Garth Ennis
Ghost Rider: Road to Damnation
Medium: comic
Year: 2005
Writer: Garth Ennis
Artist: Clayton Crain
Format: 6 issues, 144 pages
Website category: Comics
Review date: 26 June 2023
ghost rider road to damnation
Garth Ennis writing for Ghost Rider? Really? The idea sounded bizarre... but it's actually a perfect fit. There's been more than one Ghost Rider, but the first one (not counting the unrelated cowboy of the same name) was a stunt motorcyclist called Johnny Blaze who sold his soul to a devil.
That's got Ennis written all over it. He did Hellblazer, Preacher, Wormwood and A Walk Through Hell, after all. He doesn't like Christianity, but he loves playing with its ideas. This mini-series feels like a forerunner of Wormwood (which he started the following year) and could almost be taken as part of the same fictional universe, although I was also reminded of Gordon Rennie and Martin Edmond's White Trash. (Clayton Crain's painted art is nearly as playful and cartoonish as Edmond's, while having a motorcyclist protagonist makes the book reminiscent of road trip movies. Plus, of course, both books have a warped sense of humour.)
A year or two later, Ennis and Crain even did a follow-up (Ghost Rider: Trail of Tears). That's not a sequel, incidentally.
Anyway, our hero is a skeleton with a burning skull, a leather jacket and chains. He rides a satanic motorbike. I had no idea what characterisation to expect, but that's a memorable look. He's caught between the forces of Hell and Heaven, both of which are beyond appalling. One angel makes a woman miscarry in the street and dismisses this as "one less mouth to feed". Another makes a little boy stick a pencil in his own eye. (Mind you, a demon shoves someone's head up their arse and says "your new name is Buttview". The poor chap doesn't die.)
The human villains can be a bit cartoonish, but they're as vile as the angels and demons. (Except for Miss Catmint and her anti-swearing, which amused me. Mind you, there's less foul language than you'd expect from an Ennis book. There's more blasphemy than obscenity. God, Hell, damned, etc.)
Odd fact: according to one of its directors, the 2011 Nicolas Cage film Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance is based on this mini-series. (I haven't watched it.)
It's good, disgusting fun. It features a team-up that's really wrong. It makes angels sinister as hell and demons quite fun, in their jovially evil way. It's not doing much we haven't seen before from Ennis, but it's so gleefully depraved and unrestrained that I had a ball. Apparently Marvel were a little nervous right from the beginning. Ennis has a reputation. There's the time when Marvel made the mistake of letting him write Thor, for instance, to which I'm looking forward enormously. (Thor fans hate it.) If you liked Wormwood, I'm sure you'll enjoy this.