Each month our team of writers each submits a classic or modern cover that they deem worthy of entering into the esteemed HALL OF WOW. At the end of each month, we ask our loyal followers over on our Wow Comix World Facebook page to vote on their favorite as part of our big giveaway!
See the inductees for March 2022 below!
The Amazing Spider-Man #75 – 1969 – Cover by John Romita
A fine reflective picture of a weary Web-Slinger. Truly iconic
Chosen by Taz Maz
Silver Surfer #4 – 1969 – Cover by John Buscema and Sal Buscema
The ‘Sky-Rider of the Spaceways’ faces Thor on Buscema’s classic cover. This depiction of a showdown on Asgard’s rainbow bridge stands as a great example of dynamic action, pose and character design. Each instantly recognisable and very much a signature of one of the old masters. Check out ‘How to Draw Comics the Marvel Way’ if you want to see how he worked his magic.
Chosen By Andrew Flood
Wonder Woman #600 – 2010 – Cover by Adam Hughes
There are no women like Adam Hughes women, and there are no covers like homage covers. Slap ’em together, and you get this stunning image. The already fantastic cover to Sensation Comics #41 is impeccably reworked by master artist Adam Hughes in a cover that no comic book fan could resist putting on display, and a fitting reward for readers of Wonder woman issue 600.
Chosen by Leo Brocklehurst
Unwritten#43 – 2013 – Cover by Yuko Shimizu
Could have picked any cover from this series. Shimizu drew them all and every one of them was brilliant!
Chosen by Ross Kelly
Tomb of Dracula #1, April 1972 – cover by Neal Adams
A cover that perfectly captures the over-the-top drama and the stunning artwork of the Bronze Age revival of horror comics, following a slight loosening of what the Comics Code would allow. Each issue of this series is a perfectly balanced blend of tense, dark atmosphere and melodramatic histrionics and this cover represents that perfectly, the helpless blonde in a classic Lugosi style Dracula’s arms with an eerie backdrop of forest, castle and moonlight. And that logo is just absolutely timeless!
Chosen by Nathan Harrison
Batman #496 – Cover by Kelly Jones
I’ve never been a fan of Kelly Jones’ artwork if I’m being perfectly honest. Which is why I have to give him credit for this brutal and haunting image from his Knightfall cover gallery, in which, the ghost of Jason Todd cries out for vengeance from beyond the grave. But is it a ghost or merely an expression of Batman’s guilt-ridden conscience? Pain, sorrow, guilt, justice, vengeance, anarchy, chaos: all of these things are happening here!
Chosen by Bryan Lomax
BATTLESTAR GALACTICA: DEATH OF APOLLO #5 – 2015 – Mike Meyhew
This watercolor from Mike Meyhew is simply stunning. From a technical standpoint, it’s flawless. The color pallet, the postures, framing, and just how beautiful are those stars!
Thematically, it evokes an emotional depth in which the run itself just missed out on delivering, but given the title, any BSG fan would feel a lump in their throat seeing a scene such as this on the cover.
Chosen by LJ Marshall
Action Comics #393 – Oct 1970 – Cover by Curt Swan
It’s action, suspense, and a key question: why would a kid want to stop Supes from saving his father?
The added bonus of “How Superboy Became Superman” makes this a must-read
Chosen By Liam Ashby
That’s it for this week! Some fine pick’s there from our review team!
Have you got any of these classic covers? Which of this week’s selections would you vote for!? Let us know in the comments! And don’t forget that you can see all of the HALL OF WOW featured covers by heading over there right now in the menu above!
“When Huntress elected to go undercover in Arkham Tower, it was to investigate a place of healing that seemed too good to be true. But what happens when Helena Bertinelli really does need some healing? With Nightwing and Batwoman also on the inside, what began as an undercover mission has turned into a rescue operation as the mysteries of Dr. Wear’s Arkham Tower begin to unravel! Then, in “House of Gotham” part three, the young boy rescued by Batman has begun his course of treatment at Arkham, so why are the only people showing him kindness those whom the law asserts are criminals? It’s a cycle of violence the Dark Knight has no answer for as Gotham’s most vulnerable struggle to keep their heads above water!”
