The mantle of the Ghost Rider has changed hands again, and with it comes a whole new status quo for the flame-headed… cyclist?

Let’s not get TOO hasty in our assumptions, because your Major Spoilers review of the All-New Ghost Rider #1 awaits!

GhostRider#1ALL-NEW GHOST RIDER #1
Writer: Felipe Smith
Artist: Tradd Moore
Colorist: Nelson Daniel & Val Staples
Letterer: VC’s Joe Caramagna
Editor: Mark Paniccia
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Cover Price: $3.99

Previously in Ghost Rider: There is a long tradition of Ghost Riders in the Marvel Universe, dating back to Carter Slade in the 1880s (or, if you’re on a real-world time-scale, the 1960s, though Carter was based on an early 1940s character who had lapsed into public domain).  Johnny Blaze wore the name as a curse for many years, followed by Danny Ketch, who probably brought the character his greatest visibility, but whether you’re wanting a white-clad cowboy or a fiery-skulled cycle bum, the promotional materials indicate that you’ve got a surprise coming.  What is the deal with this all-new Ghost Rider, anyways?

MEANWHILE, ON THE WEST COAST

Our story opens in Los Angeles, as young auto mechanic Robbie Reyes finishes his work day.  I really like the work that they put into the small details in this issue, making it clear that Robbie is a smart young man in an unpleasant circumstance by having his boss try to short his paycheck, but Jamie calmly correcting the error without confrontation.  Things immediately cut to a young handicapped man getting beaten up in a back alley, as three gang punks steal his wheelchair and make fun of his comic books.  It’s a very familiar take on an old standard, complete with the punks calling him the r-word and generally acting in a TV-movie gangbanger sort of way.  When Robbie arrives and starts beating them down, calling them out for picking on a kid in a wheelchair, it started to feel like things were going a little too far to make me feel for our hero…

…then, one of the thugs pulls a gun.  Robbie is beaten up, and *his* stuff is stolen along with little brother, which felt like a nice inversion of the usual clichés of storytelling.  Robbie carried his brother (I assume, anyway) home to the shabby apartment they call home, and they finish their day listening to the hail of gunfire outside their window.  I don’t know how realistic a take on East Los Angeles this is, but it does work for me in the sense of the story, showing us a young man who lives in the midst of a crime-ridden hellhole, just trying to take care of his brother…

THIS JUST GOT REAL

…until it gets dark.  Robbie slips out of the house, dressed in his racing gear (which, in a nice callback to Johnny Blaze, is also his costume, and features the familiar chest racing-stripe), liberating the Dodge Charger he had finished repairing in the opening scene, and takes off to enter an illegal street race.  The pacing of this issue is pretty impressive, especially in the deconstructed age, where an origin can last six issues and Forever Evil takes up an entire publishing year, as Robbie gets into the race for the prize money (betting the car he doesn’t own as a stake.)  The race itself is really cool to look at, and I’m thrilled to say that the promotional material that showed the well-rendered and recognizable Dodge Charger is, in fact the work of the interior art team, and Robbie easily wins the race…

…until my expectations are AGAIN deconstructed as the police arrive just as he is preparing cross the finish line.  Trying to escape the police helicopter, Robbie roars off into the night, and a pretty cool chase sequence ensues.  Artistically, I’m very pleased with this book, as Tradd Moore makes all the racing sequences kinetic and exciting, the comic book equivalent of a ‘Fast And Furious’ movie, and the story keeps up with him at every turn.

THE BOTTOM LINE: AN EXCITING OPENING SALVO

I don’t want to spoil the way the climax plays out entirely, but by the end of the issue, we’ve got ourselves a Ghost Rider, and I’m happy enough with the story to forgive most of the familiar bits that got us there.  As with all previous Ghost Riders, Robbie’s new identity requires sacrifice, and he’s likely not going to be entirely thrilled with the turn his life has taken, which makes me (as an old-school Johnny Blaze fan) very happy.  The fact that we get the actual origin entirely in the number one issue also pleases me, leaving us with  comic that feels like the first 15 minutes of a well-done action film.  There are problems with the story, with some familiar story beats, but writer Felipe Smith is confident enough to wear his influences on his sleeve and the thrill-ride aspect of the story helps make up for any flaws in the execution (even if I hope we don’t see any more violence against Robbie’s little brother in future issues).  All in all, All-New Ghost Rider #1 manages an impressive feat: reminding me of the cool stories of the past, while taking a new path, and the art is visually distinctive enough that I’d have enjoyed the issue even if the writing were less capable, earning an impressive 4 out of 5 stars overall.

Change is not, in itself, bad, my friends…

The Author

Matthew Peterson

Matthew Peterson

Once upon a time, there was a young nerd from the Midwest, who loved Matter-Eater Lad and the McKenzie Brothers... If pop culture were a maze, Matthew would be the Minotaur at its center. Were it a mall, he'd be the Food Court. Were it a parking lot, he’d be the distant Cart Corral where the weird kids gather to smoke, but that’s not important right now... Matthew enjoys body surfing (so long as the bodies are fresh), writing in the third person, and dark-eyed women. Amongst his weaponry are such diverse elements as: Fear! Surprise! Ruthless efficiency! An almost fanatical devotion to pop culture!

And a nice red uniform.

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2 Comments

  1. April 11, 2014 at 3:59 am — Reply

    I found the art pretty problematic, especially the way the faces were drawn. Also I think that Nic Cage sort of ruined the Ghost Rider franchise for me… But that’s just my personal look on this…

  2. Damascus
    May 13, 2014 at 3:23 am — Reply

    Yeah, I’ve read issues 1 and 2 now, and I still have a problem with the art. The inanimate objects look fine even great at points, but the people look like a drunk Humberto Ramos was doing the art. I don’t hate it as such, it’s just a very different style that throws me off. Apart from all that, I do like the book so far. It feels a little stereotypical in all of the gang member portrayals, and with kids as rough as the ones he encounters, you’d think one of the would comment on this high school kids’ skunk stripe in his hair.

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