writer: Daniel Way
artists: Richard Corben
and Jose Villarrubia
Visually, Ghost Rider makes for a stunning character.
What a great look he has, simple and evocative, perfect
for putting on t-shirts and leather jackets. If you're a
Ghost Rider fan, you can be a nerd and a tough biker simultaneously.
But that's just the image. The character's grim and gritty
adventures have never really been the stuff of legend, though
they did make for a nifty toy line. A few good writers have
tried to make him into something more than one-note, most
recently Garth Ennis, but mostly, Ghost Rider's success
rides on that image.
So when an artist of the loopy caliber of Richard Corben
illustrates a Ghost Rider tale, it's worth notice. The surprise,
however, comes from Daniel Way, a writer good at mainstream
violence (Wolverine, Bullseye) who embraces that
Johnny Blaze has basically one note to play. Thus, he plays
If you aren't a rabid follower of Ghost Rider,
this is the issue to pick up and enjoy. Corben will be on
for a two-issue stint, which fills in a little back story
to Blaze's current predicament. What may have been carefully
developed just seems like status quo, and Way cleanly delineates
Johnny Blaze's personality without any continuity baggage.
Apparently, Satan has possessed a multitude. He is Legion,
after all. Feeling somehow responsible, Blaze has to track
down each and every one of the multitudes and send them
back to Hell. It's less a comic book than a videogame plot,
but it works, especially with Corben's slightly off design
Yet that plot also allows for a lot of weird and chilling
details, opening with a baptism going horribly wrong. When
Johnny Blaze turns into his flaming-skulled alter ego, Corben
makes it look definitely supernatural, and not possibly
some kind of scientific trick. For two issues, Ghost
Rider can ignore the Marvel Universe and just be itself.
In addition to eye-popping art and an easily enjoyed story,
Marvel tries a neat trick with the layout. Like an Image
book, all the ads get shunted to the back, following even
the letters pages. This allows the art to really flow, and
it's respect that we can wish Marvel would pay to all of
its artists. Some of the ad breaks over the past few months
have been jarring.
The letters page indicates a rabid following, reading
like something out of The Goon. If you read it, you
may dismiss me as a crank, because the passion coming from
readers about this character is amazing. And that, too,
draws me in, because it's clear they love this guy.
As a two-parter, this makes the upcoming film adaptation
seem sensible. For the first time, Johnny Blaze seems worth
an hour and a half of my time. Granted, that remains
to be seen, but in the meantime, Ghost Rider #6 will
not be a waste.
Also on the Stands:
Bullet Points #2: By putting Peter Parker in the
role of Hulk, J. Michael Straczynski taps deeply into what
makes Hulk a fan favorite - the pushed around guy that becomes
something huge and frightening. Who's more pushed around
than Peter Parker? But Bullet Points also suffers
from that need to make the Marvel icons still hang around
the story. Why would Peter be caught in the G-Bomb test?
Why is it that Reed Richards would help Steve Rogers in
the Iron Man program? Because we need to have characters
we recognize. Right now, the series gives no hints as to
where it's headed besides offering little alternate histories.
If its theme is that old "for want of a nail" thing, well,
DC's Elseworlds already did that with The Nail.
Fear Agent #9: Only the character stays consistent.
Rick Remender will otherwise throw anything and everything
at us, with some pretty disgusting and disturbing results.
The main arc is pulse-pounding space opera, with a back-up
story that's both funny and upsetting. Image has one more
issue, then Dark Horse pick up Fear Agent -- and
if you don't pick it up, then you're dumber than a Horse.
Girls #20: Please don't ask what's going on. Though
it's racing toward its conclusion, this strange story from
the Luna Brothers still holds too many mysteries. Yet each
issue has been compelling. Like The Walking Dead,
the book does a tremendous job of presenting believable
human reactions in the face of the unbelievable. And those
reactions aren't always so pretty.
Strange Girl #12: Do you get the theme here? Rick
Remender rocks. Taking a premise also used years earlier
(and currently reprinting) in Battle Pope, Strange
Girl treats it with seriousness and great plotting.
The Lords of Hell divide the spoils of a post-Rapture Earth,
and one human girl may be the key to undoing it all. In
this issue, she journeys down to Hell and finds it all too
Wolverine #49: Borrowing liberally from Spike Lee's
last movie, Rob Williams steps in for a delightful holiday
tale starring Wolverine. Okay, maybe it's not exactly delightful,
and it's definitely not particularly original, but it is
diverting and an adequate time-killer until Jeph Loeb and
Simone Bianchi start their run. Williams has a pretty good
handle on Logan's character, and uses his abilities well,
putting him in the last place we'd expect to see him - in
a department store on Christmas Eve. Could anybody else
explain to me, though, if I'm missing something - does Wolverine
also exude mutant pheromones?
X-23: Target X #1: Filling in the "lost years"
of X-23's life, the story is about what you'd expect. Betrayal,
fear, running - it's Wolverine's story if he were actually
played by Kristen Bell. What makes this worth a look if
not an actual buy is some pretty cool art by Mike Choi and
Sonia Oback. The pages will hold your attention much longer
than the plot will.
X-Factor #14: Still quite possibly one of Marvel's
best books, I have to admit with heavy heart that this issue
is not a good place to jump aboard. Swimming through
soap opera that's only interesting if you already know what's
going on, this issue is confusing, though still marked by
Peter David's wit and serviceable art by Pablo Raimondi.
X-Men: Phoenix Warsong #4: I'll hand it to Greg
Pak. He took the Phoenix Saga in a completely unexpected
direction. Thus Warsong ends up being a great story
that I just can't get all that excited about. But I give
him the benefit of the doubt; Pak may wrap this up in a
way that will have me eating my shoe.