Hell on Wheels – “Ghost Racers #2” Review

coverGhost Racers #2

Marvel

Writer: Felipe Smith
Art: Juan Gedeon

Let me start off by saying that this has been a gangbuster week in comics. Everything that I have read has been absolutely excellent. Ghost Racers #2 was not the best thing that I have read this week, but on any other shipping week of the year, it could have easily claimed that crown. As it stands, a few minor issues detract from this issue being truly great, but it is damned close (no pun intended).

The second issue of this new series from Marvel is a flashback for the most part. We are taken back to the beginning of the new racing tournament from hell, where we are shown that Robbie was not on the original roster. Because his powers are derived from a different source than the other Ghost Riders, he was not initially detected as an infernal force to be drafted into the death races. A rather innocuous set of friendly pranks unfortunately brought him to the attention of the Doom security forces and the Thor officers. From there his hidden power, which had apparently gone into remission, was detected and away we go.

This is a neat story, and it is always nice to see the backstory of a title fleshed out, even in this one-off event-drivenall the ghost riders arc of Marvel history. However, as a reader who had the Ghost Rider reboot on his pull-list for the better part of 2014 when it debuted, there are some broken pieces in Felipe Smith’s story that are bothersome. Robbie Reyes’ brother, Gabe, was crippled and wheelchair bound in the original stories, and had a learning or emotional disability. In Ghost Racers that appears to have been done away with. The three friends that appear to now by Robbie’s comrades, were high school enemies of the bullying type not less than 12 months ago. Ok, I get it, Marvel is doing away with a lot of continuity, and this is Doom World, where history has been re-written. But those two elements in particular, to me, were key elements that formulated who Reyes was as a person. It is not so much that the continuity has been diverged from, it is more a matter of them making Robbie into a character that feels just that skosh too different in an uncanny valley sort of way. The script is solid in its action, and the take on Eli being his partner now more than a vengeful spirit that wants Robbie to kill is refreshing. It seems like Smith has done away with a lot of the more difficult and entangling elements of his run from last year, maybe just so that he can move the story along faster. When this is all over, maybe I will feel like that was the right play, but right now it feels a bit jarring and prevents me from giving this a higher score.

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Gedeon’s art is a bit abstract, but so was the art in last year’s run. It was a bit distracting last year, and it still is now, but not so much as Tradd Moore’s art. The Francavilla over was also a nice touch. It is a tough thing to get cars right in comics; in fact I’m not sure that it ever comes off very well. I’ll say that Gedeon is doing the best he can with the multiple flame-enveloped vehicles in motion on the Ghost Racer oval. He also does pretty good creature work, as represented by the three-headed monster he renders when the action shifts back into the current timeline.

In aggregate, this is a solid issue that apogees just a bit above the norm, and is a great little story. The setup was solid, and the high adventure escape in the closing pages felt as uplifting as a scene from an Indiana Jones film or an episode of the A-Team. This is one of the better tie-ins going on around Secret Wars and Battleworld and is certainly worth a read. In fact, for other readers who were on-board for last year’s All-New Ghost Rider, it is essential.

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