Wednesday, 5 October 2016

Ghost Rider: The Road to Damnation Review (Garth Ennis, Clayton Crain)

A couple of scheming angels free Johnny Blaze the Ghost Rider from Hell to stop a powerful demon, Kazann, from doing something evil on Earth before a couple of Heaven and Hell bounty hunters - Ruth the Archangel and Hoss the demon tracker-scout - do. It’s a race against time full of vagueness and half-baked ideas! 

I love Garth Ennis but this Ghost Rider book isn’t among his best efforts. The plot is too convoluted for a six-issue limited series - I know what Ghost Rider wants but it’s unclear what the majority of characters get out of doing whatever they’re doing. Worse, once we get to the end, the revelations only further muddy the waters leaving only more questions behind. The book definitely has an overly-contrived flavour to it. 

As anyone who’s read Ennis before knows he does not care for superheroes much - which is understating things! So I’m surprised he chose to write Ghost Rider especially as he doesn’t seem to like the character in the least. He mocks his name, relegates him to a supporting player in his own book, and makes him look like a gullible fool, easily manipulated by others as a stooge/pawn. If you’re a fan of Ghost Rider, you probably won’t be impressed with Ennis’ portrayal!

Because the story is so nebulous, I couldn’t get into it at all and ended up just noticing the Preacher references dotted throughout. There’s the questionably “good” angels/celestial angle for a start, the Texas setting, a character called Buttview (whose head is literally up his own arse!), and a preacher who blows up his church and congregation. I wonder why Ennis included all of these parallels though - was he also bored by his own story and got more out of throwing in Easter Eggs? 

By far the saving grace of this comic is Clayton Crain’s fabulous painted artwork which at times looks almost like 3D art, it’s so polished. He draws the single best Ghost Rider I’ve ever seen as well as stunning character designs for the angels, and the demons aren’t too shabby either. Though the mostly dark colouring does take away some of the detail, The Road to Damnation has some absolutely remarkable visuals throughout. 

Ennis’ Ghost Rider is choc-full of one-dimensional characters, boring exposition and a poorly constructed plot with bizarre references to his creator-owned books and a neener-neener tone towards the main character that might put me some people off. Crain’s art is outstanding but isn’t reason alone to check this one out. 

The road to hell is paved with mediocre comics…

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