The secrets of the Ghost Riders… revealed? Maybe. It could also be another pack of lies. Your Major Spoilers review of Avengers #22 awaits!
Writer: Jason Aaron
Artist: Stefano Caselli
Colorist: Jason Keith
Letterer: VC’s Cory Petit
Editor: Tom Brevoort
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Cover Price: $3.99
Release Date: July 31, 2019
Previously in Avengers: Robbie Reyes wants to get rid of the flame-headed monster inside him. So it’s time to do the common sense thing: perform an exorcism on his car. Only problem is, Johnny Blaze, the king of Hell, has some plans of his own for the newest Ghost Rider and his Avengers friends.
“RIDERS DON’T GET TO QUIT!”
As we join Robbie Reyes, he’s taking his little brother Gabe for a ride in his possessed Charger, with Gabe urging him to drive faster and faster. When the car begins to answer for him, bursting into flame and speeding through the streets, Robbie tries to escape, only to be bound to his seat by chains of hellfire and addressed by a mysterious voice telling him that the car demands blood and he’d better not deny it. The next day, at Avengers Mountain, Robbie finally explains his origins and begs for help from The Black Panther and Blade. The Daywalker is ready to run him through with a sword, but T’Challa believes that he can help and calls in an occult specialist in the form of Daimon Hellstrom, The Son of Satan! As Captains Marvel and America watch in dismay, an exorcism is prepared, with Daimon asking Blade to hold a special weapon in case things go wrong.
They do, and Robbie is engulfed in flames and transported to another place, where he meets the voice in his head, and is challenged to a good ol’ fashioned Ghost Rider race… by Johnny Blaze!
ROBBIE’S CHARGER LOOKS LIKE A CHALLENGER
Blade delivers the most important line of the issue in regard to Ghost Riders, intoning the only hard-and-fast rule about any Ghost Rider: “Whatever you think you know is sure as hell a LIE!” It’s a nice meta-moment in a story that seems to be ready to define exactly what the Ghost Rider legacy is, and I’m totally here for it. There’s a sub-plot featuring Iron Man, Okoye and Thor dealing with the fallout from ‘War of the Realms’ that is equally interesting, but this issue’s focus on the new Ghost Rider is well overdue, especially given that he’s half a decade old and there are STILL many unanswered questions in his back story. The concepts that Aaron plays with here are beautifully handled, from Daimon’s use of a Breathing Gun (a weapon seen in the Warren Ellis 90s Hellstorm series) to Blade’s dislike of everyone to the Captains telling Robbie that his weird story isn’t as weird as he thinks in the present company. Caselli’s art in this issue has literally only one flaw, but it’s the kind of flaw that nags at you like a seed stuck in your teeth: Robbie’s Dodge Charger has the rear lines of a Dodge Challenger. It’s the kind of thing you don’t notice at first, but once you do, you can’t unsee it. His work is otherwise excellent, especially in terms of all the flames and Daimon Hellstrom’s strange new “hipster antichrist” aesthetic.
BOTTOM LINE: I LIKE THE ‘AVENGERS OF EVERYTHING’ GIMMICK
This era of Avengers is an ambitious one in ways that we haven’t really seen before (though there were echoes of it in the Busiek and Hickman Avengers eras), with Black Panther not just gathering powerful warriors, but specialists in various fields. Avengers #22 seems to be the opening salvo to redefining and reimagining the Ghost Rider legacy, and I sincerely hope that we get some answers to the various questions (and maybe some more Johnny Blaze and Danny Ketch for the 90s kids) with more of this excellent art, earning 4.5 out of 5 stars overall, Charger/Challenger issues notwithstanding.
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A nice grouping of characters and an effective horror tone make for a compelling first chapter with (you should excuse the expression) one hell of a cliffhanger.