Demons Abound. FIGHT! - Ghost Rider: Four on the Floor TPB Review
Ghost Rider: Four on the Floor TPB
Writer: Felipe Smith
Artist: Danilo S. Beyruth
Color Artists: Jesus Alburtov, Federico Blee, Val Staples, Morry Hollowell, Dono Sanchez-Almara
Release Date: 11 July 2017
Collects: Ghost Rider (2016) #1 - 5
Trad Moore’s art work on the original Robbie Reyes Ghost Rider outing was something as transcendent as Bill Sienkiewicz’ work on the New Mutants back in the 80’s. The latter’s art was something Greg Rucka and I both agreed was something “you had to get your head wrapped around” to appreciate; something the journeyman could not simply look at and understand enough to see the beauty. Moore was not on this second outing, other than on a quick backup in the fifth issue. Felipe Smith, who both writes and occasionally does pencils, was on board, however, and that brings back maybe 60% of the charm of the original 2014 run. That’s a good thing.
In this reboot of the Ghost Rider series, the newest Rider, who has catapulted to a surprising degree of popularity amongst readers (I suspect due to his Hispanic ethnicity and exuberant youth), Robbie Reyes is placed back at the center of the demonic story of possession and righteousness. Free from the revenge theme of the original series, Robbie is essentially now rooted as the demonic protector of the Hillrock Heights district of Los Angeles. This arc has very little to do with Robbie’s efforts to protect his brother, and more to do with just being a hero, albeit one who struggles to retain control of the murderous and vengeful spirit of his deceased gangster Uncle Eli, whose unholy deal with some demon combined with his inhabitation to some degree of Reyes’ body is what grants Robbie his powers. Fortunately, Eli’s infestation works a bit more like Professor Stein’s part of the DC Universe’s Firestorm persona, except Eli never manifests in physical form. One great part of Ghost Rider now becoming part of the “regular” Marvel universe is that this arc sees him mix it up with other heroes in the 616 mythology (or whatever we call the post-Secret Wars / Battleworld Universe).
Beyruth’s art is in similar style to past issues penciled by Moore and Smith. It’s a bit off the mainstream, but not quite as existentialist as Moore’s. It seems that has been Marvel’s effort in the transition from Moore; to slowly whittle back the distance outside of the mainstream Moore’s art was, to something more balanced, but still clearly distinctive. Smith was the middle ground, and Beyruth’s is the closest to the center. Overall, I feel like it is not as good as Moore’s, while I admit that it took me a good while to value Tradd Moore’s art for what it was, and still it was a bit of a struggle to pull myself up to that table every issue. I always congratulate colorists who get to do Green Lantern and play in that distinctly colorized world full of starkly bright colors. Probably the next-best assignment for a color artist could be getting to play with all the red and blacks in this Ghost Rider story. Things are frighteningly dark, and then the colorist gets to literally explode the page with bright reds and flames shooting everywhere. Beyruth struggles sometimes with the fight choreography due to the complexity of the Ghost Rider in battle. He has chains that can spontaneously spawn, in a seemingly unlimited number. Reyes is also not decidedly muscular and Ghost Rider has an almost sheen-like, flattened look to his physique, especially in the torso, which makes it tough to decide how he should look when throwing a punch. Maintaining scaling and perspective is hard too. Then there’s the car, and Reyes’ ability to phase into and out of it. It’s a lot to keep hold of, and it works most of the time, but not all.
In this story, Amadeus Cho sets loose a DNA-consuming entity that steals and morbidly mutates its own manifestation of the powers of any super-beings that it meets. In the chase to contain the creature, Cho (the new Hulk) encounters and joins up with the New Wolverine (formally X-23), and they eventually team up with Silk. Then the threesome eventually come across Reyes; add some SHIELD agents, and you have an amazing tapestry to weave a fun, youthful, new generation romp from in this invigorated Marvel Universe. At a time when there are some very uninteresting things happening in the Marvel Universe, this is one of those pockets where things are going right. This arc, with its character mix of replacement heroes for old and aged icons, we get what is kind of a New Generation / pre-Champions look at what the Marvel Universe could be if it casts off its risk-averse rechurning of old heroes and tired plotlines. Felipe Smith injects the right amount of Millenial optic, including touches of modern technology integration into that generations live’s, and a touch of family. It’s not the most complicated storyline running around in comics today, but it dresses a standard story with fresh characters and it works well. It also has this weirdly Fantastic Four vibe to it, which is interesting considering the eradication of that group from the Marvel zeitgeist.
Verdict: 7.0 / 10.0
While Ghost Rider is probably the most mainstream trade I’ve read this year, I am pretty happy that I took the time to read this extended comic. I have been a fan of Robbie Reyes since his introduction. In many ways, he is “my” Ghost Rider, as I’ve never been very interested in past incarnations. Whenever the other Ghost Riders appeared, they just felt like luggage. But Reyes feels like his story is one of those pools of content that is part of leading the Marvel Universe in the direction it is trying to head. The book, with this character, has not yet had a big name talent put on it. While I think that would show more of a nod of affirmation to the importance of the character, I am not sure that it would be the same if anyone other than Felipe Smith was on it. It will be interesting to see how Marvel grooms this property over the coming years. It’s enough in some ways to see it get a return limited series following Secret Wars. There’s no word on whether he will get an ongoing sometime in the future, but he did make the leap to the small-screen on Agents of SHIELD. Fingers crossed that this will not be the last time we see Robbie Reyes.