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Ghost Rider #23

Posted: Tuesday, May 20, 2008
By: Paul Brian McCoy

Jason Aaron
Roland Boschi, Dan Brown (color art)
Marvel Comics
Editor's Note: Ghost Rider #23 arrives in stores tomorrow, May 21.

"Hell-Bent & Heaven Bound: Part Four (or Four)"

I wasn't sure about Boschi's art when I first saw his take on Ghost Rider, but either it's finally grown on me or he's gotten more comfortable with the character. Regardless, I like the way he makes Ghost Rider a hulking behemoth of a monster. He looks much more like a demonic biker gang member than a demonic stunt rider, and with the balls-to-the-wall, adrenaline-fueled action that Aaron is scripting, I find this look very appropriate.

Of course, now that I like it, he's leaving. But the good news is Tan Eng Huat's taking over the art chores for the next four issue, then it's back to Boschi, and so on and so on. I'm really getting to like the idea of rotating art teams on books, and while Boschi and Huat are really nothing alike, they both have very distinctive styles that work well with the new feel of the series. Anyway, more on that next month.

This month wraps the first of Jason Aaron's (Scalped) Ghost Rider stories and there's so much energy here the book literally vibrates in your hands. Each of the narrative threads (cannibal-ghost cursed stretch of highway; evil gun-toting nurses on motorcycles and jeeps; police officer captured and being eaten by real live cannibals; boy who died, saw that Heaven was no place to be and is now being hunted by the bad guys) all come together in a four-way head-on collision (and that's no metaphor) with extremely violent and destructive repressions.

Aaron writes this book with fearless swagger and his chin out. I cannot praise enough the characterization of both Blaze and Ghost Rider here. These are characters I've never found interesting. Never. I tried to like the first Garth Ennis miniseries, but even that was a bit strained. And nothing about any of the previous runs or this one made me even want to give the character any attention. But then I read Scalped and fell in love with Aaron's style. The man can freaking write. His Blaze and Ghost Rider have definite anger issues and are driven like never before. I just can't get over the energy here.

When I heard Aaron was taking over Ghost Rider, I wasn't sure whether it would be a good match, but holy shit was I wrong to doubt. This is grindhouse motorcycle horror that drips blood and oil. The fantastic elements are gritty and disturbing while the overall feel is one of excitement and danger. It feels like the ink's gonna rub off on your fingers and it will burn and sting. If the stupid movie had shown a fraction of the imagination and guts that this comic does, it might have been worth watching (Note: It didn't and wasn't).

The pairing of Ghost Rider with the boy, Lucas, was one that made me wonder. But I'll be damned if Lucas not only acts as the impetus for this story, he also emphasizes the hopeless nature of Ghost Rider's new mission. You know, the mission to tear open Heaven and hunt down the renegade angel Zadkiel? Zadkiel, who, at the moment, is trying to seize the throne of Heaven.

We're talking high-concept here, folks. High-concept wrapped up in a dusty, Texas-style, drive-in movie extravaganza trappings. If this were a film, Tarantino or Rodriguez would direct (hopefully shooting for a hard R rating). Either that, or it would have been made in the 70s, when people got their hands dirty and made the classics. This feels like if Wes Craven had directed Vanishing Point. I keep half-expecting the comic to have scratches or to stutter on the reel.







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