Last December people were losing their minds after Marvel released cryptic one-page hints at a big story coming in March. The images suggested Marvel was going to change the history of its most beloved characters. Eventually, it was revealed the promos were hyping Cosmic Ghost Rider Destroys Marvel History. The series is certainly a bit comical partly because it is written by comedian Paul Scheer with co-writing by Nick Giovannetti. Its purpose is to show the time-traveling adventures of one of the newest crazy superheroes not named Deadpool.
So what’s it about?
The official summary reads:
Frank Castle’s future self, once the Punisher and now the twisted Cosmic Ghost Rider, is stuck in the past! So he might as well have some fun with the origins of the Marvel Universe, right?! After going back in time once already and trying to kill Thanos as a baby, Castle has sworn off trying to alter history. But when he arrives in Earth’s past at the birth of the Fantastic Four, how can he resist jumping in on the fun? And will Cosmic Ghost Rider take up the mantle once he derails Spider-Man’s origin? With great power, there must also come total irresponsibility! Plus more drastic interventions on events you thought you knew. Take a seat and prepare to have your childhood memories destroyed!
Why does this matter?
This book sometimes cleverly weaves Marvel Comics history into a wacky tale involving a somewhat insane Punisher who is now Cosmic Ghost Rider. If you like to see a little rewriting of classic history give this a look. This trade paperback also comes with a nice breakdown from Sheer and Giovannetti of every major Marvel moment they weaved in and redid. That makes this a little more new reader-friendly.
Fine, you have my attention. What’s good about it?
The premise of this book is quite clever. Take a new character with cosmic abilities and have them relive classic moments in Marvel history and then augment those moments be forcing the character into the narrative. It’s an effective way to allow the creators to add a little commentary and humor to some major Marvel moments.
The first of the six issues collected here is a lot of fun. Speaking as a longtime comic book reader, all the references and new takes on Marvel history can be clever and quite funny. Scheer and Giovannetti basically poke fun at history here and there or add a few jokes into the mix. A reoccurring one that works revolves around characters being jealous, but you’d never think an entity like Galactus could get jealous.
I was getting Ed Piskor vibes from how the narrative flowed since it links together big moments in Marvel history but presumes Cosmic Ghost Rider was there at these moments changing things. Characters most directly affected include the Fantastic Four, Spider-Man, Captain America (Cosmic Ghost Rider blew Hitler’s brains out, apparently), the X-Men, and then in the last chapter more recent New Avengers tomfoolery.
Art is by Gerardo Sandoval, Todd Nauck, and Nathan Stockman with colors by Antonio Fabela for much of the book and additional coloring by Rachelle Rosenberg. Sandoval’s art is much darker and suits the somewhat sad tale of Frank Castle hanging out with his wife and kids before they were killed. Nauck’s art suits the comedic angle of the story while Stockman also brings a cartoony look to the book in his sections. Overall I had no complaints with the art save for it having to dance around a lot of telling and not enough showing.
It can’t be perfect, can it?
The premise of this book may be clever, but it doesn’t work. There is way too much explanation as it must catch new and older readers up to speed on what Cosmic Ghost Rider is changing in the time stream and why it matters at all. The narrative structure basically has Frank tell story after story with no real point or purpose to his family members. It gets even more nonsensical when he tells his younger self all about fighting with Captain America. Add to that fact that none of this will stick since these precious stories can’t be changed and you have yourself a no stakes story that’s told in a boring way. There’s something deflating in how the comic cuts back to Frank talking to a kid between stories that reduces the tension and interest of the story, too.
The humor isn’t as funny as one might assume either. It’s lighter, and sometimes doesn’t quite land. Silver Surfer calling Galactus Galen over and over, for instance, will put a smirk on your face, but you’ll probably not laugh out loud by any means. The humor never tries hard enough.
Is it good?
This is a good time if you want to experience Marvel’s history with a twist, but you’ll need the patience to get through it. There are funny moments, but it’s so limited in good comedy it leans more toward and so-so retelling of Marvel history.
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