by Rob Williams (writer), Matthew Clark (pencils), Sean Parsons (inks), Robert Schwagner (colors), and Clayton Cowles (letters)

The Story: A new Ghost Rider rides into Dayton, Ohio to confront Sin.

What’s Good: There are definitely some good ideas, here.   While I’m sure Blaze and Ketch enthusiasts won’t be wild about it, I love the fact that Williams and Marvel and trying to do something completely different in giving us a female Ghost Rider.  It’s a dramatic move and, honestly, who doesn’t love kick-ass female characters?  More than that, though, is the fact that from the little we know of her, this character, “Alejandra,” seems to be a kind of warrior, trained by some underground cult/sect.  It’s a total 180 from the rock star or country badass type we’ve gotten before, and there’s an unexpected proficiency and confidence on Alejandra’s part.  Frankly, this sudden shift is enough to get me to want to check out the next issue.  There’s tons of potential and I’d really like to get to know Alejandra.

Then there’s the cliffhanger, which is a really, really great one and a fantastic development.  Suffice it to say, depowered or not, Blaze will have a big part in this comic and the character who shows up on the final page is one that always brings the fun to any comic, particularly one like this.

I also quite enjoyed the art by Matthew Clark.  It may not be as gritty and unpolished as past artists, but it’s definitely sharp and full of detail.  There’s lots of pyrotechnics, as you’d expect, but also a good amount of scratchy detail to go along with the polish.  Certainly, it’s a more “mainstream” look for a Ghost Rider comic, but some of that trademark grit is definitely still there, certainly helped along by Robert Schwagner’s able work on colors.

What’s Not So Good: While the  ideas here are sound, I’m just not entirely sold on Rob Williams’ abilities as a writer.  For instance, some of the jokes he cracks feel forced or fall flat, something I strongly felt when he was writing that Ghost Rider/Spider-Man back-up in Amazing Spider-Man.  Something just doesn’t click for me with Williams’ humour.  Williams does also occasionally overwrite his dialogue , particularly when Alejandra describes the torments she inflicts on her victims.  Williams’ writing becomes so elaborate and over-the-top in its analogies that it’s hard not to roll your eyes.  There are also a couple of transitions between scenes that are bizarre to non-existent.

Certainly, though, the fact that this series starts out as a Fear Itself tie-in does it absolutely no good.  A Ghost Rider front and center in the Marvel Universe battling Sin just doesn’t feel right.  In fact, it feels bland.  It stops Williams from fully exploring this new Ghost Rider and it stops him from hitting the ground running by giving us a real, true-to-form Ghost Rider comic right from the get-go.  In fact, with all that battling against Sin, the only way Williams manages to cram in the usual Rider goodness involving cults and human sacrifice, is in a back-up that comes after the Fear Itself stuff.  It’s also the only place where we learn anything about Alejandra, or even learn her name.  Interestingly, the back-up is also the only place where Williams’ humour actually works.

One other pet peeve: the Ghost Rider threatening kids, saying that she sees their sins.  That’s just lame.  It makes little sense and doesn’t make for a likable protagonist, nor does it make for a tough guy.

Conclusion: Fantastic ideas and solid artwork hampered by Fear Itself and some at times sketchy writing.

Grade: C+

-Alex Evans