Monday, February 1, 2016

Amazing Spider-Man/Ghost Rider: Motorstorm # 1

Cover Artist: Roberto De La Torre
Published: Aug. 2012
Original Price: $2.99
Title: "Can't Get the Service"
Writer: Rob Williams
Artist: Lee Garbett
Inker: Alejandro Sicat
Letterer: VC's Joe Caramagna
Colorist: Fabio D'Auria
Editor: Stephen Wacker
Editor in Chief: Axel Alonso
While swinging through Manhattan, Spider-Man notices a crowd of people running out of a bar that has a flaming motorcycle parked out front. Inside the bar, Spider-Man finds the Ghost Rider, who is there for a drink. The Rider transforms back into Johnny Blaze and tells Spider-Man that he's celebrating his newfound freedom from being a puppet to higher powers. The two heroes have their drinking interrupted by a demon called the Servicer, who is there to reclaim the Ghost Rider's mystical motorcycle. Blaze transforms back into the Rider while the Servicer explains that the bike is not being used as he intended, namely the collection of souls for Hell. Ghost Rider and Spider-Man attack the Servicer, but the fight ends quickly with the demon sucking Blaze into his body. As he disappears, Blaze tells Spider-Man not to let the Servicer get his hands on the bike. In response, Spider-Man jumps on the bike and rides away at hellish speeds.
Spider-Man stops a mugging as he drives by on the bike, but the Servicer is waiting for him at the end of the street. While the Ghost Rider attempts to free himself, Spider-Man finds himself unable to get away due to the Servicer attaching mystical chains to the bike. So, unable to flee, Spider-Man turns the bike around and rams it into the demon, which also serves to free the Ghost Rider. Spider-Man realizes his mistake when he sees that the Servicer has merged with the bike to become a gigantic monster. Spider-Man and Ghost Rider are unable to stop the hell cycle as it drives up a nearby skyscraper; it stops on the roof, and the Servicer begins to feed on the souls of every human in the city. When the heroes reach the rooftop, Spider-Man too is affected by the Servicer's power. As he collapses he tells Ghost Rider that only he can stop what's happening. Blaze accepts that this is his responsibility, and he uses his power to break the Servicer's link to his motorcycle. Blaze reclaims the bike for himself and stomps on the demon's head, freeing his motorcycle's link to Hell. This breaks the spell on the city, allowing Spider-Man to wake up and ask Johnny for a ride to Tribeca.
This issue is a reprint of the digital comic Spider-Man: Big Time # 6-8, which was first reprinted as back-up strips in Amazing Spider-Man # 558-560 before being collected in this one-shot.
The Ghost Rider last appeared in Heroes For Hire (2011) # 2 and makes his next appearance in Ghost Rider (2011) # 0.1. 
The "freedom" that Johnny Blaze is celebrating refers to him having saved Heaven in Ghost Riders: Heaven's On Fire # 6 and freeing himself from the magical spells of the Hand in Shadowland: Ghost Rider # 1.
Although the Spirits of Vengeance are given their power by God, this issue posits that the Ghost Rider's motorcycle was created in Hell. When Johnny Blaze was killed and sent to Hell during the flashback sequence of Ghost Rider (2006) # 7 he left on Earth the motorcycle he had been using since Ghost Rider (2001) # 1. While in Hell he was first seen riding a new bike in Ghost Rider (2005) # 1, which is the bike he currently rides and was created in Hell by the Servicer.
The Servicer makes his next appearance in Ghost Rider (2011) # 2.
Following his first assignment writing the Ghost Rider tie-in for "Shadowland", writer Rob Williams gets to hone his take on the character and, presumably, win the spot to write the next ongoing series.
I'll be getting into the problems I have with the way Williams writes Johnny Blaze when I get into reviewing his first few issues of Ghost Rider, and there are many problems indeed. But as with the "Shadowland" one-shot, I find that the voice Williams gives to Blaze isn't as terrible as it would later become. Its obvious that Williams is trying to play off the speech patterns and accent that Jason Aaron gave to Johnny, and he's just a bit off the mark here. Perhaps its because Rob Williams is an English writer and he's not as adept with a southern American accent? At least Johnny doesn't talk like Yosemite Sam during this story, and we can all be thankful for that.
Now that that's out of the way, let's get to the bits that are actually pretty good about this story. The premise is actually one I'm surprised no writer had thought to do before now, an "origin story" of sorts for the Ghost Rider's motorcycle. Of course, you couldn't do it with the original Johnny Blaze Rider, because the bike was made out of pure hellfire, but throughout the Ketch era and the most recent decade of Blaze being back in the saddle, there's not been any solid explanation for where the cycle comes from. I always kind of assumed it was a normal bike that transformed when the Rider needed it, like in the most recent film, but this story gives the explanation that it was actually created in Hell with the purpose to run down human souls. I can buy that, though it takes a bit of "connecting the mental dots" to make the idea work with the current "Ghost Rider is powered by angels" origin (see my theory on this in the Annotations section above).
We also get a pretty good team-up with Spider-Man, who is one of the rare superheroes that actually meshes well with Ghost Rider (though just by the nature of his character Spider-Man usually meshes well with any character). Williams does have a good handle on Spidey, and he gives both him and Blaze some genuinely funny lines. I in particular liked Ghost Rider sitting at the bar asking the bartender for some human blood, followed with a "just kidding". Its also kind of refreshing to read a Ghost Rider story that has him fighting demons and dealing with Hell after the last few years of angels, angels, and more angels.
The artwork is by Lee Garbett, who fittingly enough will eventually become the de facto lead artist on the next Ghost Rider series just by the nature of him doing the most fill-in issues. Garbett has a really simple, clean style to his work; he's not real flashy, but he's a pretty good storyteller. I really enjoyed his work on Batgirl several years back, so I wasn't disappointed by his work here. The only part I didn't like was the design for the Ghost Rider's bike, but that's the fault of "Shadowland" artist Billy Tan, who created this design.
Based on this and the "Shadowland" one-shot, I was happy to see Rob Williams get the gig to write the next ongoing Ghost Rider title. Unfortunately, that series never lived up to the promise of those two opening stories, but this one gets a solid recommendation from me.
Grade: A-