If you like Bryan’s videos, check out more over on his channel!
“Abyss” part two! For years Batman used the darkness as a weapon, but now a new enemy turns that darkness against him! Batman must team with Batman Inc.’s mysterious new benefactor to bring the deadly Abyss into the light! Wait…who is Batman Inc.’s new benefactor?
Publication of The Dragon magazine started in 1976, following on from the great success of the D&D game
To others, we were a bunch of misfit kids, sat around a desk with strange dice and lots of books and papers, talking animatedly while caretakers cleaned the school corridors. We knew better. We were explorers, adventurers, dungeon delvers, each with amazing abilities that meant we could face down almost any foe. Be it wizard, thief, warrior, or ranger of the wilds, there was a character to suit all tastes. The skinny kid who was always picked last became a mighty warrior, the kid who struggled in class became a wise old mage… Too tall? No problem, in this world, you’re a dwarf or a hobbit if you like. Granted, it wasn’t the most fashionable pursuit in the eighties but we just called it ‘rugby club’ when around others and then got on with the business of having a good time.
It’s a special sort of hobby that enables people of all ages and from all walks of life to gather around a table, leave their everyday lives behind for a while and join in adventures to rival the best found in books, comics and film. Table top roleplaying games like Dungeons and Dragons (D&D) offer experiences like no other, being fuelled almost entirely by the power of our shared imaginations. The hobby is perhaps more popular now than ever before, having a much better mainstream awareness (certainly a far cry from the ‘witch-hunt’ mania that plagued the hobby in the eighties) supported by both pop culture inclusion and a broader means of access.
Currently, on its immensely successful 5th edition, D&D is the public face of roleplaying games, being for many their first experience of the hobby by way of podcasts, YouTube or Stranger Things, even. No longer the sole province of ‘that bunch of weirdos’, D&D is enjoying a new and different heyday.
There are countless resources available to fuel and fire the imaginations of modern players, both online and in traditional print. It can be difficult to know where to start, following on from that first game or experience with a starter set or board/card game. One staple of the D&D player’s arsenal has always been Dragon (formerly ‘The Dragon’) magazine.
Filled with great art, engaging writing and bursting with ideas and cool new rules variants, almost every issue was, and is, an invaluable aid to deeper enjoyment of D&D. It’s interesting then, to return to the roots of the magazine (and indeed the hobby as a whole) and take a look at the inaugural issue. Perhaps more so now than ever, considering not only the modern popularity of 5th ed. but also the resurgence in recent years of what is now referred to as OSR or Old School Renaissance (games which are closer in tone and rules to the early iterations of the game).
The formative days of D&D came out of the desire to expand wargaming (often recreating historical military battles with table top miniatures) into something more fantastical, reflecting a love of heroic fantasy fiction. The Chainmail fantasy miniature wargame rules, written by Gary Gygax and Jeff Perren and published in 1971 would eventually form the basis for Dungeons and Dragons. Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson collaborated on this first outing for D&D, releasing it in 1974 as three booklets in a cardboard box. The game would go on to see numerous revisions and countless additions.
Publication of The Dragon magazine started in 1976, following on from the great success of the D&D game (its first three printings having sold out). It was a bi-monthly publication, replacing the in-house magazine The Strategic Review and aimed at support of the hobby about which its creators were so clearly passionate. By this point, it was already clear that the D&D ruleset was quite open, inviting ‘homebrew’ additions and adaptations of the rules. People were hungry for more, and The Dragon was there to help feed them.
Issue #1 could only have ever featured one thing on its cover and Bill Hannan didn’t disappoint, rendering a dragon which was sure to draw the eye of prospective adventurers and Dungeon Masters alike. The colours were lurid and, while they might simply have been a limitation of the printing process, evoked a surrealistic feeling of some magical miasma surrounding the dragon. The magazine’s logo meanwhile, was faintly ichorous, with oozing serifs and a hidden serpent, very seventies, very cool and very much appealing to the aesthetic of the hobby at the time.
