Ghost Rider: Fear Itself

By Rob Williams, Matthew Clark, Brian Ching, Lee Garbett & various (Marvel/Panini UK)
ISBN: 978-1-84653-499-7

In recent times Marvel has eschewed colossal braided mega-crossover events in favour of smaller, themed mini-epics but following the release of the Captain America and Thor films – not to mention the upcoming Avengers celluloid blockbuster – the time obviously seemed right to once more plunge their entire Universe into cataclysmic chaos and rebirth.

This collection gathers the prologue an 5-issue miniseries which reintroduced the Ghost Rider to contemporary continuity and can even be read without reference to the Fear Itself core volume and subsequent spin-off books (stemming from the 30-odd regular titles, miniseries and specials the saga expanded into).

In the main storyline an antediluvian Asgardian menace resurfaces and by possessing a selection of Earth’s heroes and villains sets in motion a terrifying bloodbath of carnage to feed on the fear of mankind and topple the established Norse pantheon. With that much spiritual energy unleashed its no surprise that other supernatural entities begin to feel threatened…

Years ago carnival stunt-cyclist Johnny Blaze sold his soul to the devil in an attempt to save his foster-father from cancer. As is always the way of such things Satan – or arch-liar Mephisto, as he actually was – followed the letter, but not spirit of the contract. Crash Simpson died anyway and when the Dark Lord came for Johnny only the love of an innocent saved the bad-boy biker from eternal pain and damnation.

Temporarily thwarted Johnny was afflicted with a body that burned with the fires of Hell every time the sun went down and became the unwilling host for outcast demon Zarathos – the spirit of vengeance.

In later years Blaze briefly escaped his doom and a tragic boy named Danny Ketch assumed the role of Zarathos’ host and prison.

Now in a classy fright-fest by Rob Williams (Cla$$war, 2000AD’s Low Life) and artists Matthew Clark, Brian Ching, Lee Garbett & Sean Parsons, with additional art from Valerio Schiti, the Angel from Hell possesses a new host and is unleashed again to punish the guilty, beginning in the Prologue issue ‘Give Up the Ghost’ wherein the emotionally shattered but still valiantly heroic Blaze – once again bonded to the flaming phantom – is tricked by the mysterious adept Adam into surrendering the curse to a more than willing new vessel…

As the fear-mongering “Worthy” decimate the planet and humanity’s psyche, a female Ghost Rider roars through the ruins on her flaming bike saving the innocent and destroying the things which prey on mortals, but finds her match in the transformed Asgardian herald Skadi

Meanwhile the liberated Blaze is confronted by his lifelong tormentor Mephisto who reveals that he is not the only Great Big Liar in creation: Adam, who claims to be the First Man, has a plan for the new Ghost Rider which will alter mankind forever…

Adam wants to eradicate all sin on Earth using the gullible, girlish novitiate acolyte Alejandra as his weapon but that is actually an even worse proposition and fate than anything any devil could devise…

Driven by conscience, Blaze makes another Devil’s Bargain to save humanity whilst the sheltered child who now contains the Ghost Rider begins to carry out Adam’s plan with staggering success.

Raiding Adam’s hidden temple. Blaze joins forces with British Zombie wizard Seeker – who knows far more than he’s letting on – just as Adam’s devoted disciple begins to find her own mind and path…

With the planet sliding swiftly into physical cataclysm and psychic Armageddon can the disparate forces of Free Will unite in time to save us all from salvation…?

The book ends on a superbly powerful human note as the mortal who eventually retains the power of Zarathos goes on a mission of old-fashioned vengeance only to be confronted with the most appalling of father figures…

Cool, action-packed, mightily moving and wryly witty, this is a splendid reinvention of a character who has been in equal amounts both the best and worst of Marvel’s mighty pantheon and one well worth a little of your time and money.

Ghost Rider: Fear Itself is scheduled for British release on January 12th 2012.

™ & © 2012 Marvel & Subs. Licensed by Marvel Characters B.V. through Panini S.p.A. Italy. A British Edition by Panini UK Ltd.