WARNING: The following article contains minor spoilers for Marvel's Cosmic Ghost Rider miniseries, by Donny Cates and Dylane Burnett.
Donny Cates and Dylan Burnett's Cosmic Ghost Rider five-part miniseries has come to an end. However, fans of the character will get to see him as a new member of the 2019 relaunched Guardians of the Galaxy series, by Cates and Geoff Shaw.
It's good that Marvel Comics is pushing ahead with plans for the character, as he's the best version of Frank Castle. Harboring a 2000-AD-meets-Jack-Kirby's-Fourth-World approach, Cosmic Ghost Rider has endless potential for wild and wacky storytelling, whereas The Punisher's best stories may be behind him.
Punisher fans will undoubtedly be disappointed to hear that, but he's a one-trick pony. His sole motivation is revenge. Heck, even now, many people are asking why we need a second season of The Punisher on Netflix, as he already completed his entire character arc in 13 episodes. It's true, though, as the vengeance angle can only go so far. Every other story of his is a rehash of that, and it gets tiresome. After all, there's a reason First Blood was the best film in the Rambo series and everything else paled in comparison.
Through Cosmic Ghost Rider, Cates and Burnett both parodied and addressed the issues of Castle. His father-son relationship with baby Thanos forced him, while possessed with the Spirit of Vengeance, to take a good, hard look in the mirror. While Castle might not have become a tyrant like Thanos, they share a similar personality type. In fact, we witness how his parenting could've even led to an even worse future in which the Mad Titan became a twisted version of Castle.
This storyline also demonstrates the sheer hypocrisy of Castle. He claims to do what he does to clean up the world, but the consequences of his actions sully even the best of intentions. Much like every villain, he's the hero of his own story.
Although he's seen the fault he had in raising Thanos, it's unlikely that Castle will ever change his ways – he'll just double down. But that's OK, because it wouldn't be him otherwise.
What makes things different is that this version of Castle is entertaining and, well, funny. Instead of being so serious and dark, Cosmic Ghost Rider takes a page out of Deadpool and embraces the insanity of it all. He's literally a cosmic vigilante, and it's going to set up an infinite number of possible battles and outcomes.
Cosmic Ghost Rider's membership in the Guardians of the Galaxy should also prove to be a riot, as his methods will undoubtedly clash with those of his teammates. Already, there's an excitement to see how this dynamic plays out rather than witness the old, boring Punisher shoot another bad guy in the head.
Marvel's recent pairing of Castle with War Machine and Ghost Rider shows that the publisher has realized something new is required to reinvigorate the character. A shakeup was undoubtedly necessary, and Cosmic Ghost Rider might be one of the company's best ideas yet. Not often do changes to legacy characters turn out great, but this might be an instance where the alteration is better than what came before it.