Comic Book Review: Ghost Rider #20

Finally, Daniel Way has left Ghost Rider. The Revolution has been waiting for this moment pretty much ever since Ghost Rider #1 came out. I just wasn’t impressed with Way’s writing at all. The new scribe on Ghost Rider is Jason Aaron. He is the writer over on Wolverine, and while Aaron has never blown me away, he certainly has never disappointed like Way has. So, this is at least a step in the right direction.

Unfortunately, mi hermanos Mark Texeira and Javier Saltares are off Ghost Rider as well. That is unfortunate, since I like Saltares art and I have always found Texeira to be the definitive Ghost Rider artist. Roland Boschi takes over the art duties and brings a much different look to this title. Let’s go ahead and hit this review for Ghost Rider #20.

Creative Team
Writer: Jason Aaron
Artist: Roland Boschi

Art Rating: 6 Night Girls out of 10
Story Rating: 7 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 6.5 Night Girls out of 10

Synopsis: We begin with Johnny Blaze in a confessional telling his sins to a priest. Johnny says that he isn’t looking for God’s forgiveness. That he is looking for a way to get to Heaven. That an angel named Zadkiel made Johnny the Ghost Rider and that Johnny wants the priest to hop on any hotline to Heaven that he may have and tell him that the Ghost Rider is coming for him.

Johnny transforms into the Ghost Rider and sets the confessional on fire. Ghost Rider then rides down the aisle of the church on his flaming motorcycle and busts down the front doors and exits the scene in style.

We cut to two weeks later. Johnny is riding down the road headed to New Buelah, Montana. Johnny thinks about how he can get to heaven and how he can get revenge on the Zadkiel. Johnny mentions how Dr. Druid is dead and Dr. Strange’s number is disconnected. That he doesn’t know how to reach Hellstrom and that Angel and Hercules have their own troubles to handle right now. Therefore, Johnny does what he always does when he is lost and confused. He heads toward the middle of nowhere to think. This is due to his carnival upbringing.

We see Johnny stopping at a small gas station. The old man inside asks Johnny where he is headed. Johnny responds Heaven hopefully. The old man says that they have a local boy who had a heart attack and claimed that he went to heaven momentarily. That the boy is now scared silly of angels. That Heaven wasn’t peaceful at all. The old man mentions that the boy is named Lucas and he is at the hospital just outside of town. Johnny Blaze heads off for the hospital.

We see Johnny entering the hospital and asking to see Lucas. The hot nurse tells Johnny that only family members have visitation rights. Johnny pushes past the nurse. Then the head nurse, who is a gigantic woman, steps in front of Johnny and tells him that he has to leave now. Johnny imagines turning into Ghost Rider and roasting the head nurse. However, cooler heads prevail and Johnny turns around and leaves.

Suddenly, the doors to the hospital burst back open as Ghost Rider races into the hospital. Ghost Rider grabs Lucas and rockets back outside of the hospital. Lucas thanks Ghost Rider for saving him. Lucas tells Ghost Rider that he will tell him everything that he knows about Heaven.

We see the head nurse rallying all the nurses and opening up a large statue of an angel that reveals a hidden armory full of different weapons. The nurses all arm themselves and head to their car to pursue the Ghost Rider. The head nurse comments that she will drive since the roads in this area are not safe at night.

We cut to a couple in a car driving through the local roads. They are totally lost and are trying to find out where they are on the map. Suddenly, a demonic ghost reaches up through the road and causes the car to wreck. The girl in the car flies out of the car and gets all mangled when she hits the street. The ghost then kills the guy who was driving the car. The ghost then grabs the half-dead mangled girl and comments that she isn’t so pretty now. End of issue.

The Good: Ghost Rider #20 was an entertaining read. Aaron delivers an enjoyable issue with his debut on Ghost Rider. I certainly enjoyed Aaron’s take on the Rider much more than anything that we got from Daniel Way. Aaron crafted a nicely paced issue. Ghost Rider #20 wasn’t rushed, but it certainly moved with a purpose. This is also a nice departure from Way’s issues that seemed to stumble around with no clear direction at all. I appreciate that Aaron wastes no time in clearly setting out the point and objective for this story arc.

Ghost Rider #20 presents a nice balance between action and drama. Aaron decides to not overload the reader by cramming as much as possible into his debut issue in order to make a huge splash. Instead, Aaron takes the time to sufficiently lay the foundation for his story and cue the reader into what they can expect during this upcoming story arc. It is clear that Aaron has a properly plotted story in place for the reader.