Opening the issue, we find the first article to have been written by Fritz Leiber, a real luminary of the Sword and Sorcery fiction genre by way of his Fafhrd and The Grey Mouser stories. It’s a fun read, presented as a conversation with said characters, with Leiber attempting to gain their insight in order to enrich his writing of the then-upcoming table top game Lankhmar. By way of some dimension-crossing in the depths of the Caverns of Ningauble, the author sets about picking the brains of the two rogues and eventually comes away arguably none the wiser. The article will be of considerable interest to both gamers and fans of the ‘Swords’ stories, a curious and humorous piece of history for both.
Next up is a piece from Larry Smith detailing how to convert his Battle of the Five Armies game into a miniature wargame. It uses a modified form of the Chainmail ruleset and features in-depth options for re-enacting the battle from J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit. This sort of adaptation and modification was common throughout Dragon’s history, and encouraged the ‘homebrew’ approach taken by many players. It’s a necessarily rules-heavy article that spans several pages which gives an insight into how early rules were balanced. An interesting piece of history for fans of Tolkien-related gaming.
This is followed up by an article with suggested ‘standardised’ approaches to handling in-game situations where a player wants to do something in D&D not fully covered by the existing rules. It’s almost a formative example of later skill-based systems using the core attributes found in D&D to this day. Wesley D. Ives demonstrates his system nicely with some examples of use in play featuring ‘Grod the fighter’, which makes learning and applying the system all the easier.
Another ‘ideas’ article follows, asking the question, ‘Magic and Science – Are They Compatible in D&D?’ Here James M. Ward presents his ideas based on a race of ‘Artificers’ who had transported their ‘Atlantis’ to another dimension. This race work with the intersection of magic and science and are suggested as a good challenge for powerful characters. There are some nice ideas here, offering a slightly different take on ‘standard D&D’ and while similar topics have been covered many times since, this would have been one of the earlier examples.
‘Languages or, Could you repeat that in Auld Wormish?’ is an essay on the then-current coverage of languages in D&D and the implications in game. It’s an engaging piece which provides plenty of food for thought through questions posed and examples provided. Ever an important component of the game, certainly in roleplaying terms, languages can sometimes have just as much impact as a stat or dice roll.
Jake Jaquet then brings us the first part in a light-hearted and somewhat ‘fourth wall breaking’ serialised story, ‘The Search for the Forbidden Chamber’. The antics of the misfit group are filled with good humour in a similar vein to that of the early Terry Pratchett novels and the whole thing serves as great chuckle fuel. More of this desire to entertain and amuse comes through in other parts of the magazine, with cartoons which would prove to be a regular feature in the future. Tabletop gamers rarely take themselves too seriously, and it’s nice to see the humorous side of the hobby represented in these pages.
The ‘Creature Features’ have always been a favourite of mine, and this very early example focuses on the Bulette, or Landshark. It’s presented in a way that would broadly become standard practice for future monster manuals and creature compendiums. There’s a great drawing showing the beast locked in fearsome combat with some knights in full plate followed by in game statistics for the Dungeon Master or referee. We then get some flavour text and guidance for play. Considering the Bulette is one of the D&D monsters based off the now hugely collectible ‘Chinasaurs’ (small plastic dinosaurs of imaginative morphology and dubious authenticity made in China as cheap toys), it’s a formidable foe, and an enduring D&D classic.
Reading on, there’s ‘Hints for D&D Judges, Part 2: Wilderness’. This title offers potential for confusion until it’s put together with the ‘Part 1’ published in The Dragon’s predecessor, The Strategic Review (Vol. II, No. 2, for those wanting to track it down). The article itself offers great guidance on expanding the scope of a game from a dungeon crawl or castle game into a broader campaign, in this instance by mapping out the larger terrain and wilderness areas. It’s the sort of article I used to eagerly pore over, looking to find new ways to world build. This one is helped out further by a very cool depiction of what is either Conan or a fantasy warrior that goes to the same tailor/hairdresser/gym.
