Ghost Rider’s involvement in Shadowland has been pretty suspect from the beginning, with the character feeling shoe-horned in purely because he’s a bit gritty and street-level, rather than due to any obvious connection with the events of the miniseries. Admittedly, now that Murdock’s demonic possession is apparent, and with Ghost Rider’s thematic connection to vengeance, the flame-headed one could quite easily feature in the denouement of the story. But, so far, there’s little evidence that could convince readers of that.
Still, regardless of how much sense it makes, we must take Ghost Rider’s involvement in Shadowland as read, and see if the comic can stand up for itself on those terms.
As you may or may not know, Ghost Rider joined Shadowland when the Punisher and Lady Bullseye stole some ancient Hand scrolls which contained the power to summon him. They duly did so, and now GR is stuck doing the Kingpin’s dirty work. In this issue, he’s forced to kill some of the Hand’s more important members, and the results suggest that things are about to get more complicated for Wilson Fisk.
Unusually, this issue contains a potentially major plot point, despite appearing like a fairly generic tie-in one-shot, so those trying to follow the full story of Shadowland are advised that this tie-in seems quite major. Of course, it might be that the character doesn’t appear again, in which case it becomes almost entirely skippable, but I’d be surprised if that were the case.
Artist Clayton Crain has a history with the character, and while I’m not a great fan of his dark and glossy style, the heavily computer-coloured look works wonders on a character like Ghost Rider. It also helps that Crain is good at crafting striking, dynamic images; Usually it’s at the cost of clear storytelling, but Ghost Rider is a character that lends himself to that sort of visual best of all. He’s an over-the-top character, and an over-the-top artist like Crain can work wonders with the material.
Writer Rob Williams also does a reasonably good job. Typically, Ghost Rider works best for me when he maintains a level of aloofness above Johnny Blaze’s personality, but Williams clearly believes otherwise, giving Rider plenty of snappy dialogue that, while perfect for Blaze, isn’t quite what I’d expect of GR. Williams does, however, understand that there’s no point playing a Ghost Rider book straight, and if there were any doubts, the moment the character pulls over on the back of a whale during a trans-oceanic ride should banish them.
Overall, it’s a reasonably decent issue, and an enjoyable outing for Ghost Rider. It doesn’t reinvent the wheel, but it’s cool enough and seems to know what it’s doing. Decent script, decent art, and it’s got Ghost Rider parked on a whale. If you want any more than that out of a Ghost Rider comic, you’re probably backing the wrong horse.