Comic Review: Ghost Racers #1-2 [First]
Previously…: The final incursion between the 616 and Ultimate universes has caused the multiverse to finally be destroyed. And yet, from the ashes of the multiverse comes Battleworld, a patchwork planet made of pieces of previous dimensions – some familiar, some brand new. One of these areas is the Doom Arena, where Ghost Riders past and present race for temporary freedom from their servitude. But is there something deeper behind the constant racing that these tortured souls must endure?
Robbie Reyes’ stint as the All-New Ghost Rider may not have lived past 12 issues, but it’s clear from the fan response that writer/artist Felipe Smith was a favourite, meaning that he gets to transfer across from his cancelled ongoing series to steering theGhost Rider ship through Secret Wars in the form of Ghost Racers, a blend of Death Race meets Spirits of Vengeance as all of the past Ghost Riders race for the approval of the residents of Battleworld. Smith’s enthusiasm not just for Robbie but the Ghost Riders in general floods through from page one as he pumps in a huge amount of world building into a few pages and sets up a good mystery whilst taking us through a day in the life of the Ghost Racers.
Considering the vast array of domains on Battleworld, it’s not that different from a lot of the first issues – we’re reintroduced to our characters and their new status quo. Robbie and the other Racers are pitted against one another, with the winner getting fame and fortune (and the ability to visit their family again, in Robbie’s case) while the losers get tortured, of course. It’s soon clear that the race commentator, Arcade, is crooked as an old lady’s cane, and that spins our mystery into the second issue.
With the scene set, issue 2 flashes back to before the events of issue 1, showing us how Robbie found his way into the Doom Stadium in the first place. Whilst most of Battleworld is a dark reflection (my buzzword for the event, it seems) of what happened before, some of Robbie’s past here is almost better than before. Of course, it’s not the best it could be since Doom’s rule is ever-present, and the reason Robbie’s stuck in the Doom Stadium in the first place, but all things considered, it could be a hell of a lot worse.
It’s nice to see that Felipe Smith has really thought out exactly how the Doom Stadium and its Ghost Racers work. We’re never given a massive info dump about it, but a lot can be inferred from the way the races are run, and the inclusion of Zadkiel (the arch-villain from Jason Aaron’s Ghost Rider run) as well as a new way of getting Eli, Robbie’s personal Spirit of Vengeance, into the story is a welcome addition too. It shows that even though this setting won’t be relevant in a few months’ time, it still means enough now to Smith (and by extension the readers) that it has its own set of rules.
Marvel newcomer (to my knowledge) Juan Gedeon is the next in a long line of minimalist pencillers who lets the lines he does draw do all the talking. Whilst at first glance, his characters aren’t very nuanced or detailed, but it doesn’t take much to see that there’s a lot of talent at work here because their expressions perfectly suit the dialogue, and the world of the Doom Arena is populated with little background details (like the cute Ghost Rider balloon) that show Gedeon isn’t skimping out. His art won’t be for everyone, but it’s easy to admit that he’s very good at capturing the dynamics of the Racers and what makes them individual, and the design sections included in the back of each issue help get into the artist’s head and see why he has made the decisions he has.
Ghost Racers fills the void All-New Ghost Rider left in my pull list, and feels distinctly similar thanks to Felipe Smith’s unique narration and dialogue choices. The world of the Ghost Racers is well established and makes sense in terms of Battleworld, in general, and it’s nice to see that Smith and Gedeon have taken so much time designing their little domain. Like all the Battleworld series, it’ll be short lived, but it looks like it’s going to be solid fun while it lasts.