One of my favourite Marvel writers currently is Benjamin Percy. His X Deaths of Wolverine and X Lives of Wolverine are buildingly solidly off of the current Krakoan status for our mutants, while I thoroughly enjoyed his X-Force run. So when I finished reading Ghost Rider #1 and saw his name listed as the writer, I knew there was a reason I liked the book so much.
Like so many characters in the House of Ideas, I honestly didn’t have anything invested one way or the other in Ghost Rider, be it the new kid on the block, Robbie Reyes or the admittedly iconic first one to hold the mantle, the one and only Johnny Blaze, who is the star of this series. I’ve read some books here and there, and recall enjoying the first film starring Nicolas Cage in the title role (I couldn’t make it through the second), but I’ve never been a Ghost Rider guy, which is perhaps why I think Percy and artist Cory Smith just nailed this first issue. You can go in cold.
You don’t need to know any backstory on Johnny Blaze or Ghost Rider; the character could be brand new, in fact. Percy and Smith give us everything we need to know as we read – Johnny Blaze is married to his childhood sweetheart, they have a couple of kids, and he’s in therapy after an accident, which is causing him to have waking nightmares.
That is ALL you need to know. And that’s all I’m going to give you, other than a few observations. Ghost Rider #1 is definitely not for the faint of heart. This is another title that could wind up under a Marvel horror banner, if there indeed was one. From the various characters Benjamin Percy introduces us to, to the visceral horrific images that Cory Smith puts down on the page, make no mistake, this is a HORROR book, and a damn good one at that. Recent darker Marvel titles have put an empahsis on body horror, and you definitely feel and see that throughout this issue. I mean, even Ghost Rider himself is a perfect depiction of body horror, though not as gory as fans of the genre might expect; but when Blaze becomes the Rider his entire body is consumed and changed into something otherworldly, unnatural, and monsterous. If that’s not body horror, well…I’ll go back and watch American Mary and Hostel, then.
With that in mind, I don’t think Ghost Rider #1 is for everyone, and I hope the creators take that as a compliment. This first issue feels unique, different, scary, and extreme in a way no other current Marvel 616 book does, and there are some solid titles out there working their horror mojo. However, I think for horror fans that don’t read mainstream comics or think that a big brand like Marvel can’t deliver something extreme, Ghost Rider #1 is proof positive that there’s life and gore in Johnny Blaze’s burning bones.