By: Felipe Smith (story), Tradd Moore (art), Val Staples (colors)
The Story: Jacking someone’s car is always a bad idea, especially if it belongs to a vengeful spirit.
The Review: In my line of work—or this hobby so all-consuming that it might as well be work—I’ve run into people who tell me that they’ve outgrown mainstream superhero titles, calling them too juvenile and ridiculous to be taken seriously. It’s true that a lot of mainstream books are incredibly juvenile and ridiculous, but God forgive me, I like a lot of them nonetheless. As someone whose other work—actual, paying work—can be pretty grim on a daily basis, pure, simple escapism can be a very comforting thing.
But there are some titles which make me think, Man, I’m too old for this—stuff. This All-New Ghost Rider seems to be one of those, landing in that awkward position where its subject matter is a bit too sordid for younger readers (with all its senseless violence, pill-popping, and intended rape), but too simplistically presented for grown-ups. We’re already on issue three and you still don’t feel like there’s much substance at work, either from Robbie and his many antagonists.
]The way Smith presents it, Robbie and Gabe are the only decent people on their side of the tracks, while nearly everyone else, from Robbie’s sketchy boss to his d-bag classmates to the chiseling pawn brokers who try to cheat him on a purchase for a new wheelchair to all the various gangsters about town shooting up people like crazy and crowing about it (“Fool’s eyes were all big and $%^&! Yo, he was crappin’ himself! Makes you think he was innocent n’ $%#%.” “He probably was, eh? But we shot ‘im up anyway! Ga-ha-ha!”), not to mention Zabo and his mercs—well, in the words of Kate Bishop, everyone else just sucks. Smith leaves no room for dimension with this caricaturized writing; these people are bad for the sake of being bad, to give Robbie someone to fight with.
And that definitely colors Robbie’s heroism a little, especially since he’s currently being driven by vengeance, plain and simple. His newfound powers are the gift of Eli, a human spirit possessing the car which turned Robbie into Ghost Rider. Eli claims he also died as an innocent in an act of senseless violence, and he certainly resents people enough to make that believable (“People are rubbish…”), but anytime a fiery creature offers to make a “deal” for vague purposes, that’s a red flag.
Anyway, even with his new powers, how is Robbie going to use them to make a better life for himself and Gabe? Beat up everyone who tries to bully/cheat him? That’s in direct contrast to the unsolicited advice Mr. Wakeford gives to him (“There’s a bright future ahead of you if you continue to apply yourself. Remember: time and patience.”),* so direct that you have to suspect Wakeford knows more about Robbie’s situation than he’s letting on. I’m guessing Wakeford will be the good angel to Eli’s bad idea bear, pulling Robbie back to the real world when his hellish activities get out of hand.
Moore’s art (with Staples’ firecracker colors) is still the biggest draw for this series, taking big moments and making them even bigger, which is fantastic for the many action sequences in the issue, but not so great everywhere else. In acting terms, the characters are really pushing the emotions in this series, their features so sharpened and pointed that they all come out looking comically over-the-top, whether it’s the sneers on the faces of Robbie’s classmates or Wakeford’s piously supportive smile or Grumpy’s oversized clenched teeth in his gaping mouth as his house comes under fire. Still, Moore doesn’t take himself too seriously, which is why this kind of exaggeration is easier to take than most.
Conclusion: If you’re in it for pure entertainment, this title works very well, but it’s definitely not out to be intellectually and even emotionally stimulating in any significant way. Amicably Dropped.
– Minhquan Nguyen
Some Musings: * Robbie’s response is perfect: “Okay. Can I go?”
– It must kill Smith a little more every time he can’t swear in an issue. Because it’s pretty %&$#^ obvious that he wants to do a lot.
– Zabo came to the West Coast because the opposition and competition in NYC was too hefty. Seriously, are there no other superheroes out in L.A. except for the broke Kate Bishop?