This segues nicely (at least, it will do if I ignore the ‘Mighty Magic Miscellany’ piece on p.23, which wouldn’t be fair, as it’s got some cool spell ideas for illusionists) into an article about ‘Royal Armies of the Hyborean Age Additions’ by Lin Carter and Scott Bizar. As Lin Carter worked on expanding the stories of Conan and the Hyborean age, the article is written on good authority. It’s an expansion and companion piece to their main game and covers some of the ‘peripheral nationalities’ from the fictional worlds of Robert E. Howard and, as with the main game is a series of rules and information aimed as a guide for wargamers to enact battles in that setting.
None other than Gary Gygax presents the next article, a brief piece on the use of Hobbits and thieves in the Dungeon game. A similarly brief article appears near the end of the magazine concerning ‘The Three Kindreds of the Eldar’, being some extra information for the inclusion of Tolkien style elves in D&D.
Rounding off the issue, there is a ‘Press Release’ section, which features promotional overview coverage of three new games, followed by the first installment of a new fantasy novel from Garrison Ernst, ‘The Gnome Cache’.
The Dragon’s premier issue is fascinating not only as a time capsule, revealing the state of tabletop gaming in its formative years but also as a potential supplement for modern gamers, especially given the flexibility of 5th Ed. D&D and the various OSR games out there. The linework of the illustrations has a reassuring ‘old-school’ feel and will prove massively nostalgic for many, as will the occasional ads for miniatures and conventions. As with any old publication, it’s a product of its time and as such some content will be anachronistic in use today but, as has been proven many times over, gamers are an inventive bunch and will brew strange new concoctions out of almost anything…
That the essence of the content provided in The Dragon remained in a similar vein for many years suggests that Gygax and co. hit on a winning formula, just as they had with their now-famous game. Granted, the production values and volume increased, as did the level of illustration but the feeling of an exciting publication aimed at a hobby loved by many never went away. It’s like they were saying, ‘you’re not alone, guys… here’s something cool for you.’ As would so often be the case, it’s a promise they deliver on, with content covering everything from Middle Earth through to the realms of Conan and beyond. Not everyone will enjoy the rules-heavy articles or appreciate the rough-edged presentation but if you’ve made it this far, chances are you’re the sort of person that’ll find a lot to like in this fabled tome!
“The Tower” part two! The mysteries of Dr. Wear begin to unfold as a new doctor named Frow joins the staff of Arkham Tower. The Bat-Family tries to figure out the best way to infiltrate the facility, but someone may have gotten the drop on them…someone not unfamiliar with psychiatric facilities…one Dr. Harleen Quinzel, better known to you dear readers as Harley Quinn! Backup: “House of Gotham” part two! A boy’s parents were killed by The Joker, and he fell through the cracks of the system. Instead of being sent to a facility that could care for him and his trauma, he was sent to Arkham Asylum! Will the villains inside eat him alive or show him how to survive in a city ruthlessly overseen by Batman??”
THE TOWER, PART ONE / HOUSE OF GOTHAM, CHAPTER ONE
“The Tower” begins! The 12-part weekly Detective Comics event starts here. Arkham Asylum has fallen, and in its place, Arkham Tower has risen in the heart of the city, a pitch made by the mysterious Dr. Wear. Unlike the Asylum, Dr. Wear promises his methods and drug treatments will heal Gotham’s criminally inclined for good—a claim that skeptics like Deb Donovan and the Bat-Family don’t believe. There’s something wrong with the tower, with Dr. Wear’s methods—and with Batman away from Gotham City, the rest of the Bat-Family is going to find out what…but not before everything explodes. Written by critically acclaimed author Mariko Tamaki, continuing her incredible Detective Comics run, and drawn by DC Comics legend Ivan Reis!
PLUS! “House of Gotham” begins! For a long time two houses have overlooked Gotham City, beckoning its broken: Wayne Manor and Arkham Asylum. In this epic 12-part backup story, writer Matthew Rosenberg and artist Fernando Blanco will explore the impact that Batman and Arkham Asylum have had on the city…through the eyes of a boy whose life was changed forever by The Joker one dreadful night early in the Dark Knight’s career!’
