I appreciate the fact that Marvel are appealing to a more diverse audience of readers by turning their more dynamic characters in to alternate versions more interesting and complex. Surely, there will always be a place for the eighties Ghost Rider, but “All New Ghost Rider” is pretty fantastic in its own right. It dares to change the entire mold of Ghost Rider and manages to build a titillating and complex look at a corner of the Marvel Universe rarely explored: The lower class struggling to get by. Mostly though I appreciated Felipe Smith’s writing abilities, as he touches upon a lot of elements growing up in inner city neighborhoods. Robby Reyes is a high schooler caring for his disabled little brother alone, and in one scene there’s gun fire in the distance, followed by police sirens. “Remember, we never go outside when we hear firecrackers,” Robby tells his brother Gabe, after convincing him the gun fire was firecrackers.
It’s a small character element but one that really connected with me. As a young kid growing up in the ghettos, there were countless nights where you’d hear gun fire going off in the distance. Often times it was rapid and sometimes back and forth gun fire. My mom would occasionally tell us it was a car backfiring or firecrackers. But as we grew older, we knew better and she’d merely say “Stay away from the window. Don’t go near it.” It just comes with living in the ghettos. You have to take the good with the bad, and merely learn to live with the violence and push it in the back of your mind. Robby Reyes is the new Ghost Rider who goes to high school and cares for his disabled brother Gabe. Gabe is a kind young man obsessed with superheroes and comic books, and Robby does whatever he can to keep him happy.
After a gang take it upon themselves to hurt Gabe and steal his wheelchair, Robby is beaten up and almost killed attempting to get the chair back. Robby goes to high school during the day and after school has to work at the local auto shop as a gifted mechanic. He’s street smart and clever, but also humble and keeps to himself. During one scene his class wreaks havoc on a substitute teacher while he sits silently, watching in disgust. In a plan he’s sure will get him and Gabe out of the slums, he borrows the shops beautiful raven black hot rod and takes it out for the night. Entering an illegal street race with a prize of fifty thousand dollars, Robby almost has it in the bag, until the police intervene.
Attempting to get away, he is cornered in an alley and gives up. In a horrific turn of events, he’s gunned down in cold blood and left lying in the trash as the police reveal themselves to actually be gangsters. The black car happened to be carrying a shipment of a new top secret drug that can create blood thirsty beasts and Robby is murdered. Mysteriously he rises in a ball of flames and pain and becomes the new Ghost Rider. When he awakens the next morning he’s alive, healed, and now garners eyes with different colors. Before long Robby realizes he’s been possessed by the car and becomes a flaming hot rodder in the vein of “The Wraith” with his helmet that takes on the form of a skeleton. Artist Trad Moore really lends this revival a much needed individuality, with a pseudo-anime style that gives the tale a somewhat EC Comics aesthetic.
The new Ghost Rider resembles a wild three dimensional tattoo or form of tribal art come to horrific life, while the car itself garners its own personality. There may not be an instance where Robby trades his soul, but the car itself may be a demon that will form a symbiosis with him in the way the alien suit did with Peter Parker. Though we’ve only seen two issues, who knows what’s up the pipeline for Reyes. Perhaps Satan is going to use the hotrod as a means of keeping Robby its servant. And why hasn’t the former owner never known of its demonic presence? While I’m not quite sold yet on the whole super drug turning its users in to man eating monsters, “All New Ghost Rider” definitely has me hooked and I’m anxious to see what becomes of Robby Reyes. If any superhero had to be altered to appeal to a more diverse audience, I’m glad we got Ghost Rider.