Review by Frank Plowright
The introduction of the Robbie Reyes version of Ghost Rider seemed an unlikely fit when Jason Aaron teamed him with the Avengers, but it’s proved a thoughtful choice. At its simplest Robbie represents the role of the ordinary person wowed by what the Avengers are and can do. The visuals of whatever he transforms into the Ghost Rider’s transportation are a constant delight, and he’s the link between the ordinary world and somewhere dark and terrifying. This line-up of Avengers doesn’t lack for power, but he provides that also. His uncertainties, though, are far more serious than the usual teenage doubt. There’s no knowing for sure exactly what it is Robbie is connected to, nor why it’s no longer responding to him, and that’s what Challenge of the Ghost Riders is about.
It’s a steep learning curve for Avengers readers who’ve not previously bothered with the assorted Ghost Rider titles. Mephisto has been seen playing the long game via behind the scenes manipulation, as he does. He no longer rules in Hell, though, where the current incumbent is Johnny Blaze, also a Ghost Rider. As a sideline, the Avengers have acquired a smaller version of Man-Thing, a mystical guardian of portals to other realms. Additionally as the sample art shows, the Avengers have called in Daimon Hellstrom for an exorcism, and if everything went to plan there wouldn’t be a story. Also, this would be a very thin graphic novel if not padded out by a reprint of the story in which Felipe Smith and Tradd Moore introduced Robbie, supplying more background.
In the chapter he drew for War of the Realms, Stefano Caselli didn’t greatly impress, looking rushed, but he’s on form here. His Hell is not a place you want to be, greatly enhanced by the colouring of Jason Keith, although his work on the Avengers sequences is more standard. Caselli, though delivers the action all the way through.
Ghost Rider’s history is well incorporated by Aaron, and he springs a surprise by introducing a new character tied into the same power source. However, on the basis of this space-filling appearance he’s not a great concept. Overall? Considering the background and any mix of superheroes with supernatural being awkward, Challenge of the Ghost Riders is going to have greater appeal for Ghost Rider fans. Starbrand Reborn is next.