Bryan has been an integral part of the review team since we started Wow Comix World, and now we have partnered up with his fantastic Youtube channel to bring you our regular Batman and Detective comics reviews! On his channel, he already produces some fascinating video essays on a range of comic and movie franchises, with a taste for horror in particular! He is also, as some of you may already know from his reviews, Bat-mad, so do make sure you check out his other videos on the channel for some excellent Gotham goodness!
‘Batman #118 – As Gotham celebrates surviving Fear State, Batman retreats alone into the darkness. But when he learns of a mystery involving Batman Inc., it forces the Caped Crusader to leave Gotham for a brand-new adventure! Thrills, chills, and international intrigue await!’
A bumper birthday issue that marks the 45th anniversary of Britain’s preeminent science fiction and fantasy comic.
Featuring stories by John Wagner, Mike Carroll, Kek-W, Ian Edginton, David Barnett, Dan Abnett.
Art by Dan Cornwell, Jake Lynch, Lee Carter, Leigh Gallagher, Robin Smith, John Burns, I.N.J. Culbard.
Released: 23rd February 2022 Published by Rebellion
A bumper birthday issue that marks the 45th anniversary of Britain’s preeminent science fiction and fantasy comic. Simultaneously looking back on past glories and ahead to the future, this issue has a particularly strong resonance as it commemorates the death of Ian Kennedy, who sadly passed away on 7th February.
Kennedy’s artwork appeared in British comics for decades, including Bunty, Hotspur and Rover. For fans of British action-adventure comics, however, he will be best remembered as the artist behind the stunningly drawn aircraft, both real and imagined, that graced the pages of Commando, Starlord and, of course, 2000AD.
This issue features two new stories, the first being the John Wagner scripted ‘The Citadel,’ a Judge Dredd story that sees an inmate facing execution reveal a secret about Dredd that hints at corruption. What that secret is exactly, we’ll have to wait to find out. Great art by Dan Cornwell brings to mind the simply effective facial expressions that Steve Dillon draws so well. The second new story is ‘Brink: Mercury Retrograde’ by the supremely talented writer and artist team of Dan Abnett and I.N.J. Culbard. Set four years after the final evacuation of Earth and opening with a triple homicide, the action slows to focus attention on investigating journalists Nolan Maslow and his wife Lauren Steers Maslow. The dialogue between the two captures perfectly their respect for one another, making them instantly likable and relatable so that when they get in too deep with their investigation into unions and sects (which, inevitably, they surely will), we’ll be right beside them.
Three of the continuing stories are all well on their way: Mike Carroll’s ‘Proteus Vex: Desire Paths’ and Kek-W’s The Order: Fantastic Voyage’ are both at part nine, and ‘Kingmaker: Falls the Shadow’ by Ian Edginton is at part seven. As a reviewer, I’m arriving late to the party on these stories, but what immediately struck me is how easy it is to differentiate each of the five-page parts from one another. This is down to the stunning artwork by Jake Lynch (Proteus Vex), Leigh Gallagher (Kingmaker), and John Burns (The Order), each as unique as the stories they’re illustrating. The full colour format of 2000AD — with the exception of Tharg the Mighty’s wonderful throwback story ‘Stars on 45’ (more on that later) – allows for the stories to have their own clearly defined segment within the pages, particularly in the Indigo Prime one-shot ‘Whatever Happened to Mickey Challis?’ (the longest story here); Lee Carter’s artwork is awash in Matrix-like greens and fleshy alien purple tones. It’s a cracking story too.
The Proteus Vex story seemed to stand out especially. Reading this chapter, I can see it’s something special; very weird sci-fi, with a depth of imagination that brings to mind Mike Mignola’s work on Hellboy but leaning towards space opera. Stunning line work and colouring by Jake Lynch and Jim Boswell, respectively. The five pages here are coloured in deep oranges as High Commissioner Shrokulin finds himself in the unenviable position of meeting with Tsellest to deliver the news that there are hundreds more races hidden from his clutches. The meeting, as if it needs pointing out, does not go well! I’ll be reading back issues to bring myself up to speed.
