Monday, October 19, 2015

Comic Book review: All-New Ghost Rider, Volume One: Engines of Vengeance

Robbie Reyes lives with his younger paraplegic brother Gabe in a crime and violence-ridden part of Los Angeles. Robbie does his best to look after his brother, being his apparent only family in the area, but has to juggle high school, his low-paying job as an auto mechanic, and the dangers of the neighborhood. He hopes to save up enough money to move both himself and his brother to a safer residence, and often has to ask one of the teachers at Gabe’s elementary school if she can babysit while Robbie works extra hours.

Local bullies throw a wrench in Robbie’s plans when they decide to push Gabe out of his wheelchair and steal it, taunting him and calling him names. Robbie, furious over this, tries to fight the bullies and reclaim the wheelchair, but is outnumbered and promptly has his face beaten and bloodied. After returning Gabe home, Robbie hatches a half-baked plan to ‘borrow’ (without asking) a sporty muscle car from a nearby house for the evening, in order to compete in a street race and win some hefty cash. But shortly after the race gets underway, Robbie finds himself being tailed by thugs who work for a criminal drug dealer that owns the very car that Robbie stole. Cornered in alleyway, Robbie steps out of the car, only to be gunned down and killed on the spot.

However, a spirit named Eli revives Robbie, healing his prior wounds, and giving him the powers of a Ghost Rider. Robbie is then able to chase down some of the goons who tried to finish him off, but others still escape. Armed with the ability to phase through structures and teleport to the car he stole, Robbie regains his ride from the thugs, and lets Eli inform him on how to make the most of his newfound Ghost Rider powers.

Robbie is so likeable at an early stage in this series because of how much he sacrifices for his brother. He is a genuinely selfless protagonist, telling his brother not to go outdoors after dark because people play unsafely with firecrackers (guns, in actuality), and not putting up with a pawn shop owner who would like nothing more than to cheat Robbie out of every penny he’s got just to get Gabe a subpar replacement wheelchair. Robbie is one of the only students in his class that puts forth real effort, and his teacher greatly respects Robbie’s maturity and desire to create a better environment for himself and Gabe. All of this makes for a very interesting contrast to the general chaotic, violent, and terrifying visage of the Ghost Rider, though Robbie’s bodiless soul of a companion Eli seems to understand his host’s vindications quite well.

That said, there are a few moments where Eli proposes more violent, cure-all solutions for the problems plaguing Robbie’s neighborhood. While Robbie does well to opt for alternate solutions where few people are hurt, save for gun-toting thugs and armored drug runners, it presents an interesting contrast that could be extrapolated upon in future volumes as an ‘inner demon’ conflict. This first volume of All-New Ghost Rider is smart to paint its conflict on a relatively small scale, and the last page feels like it has given proper closure to Robbie Reyes’ origin story. Come what may, this first volume of All-New Ghost Rider is a brilliant start to a series that has so much more potential, and is among the strongest of the Marvel NOW! relaunches.

My rating: 8.75 (out of 10)

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