The first two issues of Ghost Rider were a lot of fun, despite my complaints about All-New Wolverine’s characterization in the second issue. The third issue focuses way too much on the Wolverine/Totally Awesome Hulk/Silk team up though. It didn’t’ feel like a Ghost Rider story at all, and that’s a problem when the title of the comic is Ghost Rider. This issue mostly fixes that.
Ghost Rider 4, written by Felipe Smith, flashes back and forth between two major story arcs. There’s Robbie Reyes’ story, where he’s struggling against Eli, his inner monster, while also dealing with a new co-worker’s former gang ties. It’s a compelling story that causes an intense inner debate. The debate gets more complicated when this co-worker, a newly released criminal, scares his disabled little brother Gabe. I won’t spoil how everything goes down, but it leads to an awesome action scene where Ghost Rider tears some gangsters up. The little moment between Robbie and Gabe is sweet, showing how much Robbie cares for him. I have no complaints whatsoever about this half of the story.
The team-up between the other three previously mentioned heroes, along with two members from Agent Coulson’s SHIELD team, is kind of a fun adventure. At this point it’s starting to feel a bit repetitive though. They track down the monster, fight it for a bit, and then the monster just leaves. Rinse repeat. Your enjoyment for this storyline very much depends on the dialogue. On the bright side, Amadeus Cho is entertaining with his balance of being both brilliant and kind, while also being kind of arrogant. On the downside, Silk really only speaks in exposition dialogue so that we don’t really see any of her naïve charm. The SHIELD agents speak even less, to the point where you have to ask why they’re even there. And then there’s Laura’s dialogue. When she’s properly characterized, she doesn’t quite speak perfect English anymore, but she doesn’t use expression very often and her few jokes are usually dry and witty. She also doesn’t casually threaten to kill people – she’s well past that stage of her life. So when one of her lines is “If anybody threatens my lil’ sister, he’s not long for this world. Instant shreds. Like confetti”, I have to ask if this is some sort of alien disguised as the All-New Wolverine. That’s not her only bad line, but it is the worst in this series so far.
Danilo S. Beyruth’s art is mostly good. The action scenes involving Ghost Rider always bring a lot of fire, whipping chains around, and a lot of great terrified facial expressions. There’s great use of debris flying around when his car smashes through other vehicles, and the Ghost Rider himself looks downright intimidating when he simply lets bullets bounce off of him, glaring at the shooter. All the other superheroes look like themselves and are consistently drawn, and the monster is bizarre looking in all the right ways. On the downside, there are occasional flubs. When Robbie Reyes transforms back to himself after the opening action scene, his earrings are missing. The ex-con’s facial tattoos also disappear on a couple panels here and there. Jesus Aburtov and Federico Blee share colouring duties, and there’s nothing to complain about here. Ghost Rider’s action scenes are dominated by orange flames and darkened characters at night, but with a touch of variety in car colours and outfits to balance things out. The daytime scenes, especially the monster chase, are bright and colourful save for the slightly greyed out auto shop that Robbie works at.
Despite my complaints, this is still an enjoyable comic. Although giving Ghost Rider something to do while he’s avoiding joining Amadeus and Laura’s team is a good thing, this series would probably have worked better if the first story arc focused purely on the ex-con and his former gangster friends, while the second arc would be the “New Fantastic Four” story arc involving the monster while Robbie’s story focuses on his relationship with Gabe before he joins in on the action. It would also help if my favourite character’s dialogue wasn’t butchered so badly on occasion and if we saw at least some of Silk’s personality shine through. This comic is worth checking out for those who enjoy Robbie Reyes or the Totally Awesome Hulk, but it’s not worth reading for fans of the other characters appearing in this story arc.