Aaron brings to Ghost Rider that distinct grindhouse styled theme reminiscent of the exploitation movies from the 1970’s. Ghost Rider #20 certainly has that Quentin Tarantino/Robert Rodriguez feel to it. Aaron’s dialogue is that typical over the top and hammy type of dialogue that perfectly matches the grindhouse feel of the title. Aaron makes sure to include all the proper one-liners that go with this style of story. All of it is tongue in check and done to create the proper effect. It is clear that Aaron is having immense fun being as outrageous as possible on this title and at no point is taking himself too seriously.

I absolutely loved the gun toting nurses. It was cool to see them opening up the statute of an angel and revealing a hidden armory of every type of weapon imaginable. These are certainly characters straight from a grindhouse movie. And I like the little twist that the nurses at the hospital are really secret agents for Zadkiel.

Aaron certainly gives us a more developed and interesting Johnny Blaze than anything that Daniel Way gave us. Way’s Blaze was totally vanilla and rather dumb. Aaron actually gives Blaze the proper haunted feel of a man who has been cursed. The reader gets a better sense of the appropriate sense of loss, rage and bitterness that is required in a character like Johnny Blaze.

I appreciated Aaron’s acknowledging Ghost Rider’s connection with the Champions when Johnny mentions that he hasn’t bothered to contact his old teammates Hercules and Angel for help. First of all, any writer that even recognizes the existence of the Champions immediately gets my respect. I have always loved some of that great 1970’s goodness known as the Champions. While I prefer Ghost Rider to remain on the absolute fringe of the 616 Universe and prefer him to not be treated as a super hero or lumped in with the rest of the costumed metahumans, I still like that Aaron acknowledges Ghost Rider’s connection with some of the other super heroes in the Marvel Universe.

At first blush, I was less than thrilled that Ghost Rider was retconned into actually being an angel rather than a demon. However, the more that I contemplate this Zadkiel plotline, the more that I like it. Placing an angel in the role as the big villain is a pretty cool twist and certainly more interesting than the traditional and slightly tired demonic villain.

I’m a big fan of the movie “The Prophecy” so I like the concept of the angels being a fearsome force. Honestly, this version of angels makes more sense to me than the kind, sweet and beautiful versions of angels that dominate the modern day perception. Angels were usually rarely sweet in the bible. They were a fearsome strike force for God. And usually when Angels appeared on the scene there was usually a serious smiting coming your way. So, I dig the concept of Zadkiel and his angels being something terrifying.

Aaron ends Ghost Rider with a good hook ending. We have Ghost Rider racing off with Lucas to learn more about heaven. The nurses are revealed as agents of Zadkiel. And we see that a malicious ghost is killing people on the streets of this small town. This has the makings of a pretty wild read with the next issue as we are going to see a three way conflict between Ghost Rider, the nurses and the demonic ghost.

The Bad: My only complaint about the writing would be that Aaron’s dialogue for Johnny Blaze is way too much like how Aaron writes Wolverine’s dialogue. I also have to say that I’m not that crazy about Roland Boschi’s artwork. I’m just not a fan of the rough and sketchy look. The artwork lacks detail and looks rushed and a bit sloppy.

Overall: I had a blast reading this issue. Ghost Rider #20 is like sinking your teeth into a nice greasy medium rare hamburger and washing it down with a cold beer. This title is a mixture of gasoline, hellfire and testosterone. If you are a fan of horror comics and you dig movies like From Dusk till Dawn then you will love Aaron’s Ghost Rider. If you are more into deep, complex and thought provoking comic books or simply prefer traditional super hero comic books, then this probably isn’t the title for you.

4 thoughts on “Comic Book Review: Ghost Rider #20

  1. I appreciate your take on the book and the character. Always had a place for the Ghost Rider in my comics gallery. I haven’t read any lately though, so I don’t know how to react to this being an angel business. Still sceptical fror now. And just as a counterpoint, angels, some of whom were bringers of God’s wrath and resultant destruction, were also messengers who brought a means of rescue,(the Exodus),news of a Savior, protection, guidance, many positive things. All from a biblical perspective that is. Like I said, just a counterpoint.

  2. Seriously though, why is Ghost Rider upset that someone saved his friends life, saved his own life, and stopped him from damning himself for all eternity? Are the superpowers too much of a bother? Would he have rather the angel not interfered and have been actually stuck in hell forever?

    I seriously just don’t get this guy’s quest for vengeance. Seeing as how it was cooked up by Way, it being completely illogical is not surprising.

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