GHOST RICER (2022) #1/ Story by BENJAMIN PERCY/ Art by CORY SMITH/ Color Art by BRYAN VALENZA/ Letters by VC’S TRAVIS LANHAM/ Published by MARVEL COMICS
Johnny Blaze is a haunted man. Most nights he screams himself awake, his sleep dominated by nightmarish visions. Drinking is the only thing that soothes the pain, yet even then his dreams are filled with visons of riding a motorcycle through the dark night, searching for a dawn that will not come. But Johnny doesn’t ride his bike anymore. Not since the accident.
Instead, Johnny tries to busy himself with a job as a mechanic and raising a family with his childhood sweetheart, Roaxanne. Yet Johnny can’t help but shake the feeling there’s something inside him trying to get out and that there are monsters hiding all around him. His therapist says he’s paranoid, but now he isn’t sure…
I’ve never been much of a Ghost Rider fan and what little I know of the lore of the character seems confusing and contradictory. Thankfully, the 2022 Ghost Rider series is easily accessible to newcomers and doesn’t require any previous knowledge of the character. More, it’s an exciting read that makes me want to read more.
Benjamin Percy’s script doesn’t waste much time on the conceit that Johnny Blaze has been hoodwinked by some supernatural force and planted in some semblance of the perfect life that was always denied him. It spoils little to reveal that the Ghost Rider emerges before the issue’s end and that the issue’s entry point of a “For The Man Who Has Everything” style paradise is quickly subverted in favor of the mystery of who tried to distract Ghost Rider with this and why. This informs the reader that this book will not be following the usual cliches that come with amnesia stories and helps bring new readers up to speed.
Cory Smith’s artwork suits the story, being heavily detailed and even more heavily shaded. There is a sinister undercurrent to the artwork, even in the mundane suburban scenes at the start of the story. Smith shines in the later portions when the demons emerge and the color art by Bryan Valenza increases the aura of terror with a subtle red-shift of the tints.
I think the highest complement I can pay this new Ghost Rider book is that the first issue made me want to read more. I can’t speak as to how well it fits what came before, but Percy and Smith are firing on all cylinders, in my estimation. This series promises to be a wild ride.