This being a 45th anniversary issue, it would have been a crime of Mega City One proportions not to include Tharg’s input beyond his usual welcoming editorial. Written by David Barnett, ‘Stars on 45’ brings together some of 2000AD’s most famous characters to help Tharg cobble together a song to mark the magazine’s birthday. It’s great fun, referencing Red Dwarf, Back to the Future, and above all else, Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure, as Tharg’s droids Larr-E, Kirl-E and M-O travel across the Thrillverse to kidnap Rogue Trooper, Judge Dredd, Judge Anderson (“She didn’t see that coming!”), Zenith, Ace Trucking Co., and Bad Company.
As well as marveling at the breadth of SF and science fantasy that has been a staple of 2000AD over the years, one of the many pleasures to be had is enjoying the humour. Always paying the utmost respect to the SF genre, with stories veering effortlessly from one sub-genre to the next, there’s always been a delightful knowingness and very British outlook on the societal and political shifts that have taken place over the past 45 years. Remember Strontium Dog kidnapping Ronald Reagan? Alan Moore’s works dripping with anti-Thatcherism acid and anarchy via D.R. & Quinch? It’s what makes 2000AD such an important comic, and reading this issue, the energy, devotion, imagination and sly humour are all still present and correct.
Gleason’s writing chops are nothing to mess with and pair beautifully with legendary artist Mark Bagley in a satisfying issue that I couldn’t put down, as far as verdicts go, you’re not going to get a better one than this.
The Amazing Spider-Man #90
Written by: Patrick Gleason Artwork by: Mark Bagley
Published by Marvel Released: 23/2/22
As a quick refresher, in the past couple of issues, Ben Reilly has been partially mind-wiped by those slimy rapscallions over at Beyond, the same dudes/dudettes that have unleashed the Queen Goblin on New York. On top of that, Old Peter Parker has managed to get back on his feet and is on his merry way to put an end to Queen Goblin’s reign of terror!
We begin with Beyond’s top dog, Maxine Danger tracing Ben Reilly as he swings across a bridge with Janine, who notices there’s definitely something off about Ben, which is where he confesses that he feels like he’s missing something in his mind (which, by the way, he totally is, being brain wiped and all). He tells Janine that he just needs to focus and everything will be hunky-dory, but Janine knows that’s not good enough, it’s at that point that she spills the Intel she’s discovered about Beyond. Or rather, how they’ve set up the whole thing, sending out super-villains for Ben to stop so that they can get good publicity for themselves and their little Spider-man project. They decide that they’re going to take it to the top and go confront the big bosses at Beyond, but first, we’ve got some sweet, sweet action to attend to.
Pete is up in the skyscrapers, battling the new Queen goblin foe, which is where we get a ton of quality Spidey crack-ups, from getting confused with the X-men’s Goblin Queen to mentally crying for help as he barely manages to dodge the goblin’s blows. It’s moments like this where I feel Patrick Gleason really understands and gets the Spider-man character, I don’t feel like it’s one writer’s take on Spider-man, I just think of it as Spider-man, which is the best kind of writing. Of course, it’s great to actually know who’s writing a book by the tone it sets and dialogue and all the rest of the mumbo jumbo. But when it feels so much like the definitive, quintessential character, that’s when you know you’re doing a good job of writing a mainstream comic book. Obviously, it’s awesome to get some subversive material from creators not typically known for the superhero genre like, for example, Pete Bagge’s megalomaniacal Spider-man as well as a lot of other early 2000’s marvel books, which was a very interesting period for the company, but for Marvel’s flagship title, Pat Gleason does a fantastic job of realizing what readers want out of the main Spidey title. And speaking of what readers want, Mark Bagely is delivering some of his best work in the last 20 years in this issue as Spidey and the Goblin take their battle through offices, Spider-man billboards (with the Sam raising font, nice touch), and even subways. Every panel has energy inside it, there’s so much going on, but in a really good way, these pages are bursting at the seems with excitement and it really displays Bagely’s accumulation of skill on his 30-plus year tenure drawing the character. I, at least, got the sense that he must have really enjoyed penciling these issues and it shows great stuff.
