This week Ghost Rider partakes in the "Shadowland" festivities by way of a one-shot by Rob Williams and Clayton Crain. For anyone not keeping score one of the pivotal moments in this event so far has been the summoning of Ghost Rider by none other than the Kingpin, Wilson Fisk. What we were unsure of, however, is just why Ghost Rider would willingly align himself with the notorious criminal mastermind of Hell's Kitchen. Luckily for anyone interested, this one-shot manages to clear up all the confusion regarding that particular matter.
Williams constructs a story that focuses on the plight of Johnny Blaze, the Ghost Rider, as he finds himself uncontrollably drawn to the Kingpin's whim. Now what we learn is that the Kingpin has utilized Hand magic (insert joke here) to influence the Ghost Rider into unwillingly doing Fisk's bidding. Unless this Hand magic is broken Ghost Rider will remain an unwilling participant in the Kingpin's sinister plans. This leads to a direct confrontation with the Snakeroot branch of the Hand who have been manipulating Matt Murdock behind the scenes. See the only way for Ghost Rider to regain his freedom is by disrupting the magic and these three Snakeroot villains are the ones in possession of such sorcery.
While the story isn't going to blow anyone's mind, it is rather decently crafted. Williams handles the whole mess like a champ and even utilizes many key elements of the Ghost Rider's recent history such as the Zadkiel debacle. This is a positive factor considering how easy it would have been to just sidestep all of that continuity. My one gripe with Rob Williams is his dialogue pertaining to Johnny Blaze. I simply don't recall Johnny using such a southern vernacular in all my years of reading Ghost Rider adventures. It was a perpetual use of terms such as y'all and sumbitch that had a tendency to take me out of the story. Yet he makes up for that as he portrays Johnny as a man so sick of being used and abused that he mentions how he just wants to die to be rid of the curse of the Ghost Rider. That revelation came across as an honest and sincere reveal and felt like an organic emotion emitted from the hero.
The shining light of this issue is the absolutely magnificent Clayton Crain artwork, which always a joy to behold. Crain is quite simply one of my absolute favorite artists in the industry today thanks in part to his high level of detail that can be found in all of his books. His rendering of Ghost Rider is gorgeous and is painstakingly illustrated to the hilt. The opening scene showcasing Ghostie blazing on his bike is breathtaking as are the panels that have Blaze racing across a body of water, which features a certain fluidity to it that many artists simply can't manage to capture on paper. The cresting of the waves and the droplets of ocean that spray across the panels as the waves crash to the shore are a stunning visual. This book is just pure out eye candy!
As a one-shot goes this issue served its purpose by actually providing the reader with some additional information. Though one must take into consideration that the only truly relevant bit pertains to the hows and whys of Ghost Rider's participation with Fisk. Otherwise this is definitely a stand alone, take it or leave it tie in book that for all intents and purposes that will mainly be enjoyed by completists or extreme Ghost Rider fanatics.
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