.

Commentary: We get more of the same fast driving and fast fighting action as last issue. Johnny runs the gauntlet of flesh eating ghosts and maniacal nurses toward a showdown in the center of town. I'm enjoying Aaron's take on Ghost Rider more than I've enjoyed anyone's take in years. However, I am starting to get the urge to drop the series and that's what's always happened when I've tried to get into a new creative team's rif on the character. I can't honestly remember getting through and past the first five or six issues on a new run without dropping the thing entirely. I think Ghost Rider is just a hard character to write. I can't get into many supernatural themed comics at all because frankly creative wise I think the subject of the supernatural and topics including heaven and hell are hard nuts to crack because people are talking about things they just don't understand. Once you introduce a creative team's visual take on the subject matter, it tends to lose any awe-inspiring or interesting impact. The best supernatural stuff I've ever encountered never came out of a movie or comic but out of literature. I believe this is because literature's lack of visuals leaves the unknown to our own fertile imaginations and our own conceptualization of what scares us the most.

The realities of heaven and hell have to be more awe-inspiring and fear inducing than our brightest and darkest imaginations, and there is the problem with telling these stories visually. Anything we portray is far less than the truth and reality of it. So it either winds up coming off as downright hokey or just a bunch of cheap special effects wrapped in pseudo-armchair-mysticism. If you are going to reveal the supernatural fully--as is done here--there has to be some reasonable physics to how things work or the reader is just lost. Case is point: Cannibal ghosts. Um, how does that work? For the most part ghosts as portrayed in literature and film have no ability to actually physically harm a person (unless they are demonic spirits who possess individuals and use the host's own body to harm itself or others). Their forte and modus operandi is scaring the life out of folks. So if we are going to introduce spirits who by the very word and nature are ephemeral who can also take on enough physicality to maim and rend people, then how does that work? Also, Ghost Rider tears through these spirits but it appears they have the ability to simply re-form after being decapitated and burned. Where is the danger element in that? Seriously, as the issue goes on it becomes more like watching a video game than anyone in real danger.

At least we get the psycho-nurses appearing more or less mortal if evil. One's particular demise has enough horror and finality to it to add weight to the otherwise arcade-like melee between ol' flamehead and the road-ter-geists. Aaron goes back briefly to Johnny's childhood to give us insight into events that shaped a young Blaze, events that would account for him turning desperately to the occult for help later in life. I don't think we've ever gone back this far in Johnny's history, so it will be interesting to see the insights Aaron cooks up. Aaron also introduces us--or to be more exact is, in the process of re-introducing--a past Ghost Rider who is working for Zadkiel. The how and why is yet to be determined but this too was a bit off-putting for me because I thought Aaron was going to focus more on new characters. Ghost Rider's past is so convoluted and muddled that a purely fresh start with slight references to what's come before would be more appealing to me than dragging in old characters who frankly should have never been and weren't that great as characters at all. To me, the whole Danny Ketch run and his stable of villains were as interchangeable as can be and are better off forgotten. But I'm willing to give Aaron a chance to put a fresh spin on other stale goods from the Ghost Rider cupboard.

Lastly, Boschi's art continues to be underwhelming. I like his overall story-telling ability and his grasp of the human characters is good, but his Ghost Rider is just blah. This issue we get two potentially iconic Ghost Rider moments, one with him wielding a scythe which should be a darn cool visual but under Boschi's pencils it's just serviceable. The other one is of Ghost Rider on his cycle racing a ghostly ghoul on a hellacious horse. Both of these should have evoked action and awe but they just fall flat and leave you with the feeling of wanting more out of the art. I'm giving this issue three bullets because overall the story and direction are still good, and by good I mean better than it has been in many years, but it is these little nagging details that may add up to big disappointment and disinterest down the road. Ghost Rider's road shouldn't be boring. Aaron needs to give us a sense of supernatural physics in the context of the world he's creating and Boschi needs to step up the art or else be replaced.

Final Word: Ghost Rider's road is a bit rocky this month.







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