Cosmic Ghost Rider #1
He was the herald of Galactus, the right hand to Thanos, a Guardian and Destroyer of the Galaxy. He's Frank Castle of Earth-TRN666, and he is the COSMIC GHOST RIDER! Imbued with the spirit of vengeance after his death, he travels the galaxy as gun toting vigilante.
COSMIC GHOST RIDER #1 is a surprisingly slow and somber start to an ongoing title based on a character entrenched in black leather and cosmic spikes.
We open on an unnamed space station, where good ol’ Frank is working through an entire casino of people in the name of vengeance. He’s unhinged and a little darker than we’ve seen him before. Typically his brand of violence is more gonzo than it is in the opening pages of this issue. While he still maintains a trademark of badassery, Stephanie Phillips is clearly giving us a version of Cosmic Ghost Rider that is a little more grounded. He’s even got a new suit.
This is a benefit to the book itself, even if some fans of the character might be a little disappointed in the direction Phillips is taking the character. However, this grounded tone isn’t being used to ‘legitimize’ the character but to build a believable world for CGR. After all, this is an ongoing series, and for one to last, it needs to have the foundations necessary to springboard a long-form narrative.
This issue introduces two new side characters and a small-time antagonist. Frank wakes up, suggesting the first few pages of violent casino action. He’s no longer the Ghost Rider we remember, keeping his past a secret from the father and daughter he now works for. Marlow, the father, and Axelle, the daughter, are given many pages to characterize their relationship, their relationship with Frank, and who they are as people. They feel real, and it’s done without being a fact sheet dump of info or a series of monotonous flashbacks that would rip a reader out of the story.
The plot kicks off in their saloon when an enraged Sakaraan shows up to kill Frank. That’s the deepest summary I can give without veering into the book’s big reveal, which is so heavily entwined with its story that talking about it anyway is difficult. It’s promising in a way that makes me hungry for issue #2. Whether or not Phillips and her team can execute its interest in a big way is left for the future to decide, but as of right now, the more grounded tone and plot work well. The short pitch for this book is ‘Old Man Cosmic Ghost Rider.’
The writing is serviceable, with Phillips pulling off some narrative structure tricks to keep the end of the issue reveal a predictable secret. Predictability in a weird space, western mystery might not sound like a positive, but as we leave an era of constant subversion, it is nice to read a comic with ‘plot twists’ that make complete sense as set up by the narrative.
The biggest drawback to this re-launch will be its lack of explanation for who this Frank Castle is. There is very little established about who this character is and his origins. You might say, but Tyler! This is a western comic book! Jumping into the deep end and swimming backward is part of the experience! You’d be right to make that point, but for the character’s first ongoing and yet another Marvel number one with the minor goal of catching new readers, it would add to the quality of this issue as a whole. I can’t imagine people who don’t know anything about space Punisher reading this without some level of unintended confusion. That’s just bad planning for the first chapter in a new ongoing. Yes, in the internet age, they can character wiki their way into understanding, but they then miss out on the physical interaction between them and the book itself. It’s more satisfying this way.
In some ways, the backup story “Cosmic Ghost Stories” attempts this in such a bare-bones way that it doesn’t fully service the reader’s understanding of his placement in the grand scheme of the Marvel Universe. However, it is a pretty fun story with art that gets the job done clearly. Juann Cabal’s art in the main story is done with a good amount of realistic rendering without entering an uncanny valley. Every piece of anatomy and background is nearly impossible to pinpoint flaws in, working well with the grounded tone. The colors also match, creating a book that is in complete union with its visuals and narrative.
COSMIC GHOST RIDER #1 is a promising start to a new Marvel ongoing that promises mystery and the ever enticing setting of a 'Western Space Opera'. However, it is skimpy on character history details that may be difficult for any new readers jumping into the character for the first time.
Cosmic Ghost Rider #1: Frank Castle Returns As The Cosmic Spirit Of Vengeance
- Writing - 8/108/10
- Storyline - 8.5/108.5/10
- Art - 8.5/108.5/10
- Color - 8.5/108.5/10
- Cover Art - 6/106/10
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