With so many big names and big events plastered across the shelves of your LCS, sometimes great comics get left behind – buried in longboxes until someone comes along to find these Hidden Gems.
Written By Garth Ennis
Art by Clayton Crain
Published by Marvel Comics
If you’re familiar with me, at all, you know I grew up reading the X-Men books of the ’90s. That’s where my love affair with comic books started. That’s also when and where I was introduced to the Spirit of Vengeance himself – Ghost Rider. Well, one of them, at least. This WAS the ’90s, so I was seeing Danny Ketch team up with the X-Men. Still, this was a guy with a flaming skull and a chain whip who rode a motorcycle (the wheels of which were also on fire) and fought evil. What’s not to love? Well… most of his publishing run, for me. I just couldn’t get into it any time I tried. And I had NO idea who this Johnny Blaze character was in his goofy-ass jumpsuit. I’d also never read anything by Garth Ennis, as I was – as aforementioned – an X-Men kid.
So why’d I pick up Road to Damnation? Clayton Crain’s art. It was beautiful. His digital painting style was like nothing I’d ever seen before! The cover was absolutely beautiful, and as I flipped through, the interiors were every bit as amazing. I enjoyed Clayton Carin’s art on X-Force, but the man was BORN to put Ghost Rider on the page. Still, gorgeous or not, was I ever confused when I cracked the book open and started to read…
This Ghost Rider was wearing biker leathers like Ketch, but that wasn’t Danny’s bike… because it wasn’t Danny. This was instead the story of Johnny getting sucked back into the role as the Spirit of Vengeance after being stranded in Hell itself. When did he even die!? It threw me off at first, but I got lost in his tale quickly enough. The story of a reluctant Ghost Rider cutting loose against a demonic invader was a fun one, and the agents of Heaven and Hell he was pitted against were interesting enough to keep me reading, too. Ennis and Crain worked together brilliantly to add a new layer to the Ghost Rider mythos. They picked up some of these elements in their subsequent Trail of Tears, which received far more notoriety, and years later Jason Aaron would revisit some of the themes established here as he took over the main Ghost Rider title.
So if you missed this, no big deal. Easy mistake to make. But it’s not too late to make amends. Go forth, and explore the possibilities of the Spirit of Vengeance, and just how intriguing Johnny Blaze’s character can truly be, or beware my penitence stare!!! Okay, I don’t have a penitence stare, but I promise, I’ll squint at you disapprovingly, and you might get a weird itchy feeling after awhile.
Ghost Rider: Road to Damnation gets 5 out of 5 archangels making children gouge out their own eyes
How can you NOT love a book featuring a character named Buttview who earned his monniker when a demon shoved his own head up his ass?