Ghost Rider #34 - 'Trials & Tribulations Part 2: On The Road Again' - Aaron, Moore and McCaig
Story - First of all, my apologies, I sort of forgot that we reviewed a Jason Aaron book only 2 weeks ago (Wolverine Weapon X #1) and if I had remembered, I probably would have chosen something different. Secondly, I apologise for nothing! Mwahahaha! This issue was awesome, and you all know it. I prefaced my Aaron fandom in the Wolverine review, but here's a quick recap; read The Other Side, loved it, followed it to Scalped, liked the first volume OK, but the 2nd trade kicked my balls off, then picked up his first issue of Ghost Rider on a quiet week, and Oh Em Gee it is great, now I will check out anything he does (I recommend his recent Christmas Punisher story)
So there, that's a potted history of me and Jason Aaron, but what of this issue? #34 of Ghost Rider is a fairly standalone story, that serves as a nice breather in between the madness of the previous arc 'Last Stand of the Spirits of Vengeance' and the upcoming mini-series 'Ghost Riders: Heaven's on Fire', yes, Riders, plural, we'll get to that in a minute. But it's not just a bit of space, it's a great character piece and an awesome action comic.
Jason Aaron's approach to Ghost Rider has been pretty revelatory, it's not like the horror/superhero hybrid of old, it's like a hillbilly grindhouse explosion of awesome, and this issue is no exception, we open by learning the story of the Highwayman and his Black Rig, an awesome concept, and though Aaron didn't come up with it (read the letters page, it's from US1 of all places) it seems fresh and new, and totally in keeping with the tone of the book, I loved the silent page where the decapitated driver smashes his truck into the diner, Aaron knows when we don't need words and when we do, this scene was amazing with no dialogue. I also loved the details of the Highwayman's truck, how it's become organic, the gear-changer is a head etc, it was disturbing, and awesome.
After this, it's time for the Ghost Rider to show up! But which Ghost Rider? One of the best things I think Aaron has done is bring back Danny Ketch, and make it work. I don't know if you guys know anything about the history of Ghost Rider, but it is easily as confusing as the X-Men, Zarathos, Medallions of Power, Noble Kale, what? But Aaron has mostly swept that under the rug and made it all about Zadkiel, and that's made it easier to reconcile Blaze and Ketch existing together, and man, did Aaron (and Spurrier in his mini-series) put Danny through the wringer, he's been an unwitting pawn and villain for Zadkiel, but this issue was his first step back towards heroism, albeit, again, unwittingly, he initially doesn't want to stop and investigate the burned out shell of the Gas Station, but is forced to by the Spirit of Vengeance, and what follows is one of the most iconic and disturbing GR transformations I've seen, Tony Moore does a brilliant job here (more on him later) and it's amazing, one of the best bits I've seen in comics for a while, I can't believe he got away with it.
Then we get an extended fight scene, it's hard to write about something like this, but what struck me about this was 2 things, the inventive ways Aaron and Moore stuctured the fight, it must be hard to do scenes like this involving vehicles, but they manage to, probably by not obeying the laws of physics, having them drive up sheer vertical surfaces. The second thing is that Ghost Rider barely says a word, only one line, 'Nibble on this', this was a good move, as it serves to separate GR from other characters, he's not a chatty superhero like Spider-Man, he's a Spirit Of Vengeance, he doesn't need to say anything, just stare at you with those unfeeling sockets, it may also show Ketch's reticence and guilt over his role in ending the world, compared to Blaze, he's a lot quieter, you can see this in the aftermath of the fight, his face tells you all you need to know.
So then Cowboy, how was it? Like I said, it's good to have a little silly, dark fun before the promised epic of Heaven's On Fire (did you see the preview in Wolverine #1? Son Of Satan!), and it was good to get a little set up for Danny Ketch's role, right now we've got 2 incredibly reluctant Ghost Riders who have to save the world, and I can't wait. Add to that some dark humour, great fight choreography, and creepy imagery, this is another fantastic chapter in the definitive Ghost Rider run, I don't want it to be over.
Art - I already mentioned Tony Moore a bit in the main body of the review, but I should reiterate how perfect his is for this book, much of his work has been in amongst the dark and gritty and violent, Walking Dead, Brit, Fear Agent, The Exterminators, and now this short run on GR, it fits the fun yet dark tone of the book, it's cartoonish, but with a granite edge, look at the detail he puts into the Highwayman's truck, or to the aforementioned transformation scene, he can do the dark stuff, but also the human moments. I hope he gets the chance to do more work with Aaron, maybe a Wolverine story?
Best Line - 'Hail Satan you Sum-Bitches...' That actually kind of sums up the whole book, supernatural meets redneck.
Bring on Phonogram, a book that both delights and infuriates in equal measure!
Last edited by Punchy
on Sat Apr 25, 2009 11:14 am, edited 1 time in total.