From writer Benjamin Percy (Wolverine, X-Force) and artist Cory Smith (Conan The Barbarian) comes the hellfire-scorched return of the classic Spirit of Vengeance in Ghost Rider #1. With colors by Bryan Valenza and letters from Travis Lanham, this opening chapter sees the return of Johnny Blaze as he sorts out what has happened to his life – and tries to ward of demons new and old. With a tense, wild script and absolutely kick-ass artwork, this return to a the classic Rider is off to an outstanding start.
“Johnny Blaze has the perfect life: a wife and two kids, a job at an auto repair shop and a small-town community that supports him… But Johnny isn’t doing well. He has nightmares of monsters when he sleeps. And he sees bloody visions when he’s awake. This life is beginning to feel like a prison. And there’s a spirit in him that’s begging to break out!”
Writing & Plot
Benjamin Percy sets the Spirit of Vengeance back to square one in Ghost Rider #1. We return back to the perspective of Marvel’s original Ghost Rider with Johnny Blaze. We find our old hot-headed friend living in a quiet, peaceful All-American town. However, there’s something clearly wrong. He’s suffering from hallucinations and grotesque visions, as well as gaps in his memory. Clearly our old rider has been out of the game for awhile, and Percy takes his time to show us why.
This opening chapter is admittedly a bit of a slow burn (no pun intended). This works really well, though. This being a 40-page issue, Percy get more room to re-introduce Blaze and dig into his current predicament. There’s a constant uneasiness throughout the issue, making this feel much more like a horror comic than we usually ever get out of a Marvel book. In fact, it’s a bit hard to believe this is a Marvel comic at all. This issue really reminded me of the old 90’s Hellstrom comic written by Warren Ellis. As cool as the Robbie Reyes and Cosmic Ghost Rider material is, it’s been a long time since we’ve gotten a properly hellfire and blood-singed Ghost Rider comic. Percy gives this comic the tense pacing of a horror/thriller with its extra page length, while still keeping it a tongue-in-cheek enough to feel like an over-the-top Ghost Rider joint. This is a stellarly written opening issue, and I’m psyched for the rest of this series.
Of course, a Ghost Rider comic won’t be worth a damn if it has good writing but shoddy art. Fortunately Cory Smith is on hand to deliver a fantastic looking experience for Ghost Rider #1. His distinct linework, insane monster designs, and sharp horror directing make this a superbly fun comic to read. Smith’s animations and details are top notch, very much up there with many of the other moderns greats currently working in the ‘big 2.’ The real treat of this comic though are his fleshy demonic drawings. The monsters that Blaze hallucinates are writing, sticky masses of flesh that pule and bleed over every panel they appear in. They’re like witnessing a Cronenberg film, if the film was on fire the whole time. Smith’s panel direction is relatively subtle and plain-looking in terms of his blocking. However, it’s how he frames the horror moments that make his work stick out here. We constantly follow Blaze’s eyes as he witnesses horrors only he can see, and they appear on the page as bleeding, disgusting panels contrasted with everything else. It’s simple yet effective placement that, along with how great his work here is in general, solidifies this comic’s reading experience.
Bryan Valenza’s colors bring the perfect vibrancy and fire to Smith’s pencils. The hunky-dory colors of the small town Blaze now lives in is sharply juxtaposed against the flesh, blood, and brimstone that flashes into the comic. It’s stunning, high-fidelity work that fits into Marvel’s overall visual style. Finally, Travis Lanham provides great, classically legible lettering that blends into the reading experience. This is a visually excellent comic worthy of the return of the classic Spirit of Vengeance.
Ghost Rider #1 is a tense, heavy metal return to Marvel’s original Rider. Benjamin Percy’s script is carefully paced, coming across like a sequence of nightmares before exploding into the story we may expect – but will still be totally hooked into. The visuals from Cory Smith and Bryan Valenza are sharp, well-directed, and sometimes bats#!t insane. This will be a must-read for Ghost Rider fans both new and old, so be sure to grab a copy when it hits shelves on February 23rd!