GHOST RIDER: THE ROAD TO DAMNATION
Writer: Garth Ennis
Artist: Clayton Crain
Marvel Comics | TPB | $19.99
Review by From the Booth‘s own Ken
Once I saw Ghost Rider: The Road to Damnation, I knew I had to pick it up, it had my dream team of writer and artist. Garth Ennis is best known for Preacher but has worked on books such as Punisher Max and is currently closing out his series, The Boys. His upcoming project is Red Team. Clayton Crain first got my attention when he illustrated Carnage USA, he has also worked on various Spider-Man titles.
Ghost Rider is a character that should be awesome. A flaming skull and a bad-ass bike all against the backdrop of the greatest story ever told, absolute good vs. absolute evil. Instead, we get a ripoff Ghost Rider penance-staring into the Hubble telescope like the last volume. Or we get flashbacks to Chicago style gangster Ghost Riders and British flying ace Ghost Riders like the volume before that. Let’s face it, more often than not, Ghost Rider sucks. If anyone could make him cool again, it had to be Ennis.
In this six issue mini, the Ghost Rider is sprung from his eternal torment in Hell by an angel with his own agenda. Hunting down an escaped demon who is seeking to bring on the Apocalypse all while racing against both Heaven and Hell’s agents, the Rider must be the first to bag his prey or he will be cast back down into the pits.
The writing in this book is classic Ennis. The story has asides of brutal things happening to minor characters. The person responsible for summoning the demon is a truly despicable oil executive who is so disgustingly evil, he actually somehow breaks the mold for evil executives. The bounty hunter for Hell, in particular, is hilarious.
The art in the book is absolutely amazing. Although I’ve only ever seen two examples of Crain’s work, he is already my favorite artist. The book has clean lines and is totally saturated in color very similar to Carnage USA. The depictions of Hell are terrifying and not in the least bit hackneyed. It’s infuriating that Crain hasn’t done more work and I’d love to see him as a regular on any title. I’d pick it up regardless of the main character or who was writing it.
Easily the best Ghost Rider series out there, The Road to Damnation is everything you want in a GR book and nothing you don’t. For example, The Rider never reverts to Johnny Blaze even though Blaze is the host. Sadly, Blaze has never resonated as a leading man and Ennis’ bold decision to not focus on him at all pays off. The religious overtones here are played to great effect, reminding me of Ennis’ other masterpiece, Preacher. My only complaint is that Ennis didn’t do more than six issues. Like Punisher, Ghost Rider seems like a book that Ennis could become the iconic writer for and save the character from obscurity. Here’s the hoping their paths cross again.