(Marvel Comics, 2014)
Written by Felipe Smith
Artwork by Tradd Moore
Color Artwork by Val Staples
Lettering by Joe Caramagna
This series came out of the gate strong and has only gotten better. Now three issues into the first arc All-New Ghost Rider is at full speed and not looking back. Felipe Smith has captured the poignant sense of restlessly sought vengeance that fueled James O’Barr’s original Crow narrative, added a liberal dose of intense car action straight out of the Fast and Furious films and gave the whole thing a kind of street level sensibility that creates an atmosphere very similar to Breaking Bad that goes beyond both stories being set in the south-west. There is a heart-breaking desperation to Smith’s story of brotherly love. Robbie Reyes is his handicapped brother, Gabriel’s protector, provider and only family; he is literally his brother’s keeper and in the rough and tumble barrio neighborhood they call home that’s not an easy job to do. The streets are filled with all manner of miscreant; thugs, bullies and just plain low life scum all conspire to make the Reyes brothers’ daily lives a living Hell. Robbie has put up with the worst they have to offer, but now the tables have turned.
Smith does a fantastic job of developing the relationship between Robbie and The Spirit of Vengeance. His unique spin on Ghost Rider’s mythology goes much deeper than making his vehicle of choice a car instead of the expected motorcycles of Johnny Blaze and Danny Ketch, the previous Riders. Reyes shares a decidedly different dynamic with the Spirit of Vengeance as well. The Spirit introduces itself as Eli and Robbie uses that name when he speaks to the voice of vengeance, the dialog Smith writes for these exchanges is somewhat more casual than you might expect but given the other changes he has made this makes perfect sense. There is an air of camaraderie between Robbie and Eli that was not always present in the other incarnations of the character. This also works extremely well particularly later in the narrative when the two are working as a cohesive unit to bring down the bad guys.
The villains are genuinely reprehensible in this story lending a dimension of fist pumping enthusiasm to the scenes in which they receive some comeuppance Ghost Rider style. Tradd Moore treats our eyes to some of the most mind blowing artwork I have had the unadulterated pleasure of feasting my peepers on. His wildly kinetic style is addictive; there are pages in this issue I could not stop gazing into for fear of missing some mad detail that Moore meticulously added for our viewing delight. Val Staples’ vivid array of colors adds the knock-out punch to Moore’s already brain-bruisingly brilliant visuals. Staples’ colors bring an otherworldly vibrancy to the crime and grime filled streets; the insanely bright pink of Grumpy’s illicit pills pop off the page like the electric blue of the Heisenberg concocted crystal meth of Breaking Bad. This is must see artwork created by two inspired collaborators.
In just three short issues this creative team has redefined a character to the point of making a new creation. Don’t get me wrong I love a great many of the old Ghost Rider arcs, Garth Ennis, Howard Mackie, Jason Aaron, Roger Stern and Warren Ellis have all written first rate Ghost Rider tales and that’s just the ones that come immediately to mind. It’s just that this new incarnation is so unique and original that it really revitalizes the character in a way that is desperately needed at this time. Ghost Rider has been languishing in the “where-are-they-now” file for quite some time, only being taken out and dusted off for a guest appearance or as an addition to some team book or another most of the time to the detriment of the character (his inclusion in the current Thunderbolts by Charles Soule is an enjoyable exception). Smith has started from the ground up with his approach to Ghost Rider and so far it is paying off in a very big way. The premise is engaging, the characters are well developed and defined and the overall setting of the story is original. This is a world we haven’t seen Ghost Rider in before and that alone is interesting but when you begin to look at the other changes you see not only a fresh take on a tried and true character but something entirely new, or as Marvel prefers to say, All-New.
This issue is indicative of why I am so crazy about this title. It has everything I read comic books for; big action, poignant drama, engrossing characters and way over the top artwork. If you love those things as well, this is the book you should be reading. I recommend making a spot for All-New Ghost Rider on your pull list, this is a ride you won’t regret taking. (5/5)
Shawn is an aspiring writer/ artist who has been reading, collecting and living comic books for over 30 years. He lives in Baltimore with his wife, their son, lots of cats, dogs and other various finned and furry friends.