Graphic Novel Review: Fear Itself: Ghost Rider
TO save the life of his dying stepfather, stunt motorcyclist Johnny Blaze sold his soul to the malevolent Mephisto, agreeing to become bonded with the demon Zarathos and be transformed into the flame-headed skeletal biker known as the Ghost Rider…
Years later, with most of his loved ones dead, his life a mess of battles between the forces of Heaven and Hell, and apparently no way to escape his curse, a desperate Blaze agrees to accept a deal offered by the mysterious man known only as Adam, freeing himself from the Ghost Rider in the knowledge that an innocent will be possessed by the demonic force in his stead.
But Adam has his own agenda, having spent years training a cadre of orphan warriors in a mysterious Nicaraguan temple, with one of them set to be chosen to take on the burden of the Ghost Rider mantle. He intends to use his prot�g�’s powers to drain humanity of all sin, leaving it creatively-stagnant - a cold, emotionless race lacking in motivation and imagination.
Blaze reluctantly agrees to assist Mephisto in hunting down the new Rider, a young girl called Alejandra, and preventing her from carrying out Adam’s extremist plans – at the same time dealing with the forces of Skadi, emissary of the all-powerful Serpent, as seen in current Marvel crossover Fear Itself…
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Despite the branding, there isn’t a great deal linking this storyline to the wider Fear Itself narrative despite a few appearances from that book’s protagonists, with this title instead serving to introduce the new Ghost Rider and Johnny Blaze’s revised status quo.
Celebrated 2000AD writer Rob Williams opts for an unusual tone which swerves between wacky irreverence to Biblical melodrama, something which occasionally jars, although often to good effect, highlighting the madness of the scenario unfolding on these pages.
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He also succeeds in giving Blaze more of a personality than the “cursed loner” persona which has served him since his creation in the 1970s, playing up on his redneck roots and his sense of responsibility, while also allowing him a sense of humour which has usually been lacking from the character.
Artist Matthew Clark presents what are effectively widescreen supernatural struggles in a clean, neat style, maintaining a grounding in reality with serves to benefit the storytelling no end. When you’re pitting a leather-clad female biker with a burning skull against a hammer-wielding embodiment of primal fear then you want to be sure the audience realises the threat is very much a real one.
Where the series is likely to head following Alejandra and Blaze’s final confrontation with Adam on board an orbiting space station is hard to predict, but you can be sure of one thing, as long as Williams is driving then it’s gonna be a helluva ride…