After I put down Benjamin Percy and Cory Smith’s Ghost Rider I thought, in the best way possible, “How is Marvel letting them get away with this?” Each issue of the series has brought Johnny Blaze closer to becoming the Ghost Rider we know and love while also offering a creature-of-the-week feel. This week, Ghost Rider fights a carnival threat, and given this series has been a bit of a road trip across America a carnival is the perfect setting for another fight.
Ghost Rider #4 opens with Johnny Blaze hugging a toilet with puke pouring down all its sides. Gross. Someone wants to get into this public bathroom, but he’s gotta compose himself. Also, he has no clothes. As we’ve learned, the Ghost Rider drops Johnny in nondescript, but usually safe enough places for him to wake up and ponder what horrors he committed the night before. So begins another day, and another solid opening to catch readers up to speed.
Meanwhile, a subplot involving a paranormal unit of the F.B.I. are following Ghost Rider’s trail of supernatural murder. Talia Warroad continues to be an intriguing addition to the narrative as she brings a little magic and control over things. It’s a pit stop in the issue, however, as most of this issue is about Johnny Blaze exploring South Dakota.
Percy continues to add intriguing ideas about America. In this issue, he explores the idea of lost places in America. The very idea of an abandoned town is creepy enough, but soon Blaze realizes they aren’t gone but have been lured somewhere. The concept of a traveling carnival is also incredibly American, although things go off the rails fairly quickly before Percy can wax poetic on the subject.
Smith pencils the hell out of the monsters in this issue. Paired with inker Oren Junior and color artist Bryan Valenza, this issue has an incredible full-page montage of the carnival folks killing innocent people. I’ll never look at clown cars the same again. This leads to an incredible four-panel page of Johnny Blaze transforming into Ghost Rider. The skin being burned off match with the flames that practically flow like water, making for a cool transformation. The motorcycle is also incredibly cool looking and may make you utter “badass” when you see it.
But before long, the monster of the issue will blow you away. It’s seriously a level of grotesque you just don’t see often in Marvel Comics. The idea of this monster is pretty insane and it takes this book from monster movie to grindhouse gore real quick. Throw in another shot of Johnny Blaze’s scar, this time in a gooey gross close-up, and you have yourself a Ghost Rider book meant to be read around Halloween.
The only negative of this issue is how it takes its time in the opening and then goes hard as hell for the rest of the issue. The balance is a bit out of wack, leaning into recapping, then a poetic ride, and then goes metal as hell.
Ghost Rider #4 goes hard as hell and makes no apologies for it. Ghost Rider is a hellishly fun horror show with a poetic underbelly. It’s a comic that goes so extreme in its gore and horror you might need to keep the lights on while you read it.
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