So I know all sorts of people online have been raving about how good Jason Aaron's Ghost Rider has been. But even when it came from people whose opinions I generally respect, well, come on... it's Ghost Rider. I always kind of figured "best Ghost Rider run ever" was akin to be named "world's shortest giant." But I was promised The Awesome with issue #33 from just the cameos alone, and I have to admit that I was wrong. The Awesome was indeed delivered, and if Aaron's work on the book is always like this, I may need to reconsider my stance on the very idea of Ghost Rider. And possibly giants. What made it so good? Well, let's bullet point this.
- For one thing, even though it's just the first issue of a new story arc in the midst of Aaron's run, it reads very much like the first issue of the book itself. You get a glimpse of what's gone on before, a newish sense of purpose, status quo, and potential destiny for the story's main character (who isn't even a Ghost Rider), and events that set the rest of the arc into motion.
- But it doesn't read like a complete reboot that'll annoy the people who've been reading the book from the beginning, either, since everything clearly builds on the events of the past few issues, and for as much expository review is slipped into the dialogue and narration, there's also plenty of forward momentum, too.
- Once again, an enterprising Marvel writer makes a hero into a full-fledged Legacy Character, turning a regular character into the latest inheritor of a particular mantle. This has always been DC's wheelhouse, what with all their Flashes and Green Lanterns and Atoms and Blue Beetles and such, but Marvel has been quietly retrofitting certain characters with meaningful legacies for the last 10 years or so (arguably beginning with Christopher Priest's Black Panther run). We know there's almost always been a Black Panther or an Iron Fist, or that there's always been a Captain America since WW2, so it makes sense to explore that. And if there have been two Official Ghost Riders since Johnny Blaze first appeared, wouldn't it make sense that maybe there have been other similar Spirits of Vengeance for just about as long as there's been a concept of Vengeance?
- And the glimpses we get of some of these past Ghost Riders? Worth the price of admission alone. Some are set in times and places that make sense vis-à-vis the concept of revenge - the Salem Witch Trials, your major wars, etc. Others are just cool ideas, like the gangland-era Chicago Ghost Rider (and his pal). And then there's the sublimely bizarre... if you've read it, you know exactly the pair I'm talking about. If you haven't, let's just say these Ghost Riders are demonically Eastbound and Down.
- With all this talk about the story, I need to tip the hat to the artist, Tony Moore, who draws the hell out of this book (um, sorry.). He handles the action and the horror elements well (only natural given that his resume includes The Walking Dead and Fear Agent), and his designs for the different eras' Ghost Riders were fantastic. I've never paid a lot of attention to Moore in the past, but I plan to change that behavior ASAP.
- That cover by Arthur Suydam is very eye-catching... there certainly wasn't anything else like it on the stands where I bought this issue. Never gave his artwork much thought before, but as it turns out, I quite like it when he's not just drawing "Character so-and-so as a zombie."
- There's a great homage to a famous DC cover from the 80s in here... works brilliantly in the story, and some of the characters included made me laugh out loud. So, you know, points for that.
Ghost Rider. Huh. Who knew?