Getting back to the story, the Queen goblin manages to use her unique “Goblins gaze” ability which she used successfully on the black cat’s last issue, which would have resulted in her death if not for the web-slinger arriving just in time. So Peter falls into the sea and goes through the whole “you’re not good enough” thing, but Spidey is able to defeat the hold it has on him, in his words “Doesn’t she realize self-doubt is kind of our thing?”. Pete manages to jump up out of the water and deliver the finishing blow to the latest addition to the Goblin Hall of shame.
Spider-man is able to get back onto the docks, where he meets up with MJ and the Black cat at that moment in all great superhero stories, where the previously split apart gang get back together again for the big finale, Peter is sent on his way to find Ben by his companions, but as we check up on Ben, he is kind of going a little bit insane, he’s not going evil insane, but Beyond have really scrambled his eggs to the point he doesn’t even remember Peter’s name when they meet up, but Ben pushes through it, and this installment ends with a page as awesome as when I found 20 pounds in a grid that one time, which means its totally awesome. Both Spider-men, suited up and ready to take Beyond down, Once and for all!
This issue was one of the best parts of Beyond to date, delivering all of those epic moments you know you love as we dive headfirst into what is bound to be an incredible final act of Spider-man: Beyond. Gleason’s writing chops are nothing to mess with and pair beautifully with legendary artist Mark Bagely in a satisfying issue that I couldn’t put down, as far as verdicts go, you’re not going to get a better one than this. Although if I had to make one small gripe, I would say that the Beyond company’s whole twist and game plan is a little predictable, but that is an issue that pails in comparison to all of the great aspects of this Spidey-saga. Join me soon for the next chapter!
In this bumper sized first issue, Johnny Blaze is undergoing therapy after a motorcycle crash has left him without a clear memory of who he truly is.
Ghost Rider #1
Written by: Benjamin Percy Art: Cory Smith
Released: April 2022 Published Marvel Comics
In this bumper sized first issue, Johnny Blaze is undergoing therapy after a motorcycle crash has left him without a clear memory of who he truly is. The idyllic life he leads in Hayden’s Falls as a husband and loving father of two children is shattered when he experiences horrific visions of demons. Are his family who they claim to be? Is the next-door neighbour’s dog a vaguely irritating yapper, or a demon in disguise? Is the white-picket-fence-apple-pie town he calls home a hotbed of supernatural forces? The big question that covers all of these, “Are there such things as monsters?” is repeated as a mantra as he drinks to forget that he might well be a monster himself. When Zeb, a scout for a group of night magicians, turns up in Hayden’s Falls, Johnny is shown what lies within himself and beneath the façade.
A well-executed story, it’s perfect material for a relaunch issue. Rather than dwelling for too long on the memory loss aspect, writer Benjamin Percy wastes no time in getting to the action. The first half of the comic focuses on Johnny’s therapy sessions, home life and visions, before the Spirit of Vengeance comes to the fore in a superb full-page splash.
Pencilled and inked by Cory Smith (with additional pencilling by Joe Bennett), the colour work by Bryan Valenza keeps Hayden’s Falls just the right side of dark, so even though a baseball pitch and supermarket look bright enough on the surface, there’s still a hint of the underbelly lurking beneath (think David Lynch’s picture-perfect town in Blue Velvet and you’ve got the right idea). Zeb’s walk down the main street while he ruminates on the falseness of it all is revisited when all hell breaks loose, with the people he passes by — including a mother pushing a buggy, a postman, a man mowing his lawn – reappearing later in a much different guise. Meanwhile, the anti-hero status that makes Johnny such an interesting character is realised through his bouts of drinking and hallucination-induced outbursts towards his wife and kids.
A very promising first issue that also introduces Talia Warroad, a former agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. turned FBI, whose claim that “I hunt monsters” is already proving to be as intriguing as Zeb’s interest in Johnny. If this is the last we’ll see of Hayden’s Falls, I’ll be sorry (the concept is rich in narrative possibilities), but that won’t stop readers glad to see Johnny break out of his false reality and get to some serious demon slaying. Nice to see Percy and Smith returning the Ghost Rider mythology back to its roots by focusing on the original Spirit of Vengeance. I eagerly await the next issue.