Friday, March 25, 2016

Ghost Rider (2005) Director's Cut # 1

Cover Artist: Clayton Crain
Published: Dec. 2005
Original Price: $3.99

Title: "The Road to Damnation", Part 1
Writer: Garth Ennis
Artist: Clayton Crain
Letterer: Chris Eliopoulos
Colorist: Clayton Crain
Editor: Axel Alonso
Editor In Chief: Joe Quesada

In the depths of Hell, the Ghost Rider rides through the flames, chased by all manner of demons in a desperate bid for freedom. Every night he makes the same ride, and this night - same as every night - just as he nears his destination...the demons take him down, destroying him utterly. When the dawn comes, the Ghost Rider will be whole again, the vicious cycle starting all over again.
On Earth, two angels - Daniel and Malachai - meet atop a skyscraper in New York City. Daniel asks his brother how he could have allowed the demon Kazaan to come to Earth, then says that there are hunters from both Heaven (the archangel Ruth) and Hell (the demon Hoss) after him. Kazaan has fed Malachai information over the centuries, allowing the angel to get promoted to higher classes - a debt to which Malachai feels he owes Kazaan. Malachai then notices that a woman in a neighboring building can see them, a rarity, and the angel causes her to pass out - and also to miscarry her pregnancy, to which Malachai responds "one less mouth to feed".
Meanwhile, in Texas, the demon Hoss drives down the road in his Cadillac. He soon picks up a motorcycle gang that starts harassing him. Hoss kills the gang instantly and causes the leader of the bikers to wreck his bike. The demon stops his car and approaches the dying biker, telling him that he could either lay there and bleed to death or sign up to help him. Taking the biker's choked response as a "yes", Hoss alters the man's body - by shoving his head up his ass and exposing his spine. Proud of his new creation, Hoss christens him "Buttview".
Back on the skyscraper, Daniel asks Malachai if he's ever heard of the Ghost Rider. When his brother claims ignorance, Daniel begins to tell the story of Johnny Blaze - a biker who found out his stepfather was dying of a disease and for a cure sold his soul to the Devil. The deal stated that at some unspecified point in the future Johnny would arrive in Hell for eternal torment while Crash Simpson would be spared from the cancer. Obviously, the Devil tricked Johnny and Crash died in a motorcycle wreck instead - a trick Malachai points out that humanity falls for every single time. Daniel then points out that Johnny was the exception. When they came for his soul, something went wrong and Johnny doesn't go to Hell. Instead, he becomes bonded with a super-powerful hellspawn - and from then on, Johnny Blaze is the Ghost Rider. Malachai moans that Blaze must not be very smart, but Daniel tells him that he's missing the point: Blaze is incredibly powerful and incredibly gullible. Malachai becomes convinced that Blaze would be the perfect agent, not attached to either Heaven or Hell - and with the angel's aid, he could have a head start to find Kazaan. But Daniel cuts him off, saying that there's a catch.
Elsewhere, in a diner bus-stop in Texas, the archangel Ruth finishes her meal - while a young boy across the restaurant tells his mother that the woman at the bar has wings. The mother can't see, and the boy's persistence goads Ruth to draw a sigil of fire in the air. The boy picks up his pencil and says to his mom that "the lady says I'm a sinner" - and he shoves the pencil into his eye. While the mother screams for her son, Ruth boards the bus.
Daniel continues the story of the Ghost Rider by telling Malachai that, a couple of years ago, the demons finally caught up with Blaze and carried him back to Hell. The Ghost Rider is now in Hell, and every night he tries to race the pack to the gates - and every night, he loses. Daniel finishes by telling Malachai that, unless he wants to wind up there himself, he's got to get the Ghost Rider out of Hell.
This is a reprint of Ghost Rider (2005) # 1 that also includes the original pitch and first issue script by writer Garth Ennis, a look at Clayton Crain's artwork process on the covers and interiors, a cover gallery, and an essential reading list.
Marvel has been intermittently releasing "Director's Cut" versions of certain comics since the late 1990s (the first, I believe, being Kurt Busiek and George Perez's Avengers # 1 in 1998). This one is a straight reprint of the first Ennis/Crain issue that came out a month before, but for a dollar more you get 18 pages of "extra features". Personally, I thought the dollar difference was worth it for the most part.
Obviously, the highlight of the book's extra content is the original series pitch by Ennis, despite the last paragraph being blacked out to avoid spoiling the rest of the mini-series. The script for the issue is also a nice addition, giving us a look at how comic writers like Ennis actually write their comics. In the script, for instance, you can see just where some of the little detail touches came from, be they Ennis' ideas or Crain's.
Speaking of Crain, I find it absolutely astonishing that he can produce such visceral artwork without ever touching pencil to paper. While I still think fully computer-generated artwork for comics is well on down the line (translation: traditional artists needn't start worrying just yet), Crain's work is down right stunning. Starting as wire frames with details added on in layers, I just can't imagine how long it must've taken him to develop such a style. Amazing, just amazing.
So, yes, I'm certainly not going to advise anyone to pay four dollars for a book they probably already own unless they're true Ghost Rider completists that enjoy the behind-the-scenes content provided within. I enjoyed it, but I'm also hardcore. Ha!
Grade: N/A