Donny Cates and Dylan Burnett’s fantastic miniseries Cosmic Ghost Rider has come to an end. Over the course of five issues, we’ve seen the troubled mission of Frank Castle trying to rehabilitate Thanos by way of kidnapping him as a baby and showing him there is more to life beyond mass interstellar genocide. Cosmic Ghost Rider #5 is the culmination of all of Frank’s missteps in his snake bitten mission.
We won’t get into spoilers, because there are some really great moments in this issue that need to be experienced firsthand, but we will say things play out like a comedy of errors, only with way more destruction and mayhem. Donny Cates clearly loves the titular character of the series. From his introduction during the Cates’ run on Thanos to now, it has become abundantly clear the writer was always intending to say a lot more with Frank Castle imbued with the powers of the Spirit of Vengeance, and even at the end of this issue, there’s still more exploration on the horizon.
Cosmic Ghost Rider #5 does a wonderful job of blending tragedy with hefty amounts of humor. Thankfully jokes never really come off as being too cheeky or self-aware to distract readers from what’s on the line in the larger narrative. Despite how insane the setup to this story is, it remains remarkably grounded. This issue focuses on the ramifications of trying to alter the future without truly letting the past settle. Cates handles the disperate tones extremely well. He never leans too far into one realm for too long.
Burnett’s art continues to impress. It's as hyper kinetic as ever and operates somewhere in the realm of Tex Avery on Methamphetamine while on an extended sabbatical in Japan. Everything is heightened. Exaggerate facial expressions convey the characters’ emotions to the nth degree. His action sequences are big, bold, and flashy. Their forces swallows up panels and engulfs them in flame and sinew. And while his line of work my not be as crisp as someone like, oh, let’s say Jim Cheung, it is just as expressive, leaving no gray area from a story telling standpoint. You know what the characters are feeling and you see the horror their actions have caused stain each page.
Overall, Cosmic Ghost Rider has been a fantastic miniseries that has expanded on a very bizarre niche of the Marvel Universe that Cates carved out for himself in the pages of Thanos, alongside artist Geoff Shaw. Where things go from here is really anybody’s guess. Reading this final issue was a rather bittersweet experience despite the fact we know we are getting more of Cosmic Ghost Rider in future books. The real catharsis in Cosmic Ghost Rider # 5 doesn’t come in the form of Thanos learning a lesson or getting his just deserts; it’s in the way Frank Castle lives with the hand he’s been dealt. It’s the final realization in this issue that punctuates everything, and even though it's quite obvious from early on, it still carries weight.
From the beginning, Cosmic Ghost Rider always seemed like a longshot in terms of being as good as it is. Thankfully, the creative team handled the book with a lot of gravitas and dialed in to what makes this character so fascinating. We can’t wait to see more of Frank in the future, but until then, all we can do is reflect one of the most insanely entertaining adventures Marvel Comics has released in recent memory.