Simon Spurrier has produced plenty of work over the past decade, mostly for the British “2000 AD” weekly. He’s recently began to appear more often on this side of the Atlantic, scripting the still-unfinished “Gutsville” along with a “Silver Surfer” mini, a “Wolverine” one shot, and this summer’s “Ghost Rider Annual” #2. His characters tend to exhibit a tortured ego, and his plots are rife with turmoil. In other words, he seems like the perfect writer to tackle the story of Danny Ketch, the man who was once a Ghost Rider.
The problem is that most of Spurrier’s American work has been relatively tame and toothless, and when he’s working with Ghost Rider characters, his work stands in comparison to that of Jason Aaron, who is writing the best “Ghost Rider” series ever. “Ghost Rider: Danny Ketch” #1 is nowhere near the level of Jason Aaron’s work, and at $3.99 per issue, you get a whole lot of posturing and crying without any of the grit and style of the “Ghost Rider” ongoing.
Spurrier’s script is illustrated here by Javier Saltares and Tom Palmer. And while Saltares has some extensive history with this 1990s incarnation of the Ghost Rider character, his work suffers from the inking of Tom Palmer. Palmer is a great inker, but there’s a reason Saltares’s work always looked best when inked by Mark Texiera: Saltares is an expressionistic penciller and he needs an inker who will enhance than expressionism, not try to convert his lines to a more literal realism. Saltares draws characters with asymmetrical faces, with one eye out of line with the other at times, and when Palmer inks those panels with faithfulness, it just makes everyone look like distorted versions of humanity. And these are supposed to be the attractive characters in the story. Without Texiera’s bold inking, Saltares’s work simply looks second-rate.
In addition, Spurrier’s dialogue lacks the muscular wit that we see in Jason Aaron’s comic book work. Danny Ketch says stuff like, “I’m not hungy at all.” Pause. “I’m starving.” And that’s supposed to be an insightful comment on his inner turmoil. The whole issue is full of flat dialogue, oblique narration, and dry exposition. It feels lifeless and dull, even when the plot turns interesting and Ketch regains the Ghost Rider power temporarily. The sight of a smoldering, but not flaming, Ghost Rider is Saltares’s best moment in the issue, and since the entire purpose of this series is to show how Ketch got his groove back, it seems to finally get interesting at that point. But it’s all “Hrn” and “HaHa” and “Yakkk” and onomatopoetics from Spurrier after that.
If you’re a big fan of the Howard Mackie/Danny Ketch era of “Ghost Rider,” you might find something worthwhile here, but I’d recommend sticking with the current “Ghost Rider” ongoing instead. There’s little here to appreciate, sadly.