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The Fanboy Planet Preview Spotlight 12/13/06
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Ghost Rider #6
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 it well.

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 work.

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 comforting.

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.

Hey, write to us and let us know what you think, or talk about it on the forums!

Derek McCaw


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