The Spirit Of Vengeance takes on the Hand in this one-shot special, and it may be the redemption of Shadowland.
Credits & Solicit Info:
Shadowland: Ghost Rider
Written by Rob Williams
Artwork by Clayton Crain
SHADOWLAND TIE-IN! When the Spirit Of Vengeance is summoned to the front lines of the battle for the soul of New York, Ghost Rider finds himself a pawn in a larger game, and if he wants his freedom back he's going have to head for Japan and take on the might of The Hand where its power is strongest - in its home base. But in the far east, he'll find everyone's afraid of something... even the Ghost Rider
Ghost Rider used to be a character I only really liked in theory. I liked how he looked (because he looks bad-ass) and I liked the idea of the character, but I'd never really enjoyed one of his stories.
That was before Jason Aaron took over the character, and made me LOVE LOVE LOVE Ghost Rider, over the course of about 25 issues, Aaron just made Ghost Rider click in a way he never has before. But now he's gone, and it's time for the first Post-Aaron Ghost Rider stories, and from the basis of this issue, Marvel could do a lot worse than get Rob Williams involved long-term. Williams takes a lot of what worked in Aaron's run, ties it in very well with Marvel's Shadowland event, and even takes the character into another exciting direction.
As readers of Shadowland will be aware, Andy Diggle has revealed a hitherto-unknown connection between the Ghost Rider and the Hand, and has had the Kingpin and Lady Bullseye summon Johnny Blaze in an attempt to defeat Daredevil and his happy family of Ninjas. This one-shot explores GR's role in the event in closer detail, and manages to make it a little less incongruous than it has previously. It's often hard to understand why Ghost Rider is lumped in with all the other street-level 'Marvel Knights' heroes that make up events like Shadowland, as he's very much mystical, rather than crime-orientated. Wisely, Williams largely keeps Ghost Rider out of the streets of NYC, and sends him to take on the equally mystical Hand in Japan. But there's a complication due to ancient Hand magic, and Blaze is forbidden to hurt any Hand soldiers. But he's also compelled to try and kill them by the Kingpin's magic. What's a Spirit Of Vengeance to do?
The answer may well surprise you, as will the rest of this issue. This isn't just some throwaway tie-in, stuff happens in this issue which should have a definite impact on both the events in Shadowland going forward and the future of Ghost Rider. Whether it's as a hero for hire or a solo book, I hope Williams is involved in some way, his voice for Blaze is very strong, and for a Brit he certainly nails his Southern ways. And he comes up with the most innovative use of a Whale I've seen in comics for some time.
The artwork for this issue comes from Clayton Crain, an artist who is no stranger to Ghost Rider, having illustrated a couple of mini-series with Garth Ennis. His work is obviously a good fit for GR, the way he paints Flames is wonderful, and while his colour palette is a little dark, it fits for such a dark character and story, and when it suddenly contrasts with blinding whiteness, it's very effective.
This one-shot was very well-done, it could very well be an integral chapter in the Shadowland epic, so fans of that book and Daredevil would do well to reconsider not picking this up, and fans of Ghost Rider won't be disappointed either, Jason Aaron may be gone, but the character continues on in a reliably strong vein.
Review by: Niam Suggitt