King in Black: Ghost Rider #1 Review

Writer: Ed Brisson
Artist: Juan Freigeri
Colors: Jason Keith
Letterer: VC’s Joe Caramagna

Release date April 1 2021
Review by D. Brown (WolfCypher)

I feel the need to preface this review with something of a disclaimer. Having obviously read this book, as it is a King in Black tie-in and, for better or for worse, I have decided to follow all of King in Black (follow…I did not necessarily say ‘review’), I’m mostly judging this as a King in Black book. What I have not been following, is the Ghost Rider book, and this tie-in most certainly leans far heavier into it’s own home series than it does the event whose name it carries in it’s title. To get way ahead of my own review, this book serves better as a companion to the Ghost Rider title, and honestly has no business being considered even tangentially relevant to King in Black.

The Knull-Coming is kinda (definitely) wearing me thin, but this hardly reads like a KiB tie-in. It feels superficially connected to KiB, like its more of an extra issue of Ghost Rider than an essential issue related to the Knull event, or even a filler issue for the event. It really feels like a stronger case towards where the Ghost Rider book left off, which then takes a detour into Knull’s book, and it quickly reroutes back to its original course as a title that carries back over into the Ghost Rider series.

As Ghost Rider rides into New York, Mephisto as his captive, he quickly realizes that something isn’t right in New York when a symbiote dragon swoops by.

And immediately, I wonder how this guy has driven this far and for however long he’s been on the road to only just now realize that something is amiss…it’s not just New York, pal…the whole world is supposed to be cover in symbiote goo, ravaged by Knull. Every inch of the planet has been seized, but this story will have us believe it’s not until Ghost Rider reaches the entry edge of the city, with a happenstance symbiote dragon flying dangerous close by, that he’s even aware of a global invasion. I guess I should take it this must be at the very beginning of Knull’s arrival, despite this book being released in the final wave of tie-ins. Moving on…

Near the middle of this book, Johnny coincidentally runs into his half-brother Danny, the Death Rider, and his crew of allies, including Blackheart. For at least three pages, the crew discuss the events that have happened over in the pages of Ghost Rider, skimming over what’s been happening to the world since Knull’s invasion to instead catch up on Lilith’s uprising, Blackheart’s role in this alliance, and Danny’s new status quo, as well as other events that have transpired in a title I haven’t read.

Yeah, this review is really to service those of us who are following the big Marvel event but not the titles which spiral into the event. Most of these tie-ins, even when they feel unimportant to King in Black, at least try to pretend that these stories wouldn’t work without the context of the event its feeding from, while this one-shot all but could have been told in any number of ways. Ultimately, you just really needed Ghost Rider and Mephisto to find themselves in the middle of any given outbreak of chaos, and as this book recaps near the beginning, apparently all manners of demons and hellions have escaped from hell and are running amok, so why not just keep this as a Ghost Rider special where Johnny finds himself teaming up with Danny’s crew to fight the hordes of rampaging hell escapees? We really don’t need invading symbiotes for this book to work.

The heroes eventually catch up to Mephisto, who is trying to flee, and his demon servants get possessed by symbiotes, engaging in a fight with Ghost Rider and Death Rider’s team. Even here, with these demons wearing and being controlled by symbiotes, I just don’t get why this had to be a symbiote event tie-in…I mean, again, did these renegade demons have to be “Venomized” or “Knullified” (whatever buzzword we’re using for this event) to be antagonist for our heroes? They don’t exhibit any symbiote-exclusive abilities, hell they barely look any different wearing these alien costumes. The big brown horned demon gets possessed by a black alien blob, and afterwards it looks like a big brown horned demon with Venom teeth.

What this book does well enough is continue whatever plot is going on from last anyone read the latest Ghost Rider ongoing. Seriously, this is a serviceable GH book, but its so tacked on to King in Black, it actually hurts my rating a bit. If you haven’t been reading Ghost Rider, don’t worry, this issue is a very easy-to-follow catch-up. The opening pages has Ghost Rider self-narrating the recent events of his book, and anything he doesn’t cover is covered by Danny when they meet up. It’s absolutely a better Ghost Rider recap book than it is a King in Black title. But there might as well had been no King in Black reference in this at all. The symbiote menace doesn’t bring anything to the conflict, and the book even wraps up with it’s events, totally unrelated to anything Knull-related, strengthening upcoming events for the Ghost Rider/Lilith war. In fact, that ending seems kind of important for anyone following Ghost Rider. It’s like if your a Ghost Rider fan who figures this title will just be some random stand-alone story with no importance to its home book (like how disconnected Absolute Carnage: Miles Morales felt in relation to the Miles Spider-Man book, and how divorced the King in Black: Amazing Spider-Man one-shot was Nick Spencer’s Amazing Spider-Man), should you choose to pass on this, I fear you’re going to miss out on an element that will feed into Ghost Rider stories in the future…here…in a King in Black tie-in.

One thing I haven’t brought up is the art, which I think looks really good. I likened this art to Iban Coello’s; in fact, I really did have to stop just a few pages into this title and check on the credits page to see if he was on art duties. Juan Frigeri is the artist on this book, and I think his works really good. He has a dynamism on par with some of my favorite artists.

Final Thoughts

Great art! Check. Good writing and handling of the characters? Check. This is a solid enough book, but like a majority of the King in Black side-stories, tie-ins and one-shots, it doesn’t do anything for the event its supposed to be connected to. Oddly, it DOES serve as a decent Ghost Rider story all on its on, but even then it spends most of its time catching you up on what has already happened in the Ghost Rider title before becoming a free-for-all between Ghost Rider and friends and the symbiote-demon horde that show up.

6.5/10

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