VENGEANCE UNBOUND
HOME l GHOST RIDER (2006) l PREVIOUS l NEXT

GHOST RIDER # 2

SYNOPSIS
Finally back on Earth after his lengthy imprisonment in Hell, John Blaze pushes his motorcycle down a desert road. Eventually, a tanker truck stops beside him, and out comes a young woman named Dixie, who owns the rig. Blaze tells her that he's out of gas, to which she replies that her truck is carrying diesel fuel - not much help. She offers to drive him to a truck stop, but when she calls him "Johnny", Blaze grabs her throat and demands to know how she knew his name. Dixie produces a pistol, and John lets go when he realizes he hasn't changed into the Ghost Rider - that she isn't Lucifer. Dixie kicks him between the legs and tells him that her older brother had a poster of Blaze on his wall when they were kids. She had a fantasy about how she was going to marry Johnny, and eventually she married a bad boy of her own that liked to choke her, too. She goes to leave, but John begs her to help him. Dixie gives him a hand, and says that she'll be damned to leave him without helping, as people had done to her throughout her life.

Elsewhere, a van filled with a mourning family is being driven toward a truck stop by a demonically possessed corpse. Dixie and John arrive at the truck stop, and she gives him some money to get some food and clean himself up. In the bathroom, Blaze shaves and cuts his hair, thinking about the deal he made with the Devil to save his stepfather's life. He realizes that he's screwed up, and that when he escaped from Hell he brought Satan out with him.

Outside, the van with the family pulls to the gas pump, and the Satan-driven corpse tells everyone to stay put inside. One of the children says that he thought his grampa died, and his mother tells him that he did die...that's not grampa. Satan puts the pump in the gas tank and starts it, letting gas overflow onto the ground as he walks inside. When he reaches the counter, he gets a book of matches. When he lights the match, however, a bright flash of light comes from the back of the store. Dixie, on the phone, looks as the corpse turns into Satan - with the Ghost Rider standing behind him. Blaze punches Lucifer through the window and follows him outside, commenting that the demon isn't as strong on Earth as he was in Hell. Watching the fight, the mother in the van notices that the key is still in the ignition. She reaches for it, determined to get her son out of there.

Outside the van, Satan stands up and calls John's attention to the gasoline all over the van and the ground. Blaze realizes that if he gets any closer he'll set off the flames, but if he backs off Lucifer may torch it anyway. As the Rider releases his chain to grab his enemy, Satan pulls off a match and prepares to strike it. Inside the van, however, the mother turns the key in the ignition, causing the van and pumps to explode, destroying Satan's host body and killing everyone inside. John falls to his knees, only to be taunted by the still-living Satan, who has possessed several of the motorists fleeing the scene.

Suddenly, the Ghost Rider finds himself standing in a cemetery at night, where a mysterious voice asks him his name. Releasing his chain, John says "you first", and is replied by a blinding flash of light. Floating in the air in front of him is the Sorcerer Supreme, who answers "My name is Stephen Strange".

ANNOTATIONS
John Blaze first met Dr. Strange in Ghost Rider (1973) # 29. They last encountered each other in Ghost Rider (1990) # 78.

Dixie makes her return appearance in Ghost Rider (2006) # 14.

This issue was reprinted in the Ghost Rider: Vicious Cycle and Ghost Rider by Daniel Way Ultimate Collection trade paperbacks.

REVIEW
After a debut issue that was more or less a retread of the previous mini-series, the Ghost Rider is finally out of Hell and back on Earth...and all I can say is "about damn time".

But despite being happy at seeing the Ghost Rider's newfound freedom, there's a bit of confusion that made me do a double-take as I read through: just what the hell happened between the end of the last issue and the start of this one? Demons/zombies rising from the ocean onto a tropical beach, followed by the Ghost Rider...and now we're in what appears to be Texas (though the location is never named, rather irritatingly). We're told that the Devil followed Johnny to Earth, but how does Blaze know that? The readers certainly aren't shown this, we're told this fact on the intro/recap page as if it was obvious from the last issue's ending...which is pretty damn far from the ending I read a month ago. Daniel Way is writing the series without filling in the logic gaps, because had that recap page not been there I guarantee I would have been scratching my head in confusion halfway through reading.

But despite the rather baffling jumps in time and story, this issue is quite a bit better than the previous one...but it's a two-edged sword, because while there are some nice bits of action, nothing at all really happens. It's the same process that Way used for Wolverine (and is probably still using, since I stopped reading that series due to his writing): drip-feeding information in as grindingly slow a pace as possible. We're now two issues into the series, and we still have absolutely no hint as to what "Satan's" plans are or why the Ghost Rider is so important to him. In fact, Blaze's importance is a bit incongruous as well, considering that the Devil was using him as a victim for pratfalls only an issue ago. If Blaze is the key to Lucifer's plan on Earth, whatever that may be, shouldn't he have done so a while back instead of fucking with him? The plot holes thicken...

At least this issue has some action, though, with a pretty neat gas station sequence highlighted by some (naturally) impressive artwork from Texeira and Saltares. But even THIS scene falls short due to questionable and unexplained plotting. What was the point of Satan's commandeering of the family's hearse? Surely the Lord of Hell would have a little bigger agenda than "let's fuck with a few people"...but again, who knows? Surely not the reader in this instance.

In all honesty, this series seems hinged on what the writer perceived as "cool" moments regardless of whether or not they make sense. The aforementioned ending to the last issue and Satan's continued taunting of Johnny fall into this category - the latter in a sequence that felt pulled from the movie Fallen. I think it's obvious that I'm not a fan of Daniel Way's work, and really...how could anyone be?

There is a saving grace, of course: Javier Saltares and Mark Texeira are continuing to prove why they are THE art team supreme on Ghost Rider. This issue brings some impressive visuals, climaxing with the explosion of the truck at the gas station, and with artwork as good as this it's a little easier to forgive the lackluster storyline. But even here there a few criticisms, the main one being the way the team illustrated Johnny Blaze. Gone is the older, haggard man from the mid-90s - replaced with a much younger-looking Blaze that harkens back to his original stories and Daniel Ketch. I'm not a big fan of Blaze being portrayed as a young man again given the sheer amount of time that's passed since he first became the Ghost Rider - sliding timescale or not.

As much as I hate to say it, this series is living up to its potential in the art department only. I can only hope that one of two scenarios happen soon: a) Daniel Way picks up the pace and starts filling in the gaping plot holes or b) they fire him and replace him with someone who knows what they're doing.

And with that said, nothing would make me happier than to see Daniel Way prove me wrong. I just find that to be some extremely wishful thinking.

Grade: C+


Ghost Rider # 2
Published: Oct. 2006
Original Price: $2.99
Cover: Mark Texeira

Title: "Vicious Cycle", Part 2
Writer: Daniel Way
Breakdowns: Javier Saltares
Finishes: Mark Texeira
Letterer: Joe Caramagna
Colorist: Dan Brown
Editor: Axel Alonso
Editor In Chief: Joe Quesada