Ghost Racers #1 Review: Lots of Racers, Little Heart


Ghost Racers #1
Writer: Smith, Felipe
Artist: Gedeon, Juan
Cover Artist: Francavilla, Francesco
Published by Marvel

Let me say right off that I have been a fan of Ghost Rider since I was a child back in the 70s. The combination of horror aesthetics with super hero scripting pushed all the right buttons for me. Like many though, the bloat in the comic industry in the early 90s caused me to drop many of the titles I followed. From time to time, I would pick up a Ghost Rider trade or an issue or two here and there, just to see what Marvel was doing with one of my favorite characters. But that magic and weird dynamic that I had felt years ago, craved really, seemed to be gone, replaced by a gritty and tortured demon who wasn’t all that fun to hang around.

As part of their Secret Wars event this summer, Marvel has brought the character back in the tie-in series Ghost Racers. While the new title nods to the character I loved as a child, it tries to build a world where several iterations of the Ghost Rider exist and compete against one another. It only partly succeeds.

"On the outskirts of Doomstadt is an arena built to entertain the masses of Battleworld: the Killiseum! Here, gruesome games and events abound. Gladiator fights! Monster slaying! Executions! But no attraction so popular, exciting or dangerous as the GHOST RACES!!!"

The preface that Marvel put into this title certainly sounds intriguing. I could picture the characters from the main Secret Wars title showing up in the stands, Dr. Doom and his entourage checking out the games. Alas, there is very little in this comic that ties into the larger Secret Wars narrative other than ham-fisted statements and imagery suggesting a connection. What we do get is a collection of Ghost Riders (you didn’t know there was more than one?) that race against one another every night. And as fun as that is, and as well as Juan Gedeon did with his layouts and general artistic duties for the title, the reader is left feeling empty.

For one, Gedeon and his writer Felipe Smith clearly do not understand the character of the Ghost Rider.


maybe that is Marvel’s fault more than theirs. Who knows what meetings, what corporate input went into this or any of the tie-in titles.)

The Ghost Rider is the “Spirit of Vengeance,” and old school violence and retribution are his calling cards. His character works best when he is used as a plot device to bring closure to evil deeds and broken promises. When we have seen this character tip more toward standard super hero territory, he has essentially failed. Moreover, Gedeon and Smith, while trying to connect to the history of the character, take away what is unique about him. What we get is a tired drama about racetrack politics.

I realize some of the limitations put on creative teams when building such a massive, cross-titled effort like Secret Wars. What I do not understand is giving us versions of established characters that we have not ever seen before and that the mythology of the Marvel universe would not seem to support. I do not understand what in the Ghost Rider’s legacy would see him reduced to a straight up racer. He could have been a cosmic player on Battleworld, but Ghost Racers sets him up as little more than a stooge.

A couple of the Marvel Secret Wars tie-ins have surprised me with their quality. Maybe Ghost Racers will fall into that category as well. But going off the first issue alone, the only thing that has surprised me about the title is that it managed to get $3.99 out of me.

From the publisher:

* Welcome to the scorching-hot track where cursed souls race at the speed of sin, anything and everything goes and the only rule is no rule–it’s the spectacle known as the GHOST RACES; the most hellish ‘entertainment’ known to BATTLEWORLD!
* 1st place prize: Temporary freedom from the ARENA, but what happens to the unlucky and unholy losers?
* It’s all-out, high-speed warfare among the most bizarre and vicious GHOST RIDERS of the MARVEL UNIVERSE. Expect MANY familiar SKULLS!! Rated T

Next: More Secret Wars: Inferno #2 Review

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