Ghost Rider #1: Embracing the Horror

Ghost Rider #1: Embracing the Horror

BY MATT TUCK, BLOGGER SUPREME

IG@matt.tuck.writer

FB@The Comic Blog

Marvel Comics injected Ghost Rider with a heavy dose of horror and hellish gore as Benjamin Percy and Cory Smith take Johnny Blaze and the Spirit of Vengeance on a road he’s needed to travel for many years.

Percy and Smith may have done the unthinkable and delivered an honestly good Ghost Rider series. Over the years, those Ghost Rider series have been hit or miss with mostly misses. One of the better runs was in the 1990s when Howard Mackie took Danny Ketch on a ride, but the real highlight of the series was Andy Kubert’s stunning artwork. To this day, no one has done as much with those GR visuals as Kubert.

It’s easy to draw comparisons between Ghost Rider and Venom. For most of their comic book lives, their fan bases were built more on their aesthetics than solid stories. They made frequent cameos in other titles, and both of them had numerous solo comics that simply didn’t deliver. In 2018, Donny Cates put his stamp on Marvel history when he wrote the first Venom series that was worth reading. If Ghost Rider #1 is an indication of the future, this could be the Spirit of Vengeance’s time to shine.

Of course, we’re only one issue in, but the writer/artist team are starting on the right foot. 

In many ways, Percy and Smith’s Ghost Rider #1 has the feel of an independent horror comic. The art style blisters off the page, and the storytelling relies more on mood and atmosphere than nonstop superhero action. While the plot relied on a few horror tropes and cliches, it wasn’t overdone to the point of being a comedy. There were no winks and nods toward inside jokes with the audience. What was a nice change of pace for many Marvel titles on the market, Percy’s story was void of humor, and the comic was better off for it. 

Smith’s artwork is solid throughout, and the panel layout is fairly standard, but that’s not a bad thing. Once Ghost Rider appeared in the closing pages, it should give him a pallet to work his magic. After all, this is a character who was born to be a poster child. I expect we’ll see a host of dynamic, amazing covers with skulls, chains, and flames blazing off the comic shop shelves.

Think of this first issue as a combination of Stephen King’s Needful Things and WandaVision, but without the corny sitcom hijinks. Johnny Blaze returns to the spotlight, but his story is different from any other Ghost Rider comic I’ve read. His history as the daredevil stunt driver who made a deal with Mephisto to become the Spirit of Vengeance is left intact. This issue finds Johnny living in Hayden’s Falls, a stereotypical sleepy little town complete with the watchful sheriff cliche. It could easily have been called Castle Rock without missing a beat. Only, this is not the same Johnny we’ve seen before, and he’s no superhero. He’s suffering from intense nightmares and delusions as the result of a motorcycle crash. In one of the comic’s better visuals, Johnny’s stitched head wound that refuses to heal pulls open to reveal an open eye. 

Throughout the issue, Johnny shares his troubles with a psychiatrist. Between what we can assume are antipsychotics and the bottle of Jack Daniels he keeps in his freezer, he does anything to keep the monsters away. In fact, his doctor has him repeat to himself each day, “My name is Johnny Blaze, and there’s no such thing as monsters.” 

By the end of the issue, an actual monster enters town, and things take a turn from surreal to supernatural. Zeb says he was sent by what says is a group of Night Magicians to retrieve not Johnny, but the Spirit of Vengeance. In a WandaVision-like twist, it is then revealed that Blaze and the Ghost Rider have been imprisoned in Hayden’s Falls. He has been living among demons who have trapped him in a fantasy world that kept him questioning his sanity rather than letting the Rider out of its cage. As you might guess, Ghost Rider emerges by the end, pronouncing himself the real monster of Hayden’s Falls. 

There’s nothing revolutionary in Ghost Rider #1, but it doesn’t have to be. No offense to Robbie Reyes’ muscle car variation on the Spirit of Vengeance, but the Ghost Rider fan base has wanted a return to the flaming motorcycle-riding Johnny Blaze Rider to return in full force. While Johnny has been spotted periodically, Percy and Smith are giving the people what they want in full force. This should be a fun, horror-filled ride that GR fans have been waiting for.

In a sense, this new Ghost Rider series has the feel of Al Ewing’s legendary Immortal Hulk run. As Ewing did for Hulk, Percy appears to be bringing Ghost Rider back to his basics, but with a horror-infused twist on the story. Like Immortal Hulk, this Spirit of Vengeance may be the protagonist, but he may not be the hero, and that’s a good thing. If only Marvel Studios is paying attention, maybe we can get a proper Ghost Rider horror movie in the MCU.

Matt Tuck is the author of the novel, Lost Bones of the Dead. He is a professional writer, avid comic collector, former teacher, and the Blogger Supreme. You can follow him on his Facebook page, The Comic Blog, or on Instagram at matt.tuck.writer.


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