If you’re anything like me, you’ll finish reading Ghost Rider #5 and check your calendar to make sure it’s not Halloween. This book shreds when it comes to horror ideas, themes, and visuals, with the latest issue this week doing a great job representing all three. It particularly shreds because it features a motorcycle race with the likes of Dracula, Blade, Wolverine, and Man-Thing, to name a few. In the words of Stan Lee, ’nuff said!
Similar to Ghost Rider #4, writer Benjamin Percy continues to mix sometimes poetic but always thoughtful captions into the visual story taking place to put you in Johnny Blaze’s headspace. Like a man with a raging hangover, he wakes up each day in a new place, vaguely remembering what happened to him. Usually, what happened meant killing a demon, but things are different this month for Ghost Rider.
Ghost Rider #5 takes a slightly different angle than in previous issues setting up a race called Hell’s Backbone Rally. Instead of killing a demon, he needs to get into a race to prevent heroes and villains from racing to gain favor with the devil. In a short montage of the racers, Percy makes it clear it’s not a good thing if Dr. Doom gets this advantage or even Moon Knight.
Art by Cory Smith with inks by Oren Junior and colors by Bryan Valenza continue to capture the gritty, realistic vibe of Johnny’s life when not Ghost Rider. Much of the first half of the issue is Johnny waking from a new nightmare and dragging himself into the race. The color choices have a realistic feel, and it’s a nice touch to have stars in the sky. The lineup of riders does look comical, but that’s the fun of comics. The absurdity of the different types of characters and their weird looks doesn’t jive well with the harder-edged horror elements, though.
Once the race starts, Smith does some interesting things to capture the chaos of the race as these competitors don’t play nice or, in some cases, go right off the road. Some wild demons pop up to attack Johnny, and it’s impressive how good the motorcycles look no matter the angle Smith chooses on the action. Similar to the last issue, there’s a fantastic full-page splash right when the action reaches its most heightened moment. It involves a loop, flying demons, and a heroic daredevil moment by Johnny.
The gore and horror are represented well in a few ways, including a demon made of asphalt, a violent scene involving Talia in the subplot, and the scar on Johnny Blaze’s head. We’ve seen an eye peeking out, but the thing that comes out of his head about this issue will make some people gag, in a good way. The only missing element is a flaming Ghost Rider in the epic moments, but we get a glimpse of him early on.
Ghost Rider continues to be a series where you put it down and whisper to yourself, “What else could I ask for?” It features a Johnny Blaze wrestling with inner demons, awesome superhero moments, and plenty of violent horror delights.
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