“Ghost Rider” has become the best book you’re not reading. Start buying it immediately.
Under previous writer Daniel Way, “Ghost Rider” was about Johnny Blaze trying to round up all the little pieces of the Devil that had spread across the planet (mostly America, conveniently, and mostly in towns Ghost Rider happened to drive through). Blaze made a mess by unleashing the Devil from Hell and he had to clean it up. And reading issues #1-19 was about as much fun as watching someone do chores.
When new writer Jason Aaron came on board with issue #20, the series didn’t just gain new life, it immediately established itself as one of the best series on the comic book rack. Aaron infused the comic with 1970s grindhouse grunge and a lethal sense of humor. He repositioned the book as a new harbinger of cool in the Marvel Universe — “not the “Matrix” cool of 10 years ago that still lingers, not the Bendis cool of pop-culture-laden dialogue, but the Burt Reynolds-era, Dodge Charger cool of the time when the original Ghost Rider comic was born. This is an exploitation comic, as it was meant to be, and it’s very, very good.
Johnny Blaze’s new mission is balls-to-the-wall vengeance against Zadkiel, leader of Heaven’s Black Ops division. In issue #21, Blaze finds out that Zadkiel wants to claim the throne of Heaven for himself and if Zadkiel gets his hands on the Ghost Rider, the spirit of vengeance, then Heaven will be overthrown. Johnny Blaze must risk the fate of Heaven to pursue his personal vendetta. This is some cosmo-religious stuff straight out of a Bronze Age Jim Starlin comic, but Aaron and artist Roland Boschi don’t play it that way. They play it as a dirty street fight, complete with machine gun-toting nurses and inbred cannibals. It’s a drive-in horror comic done more than right.
Twenty four years ago, Alan Moore took over a meandering, toothless horror comic in “The Saga of the Swamp Thing” and made it something astonishing. Jason Aaron’s accomplishment on “Ghost Rider” reminds me of Moore’s earlier days. Aaron brings a distinctive, compelling voice to comics, and he’s destined to be a major talent in the industry. Between his Vertigo series “Scalped” and now “Ghost Rider” at Marvel, he’s already hitting his stride.