Ghost Rider #9

Johnny Blaze hits the highway in "Ghost Rider" #9, trying to find Alejandra and attempting to free her of the curse of the Ghost Rider. Ironic that in the end, Blaze seeks to embrace the curse he sought to cast off just nine issues ago.

Rob Williams sums up the series in one line from Mephisto as the lord of Hell clutches his own heart in his hands,"...a motorbike jumping over the Lake of Fire? That's ridiculous." This whole series -- the whole concept of Ghost Rider as a matter of fact -- is ridiculous, but it's exactly why people read comics: to get a story that simply cannot be told in any other format. It's a ridiculousness that makes this installment less interesting, considering a major scene in this issue is Alejandra fighting -- physically fighting -- Mephisto. Sure, she's a tough character, but that's over-the-top and then some.

Williams introduced Alejandra and built her up from a stick figure concept. However, he surrounded her with more interesting characters and in the end the supporting cast really stepped up and made this book worthwhile as Alejandra was relegated to torchbearer. Chief among the support and easily the most interesting is Johnny Blaze. Blaze, after all, is where the story of the Ghost Rider starts and ends. It's not a hand-waving, "None of this ever happened" type of conclusion, but it serves the characters well and it is crystal clear that Williams really understands Blaze's motivation and actions. Blaze is the star of this issue, despite any other appearance.

The art on this issue is a mixed bag. Lee Garbett and Emanuela Lupacchino are two of the cleanest pencilers to draw for Marvel Comics today, but this is a lame duck final issue which also happens to contain thirty pages for the standard-issue cover price. Garbett's figures tend to act through their posture and gestures, while Lupacchino's acting is carried through facial expressions. Both have ample opportunity to let their strengths shine through in this issue. Garbett handles situations between Blaze and Dr. Strange and Alejandra and her "benefactor," Adam. Lupacchino is given the battle between Mephisto and Alejandra and Johnny Blaze's reaction to the wild scene. The downside to the art is the loose setting for the story. Sure, it allows the characters to really propel themselves forward, but there is not much more than that save a few demons and some rocks.

The conclusion to this series shouldn't surprise anyone, but the twist that Rob Williams puts on the conclusion opens up the legend of the Ghost Rider for future tales. Williams adds a final note at the end of this issue, sharing his thoughts and gratitude with the dedicated readers of this title. Ghost Rider's hitting the road for now, but all roads lead back to the same place eventually. It's simply a matter of time until we see that flaming skull screaming down the freeway once more.

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