Despite the tease of last issue’s confrontation between the Avengers and Ghost Rider, this issue scales things back a bit to give the origin of Ultimate Ghost Rider and provide some behind-the-scenes stuff with the Avengers and S.H.I.E.L.D. While the issue begins with the Punisher and Ghost Rider mixing it up a little, the rest of the issue indulges in some of the pedestrian attempts at maturity that sometimes afflict Mark Millar’s writing that are really nothing than scenes stolen from movies or laughable attempts at making characters ‘edgy.’
That doesn’t mean the issue is all bad by any means, it’s just a few scenes that suffer from Millar’s negative attributes as a writer. The biggest one is the revelation of what went wrong in the marriage of Nick Fury and the new Black Widow (done in a scene stolen from “Silence of the Lambs,” but it’s okay, because Mark Millar tells us he’s stealing it…): whenever she went on assignment, he would sleep with every woman she knows. While obviously an attempt to get across his individual sense of morality at the same time we’re reminded at how attractive he is, it’s too much. It’s not enough that Fury cheats on her, it’s that he does it with every single woman she knows, multiple times, and leaves a trail by putting small dots next to the names in her phone book. It ends with the Black Widow summing it all up with “He’s Nick Fury. Who wouldn’t be in love with him?” It’s a generally unpleasant scene that goes too far in making its point.
The update on the Ghost Rider origin suffers somewhat from the same problems. Johnny Blaze is sacrificed by a group of men to the devil in exchange for power and success, while Blaze turns around and makes a deal with the devil to get revenge. These are the rich men that the Ghost Rider has been killing one by one. There’s always going to be some absurdity in the Ghost Rider story, but this one borders on stupidity in places. Especially the final page ‘cliffhanger’ that shows us what happened to the leader of said little group.
Aside from those missteps, this issue begins with a cool scene that Leinil Francis Yu absolutely draws the hell out of. The fight between the Punisher and Ghost Rider is fast, brutal, and provides a nice taste of what’s to come in the next two issues when the real confrontation happens. Millar also advances the subplot of Fury trying to get his old job back with a short, funny confrontation between the two Stark brothers that is played just right. Along with the use of Nerd Hulk and the Spider, these subplots that seem to be continuing through each of these story arcs give a sense of a larger picture for the title, not just a series of self-contained stories. Hopefully, it leads to something.
This issue marks a pause before the big fight with the Ghost Rider and it focuses on the team as they prepare. While some parts work, others are too excessive in making their point. All in all, this continues to be an entertaining series that’s definitely helped by the quick release schedule.