In which famous older artists draw today's Marvel comics.

*52 Dept: As Douglas Wolk points out, there’s actually 21 pages in the main story this week. Maybe it’s an attempt to balance things out with that one issue the other month where there was only 19?

Save for a puzzlingly stilted sequence with Osiris and his hoodie-wearing crocodile pal trying to join the Teen Titans and a wholly generic ‘oh my god this major new villain is so major and villainous’ bit in space, this issue is all Ralph, all quest for enlightenment. I liked the scary bald guy (especially when his eyes roll up into the back of his head when he laughs - “HAHAHA”), and we’re at the point now where storylines can pretty smoothly crisscross one another without seeming forced, but the final result doesn’t seem like much of anything that Ralph hasn’t arguably learned before. Ah well, at least we had a secret Neal Adams guest appearance…

*Review Nuggets Dept: All-Marvel edition.

- Call it a personal preference, but I can’t help but feel Howard Chaykin could have handled the old concept of a spirit villain hopping between bodies with a lot more panache had he given it the full effect, rather than his now-usual semi-airy approach for super-comics he’s not writing like the most recent issue of Blade (#4). Can’t you imagine the layouts? I suppose Marvel’s more-ads-than-comics initiative (yep, I counted again - 24 vs. 22) would have messed up the reading experience anyway. Still, there’s some swell moments (the shifting colors on the wall of televisions, pretty much everything set in the past, that last page), writer Marc Guggenheim has settled into a curiously effective pattern of clipped, downbeat tales of futility loaded with death and regularly ending with Blade running away from everything. Merry Christmas!

- Meanwhile, it’s Richard Corben and José Villarrubia on Ghost Rider (#6), a series I’ve not read at all in its current incarnation (for comparison's sake, I made it through one issue of the prior Garth Ennis miniseries version). Writer Daniel Way is doing some kind of originish story, set against a big fight sequence in the present, though it’s odd that the two-parter’s half over and the pretty obvious backstory barely seems to have begun. Corben draws some great, shifty-looking longhairs sitting around in filthy prisons in filthy small towns, though, and he has good fun with Ghost Rider’s unmovable, unblinking countenance (check out the cracks that temporarily form when he’s KROKKed on the head). The best part, however, was that one panel Johnny Blaze smirking at his own joke as a cop bashes him over the head with his nightstick. I’m not seeing much that’ll keep me around once the art team’s gone…