Written By: Taboo, B. Earl
Art By: Paul Davidson
Colors By: Dan Brown
Letters By: VC’s Joe Caramagna
Cover Art By: Takashi Okazaki, Rico Renzi
Cover Price: $4.99
Release Date: August 4, 2021
SPIRITS OF VENGEANCE: SPIRIT RIDER #1 is a slightly over-sized one-shot focusing on Kushala aka Demon Rider as she assists Doctor Strange to free Johnny Blaze/Ghost Rider from a spirit that’s causing the Spirit of Vengeance within him to rage out of control. When Kushala enters Johnny’s son, she finds the infecting spirit has a close ties to her own origin as the Demon Rider and she was the target all along.
Was It Good?
It was good if you really want a huge info dump about Kushala and her backstory told through massive amounts of exposition, narration, and dialog. In the nicest way possible, this was a tedious slog to get through.
And that’s the big surprise of this one-shot. There’s a real story here with demons and magic, you get to learn a lot about a character you don’t see too often, and yet, somehow this book was a boring read.
Part of the trouble might be the confusing way each character has a different type of Spirit of Vengeance, even one that comes from another multiverse, and so keeping it all straight was tough. The second difficulty was with Taboo’s overly verbose and esoteric explanation for every piece of mystical event that’s happening on the page. It was like reading a an instruction manual on New Wave Metaphysics, and while I respect the fact the writer(s) are trying to infuse a Marvel character with cultural authenticity, it’s just too much for too long and I just started tuning out.
It also didn’t help that great pains were taken to make Kushala as grounded and realized a character as possible, but Johnny Blaze comes off as a kind of goofball. You can’t go the extra mile to get one character right at the expense of the other (more well known) characters in the book. Oy!
The one saving grace of this book is the art. It’s interesting, different in an appealing way, and sells you on the idea the Kushala is a bad ass character. The writing may fall short but there’s a lot to like in terms of visuals.
“Wait,” you say. “What’s it about?” Well…
Doctor Strange and Johnny Blaze crash interrupt Kushala and her friends eating at a diner (Yes, it’s another food scene from Marvel). The Spirit of Vengeance inside Johnny is going crazy and causing all kinds of damage. Strange has it under a submission spell for the moment but it wears off at sundown, so they need Kushala’s help to enter Johnny’s soul to find out what’s wrong.
Kushala enters Johnny’s soul, and the two go on a spirit walk of sorts to find out why Johnny’s Spirit of Vengeance is out of control. We learn Johnny’s Spirit of Vengeance has been corrupted by a piece of another Spirit of Vengeance from a dead world in another multiverse, and the alien Spirit of Vengeance wants the piece of itself that fell to Earth many years ago that actually is the Spirit of Vengeance inside of Kushala.
Got it? Oy!
Kushala goes through a series of memories about her own people and her own past where she ultimately decides to embrace her anger rather than be a slave to it. Her emotional breakthrough shrivels the alien Spirit of Vengeance, and Kushala eats it to make it whole but trap it inside herself… I guess???? Now that Kushala is at peace, she decides to return to her own time to begin her legacy.
SPIRITS OF VENGEANCE: SPIRIT RIDER #1 has great art and interesting ideas, but the overblown narration and exposition brought this one-shot down to a snail’s pace. Over-explained concepts of esoteric mysticism and a goofy character representation for Johnny Blaze also didn’t do this comic any favors.