Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Ghost Rider (2011) # 1

Cover Artist: Adam Kubert
Published: Sept. 2011
Original Price: $3.99

Title: "Give Up the Ghost", Part 2
Writer: Rob Williams
Artist: Matthew Clark
Inker: Sean Parsons
Letterer: VC's Clayton Clowes
Colorist: Rob Schwager

Title: "Sacrifice"
Writer: Rob Williams
Artist: Valerio Schiti
Letterer: VC's Clayton Clowes
Colorist: Rob Schwager
Editor: Axel Alonso
Editor In Chief: Joe Quesada

"Give Up the Ghost" Part 2 - In the Mojave Desert, Johnny Blaze is happily living in a cabin, finally free from the curse of the Ghost Rider. As he relishes in his freedom, he's watched from afar by a coyote.

Meanwhile, the town of Dayton, Ohio is under attack by Sin and her armored forces under direction from the Asgardian Serpent. A news helicopter overhead is filming the carnage, which Sin allows so the world can see what they are doing. In the midst of the destruction, villains Blackout and Deathwatch are taking advantage of the death around them to make themselves more powerful. Suddenly, a new Ghost Rider teleports in and the villains realize that this Rider is female, not Johnny Blaze nor Danny Ketch. Two children watch from the rubble as this new Ghost Rider uses her motorcycle to ride past the villains, hellfire striking them with her version of the Penance Stare. Blackout and Deathwatch beg for mercy, and in return the Rider materializes a scythe of hellfire and cuts both men down. Ghost Rider is then attacked by Sin, who wields an Asgardian hammer. Using her bike as a distraction, the Rider briefly gets the upper hand against Sin; but when she attempts to use the hammer, the Rider is struck by lighting that knocks her out and reverts her to her human form. Sin leaves the girl alive and orders the helicopter to finally be destroyed.

Back at the Mojave Desert, Blaze enters his cabin to finds the coyote that has been watching him transform into Mephisto. The Devil informs Blaze that the man has damned the entire human race, and that the two of them are going to save it together.

"Sacrifice" - While he watches the battle between Sin and Ghost Rider, Adam reflects back on the events of an hour previous in Nicaragua. Using the magic in the Ghost Rider's chains, he reanimates a dead body with the spirit of the Seeker, who is to choose the new host for the Spirit of Vengeance. Adam has gathered together a group of young men and women that he has prepared, and the Seeker goes forth with the chains to find the next host. When he passes by a young woman, she reaches out for the chain and finds herself caught on fire. As she transforms, she tells the Seeker that her name is Alejandra, and as her sin is burnt away she finds herself transformed into the next Ghost Rider. The Seeker opens a portal, through which Alejandra is transported to Dayton, leaving Adam behind to refer to the young woman as "my sacrifice".

Cover Artist: Neal Adams

This is the first appearance of the new Ghost Rider, Alejandra. It is revealed that she is possessed by Zarathos in Ghost Rider (2011) # 4.

The opening montage of villains includes Death Ninja, Zarathos (circa Ghost Rider (1990) # 43), Nightmare, Lilith (likely meant to be the "mother of demons" Lilith but is drawn as Dracula's daughter Lilith), Zadkiel, the original Orb, and the Scarecrow.

Blackout and Deathwatch last fought a Ghost Rider in Ghost Riders: Heaven's On Fire # 6 and Ghost Rider (1990) # 42, respectively. Blackout makes his next appearance in Superior Spider-Man Annual # 1.

This issue is a tie-in to the "Fear Itself" crossover and takes place during Sin's assault on Dayton, Ohio in Fear Itself # 3.

This issue was produced with two variant covers by Neal Adams and Arturo Lozzi as well as a blank white variant.

This issue was reprinted in the Fear Itself: Ghost Rider and Ghost Rider: The Complete Series by Rob Williams trade paperbacks.

Cover Artist: Arturo Lozzi

The new Ghost Rider debuts amidst the chaos of the "Fear Itself" crossover, while Johnny Blaze attempts to live without the Spirit of Vengeance.

I freely admit that everything I know about "Fear Itself" comes from this story-arc, I haven't been interested in following a Marvel crossover since "Civil War" some years ago. So, what I gather is that this Serpent God has allowed several Marvel villains to become Asgardian hammer wielders, and that Sin (Red Skull's daughter, right?) is the leader of them. Okay, fair enough plot to launch a new series out of, I suppose. However, some explanation of the crossover's plot would have been nice. Instead, we're just dropped into the action with no attempt to tell us who Sin is or why she's destroying Dayton, Ohio (of all places, I have family there!). This is absolutely the worst way to launch a new series out of a crossover, because when someone like me - who has no plan to read said crossover - picks up this new series all I can say is "well, okay, this doesn't make a whole lot of sense".

Despite being nothing much more than a big fight scene, we do get some new information on the driving plot of this series. The new Ghost Rider is a woman named Alejandra, who was chosen by Adam and the Seeker (such a weird addition to an already complicated back story for Ghost Rider, seriously) to "burn away the sins of the world". Alejandra doesn't have much in the way of personality during her first appearance, but that's okay, this is just the first issue and Rob Williams has a lot of ground he needs to cover. Putting her up against Sin and using the events of "Fear Itself" as the catalyst for this new status quo is thematically engaging enough, and at this point my curiosity is sufficiently piqued. We even get to look in on Johnny Blaze, who is being roped into the events by Mephisto (and I guess we're back to Mephisto being the originator of Johnny's "deal with the devil" instead of Satan, as we had last series). My only real problem with this issue, outside of Blaze's ridiculous dialogue, is the inclusion of Blackout and Deathwatch. Look, I get it, you want to show that this new Ghost Rider is powerful and vicious, establishing her as someone not to mess around with. But those two villains were major enemies at one time, Blackout having been used just recently during the Jason Aaron run, and having them cut down so quickly and so easily is a cheat. I don't like it when ANY writer throws good characters under the bus to make their new one look cooler, it's an amateur tactic that should be avoided.

Matthew Clark gives us an interesting design for the new, female Ghost Rider. I like the outfit he's given her, it's distinct and unlike any worn by a previous Rider; I like the hellfire scythe and the fact that she carries around the handlebar of her bike to create as she wishes. Those are all very neat ideas. However, there's one big thing that bugs the shit out of me concerning Clark's artwork: he draws the Ghost Rider's skull too big! Seriously, it's like twice the size of her body and it looks ridiculous. Clark has some wonky anatomy issues here, which I think lends credence to my theory that he relies too much on reference material when drawing people. Still, I like his take on Blackout and Deathwatch, and he's an artist that I think will get better as his career goes along (and his Mephisto looks fantastic). The artwork by Valero Schiti in the back-up story is simpler, a lot less detailed than Clark's, but look at his version of the new Ghost Rider when she transformed. It looks feminine enough to be distinct, with the flame flowing like hair down her back, but still looks awesome.

This is a series that almost seems doomed to failure given the poor way it relies on crossover material without giving it a proper explanation. Despite this, though, it's not too bad a start.

Grade: B-