Hell on wheels
NO, this is not an April’s Fools Day joke – Ghost Rider really is driving a car instead of riding a bike now.
It’s not just the number of wheels that are different this time, the creators of All-New Ghost Rider – writer Felipe Smith and artist Tradd Moore – have also cast a new man behind the flaming skull – instead of Johnny Blaze or Danny Ketch, the new Spirit of Vengeance is now called Robbie Reyes.
And that’s not all. Even the flaming skull looks different – instead of the usual well-defined human skull, this one looks more like a cross between a skull and an Imperial Stormtrooper.
This is clearly not the Ghost Rider we know. But still, if Smith and Moore can keep up the intensity that is prevalent in this first issue of All-New Ghost Rider, they just might have the last laugh.
Part of the slew of new #1 titles in the All-New Marvel Now relaunch, All-New Ghost Rider is a welcome return for the character, who hasn’t had a solo title since a short-lived 10-issue run in 2011.
This first issue introduces us to our new protagonist Robbie Reyes, a teenager trying to raise his physically challenged younger brother in a rough, gang-ruled part of Los Angeles. Mechanic by day and street racer by night, Robbie dreams of giving his brother a better life, and the only way he can do that is by taking part in high-stakes street races.
Both Smith and Moore are relatively new to the Marvel Universe – the former is widely known as the first American writer to have his own serialised manga series in Japan (Peepo Choo), while this is Moore’s first interior work for Marvel, having worked on Image Comics’ Luther Strode saga in the past. The unique styles of this pair of relatively unknown creators is what makes All-New Ghost Rider work so well.
In building up Reyes as a character, Smith shows marvellous restraint, starting off by introducing us to his humdrum life in his gang-ridden neighbourhood and his dedication to his little brother, before switching gears to a thrilling night race that comes to a fiery end.
Here, Moore’s manga-esque illustrations give a freshness and visceral vibrancy to All-New Ghost Rider, from the intense kinetic energy of the street racing scenes to the burst of flame that marks the arrival of a new Spirit of Vengeance.
It’s not just the action scenes that stand out here though – in fact, the first lick of flame doesn’t even show up until page 11, when Robbie decides to “borrow” a car he’d been working on to go for a street race (which obviously doesn’t end well).
Unlike DC Comics’ incessant recycling of the same old tropes for the New 52, Marvel seems to have taken the opposite route for All-New Marvel Now’s new titles. Silver Surfer, She-Hulk, Ms Marvel, and now All-New Ghost Rider have one thing in common – each book features artists with very unique styles, and writers who are willing to take time to develop their characters instead of going straight for the punch from the get-go.
Where DC’s creators have to adhere to the rather rigid continuity of its universe, Marvel seems to be giving its creators free rein to do what they darn well please, resulting in a streak of inventiveness and originality that almost rivals the creator-owned stuff over at Image.
Sure, these are still the same old characters we’ve been reading about for decades now, but with books likeAll-New Ghost Rider, Marvel is showing that you can teach an old Spirit of Vengeance new tricks after all.
Single issues of All-New Ghost Rider and other All-New Marvel Now titles can be ordered from virtual comic store Earth 638 (e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org, tel: 012-663 1584, Facebook: facebook.com/earth638).