Analysis: Can Ghost Rider give ‘Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’ the buzz it’s been lacking?

Actor Gabriel Luna brings Ghost Rider to life on Marvel’s “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” on ABC. CREDIT: ABC

That burn you felt Monday night around 10 p.m. ET on ABC was new life being given to Marvel/ABC’s “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” courtesy of the flames of Ghost Rider.

And not just any Ghost Rider, the Robbie Reyes version.

Ghost Rider is a character that just hasn’t found his way during Marvel’s current streak of live-action pop culture success. Two Nicolas Cage movies (2007’s “Ghost Rider” and 2011’s “Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance) flamed out despite attempts at burning bright. Although we did get that cool, heavy metal guitar-infused trailer for “Spirit of Vengeance.”

In Reyes, a Ghost Rider who has a souped-up, flame-spitting muscle car instead of a motorcycle, Marvel and ABC get something that “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” has been lacking during the show’s run: a big Marvel name.

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Most of Marvel’s heavyweights can be seen courtesy of Marvel Studios movies or Netflix. Your chances of seeing Thor, Iron Man or Spider-Man on “Agents S.H.I.E.L.D.” are slim to none. Sure, you’ll hear them mentioned (Ultron was referenced in Monday night’s season premiere), but we’re not seeing those big names. It’s part of the reason that despite entering the show’s fourth season, “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” isn’t as buzzed-about as shows like CW’s “The Flash,” a series that give fanboys instant superhero gratification.

Robbie Reyes showing up (played by Gabriel Luna) will hopefully change that. This is the most buzz that’s hovered over an episode of “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” in some time. Perhaps producers will see that and we’ll get more of these special super guest appearances.

Marvel Comics has made headlines over the years for making diverse changes to many of their well-known characters, from the half black/half Puerto Rican Miles Morales to an Asian Incredible Hulk to a female Thor to a black Captain America. Reyes, a young Los Angeles-born Latino, is the first of those major comic-book changes to make it to a live-action adaptation. His appearance Monday night on “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” was heavily hyped online and many fans of this current iteration of the Rider, created by writer/artist Felipe Smith, were thrilled to see him in action.

The adaptation is a mirror image of Reyes/Ghost Rider’s 2014 debut in the pages of Marvel Comics, including the cool leather jacket and the disabled little brother that Reyes has to take care of that could turn out to be the Ghost Rider’s only true weakness if exploited. If you enjoyed this Ghost Rider’s comic book beginnings, this episode of “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” shouldn’t have disappointed you.

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The question is, how long will these flames burn? Ghost Rider is being hyped as a major part of season four of “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D,” but the whole season can’t be about him, can it? One episode is way to soon to start talking about a spin-off series, but if the response to Reyes continues to be positive, could we have the possibility of a mini-series or more on our hands?

For however long Ghost Rider is speeding through the streets of L.A. on “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” in the name of vengeance, at some point he’ll kick it into high gear and ride into the sunset. But that doesn’t have to be the end. Marvel and ABC could have something special on their hands that could put Marvel’s network television on par with their movie and Netflix efforts.