Comic: "Ghost Rider: Road To Damnation"
Published by: Marvel Comics
Written by: Garth Ennis
Artist: Clayton Crain
Plot: Johnny Blaze is the Ghost Rider, and he is in Hell. He’s also willing to do anything to get out.
Review: As most comic fans may know the Ghost Rider is a mystical superhero from Marvel Comics, dealing with all sorts of magical mumbo jumbo and vague concepts like fighting evil-doers in the name of "vengeance". To everyone else Ghost Rider is Nicolas Cage with a fiery head and a strange fetish for leather. While popular, you can't say that Ghost Rider has had the most stellar track record in the biz, what with having his own monthly serial canceled twice, its main character completely replaced, maimed, killed, sent to hell, and so one. Then again, who doesn't love guys with flaming skulls for a head driving motorcycles around and beating up bad guys?
Luckily, for the majority of us who just like seeing those flaming skeletons riding those badass motorcycles around, Garth Ennis was nice enough to give us this great six issue mini-series a few years back. If anyone has ever bothered to read Preacher, they know that Garth Ennis knows how to handle a story about Heaven and Hell, and it really shows here. While ignoring most, if not all, of the superhero qualities of Ghost Rider to focus more on the supernatural qualities of the character, Ennis has set out to make quite a nice little redemption story. Of course in the end no one is really redeemed of their sins, but hey, it's fun none the less.
Ghost Rider: Road to Damnation seems to be a completely disconnected story set away from the mainstream Marvel universe, which makes it odd that they later used many of its plot elements to jump start a brand new monthly series, but it's not necessarily a bad thing. Johnny Blaze is dead, and since he thought it was smart to sell his soul, he has found himself in Hell. Every night Johnny Blaze as the Ghost Rider shreds brimstone and burns rubber in his bid to reach the gates of Hell before he is torn to tiny pieces by the pit and its countless demons, and every night he fails, only to be restored to try again and again. Sounds like the start to an exciting adventure to me, how about you?
Fortunately, a demon named Kazann has managed to escape to earth, causing both Heaven and Hell to send out scouts and hunters to retrieve the wayward demon. Malachi, an angel who seems very set on making sure that the Heaven does not reach Kazann first travels to Hell to strike up a deal with Ghost Rider. If Ghost Rider can get to Kazann before either one of the other parties' hunters reach him, he will set him free to return to the living world or go on to his receive his rewards in Heaven. Johnny is skeptically to trust the angel, with good reason as we later find out, but see no reason not to accept his offer anyway.
What follows is a quaint little story and it no doubly will feel too many readers like another issue of Preacher, but without the endearing characters of Ennis' other publication it falls a little short of amazing. Don't get me wrong, Ennis did try filling this book with delightful new characters, an especially amazing one in Buttview, a former biker with his head now permanently attached to his rectum, but six issues don't leave much time to establish characters as well as a long running series does. The story is fine compared to many of the books Marvel has been putting out lately, but it leaves you with a sour taste in your mouth. Nothing is ever resolved in this series and the ending, while amazing, may leave some readers a tad bit disappointed.
Then there is the artwork by Clayton Crain. Most of you are probably wondering just exactly who Clayton Crain is, and you'd be right to wonder. The only extensive work he provided to a comic book before Road to Damnation was doing the artwork for KISS: Psycho Circus from Image comics. You may think there isn't much hope for the art in this book after hearing that, but luckily you would be wrong. Through the use of start of art (for 2005) graphic software, Crain really captures the landscapes of the world that the Ghost Rider inhabits, as well as his own skeletal visage along with the hellish creatures he encounters. While it may not turn any heads or blow your mind, it's decent enough for story that Ennis has written.
Road to Damnation isn't the greatest thing out there, but it's a good read for any Ghost Rider fan, or hell, any fan of Garth Ennis. The only downside to reading this series is that it will leave you wishing Ennis had written more issues. There was a follow novel to this, but from what I can tell it has no connections to this one outside of the writer and artists. It may not be perfect, but it's better than the subsequent monthly series and the Civil War that came after it.
(Scored on a 0.5 - 5 pickles rating: 0.5 being the worst and 5 being the best)
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