Sunday, April 3, 2016

All-New Ghost Rider (2014) # 12

Cover Artist: Felipe Smith
Published: May 2015
Original Price: $3.99

Title: "Great Power", Part 2
Writer: Felipe Smith
Artist: Felipe Smith & Kris Anka

Letterer: VC's Joe Caramagna
Colorist: Val Staples
Editor: Mark Paniccia
Editor In Chief: Axel Alonso 

While working at the auto shop, Robbie Reyes is attacked by three thugs working for Yegor Ivanov.  Robbie easily subdues his attackers with his Ghost Rider power, but the spirit of Eli Morrow informs him that unless he kills Ivanov he and his family will never be safe.  However, if he kills Ivanov (the person responsible for killing Morrow), Robbie will forever be bonded with Eli and will eventually be consumed with the desire to murder.  Robbie gets a call from his girlfriend Lisa, who tells him that his little brother Gabe has disappeared. 

After searching all night, Robbie and Lisa return to the Reyes home, where they find Gabe waiting for them.  Gabe is extremely rude to the shaken Lisa, and when asked to apologize he hits Robbie in the face with a video game controller.  Robbie loses himself and chokes Gabe, but releases him when he realizes what he's doing.  Gabe walks to his room, but when he turns around Robbie sees that his brother is now under Eli's control.  Gabe escapes out his bedroom window and Robbie gives chase, realizing that he's going to murder Ivanov. 

In West Hollywood, Ivanov is preparing to flee the city, but is attacked by Gabe and Eli, who have transformed into a giant, fiery, demonic "Ninja Wolf" form.  Eli has convinced Gabe that he is the Spirit of Justice, and that he needs to kill Ivanov to be a hero.  Robbie arrives in his Ghost Rider form, but after a brief fight realizes that he's not as powerful with Morrow's power.  A defeated and de-powered Robbie appeals to his brother, who he has cared for all of their lives, and Gabe manages to regain control of his body, sending Eli's spirit back into Robbie.  When Ivanov threatens Gabe at gunpoint, Robbie as the Ghost Rider sends flaming chains through the ground, burning the gangster alive as the chains drag him down to Hell.  Morrow's spirit tells Robbie that Ivanov's death has bonded them together for all time, and eventually he will gain control and transform Robbie into a serial killer.  Robbie offers a deal to Eli, saying that if Morrow directs him toward the worst criminal scum on the planet he will kill them to appease Eli's desire for murder.  Eli laughs and accepts the deal, leaving Robbie to care for his unconscious brother.

This is the final issue of All-New Ghost Rider.  An alternate reality version of Robbie Reyes (along with many other alternate versions of past Ghost Riders) appears next in Ghost Racers (2015) # 1 as part of the Secret Wars crossover event.  This universe's Robbie Reyes makes his next appearance in Ghost Rider X-Mas Special # 1.

The history between Eli Morrow and Yegor Ivanov was revealed in All-New Ghost Rider (2014) # 8.

All-New Ghost Rider reaches the end of the road (though I think we all know it will be back eventually) with an establishment of a status quo and a resolution to one of the main emotional conflicts of the series.

As I said in the review for the last issue, centering this final 2-issue arc solely on the relationship between Robbie and his brother Gabe was absolutely the right decision, because it pulls the series back onto the road after the massive swerve it took in the "Legend" arc.  Where that arc was so concerned with fitting as much information, twists, villains, and Johnny Blaze as it could sustain (and more so, in fact), this one narrows things down to what makes this series so potentially great.   Part of what makes Robbie a really interesting character is his sense of guilt and responsibility when it comes to his brother (shades of Spider-Man Syndrome, yes, he's obviously created in that same mold), and contrasting him against a suddenly rebellious brother makes the conflict of the story hit much harder than it would otherwise.

There are some strange questions flagged up by this story, though, regarding Eli Morrow and the nature of his bond with/possession of Robbie and the way he so casually jumps to Gabe.  I suppose that since both boys are Morrow's nephews it isn't a stretch to imagine that he could empower and influence Gabe in the same way as Robbie, but why then does Robbie retain his power as Ghost Rider without Morrow's presence?  How is Gabe able to remove Eli's control over himself but Robbie is not, prior to this arc?  These are questions that Felipe Smith will hopefully answer whenever Robbie makes his next appearances.

Smith continues as artist for this final issue, and he still remains my favorite artist that the character has seen so far.  Smith seems to know Robbie and Gabe so intimately that they just glow under his linework, which is understandable give that he's their creator.  I can see, however, that perhaps Smith isn't quite fast enough to draw the series on a regular basis, things look a bit more rushed and less polished than they did last issue.  Kris Anka, an artist with a similar style to Smith, even has to help out with a few pages, though the transition is pretty seamless.  I honestly didn't even realize Anka had drawn some of the pages until I went back and looked at the credits.

All-New Ghost Rider was one of Marvel's many experiments of late in regards to replacing long-standing heroes with new legacy incarnations (see Jane Foster as Thor, Sam Wilson as Captain America, and Amadeus Cho as the Hulk), but I think Smith held the series up to such a quality that Robbie came out of the series as a fully-fleshed character in his own right.  Contrast Robbie with the last new Ghost Rider, Alejandra from 2011, and the difference is striking.  I like Robbie and I definitely want to read more about him (though hopefully not at the expense of Johnny Blaze or even Danny Ketch), so here's hoping he gets another shot at a title sooner rather than later.

Grade: A+

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