Ghost Rider #1
Written by Felipe Smith
Art by Danilo S. Beyruth, Tradd Moore, Val Staples and Jesus Aburtov
Lettering by Joe Caramagna
Published by Marvel Comics
‘Rama Rating: 3 out of 10
It’s never a good sign when a car seizes up right at the starting line - but when it comes to Ghost Rider #1, this debut issue barely even shows up for the race. Adding in a number of guest stars rather than giving Robbie Reyes a more defined personality and purpose, original series writer Felipe Smith and new artist Danilo S. Beyruth wind up downshifting their hero to even more sluggish territory than the previous run.
If one had to choose major sin from Ghost Rider #1 - and there are several - the biggest issue would be that despite this being a first issue, Smith squanders the opportunity to give his hero a necessary overhaul by focusing an exorbitant amount on guest appearances from other superheroes. Literally half of this 20-page book doesn’t have Robbie Reyes in it - indeed, Ghost Rider himself appears on exactly three pages of this issue - and to make matters worse, Robbie isn’t interesting enough to carry the few pages he actually does appear in, as he chases down a nondescript henchman who flashes a gun because of… a routine traffic hiccup. Instead, Smith leans extremely heavily on Robbie’s relationship with his younger brother Gabe, but pushes way too hard on Gabe’s disabilities, making him seem almost like an exploitative hook for engagement rather than an endearing, three-dimensional character in his own right.
With Ghost Rider himself taking a backseat in his own #1 issue, if they guest appearances were strong, it might be more forgivable - but at this point, it’s all feeling a bit too superfluous. Amadeus Cho - the Totally Awesome Hulk - has a whopping nine pages in somebody else’s #1, and worst of all, it feels like it’s for almost no reason. Smith seems to be seeding in some sort of demonic monster for Robbie to fight, but spending pages and pages of Amadeus foolishly playing around with the creature, only for it to Hulk up and then make an escape… it’s not a particularly fun or funny sequence, and it definitely makes the ninth smartest guy in the Marvel Universe look like a bit of a dope. A second superheroic guest star gets a sharper introduction, but she comes so out of left field that this would-be New Fantastic Four reunion doesn’t feel justified.
Unfortunately, without a superstar artist like Tradd Moore to supercharge the story, Ghost Rider #1 winds up running on fumes almost at the onset. Danilo S. Beyruth has done some great work previously with his work on Deadpool v Gambit, but he can’t help but come up short against Moore’s kinetic, over-the-top rendering - particularly since there’s only a handful of panels that Beyruth’s got to portray Ghost Rider in action. (His panel layouts look fun when Robbie finally tears out, but the actual speed of his demonic car feels pretty underwhelming compared to previous installments.) It doesn’t help that his style doesn’t quite click with the coloring team this round - Val Staples and Jesus Aburtov are in a rare circumstance by overrendering Beyruth’s art, overwhelming the visuals and making characters look lumpy rather than expressive.
Ghost Rider has been a character that Marvel has long been interested in revamping, but it’s clear by the series’ regular relaunches that something hasn’t been clicking with Robbie Reyes, and unfortunately, this first issue feels like doubling down on the same mistakes that has made the character such a nonstarter to begin with. Robbie Reyes needs room to cut loose, and he needs a personality that is deeper than just being a nice guy to his little brother. There needs to be an exploration of powers, a deeper focus on what makes this Ghost Rider unique, and what makes Ghost Rider as a property so interesting. Until Smith and company radically reevaluate their priorities, this is just another example of a would-be superstar getting left in the dust.