Thursday, October 30, 2008

Five Comics Worth Reading, 10/22/08 pt. 4

I realize now that I should have saved this appropriately themed entry for tomorrow, what with it being Halloween and all, but unfortunately I've now already gone and written it. Oh well...

Pardon, sir or madam, but would you please be so kind as to read my disclaimer...


If you were reading this blog two weeks ago, you know I think Jason Aaron's current run on Ghost Rider to be the bee's knees, an opinion I believe is shared my two blogmates. Certainly an element of my affection towards this series has been the somewhat unexpected return of the Ghost Rider of my youth, Danny Ketch. I must admit this to be a somewhat strange development since, prior to to his return, I never really cared about Danny Ketch one way or the other. Perhaps it's the simple nostalgia of seeing something from when I was 10 dusted off and put to use, or perhaps it's some deeper recognition of an untapped potential just now being realized for the first time.

It's probably the first one.

Nonetheless, Ryan and I were just the other day in the process of working on an article for were discussing how in getting prepped for the additional focus on Danny by doing even just a cursory bit of reading on him (and checking out the Rise of the Midnight Sons trade). we both were coming to realize he was a very different character than Johnny Blaze, and made both unique and cool by result of that virtue. Whereas the original Ghost Rider stories starring Johnny were a bit more fantastic with elements of over-the-top horror (a rival cyclist with a giant eyeball for a head), Danny's stories in the 90's were more urban with really really dark horror elements (vampire druglords who kill his comatose sister after he's been Ghost Rider for like five issues). Both setups make for good stories, but that they're so unique underneath the surface similarities is an accomplishment many "legacy" characters fall short of.

There's another element of Danny's character that makes him quite separate from Johnny, and it's one writer Simon Spurrier keys in on and mines for optimum use in this new series: that he never wanted to be Ghost Rider. Sure, I don't think Johnny Blaze was ever thrilled at the concept of sharing his life with a flaming-skulled Spirit of Vengeance (that has always been kinda the thrust of his story), but at his heart, he was a stunt cyclist who was used to taking crazy risks and who ultimately did make a deal with the devil that led to his fate. Danny on the other hand was just some kid off the street who literally tripped and fell into a haunted motorcycle. Yeah, there's like 80 issues explaining how Danny's becoming Ghost Rider was more than just some coincidence, but at the core, he's an average guy-turned-reluctant hero in the tradition of guys like Spider-Man, but rather than just getting the proportionate strength of a spider, he got some heavy mystical mojo that places the burden of punishing the guilty and protecting the Marvel Universe from folks a lot scarier than Mysterio. Danny was a dude in way over his head (often my favorite kind of hero) who never asked for or wanted the power he received.

So Spurrier's decision here, to basically grant Danny his fondest wish of getting rid of his Ghost Rider mojo only to reveal he'd become essentially a junkie for the power without ever knowing it, opens up whole new doors for the character. From the first three pages, where Spurrier transitions from a flashback about Danny was always reluctant but dignified to present day where he's getting plastered and provoking barfights, immediately flips whatever expectations you had and throws you into an interesting story.

This story is supposed to reveal to us how Danny went from being Ghost Rider to a lieutenant of GR's new archnemesis, the fallen angel Zadkiel, over in the regular book, and it's off to a nice start as far as keeping the lead a sympathetic shades of grey character. You definitely feel for Danny who, as the flashback said, was never anything but the ultimate nice guy and has now become a total washout as a result of getting the carrot he was chasing all those years and being dealth yet another bum rap. Now of course another carrot is being dangled in front of him in the form of renewed powers and you're screaming through the page at him to remember how much shit he went through to get rid of them to begin with. Danny has fallen so far and somehow in the process become even more relatable.

The presence of artist Javier Saltares, who has drawn roughly a zillion Ghost Rider stories over the past two decades, most of them starring Danny Ketch, gives this book an appropriate and comfortable feel ("comfortable" being a dude with a smoking skull he can't quite get lit beating the crap out of European hoodlums). The sarcastic but creepy narration of a crow who is taunting Danny with his lost powers is a nicely weird touch.

This book looks like it's going to be a worthy companion piece to Jason Aaron's stellar work over on the mothership, so I'm psyched for five months of double the Ghost Rider goodness.

And with that, I yield the blog to Kiel Phegley who will be our Halloween ringmaster with a very cool uberpost of his own.

1 comment:

Rickey said...

Bees Knees!

There. I said it.