ADVANCED REVIEW: ‘Ghost Rider,’ Issue #1

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Ghost Rider #1 - But Why Tho

Ghost Rider #1 is written by Benjamin Percy, illustrated by Cory Smith, colored by Bryan Valenza, and lettered by VC’s Travis Lanham. It’s published by Marvel Comics. Johnny Blaze lives with his family, including his wife Roxanne and children Craig & Emma, in the small town of Hayden Falls and works as an auto mechanic. But after suffering a near-death experience on the highway, Blaze is plagued by nightmares – including a flaming skull wrapped in chains…

This series has the distinction of landing on Ghost Rider’s 50th anniversary, and it’s a hell of a slow burn (if you’ll pardon the pun). While Blaze isn’t my favorite Ghost Rider – that distinction goes to Robbie Reyes, who’s currently starring in Avengers Forever – I can appreciate that this series is choosing to focus on the character who kickstarted the Ghost Rider legacy. And the book takes a different approach than expected; rather than have Blaze in full Ghost Rider mode, it decides to build a mystery around Blaze’s new life that slowly unfurls, revealing some disturbing things along the way.

A large part of why this approach works is Percy’s writing. Percy, best known for his work on Wolverine, takes a similar character-driven approach to Blaze. Despite his therapist telling him there’s no thing as monsters, Blaze starts to question his reality. He starts hearing and seeing things that aren’t there and lashes out in rage – resorting to drowning his sorrows in a bottle. Percy also said that he took inspiration from Al Ewing’s Immortal Hulk run, with each issue telling a standalone story. It’s an approach that works; at 44 pages, this book not only serves as a setup for the series but also a great introduction to Ghost Rider in general.

Smith takes Percy’s script and goes hog-wild with the horror elements, resulting in some truly disturbing imagery. The residents of Hayden’s Falls change shape and form depending on the art; one moment, it looks like any all-American small town but the next it’s full of creatures with a multitude of eyes and mouths filled with razor-sharp teeth, bodies contorted into inhuman proportions. And when Blaze makes his eventual transformation into Ghost Rider, a massive wall of flame shaped like a skull descends from the heavens and consumes him; this being a Ghost Rider book there’s also a full page of the hellish hero boarding his motorcycle and gunning the throttle, leaving a trail of flames in his wake.

Valenza and Lanham also lean into the horror elements, with Valenza’s colors growing darker and darker as the truth about Hayden’s Falls comes to light. Soon, the only source of light comes from the reddish-orange flames that surround Ghost Rider’s head. And when Blaze’s Ghost Rider transformation is complete, Lanham adds a jagged black border around his word balloons, matching the black and white of his narrative captions. The demons the Rider faces have their own misshapen lettering; it adds a truly disturbing feel to the proceedings.

Ghost Rider #1 kicks off a slow-burning and horror-laced mystery that also doubles as a celebration of the hell-powered hero’s 50th anniversary. Readers of Immortal Hulk and Venom, rejoice: your next big Marvel horror classic is here. And whether this is your first or latest Ghost Rider tale, it serves as a great introduction to Johnny Blaze.

Ghost Rider #1 will be available wherever comics are sold on Feb. 23, 2021.


Ghost Rider #1
4.5

TL;DR

Ghost Rider #1 kicks off a slow-burning and horror-laced mystery that also doubles as a celebration of the hell-powered hero’s 50th anniversary. Readers of Immortal Hulk and Venom, rejoice: your next big Marvel horror classic is here. And whether this is your first or latest Ghost Rider tale, it serves as a great introduction to Johnny Blaze.