Sunday, 21 December 2014

Ghost Rider: Trials and Tribulations Review (Jason Aaron, Tony Moore)

Jason Aaron’s Ghost Rider needs to be more well-known - this series ROCKS! The third volume though is an in-between kind of book. Heaven fell in the last book and this one pretty much treads water with Aaron looking at the scattered heroes in the run up to the sure-to-be-epic finale, Heaven’s on Fire, up next. Rather than a long narrative, each issue looks at a specific character: Sara the new Caretaker, Danny Ketch/Ghost Rider #2, and Johnny Blaze, the original Ghost Rider. 

In Sara’s story she recounts the Ghost Riders of the past; in Danny’s, he goes up against a grisly trucker called the Highwayman; Johnny takes on anime monsters and, in the Ghost Rider Annual #2, tries to find a way into Heaven from a fallen Angel of Mercy. 

Like his later Wolverine and the X-Men series, this volume is very light-hearted and silly for the most part which I really liked. While I still don’t fully understand what importance a Caretaker has in the Ghost Rider structure, I really liked Sara’s issue. We get to meet a TON of former Ghost Riders from Vikings to Puritan Witch-hunters, to Indian Chiefs, and a Mad Max type (if they ever decide to do a Mad Max comic, Jason Aaron needs to be hired to write that). 

The Ghost Rider WW1 flying ace was brilliant as was the Ghost Rider WW2 tank battalion (what a visual!), and there are even Ghost Rider Terminators from the future!! How are you not rushing off to read this right now?! My favourite Ghost Riders - and I really want them to have their own mini-series - was the Undead G-Man and Knuckles O’Shaugnessy (a lil guy Ghost Rider!) from 1920s prohibition-era America! So much fun. 

Danny Ketch’s story with the Highwayman was brilliant too. It had a very Clive Barker feel to it with this giant flesh-like truck terrorising the highways, decapitating truckers, but the Highwayman’s origin was ridiculous. He wants to be the fastest trucker in the States so he sells his soul to the Devil. Uh - if you could sell your soul to Satan for anything, wouldn’t you ask for fame, wealth and health rather than “Buh, I wanna be the fastest trucker there ever wuz!”? Anyway, great issue. 

Johnny’s two issues weren’t as amazing but were still enjoyable. The real-life anime woman was very scary (those eyes!) and there were plenty of cool monsters for Johnny to burn. 

The annual surprised me as it wasn’t written by Aaron but by Si Spurrier, a writer I don’t rate at all, but full credit to him for coming through with a fine comic. Johnny’s tussle with the Angel of Mercy was fantastic and Mark Robinson’s art really sold it. The flaming chains that fly out, the fire breath (if there’s one thing Ghost Rider doesn’t do enough of, it’s breathe huge jets of fire on his enemies); it’s this really terrific visual fight scene. 

Tony Moore’s art in this was excellent, the first time I’d say Aaron’s Ghost Rider has looked as good as it reads. Very detailed, very gory drawings, Moore was an inspired choice for this as he drew the first Walking Dead book and can draw zombies/monsters really well. His Johnny Blaze did look a bit too similar to Rick Grimes though...

It may be a disjointed narrative that’s not wholly perfect, but Trials and Tribulations is another fine volume in Jason Aaron’s Ghost Rider series. The Caretaker/Danny Ketch stories in particular are two of the best issues I’ve read in this fantastic run so far. It’s well worth a read if you’re looking for a good Ghost Rider book but make sure you read the previous two volumes, Hell Bent and Heaven Bound, and The Last Stand, first.

Ghost Rider: Trials and Tribulations

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