Sunday, November 11, 2007

Ghost Rider #17

It hasn’t been an easy time of late for Johnny Blaze, the Ghost Rider. When the original spirit of vengeance recently escaped from the depths of hell, he inadvertently freed Lucifer himself in the process. With the devil’s consciousness split into 666 recently deceased human bodies, Blaze has taken it upon himself to eliminate every last one before they can do much harm. One catch: for every body the Rider destroys, the demon’s remaining avatars become that much stronger.

Daniel Way’s storytelling in this issue is blunt and happenstance, almost like he’s making it up as he goes without any sort of big picture in the back of his mind. When the Rider’s cell phone is destroyed in the midst of a battle, it’s treated like a major roadblock for all of two panels, then forgotten until he randomly finds a replacement later in the story. Blaze himself makes so many boneheaded decisions throughout the issue that he’s almost a parody of a superhero. He acts first, then responds with shock and horror when he realizes that maybe there were a few consequences for doing so, even when the flaws of his actions were painfully obvious to the reader. I can’t sympathize with somebody so patently stupid, and I sure don’t feel compelled to follow his adventures any further.

Even the title character’s face-offs with two of Lucifer’s possessed human bodies in this issue don’t produce any moments worth remembering. When the very foundation of the plot doesn’t result in any fireworks or intrigue, there’s something wrong with your story.

The artwork of Javier Saltares is disappointing at best, and certainly no substitute for Mark Texeira, the book’s regular artist prior to this issue. Saltares, who had previously been employed as Tex’s inking partner, feels like a bad fill-in artist throughout the issue. His style is so mundane, lacking of any personality, that it’s often difficult to look past it to the story it’s trying to tell. I actually have a suspicion that Texeira lent a hand in the first page or two of the issue, because there’s a sharp drop-off after the introduction. It’s a quick downward spiral, not only in terms of the actual illustrations but within the composition itself. Page one tells a great story, complete with vivid background imagery, dynamic shadows and an appropriate amount of linework. Pages two through twenty-two are precisely the opposite.

Saltares doesn’t seem to grasp the concept of a good action panel. When Ghost Rider hurls himself through the roof of a barn midway through this issue, it’s shockingly lacking in excitement – the artist merely illustrates the obvious, without taking any artistic license or adding his own twist on the character. His perspective is way off. He leaves a distracting block of dead space at the bottom of the page, which sticks out like a sore thumb. His rendition of Ghost Rider isn’t fearsome or demonic, it’s downright goofy. Saltares is a bad fit for this book, and really for any book.

This is some real garbage. I’ve never been a fan of this character, but I’m not sure if that’s because the concept of a leather-clad biker with a burning skull for a head isn’t up my alley, or because he’s never been given any respect within the pages of his own book. I think I can safely say I’ve never read an issue of Ghost Rider that’s left me interested in the next chapter, and this issue did nothing to change that trend. This is poorly written, inconsequential material, matched with an awful artist. Worse yet, the creative team is going to stay together for at least the next three issues. Skip this, consider it a favor to yourself.

On a scale of 1 to 10, where 1 is poor and 10 is amazing...
Overall Score: 1

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