Writer – Ed Brisson; Artist – Aaron Kuder; Colorist – Jason Keith; Letterer – VC’s Joe Caramagna; Editor – Chris Robinson
Ghost Rider is back for the first time in a long time, at least these versions of him. This iteration is written by the great Ed Brisson that recently brought readers some of the best Old Man Logan and Iron Fist ever written and he has brought that same talent to bear on Ghost Rider.
This version of Johnny Blaze starts out trying to maintain his rule as King of Hell after having deposed Mephisto in the recent Damnation crossover event. The reader sees this is a role Blaze takes seriously by his wanton use of torture on rogue demons and his constant desire to punish whatever unlucky souls cross his path. And that’s the main plot in issue #1, Johnny is hunting demons that have escaped from Hell, specifically those that don’t like him taking the throne. Danny on the other hand, this story’s other Ghost Rider, is just trying to live his life and deal with his grief at his mother’s passing while balancing his possession, when Johnny appears on his doorstep once more. He doesn’t want the Spirit of Vengeance and is doing everything he can to fight back; everything from exerting his will to drinking his problems away.
While the story is certainly good, the monster/demon design is really where this book soars. Aaron Kuder’s artwork is absolutely admirable; the way he designs all of the creatures of Hell is certainly something to see. Monsters range from the obvious red, horned skeletons to an unsettling, flayed strongman to a silly mantis, human, eagle hybrid. The way he draws certain scenes is reminiscent of Gabriel Rodriguez’s work on Locke and Key, always a welcome style, and of his own recent work on Fantastic 4.
Jason Keith’s colors augment the monster effects expertly, with the oppressive red backgrounds of hell, the detailed oranges of the fires, and the disturbing skin tones of the demons.
VC’s Joe Caramagna lettering progresses the story as well in a subtle way. When Johnny has dialogue, unlike with Danny or most other characters, the lettering is on a red background. The font helps to make the speech look sinister and the red bubbles with white lettering helps the reader understand, even when not the thrust of the scene, that Johnny has embraced the Spirit of Vengeance, while Danny has not and others are only pawns in their infernal game.
For the first issue of a new volume, Ghost Rider #1 exceeds expectations and sets up plenty of plot lines that will be exciting to see play out over the coming months and hopefully years, from Danny’s self-destructive behavior, to Johnny’s burgeoning corruption, to the other factions of Hell (and possibly other Marvel underworlds) that will see fit to challenge Blaze’s monarchy. Brisson looks to be taking the Spirits of Vengeance in an interesting direction and Kuder is making that story feel quite unsettling, a praiseworthy effort for a book about demons, monsters, torture, and Hell.