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Ghost Rider #14
Marvel Comics

Comic Books

‘Ghost Rider’ #14 remains fun but frictionless

For all its reinvention and playful smash-ups, Ghost Rider doesn’t feel to be going anywhere.

There’s a subtle sense of reinventive, action figure-like play going on in Ben Percy and Cory Smith’s Ghost Rider. In a book just barely over a year old, the series has pared Johnny Blaze down to his most uncomplicated self, making itself unconcerned with any of the heavy baggage the character has accumulated in his fifty-one year history; he is simply a troubled dirtbag with a predilection for motorcycles. All talk of wars in Heaven, of the demon Zarathos, or even of his wife and family has gone out the window. Even the events of the gone-too-soon Brisson run on the character have been wiped away.

Ghost Rider #14
Marvel Comics

His brother Danny Ketch, on the other hand, has had a selective reset. Sure, none of the 1990s clings to him – there will likely never be a discussion of his dead sister or that gruesome cult his adoptive mother joined. More recent history – like his tenure as the Spirit of Corruption – appears to lurk beneath the surface.

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Ghost Rider #14
Marvel Comics

The reason for this conceptual reset seems to be a means to facilitate an absolutely bonkers conceptual barrage. The series has skirted horror road-movie, has included an absurd but rad motorcycle race featuring a disparate hoard of cameos, and has spent time just palling around with Wolverine. It’s a perfect example of creators playing with the action figures in the sandbox. They point the characters at a single-use situation, bash them together, and move on.

With these most recent issues, the unnamed flirtation with Weapon X technology continues the layering of the wider universe onto the much narrower, single-minded narrative of our Riders. The controlling brain-scrambling has turned Danny into a one-ghoul government strike force. It feels like action figure play – taking the accessories from one toy and sticking them haphazardly on another; that novelty supplies the book with its momentary focus.

Ghost Rider #14
Marvel Comics

While this creates a manic, rollicking sense of fun in the series, it also has the effect of limiting the scope of the stories being told. The main narrative in Ghost Rider #14 doesn’t do a whole lot with the larger forces hinted at throughout the series – forces that have never quite been cemented or examined. We know Blackheart is out there, somewhere, doing something, after all. Aside from giving us a peek behind the Weapon Ghost curtain, giving the barest depth to the lead scientist manipulating Danny, the issue feels weightless. There is no conflict, no major action moments — that incredible cover never comes to pass. Johnny and his confusing backup/lover Talia have all the excitement of taking a shower in a scummy motel.

There’s a backup story in this issue by Jon Tsuei and Tadam Gyadu that feels like it could have fit into the first few issues of the series, back when this whole thing felt like a monster-of-the-week exploration of American horrors; Johnny runs into Tiger Division member Taegukgi, and they take on a minor spook in Santa Cruz. If this were still that sort of book, it would ring true. As it is, it seems only half-heartedly interested in developing depth of narrative.

For all its reinvention and playful smash-ups, Ghost Rider doesn’t feel to be going anywhere; paring the characters to their flattest point has made them frictionless to even the complexities of the story they’re currently in. The story has reset the characters, but has not added complexities of its own. Johnny remains the same Johnny he was 14 issues ago, and the story has done nothing to suggest he’ll ever change.

Ghost Rider #14
‘Ghost Rider’ #14 remains fun but frictionless
Ghost Rider #14
Despite engaging concepts and crazy action, Ghost Rider #14 continues the series' larger lack of direction.
Reader Rating1 Votes
7.9
Fun concepts.
Interesting integration of the larger Marvel Universe.
Very little action.
Barely moves an already static story.
6.5
Good
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