Ghost Rider is a great character who is unfortunately saddled with a poor writer in Daniel Way. Salvatares and Texeira are doing their best job providing readers with excellent artwork in order to carry this title. Way’s story has had zero direction or purpose over the first four issues. Is there a chance that Way might actually deliver an issue in Ghost Rider #5 that progresses an interesting storyline? I doubt it. Let’s roll with the review.
Writer: Daniel Way
Breakdowns: Javier Salvatares
Finishes: Mark Texeira
Art Rating: 8 Night Girls out of 10
Story Rating: 3 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 5.5 Night Girls out of 10
Synopsis: We begin with police cars chasing down a gang of demon bikers. Suddenly, Ghost Rider rides onto the scene and quickly takes out all of the demon bikers except for one. The remaining demon biker tells Ghost Rider that he wants to show Ghost Rider something.
We see Ghost Rider following the demon biker to the Quentin Carnival. This is the carnival where Johnny grew up. This is where Johnny watched his father, a stunt biker; die in an accident during a stunt. After Johnny’s father died, Johnny’s mother left with Johnny’s brother and sister leaving Johnny alone in the Quentin Carnival. These events are what created Johnny’s desire for vengeance. (I don’t see the connection, but ok.)
Another motorcycle stunt family, the Simpsons, took in Johnny. They had a daughter named Roxanne who Johnny falls in love with. We then cut back to present time and see Lucifer approach Ghost Rider and he tells Ghost Rider there is something else he wants Ghost Rider to see. We then see Johnny Blaze’s trailer that he and his family lived in when Johnny owned the Quentin Circus. Johnny had married Roxanne and they had two kids. Johnny had purchased the Quentin Circus and had left behind him vengeance and the Ghost Rider.
We see that Crash Simpson, Roxanne’s father, is diagnosed with cancer. Johnny used a spell from a book of magic and offers his soul to hell in order to save Crash Simpson from cancer. It worked. Crash fully recovered from cancer only to die in a stunt accident soon after. That night, Lucifer came for Johnny’s soul. However, Roxanne used a book of magic to stop Lucifer from taking Johnny’s soul. Unfortunately, Lucifer couldn’t bring Johnny to hell, he brought hell to Johnny. Johnny became the Ghost Rider.
We cut back to present time with Lucifer standing in front of Ghost Rider. Lucifer tells Johnny that the two of them really aren’t that different. Lucifer says that Ghost Rider is so screwed that the truth is better than any lie that Lucifer could come up with. And the best part is that it is right in front of Ghost Rider’s face and he can’t se it. Ghost Rider replies that all he sees is vengeance. Lucifer responds that that is exactly Ghost Rider’s problem. Ghost Rider retorts that it is Lucifer’s problem now. Suddenly, there is a massive fiery explosion as Ghost Rider destroys the entire carnival. We see Ghost Rider riding out of the fiery explosion saying that he will see Lucifer in hell and that Ghost Rider will be doing the laughing.
We shift to the next day with the police investigating the fire that Ghost Rider caused that night. The only thing that didn’t burn was an old bible. End of issue.
The Good: Needless to say, Ghost Rider #5 was an extremely unimpressive read. What did I like about this issue? The artwork. Salvatares and Texeira are a fantastic team who create a great looking comic book. Nobody is better at drawing Ghost Rider than these two gentlemen. The artwork is the only thing that gets me through these issues.
We did get some background on Blaze’s origin. It wasn’t necessary for longtime readers like me, but for new readers, it certainly was helpful. Of course, having to wait five issues just to get the background of the main character is pathetic. Having said that, it appears that Marvel has conducted a soft retcon of Ghost Rider’s origin by getting rid of Zarathos and making Blaze himself the Ghost Rider rather than being a host for Zarathos. And Marvel has also gotten rid of Mephisto who Blaze had originally made a deal with to save Crash Simpson. Now, the current version of Ghost Rider has Blaze making his deal with Lucifer. Where does Danny Ketch fit into all this? I don’t know. This new origin for Johnny Blaze still has him with a brother and a sister. So, it is still possible that his brother is still Danny Ketch.
The Bad: When it comes to reading Ghost Rider, I feel like Bill Murray in the movie Groundhog Day. It seems like I am reading the same story over and over and over again. And, therefore, my reviews seem to read the same as well.
Seriously, has there been a title where a writer has done so little to progress the story over the first five issues of a new series? Honestly, what the hell is Way doing? Absolutely nothing, and I mean nothing, has occurred over the first five issues of Ghost Rider. It is almost like Way is conducting an experiment to see how long he can keep a storyline in suspended animation. The first five issues of Ghost Rider could have easily been condensed into three issues. Maybe even done in just two issues.
It is absolutely stunning how bad Way’s writing is on Ghost Rider. I am reading this title more out of Schadenfruede than anything else. I just want to see exactly how bad Way’s writing can get with each new issue. The pacing is abysmally slow. The dialogue is stiff and wooden. The character development is practically nonexistent.
I feel like I have read this same damn conversation between Lucifer and Ghost Rider for the past five issues. I get it already. It isn’t that complex of a plot. Ghost Rider hates Lucifer, because, well you know, he’s the devil. Ghost Rider wants to stop Lucifer from taking over our realm. That’s it. Like I said, it is pretty basic and unoriginal. I don’t think the reader needs to continually read the same conversation between Lucifer and Ghost Rider each and every issue. I think that it is time to move on and actually develop the story.
The dialogue is boring and has a standard issue feel to it. There is nothing interesting in the dialogue that keeps the reader from wanting to fall asleep while reading this issue.
But, what is probably the weakest aspect of Way’s writing on Ghost Rider is the complete and total lack of anything that would even remotely be confused with character development. Johnny Blaze is as colorless and generic as a main character of a comic book can possibly get. There is no excuse for the main character to be so shockingly lacking a personality. I can’t think of another comic book on the market where the main character is completely devoid of a personality.
And why exactly is Blaze obsessed with vengeance? In Way’s soft retcon of Blaze’s history, Way has Blaze consumed with the fires of vengeance ever since his father’s untimely death? Huh? It was an accident that took his father’s life, not a crime. It would make sense if someone had killed Blaze’s father and made it look like an accident. Then having Blaze being consumed with the concept of vengeance would have made perfect sense. However, since it was just an accidental death, I just don’t see the connection between an accidental tragedy and the notion of vengeance.
To make matters worse, Way doesn’t even give us an intriguing villain. Lucifer comes across as a very common and uninteresting villain. I mean, he is el Diablo for crying out loud. That doesn’t leave much room for complexities and grey areas in his personality. He is evil personified. That makes him a bit one-dimensional. And Way isn’t helping any by writing possibly one of the most boring versions of the devil that I have ever seen. And when you put Blaze and Lucifer in the same scene together it makes for such a mind numbingly dull scene.
Unfortunately, there are no supporting cast members in Ghost Rider to pick up the slack for the lack of an interesting hero and an interesting villain. Of course, I’m sure if we had supporting cast members, that they would be just as common and unexciting as Blaze and Lucifer.
Overall: Ghost Rider #5 is another disappointing read. Way continues to be an albatross around the neck of Ghost Rider. Way’s writing on this title is some of the poorest that you will see anywhere in the comic book industry. Way has failed to get me interested in a single plotline on this title. Ghost Rider is a great character and Salvatares and Texeira are cranking out some excellent artwork. However, until Marvel wakes up and places a quality writer on this title, I simply cannot recommend Ghost Rider to anyone other than die-hard Ghost Rider fans.