Jason Aaron’s run on Ghost Rider seems to have been building toward an epic conflict between good and evil. It happened two issues ago, off panel, and good lost. The characters in-the-know know that the end is coming now, the trickle-down effects of a lost war in Heaven. So, as they wait, they set out to put their affairs in order.
What worked: Lots of other characters in other genres might put their affairs in order by searching sould and making amends. But this is Ghost Rider. This is rock-a-billy-horror on the open road. Those are the rules these people live by. If you want to find answers, you find them out on the road. And that is exactly where disgraced Ghost Rider Dan Ketch finds himself. Himself and the newly bad-assed, dusted-off, Marvel villain “The Highwayman”.
Maybe The Highwayman was a regular villain at some point, but in this book he is reincarnated as a long-haul boogey-man who haunts the by-ways and back roads being just plain evil. He is really the best/worst kind of spectral bad guy, the kind where you don’t have to do a damn thing wrong to catch his wrath. All you have to do is be unlucky enough to cross his path. And, being an unlucky highway dweller at the unluckiest moment in his unlucky life (can’t talk about this tuff without startingto sound like a country song) Dan Ketch does exactly that, he crosses the path of The Highwayman.
I know this is supposed to be the “what worked” section and it is turning in to a recap. But everything worked.
This story is balls-out, kick-ass, hill-billy-horror, awesomeness. It is like if the Crypt Keeper listened to Motorhead.
It isn’t a tale of redemption (except in a meta sort of way, in that a previously cast off character is redeemed as a brand new villain), it isn’t a story shining light on the dark underbelly of society, or the hidden corners of our collective psychology. Nope. it is just a cool horror story. And, in what he believes to be the last days of the world on men, that is all Dan Ketch gets, a cool horror story. Awesome, full-blown, scary, cool, but ultimately a bit pointless…and you get the sense that Dan knows that.
As part of a larger story, this makes a great spacer. Don’t think of it as a filler story, think of it as a tension builder. The characters know that they have already lost, and that the world is cooming to an end. But we know that this is not what is going to happen. we know that something cool is going to happen and that Ghost Rider (or Ghost Riders) is going to somehow save everything. But until that happens, we are just bristling for it. Something is going to happen. Something big. And these “filler” issues just make us want it more.
Oh, and Tony Moore’s art tells the story perfectly. It is brutal and comedic at the same time. The Highwayman and his story are funny, but never played for ironic laughs. This is not hipsters in trucker hats laughing at “Smokey and the Bandit”. This is the understanding that humor and horror never really get too far apart.
What did not work: The story was essentially a chase and a fight. It could have been longer, deeper, and darker. It could have been more of a struggle. But, it wasn’t