COSMIC GHOST RIDER #1 by Donny Cates, Dylan Burnett, and Antonio Fabela
Despite its somewhat gimmicky premise, COSMIC GHOST RIDER #1 is a surprising stand out hit with a lot of future potential. With a believable lead character and an interesting plot, the only true failing of this comic comes from a lack of accessibility for new fans.
87 %
A Surprising Star
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Given the many, many alternate universes in Marvel continuity, it makes sense that some fail to catch public attention. Sometimes, though, the various aspects of the multiverse can come to have a major impact on the main 616 Universe. This has been the case for characters like Miles Morales and Jimmy Hudson from Earth-1610. In COSMIC GHOST RIDER #1, we witness the rise of the newest trans-universal visitor. This character, a version of Frank Castle, comes from an alternate future timeline where Thanos defeated the heroes of the universe.

Originally fighting against the Mad Titan, the Spirit of Vengeance-infused Castle eventually joined Thanos as his right hand. Now, he has arrived in the present day of Marvel canon to bring his personal brand of fiery justice to the cosmos. Where will he start? Why, with the Mad Titan himself!

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Going Cosmic

COSMIC GHOST RIDER #1, Page 1. Image courtesy of Marvel Comics.

When I first heard that COSMIC GHOST RIDER #1 was in the works, I had very little hope for the series. Having not read Donny Cates’ THANOS, I knew nothing about this version of Ghost Rider and found it somewhat gimmicky. However, after reading this issue, I have a lot of respect and interest for where this series can go next. This is definitely a contrived book, and it isn’t afraid to lean into that oddity.

This Frank Castle comes across as far more cynical and sarcastic than his mainstream counterpart. In fact, the dialogue here almost always works, and most of it is rather funny. More importantly, the plot delves into elements of Frank Castle’s ethics that give this story a necessary weight. After all, he viciously cuts the nose off a god (off-page) for that god’s part in the deaths of innocent children. Writer Donny Cates plays a lot with this sense of innocence, which works well for this story.

I will say that COSMIC GHOST RIDER #1 is not necessarily for new readers. There is enough background for new readers to understand the plot, but the basics of Frank Castle’s history are only briefly touched upon. It almost feels as if Cates assumes that readers have read THANOS and seen this character before. The story loses a bit from this assumption, as I constantly felt like I was playing catch up. This is a very dialogue heavy story, which isn’t necessarily bad. Cates is a fantastic writer who can write believable character discussion. However, this dialogue mostly focuses on present day events, meaning that no one explains this character’s history.

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Breaking Down Frank Castle

COSMIC GHOST RIDER #1, Page 2. Image courtesy of Marvel Comics.

A story as bizarre as COSMIC GHOST RIDER #1 needs a lead character that feels fairly grounded. Despite the sarcasm and cynicism from Frank Castle, I definitely feel like Cates hit a home run with this character. The way he approaches Castle’s insecurities about being in Valhalla feels very believable. Castle essentially says that he wants to be punished for the things he did. No matter how “right” his actions were, he still killed a lot of people and did a lot of wrongs. However, he is being rewarded for living life as a warrior. Odin tore apart time to save his soul. That doesn’t sit right with the character, and it works rather well for this story. Castle brings up issues the readers themselves would have with his current state of being. Cates preemptively brings up these issues in a powerful and meaningful way.

While Castle gets this stellar characterization, the other members of the cast do not. The lack of characterization for the young Thanos near the end of the book makes sense. It is clear that this character will play a key role in the future. However, Odin seems like an unnecessary one-shot. He provides context to the story, and sets the pieces in motion. There’s no truly potent personality. His reasons for bending reality to save Frank Castle’s soul are vague at best, and I never fully understood why he decided to give Frank back his Ghost Rider powers. As a story piece, he is incredibly useful. As a character, he seems a bit one-sided.

Burning Down the Stars

COSMIC GHOST RIDER #1 Page 3. Image courtesy of Marvel Comics.

Dylan Burnett handles the pencils and inks for COSMIC GHOST RIDER #1, and he does a fantastic job setting the atmosphere for this story. Under a more realistic style, this book could give off the wrong message. This isn’t a deeply serious story. It has darker themes, but for the most part, it deals with a manic and rather sarcastic character. Burnett’s style perfectly matches this necessary aesthetic. His work reminds me of Saturday morning cartoons, as it carries with it some obviously stylized proportions and a huge amount of energy. Pair that with the amazingly saturated color work of Antonio Fabela, and you have an absolute winner.

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COSMIC GHOST RIDER #1: Final Thoughts

COSMIC GHOST RIDER #1 came out of left field and deeply surprised me as a reader. The amount of energy in this book is infectious, and the way writer Donny Cates approaches the character of Frank Castle feels fresh and realistic. I do not feel like this is a wholly accessible book, as it pulls directly from Cates’ THANOS series. Also, some of the characterization falls a bit flat. However, this is a really fun and interesting read. I had almost no hope for this series when it was announced, but now, I cannot wait to see where COSMIC GHOST RIDER #1 goes next.

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