Welcome to another edition of the Marvel Rundown! It’s been kind of a stagnant time over at the House of Ideas, so here comes another brand-spanking new #1, which may just be what the doctor ordered. Marvel is relaunching Ghost Rider with Benjamin Percy and Cory Smith at the fiery helm; this is Percy’s first major Marvel project outside of Krakoa. Will he infuse Johnny Blaze with as much grit and gore as he has done with X-Force?

Let’s find that out and more, along with some more Marvel reviews in the Rapid Rundown section, all ahead on this week’s Marvel Rundown!

Ghost Rider #1

Writer: Benjamin Percy
Artist: Cory Smith
Colourist: Bryan Valenza
Letterer: Travis Lanham
Cover: Kael Ngu

To tell you the truth, I haven’t thought of Ghost Rider in quite a long time. Sure, we’ve got the younger version of the character in the current Avengers book, but he hasn’t been the cultural force he used to be in quite a long time. In fact, was he ever a cultural force to begin with? Having not read any significant comics featuring the character probably leads to that likely-incorrect assessment, but I digress. What the character needs is exactly what this comic provides: an interesting creative team with a slightly darker and more twisted vision of the character.

I frankly forgot I was reading a Marvel comic while I was reading this. There’s a tinge of Hellblazer in here, a quirky yet horrifying and sometimes genuinely unsettling darkness that feels like it seeps through the panels and pages, right onto my hands. I was hoping Percy would inject some of what makes his X-Force work so well into this, and he does so in spades. There is some serious demon griminess in this comic and it couldn’t have made me happier. Smith’s artwork reflects this, creating a seemingly plain and gentle environment that feels slightly off, highlighting background elements that change throughout the book, like the painting in Johnny’s therapist’s office. Oh yeah. Johnny has a therapist now.

There’s a certain push and pull between a somewhat by-the-numbers plot and a more subversive demon comic that makes for interesting discussion. You’ve got the standard “hero living a regular life with no real knowledge of their past but something strange is going on!” thing, but (brief spoiler)… the whole charade gets tossed away fairly quickly. It’s a tried-and-true formula. It indulges in the basic, perhaps comforting the reader, lulling them into whatever security a Ghost Rider comic can give them before yanking out the hot rod from under them. There’s still the mystery of how exactly Johnny got into this situation which involves an accident he was in, which in turn leads to another mystery and so on. Given Percy’s long pace in his X-Force and Wolverine titles that read as two different books but sometime intertwine, telling one large mega-narrative across two books, I think it’s safe to say that we’re in for a (pun intended) long ride with this story.

I’ve long been an admirer of Smith’s: I’ve read a lot of his fill-in work over the years and have always come away impressed. He always manages to ride the line of settling into the style of another book while also adding his own stamp on it. I like to think I know a Cory Smith book when I see one, and I’m glad he’s getting the chance to start a story from the beginning. I haven’t read many of those from him and I’ve been regularly reading Marvel comics for a few years now. He really nails the creepy atmosphere here, expertly weaving in the more outwardly scary images and the more traditional superheroic stuff we’d expect from a comic like this.

Final Verdict: BUY. I didn’t expect to like this as much as I did, but Percy and Smith clearly make a good team and have crafted an accessible, fun story for anyone to jump into without any prior knowledge of the character. The art is great and the story feels like a one-and-done while also promising a neat mystery to follow.

Rapid Rundown!

  • Carnage Forever #1
    • The 30th anniversary celebration for Venom’s least favorite child kicked off with some truly horrifying stories by Phillip Kennedy Johnson, Edgar SalazarRachel Rosenberg, Joe Sabino, Ram V, Salvador LarrocaRain Beredo, and Ty Templeton. The first story by Kennedy Johnson and Salazar follows a little girl named Elsie as she’s slowly corrupted by the Carnage symbiote. Salazar renders some monstrous expressions for the hostless symbiote and really makes you fearful of the girl over the course of the story. V and Larroca set up the first issue of the Carnage ongoing launching next month and it establishes some seriously scary implications for the symbiote. V writes a more cunning version of Carnage than we’re used to, and it works incredibly well at setting the monster apart from Cletus Kasady. The implications of the story make me wicked excited for the next issue, and I’m very hopeful that this momentum continues. Larroca’s pencils are some of the best I’ve seen from him in quite some time and the way he drew the symbiote coming from a sprinkler system was wonderfully sinister. Templeton gets to craft the final page of the issue and it is truly a treat to see him draw ‘Cletus the Legitimate Menace’ as a send up to newspaper strips. This is a really great issue overall and I would absolutely recommend picking it up. —CB
  • Shang-Chi #9
    • Shang-Chi #9 by Gene Luen YangMarcus ToSunny Gho, and Travis Lanham deliver another issue in what is proving itself to be one of the most solid ongoing titles for the publisher. Drawing on many of the developments from the preceding eight issues, this chapter takes place on the big island of Hawaii. The story features our heroes facing off against Taotie, a Chinese mythological creature known for appearing on bronze artifacts (hence Shang-Chi’s remark that they have metallic-smelling breath, a nice touch). In addition to overcoming these creatures in a clever way, this issue also further expands the Ta Lo dimension of the Marvel Comics multiverse, where Shang-Chi’s grandfather’s Qilin Rider crew holds Shang-Chi’s mother hostage. As Shang-Chi’s family situation grows more convoluted, the story only becomes more interesting… and the cliffhanger ensures that we’re primed and ready for the next issue of this globetrotting super heroic delight! —AJK

Next week, a new sorcerer supreme rises in Strange #1!


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