From the moment Gabriel Luna's #GhostRider made his debut in #AgentsofSHIELD, it was pretty clear that the character's comic book origin had been dramatically rewritten. Now, in "The Good Samaritan", we finally got a sense of just how much that's the case. In a series of flashbacks, we were presented with this new Ghost Rider's origin; while it's clearly based on the comics, it's also been rewritten in some fascinating ways.
In the comics, Robbie Reyes has a developmentally disabled brother, Gabe, who he's responsible for. In addition to working as a mechanic, Robbie looks after Gabe by occasionally raising money through street-races. One day, he steals a car from the garage in order to return to the races. Unfortunately for Robbie, the car has a shady past; it used to belong to his deceased uncle, Eli Morrow, a brutal murderer. Worse still, the boot is full of drugs; soon Robbie's the victim of a hit, and he's gunned down in the street.
Robbie is resurrected as the latest Ghost Rider — not tied to a Spirit of Vengeance, but rather tied to the spirit of his uncle. He uses the power of the Ghost Rider to take on street-level crimes, ultimately challenging Mr. Hyde — the supervillain behind the drugs. Along the way, he crosses paths with the origin Ghost Rider, Johnny Blaze, and the two become allies. It's Blaze who sets Robbie on a journey to learning just what dark spirit he's tied to.
"The Good Samaritan" finally explained how Robbie Reyes became Ghost Rider — and it's all tied to his uncle, Eli Morrow, played by José Zúñiga. Eli was involved in a dangerous science experiment, one triggered by the forbidden knowledge of the Darkhold; when he learned just how powerful he could become, Morrow decided to claim that power for himself. Events soon spiralled out of control, with his boss Joe making a deal with the Fifth Street Gang and paying for a hit on Eli. Unfortunately, the hit took place on the same night Robbie 'borrowed' Eli's Dodge for a street race, with his brother Gabe as a passenger.
The hit left Robbie dead on the tarmac, and his brother Gabe with his legs crushed. That was when they were found by a 'Good Samaritan' — the previous Ghost Rider, presumably Johnny Blaze. The Spirit of Vengeance offered Robbie's soul a chance to return, if he would become its latest host and swear to go after those who spill innocent blood. Robbie agreed; and so the new Ghost Rider was born. We can guess that this may mean the Spirit of Vengeance no longer dwells within Johnny Blaze, so the previous host is now free from Zarathos's curse.
The entire Reyes family — Robbie, Gabe, and his uncle Eli — have all been radically changed in order to fit with Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.. Eli Morrow is no longer a deceased murderer; rather, he's a live sociopath, one obsessed with the idea of becoming a god (amusingly, his nephews refer to him as 'Tio' - which means 'Uncle'; it sounds similar to 'Theo', Greek for God). His experiments have now been successful, despite S.H.I.E.L.D.'s best efforts, and he's gained the power he sought.
Lorenzo James Henrie's Gabriel Reyes has also been radically changed, but "The Good Samaritan" has already highlighted how smart these changes are. The developmental disability has been scrapped, and instead Gabe was left crippled as a result of the Fifth Street Gang's hit. These changes allow Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. to give the character a much more active role; in the comics, Gabe is typically just the guy Robbie has to protect (with little success). Significantly, though, "The Good Samaritan" teases that he may play a major role as the story goes on; after all, his name 'Gabriel' is also tied to divinity. In the Bible, Gabriel is described as the 'angel of the Lord', and delivers revelations from heaven that will change history. Gabriel is the angel who tells Mary that she will bear a child; Jesus himself!
The most dramatic changes, though, are reserved for Robbie Reyes. He's now a traditional Ghost Rider, bonded with the Spirit of Vengeance, wielding all the power of Hellfire. Previous episodes had already teased that he was the latest in a long line of Ghost Riders, with hints that Johnny Blaze was a previous Ghost Rider. Now we know that's the case; his body was found by the last Ghost Rider as he lay dead in the street, and Zarathos offered him a second chance at a vengeful life.
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The redesign is fascinating. It's clear that #Marvel decided to introduce your traditional Ghost Rider into the #MCU, but were also drawn to the character of Robbie Reyes. We're now in a position to understand why; Robbie doesn't stand in isolation, but rather is part of a (seriously messed up) family unit, one which has been heavily adapted for Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.. Marvel didn't just choose Robbie's character to be their Ghost Rider because they wanted to go with a cool Latino who drives a beautiful car. They chose him because they wanted to use his wider family, to adapt that family unit into the MCU, and to amplify that family's dysfunction in order to give us one Hellfire of a ride.
Do you agree with the changes made to Robbie and his family?
Poll Image: Marvel Comics