Abruptly cancelled after only five issues, Robbie Reyes returned at the hand of his original writer, Felipe Smith, for Ghost Rider: Four on the Floor. Let’s take a look.
At a special dig site in West Los Angeles, the dig team has unearthed a strange, purple rock. Said rock soon starts transforming, gaining powers and strength from victims after tasting their blood, and even becoming sentient. However, Totally Awesome Hulk Amadeus Cho is on the case to stop it! Along the way, he picks up the current Wolverine, Silk, and some S.H.I.E.L.D. agents to help stop this menace before things get out of hand. Also, in a very small subplot, Robbie Reyes is having trouble controlling his inner demon rage.
The Initial Reaction
I really enjoyed All-New Ghost Rider when it came out. It had plenty of problems in the second trade, but it had a great main character, cast, setting, and some solid ideas to boot. So, when Robbie was given another series, along with the same writer who created him, I was excited to try it out. But after finally getting my hands on the trade, big problems arose. I saw that the book that I had excitedly awaited was nothing but a husk of its former glory. This was not the Ghost Rider series we’re were expecting.
Meet the protagonists of Ghost Rider: Four on the Floor! What? You were expecting Ghost Rider? Don’t be silly.
Now in theory, the idea of the story isn’t bad. A crossover with the current Hulk and Wolverine, plus Silk too could easily make for an appealing team-up and storyline. But there are problems with the story as it’s presented that keeps it from being good. A team-up for the first arc is not a good way to introduce/reintroduce the character and his world. A crossover means sharing the spotlight with several others, taking time away from building up the main character and developing any storylines or the setting itself. This type of thing works more for a second or third arc once the groundwork is laid out.
The team-up is not very good as a whole either. Hulk Cho hogs the spotlight, doing and saying the most out of any character, pushing others to the side. Laura doesn’t get to do much in the plot outside of getting a good few hits in, while Silk and the S.H.I.E.L.D. agents are almost afterthoughts in the grand scheme of things, easily able to be replaced by characters with similar skills or powers. Ghost Rider himself refuses to get involved until the very last issue where he technically ends up single-handedly saving the day. Worst of all, Ghost Rider is overshadowed by almost every other character in his own book, making him esentially a bit character. Checking the page count, he’s barely in half of the comic and his storyline doesn’t even interact or connect to anything. It’s not an appropriate story for an opening arc, the team up is very bad, and it doesn’t even feel like a Ghost Rider book in the end.
Robbie Reyes is generally bland and forgettable, barely doing or showing much character beyond caring for his little brother and trying to avoid giving into his inner demon. These are his only character beats from beginning to end, which are the same from the last series but without the depth or exploration. Frustratingly, the cliffhanger about his deal to kill only the worst of the worst is never mentioned here, despite the last series ending on it. Gabe doesn’t do much and Eli is just there as the devil on the shoulder character. The new character, Ramon, is the only one with real depth, an ex-con trying to readjust to society after years in jail despite all of his old friends wanting him to come back to his old life. Due to the team-up, his own arc is just a blip on the radar, so underdeveloped to the point where there’s no resolution between him and Robbie in the end.
With that smile and that laugh, I’m picturing an animal now.
The other characters that make up the team-up are not really taken advantage of either. Silk might as well not even be here since she has no character and contributes nothing to the plot. She easily could have been switched out with almost any other character. The agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. are the same way, but at least they house the monster in the end. Wolverine doesn’t do much or have much in the way of character, but she could’ve. Her strongest point is her connection to her sister, Gabby, who she really cares about and is here in the comic as well, but it’s never used. It’s a perfect character trait for her and Robbie to bond over with and the two could’ve had their little siblings interact with each other, but both kids are tossed to the side and neither Robbie nor Laura have more than a couple of sentences shared between each other. Cho, on the other hand, is painfully obnoxious with his bravado, full of himself attitude, and totes awesome dialogue and slang. He is irritating and him hitting on Laura is even more annoying (time and place buddy… also, they both met before but interact here as if they never have for some reason). In the end, this is a mess on the character level completely.
What drags the comic down even further, what would’ve hurt it immensely even if the story was good, is the artwork by Danilo Beyruth. The art style is just unremarkable and doesn’t mesh well with a Ghost Rider series (though maybe a better colorist would help, like the one Beyruth worked with when drawing Gwenpool briefly). The characters aren’t visually drawn well, with inconsistent body physiques, Hulk looking awful at times, and terrible, off-putting facial expressions that seem like something a horse or donkey would make in a cartoon. The action is stiff, the layouts are awkward, and there’s noticeable poor continuity where people are positioned between panels. The coloring is just as inconsistent with several colorists working on this book with their own unique styles. This results in things like the Hulk going through at least three to four different shades of green before the end of the comic.
The biggest shame was that there was potential for this comic before the plug was pulled on the already solicited #6 issue. We see this in the form of a short story, originally attached to the first issue, at the very end that was drawn by the original series artist, Tradd Moore. While it’s only the beginning of a story in a way and physique proportions are off (a bit more forgivable given this is more stylistic art), it’s a fun time. It’s just about Ghost Rider going against a character who can manipulate time to slow things down and it’s quite enjoyable to read. The villain was fun and the artwork made for a visually stunning and exciting looking tale. It’s just a tease knowing that we didn’t get anything like it in the actual main series.
Have you not ever seen or heard of a Hulk before Robbie?
Is It Good?
Ghost Rider: Four on the Floor is a massive letdown. It’s not the great comeback that Robbie Reyes deserved with how little the writer seemed to care. Even if it wasn’t cancelled, it’s a terrible team-up, the characters aren’t well written, the main character doesn’t feel important in his own book, and the artwork is not good. If you’re a fan of the Reyes version of Ghost Rider, there’s no point in checking this out. This whole thing does wrong by him from almost beginning to end.