Everything you need to know about Felipe Smith and Tradd Moore's iteration of Ghost Rider is laid down on the first page of "All-New Ghost Rider" #1: "This is the tale of an ordinary kid named Robbie Reyes, whose life is about to become a hell of a lot less ordinary. Get in. Let's ride."
That information and attitude is all readers need to kick off "All-New Ghost Rider" #1 by Felipe Smith and Tradd Moore. This book is four-on-the-floor high octane action and Robbie doesn't even get possessed until the end of the issue.
Smith takes what works about Ghost Rider -- he looks cool, his ride is on fire, uh...a jacket? -- and throws out everything else. We're now hanging out with Robbie Reyes, a young man of at-least driving age, in his poverty-stricken LA home with his otherwise-abled brother. Smith's storytelling is economical, showing the influence of his years spent working in manga. Credit to editor Mark Paniccia for allowing the word balloons and the art to do all the storytelling with minimal interior monologue clogging up the page. Readers know that Robbie is a mechanic, has a code of honor, wants to do what's right for his brother, but may not make the best decisions, all in the moment as it happens. The story bounces from scene to scene, giving just enough information to know each character before hot rodding to the next destination. The pacing is brisk but isn't so fast that we miss anything. My only slight qualm is that it's all Robbie, no Ghost Rider in this story. There's still no indication of how the title character works in this volume. I'm hopeful that this version of the matchstick monster will be as interesting as Robbie.
Who are the ad wizards that came up with Tradd Moore? The strange but eye-catching designs and kineticism in even his most static compositions make the page crackle with excitement. Car chases are one of the hardest things to depict in the comic book medium. Moore uses a lot of curves and exaggerated posing to create a sense of motion on the page. My favorite sequence is at the start of the race with slivered panels of action dashed across the tachometer, growing smaller as the speed increases. The cartoonish nature of the art is so different from what's come before on the "Ghost Rider" books, another credit to Paniccia to show that this is a completely different take.
I enjoy that this is yet another multicultural character in the Marvel Universe. We're long past the point of needing only white men to be beacons of hope in the night, if we ever needed that in the first place. The tone, the concept and the art all fit the character in this book.
Thinking ahead, I'm intrigued by a hot-rod driving Ghost Rider. The motorcycle lends itself to silhouette far better than a car, and it will be a new experience to see, say, Man Thing hop in the passenger seat of a muscle car and tear ass for vengeance. On the other hand, with Moore at the wheel on art the driving aspects of the book are already far more fluid and exciting than almost anything that came before it. I know people love Ghost Rider, but someone please tell me how many memorable motorcycle races you've seen him in. If your answer is less than five, that's a problem for a character who's been around for decades.
I want more, and that's the most you can ask from a first issue.