I’m having trouble coming up with a good racing pun for All-New Ghost Rider. Leisurely Sunday drive, maybe? Third gear? That’s not exactly what reading the new series is like, but I feel the usual racing puns – like ‘high octane’ or ‘pedal to the metal’ – don’t quite fit. There’s a lot to like about this new Spirit of Vengeance, but with issue #6 hitting the stands, there’s also a lot that might drag the series down to cancellation-ville.
It doesn’t help that artist Tradd Moore – the most interesting and distinctive part of the new series – has already left the book.
Moore made his exit after the first story arc wrapped up last issue. So All-New Ghost Rider #6 kicks off with new artist Damion Scott, and a new storyline by writer Felipe Smith. But it’s not exactly a great jumping on point, because instead of actually moving on and starting a new story, Smith has chosen to extend the first story arc, even though the plot wasn’t exactly on fire. Couple that with a total lack of Ghost Rider at all in issue #6, and Smith’s series is in desperate need of a fuel injection.
Maybe he should fill up with Premium instead of simply Unleaded next time he’s at the Marvel Gas-n-Go.
The premise behind the new Ghost Rider — Robbie Reyes — is pretty cool. He’s a smart kid from the inner streets of Los Angeles, where gangs and crime rule the roost. And he’s tapped into the illegal street-racing scene, so when he lights up as Ghost Rider, it’s behind the wheel of a sweet hot rod instead of a motorcycle. That alone is worth a look. But dragging down the opening story arc was a plot straight out of Superhero Writing 101: instead of coming up with a new threat for your hero, just dust off some old, lame super-villain and pretend like he’s bad news all of a sudden.
In All-New Ghost Rider, Smith chose Mr. Hyde, even though the villain doesn’t really have anything to do with Ghost Rider, Robbie Reyes or Los Angeles. Instead, Smith came up with some complicated plot where Hyde invented a new drug that grants other people Hyde-like strength and powers, and then he somehow lost samples of the drug on the streets of LA, leading to at least one super-powered gang-banger that needed to be Ghost Rided to justice. Then there was a shootout between street gangs and Hyde’s military commandos. It got pretty complicated.
But there was very little connection between the new Ghost Rider and Mr. Hyde. They didn’t meet until the final issue, and even then it was just for a single fight scene. Over the course of the arc, Robbie discovered his powers, tried them out for a little bit, then stopped the bad guys from tearing up the neighborhood. He never had much of a personal stake in the fight, other than the fact that it was happening in his neighborhood, and his younger brother was in the area. Fortunately, the arc was elevated to inspired heights by Moore’s spastic art style, and the general coolness of putting Ghost Rider in a muscle car.
So it was a sufficient opening arc, introducing us to the new main character and putting him through his first real test of superheroics. Smith should have stopped there and moved on.
But All-New Ghost Rider #6 keeps the Mr. Hyde storyline going. Those drugs are still out on the street, infecting animals, and Hyde himself remains on the loose, determined to juice-up some other gang-bangers for no legitimate reason. And what will happen? Robbie will turn into Ghost Rider and stop them, possibly with racing involved.
Though that will have to wait for future issues, because Robbie doesn’t even turn on the Spirit of Vengeance in this issue. Instead, he uses his new driving skills to win a bunch of street races, earning him some cash that he puts towards medical care for his brother. The Spirit is still active inside his head, and the back-and-forth between the Spirit and Robbie over the best way to use their powers is pretty entertaining, but it doesn’t go anywhere this issue. Instead, it’s just the new Ghost Rider refusing to be Ghost Rider, while Mr. Hyde continues to limp along as a boring choice for antagonist.
New artist Damion Scott does his best to try to be eclectic and different, and he kind of succeeds. He’s not as distinctive as Moore, but that’s not something to count against him. Moore is one-of-a-kind. Scott keeps the book looking unique, with a caricature-like take on all the human characters. The only problem is that the angular style makes the panels a little too crowded, especially in the issue’s only racing scene. The pages are cluttered with people, panels, bells and whistles. But Scott should provide a solid foundation to the series if he sticks around. Hopefully he can drawn a great Ghost Rider, because Moore’s new design is going to be hard to match. Just check out this cover.
All-New Ghost Rider still has potential. Marvel has tried again and again to make this character stick, to no avail. I personally love the car angle, and I’d love to see that last. But writer Felipe Smith seems too focused on his Mr. Hyde plot, when he should be shifting the Robbie Reyes storyline into high gear. That’s who I want to read about. Who cares about Mr. Hyde?
All-New Ghost Rider #6
Writer: Felipe Smith
Penciler: Damion Scott
Inker: Robert Campanella
Colorist: Val Staples & Felipe Sobreiro
Letterer: VC’s Joe Caramagna
Rating – 7/10.
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