Ghost Rider and Deathlok are trapped on Earth-818, but The Black Skull has his own plans for them. Your Major Spoilers review of Avengers Forever #2 from Marvel Comics awaits!
AVENGERS FOREVER #2
Writer: Jason Aaron
Artist: Aaron Kuder with Carlos Magno
Colorist: Scott Hanna, Roberto Poggi & Cam Smith
Editor: Tom Brevoort
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Cover Price: $3.99
Release Date: January 26, 2022
Previously in Avengers Forever: On an alternate Earth ravaged by the multiversal Masters of Evil, Ghost Rider Robbie Reyes has been taken prisoner by the planet’s dark wastelords, the brutal War Machines. And what the Rider endures at their hands will change him forever – into the most unbridled force for vengeance any universe has ever seen. That’s unless Ant-Man, Tony Stark, and his bunch of ragtag heroes can pull off the mother of all rescues.
CAPTURED BY THE BLACK SKULL
We open with a wide shot of a monster at work, as The Black Skull literally tries to cut Ghost Rider to bits with his symbiote. For his part, Robbie Reyes refuses to scream, even when the Skull succeeds in cutting off his foot (a process that Deathlok reports as having taken 8 days). The sequence goes on and on, with Robbie resisting and the Skull finding new, horrific ways to try and cut him open. The arrival of a Norman Osborn powered by multidimensional Spirits of Vengeance (The Ghost Goblin) gives him new ideas, causing the alien/N*zi symbiote creature to change his tactics. The next morning, Ghost Rider finds that, instead of being himself torn apart, he finds hundreds of alternate versions of himself locked in a room, starving and forced to fight. It’s more than he can take, leaving him as the last Robbie standing and finally breaking his spirit. When he is returned to their cell, Deathlok tries to tell him the truth: Robbie is unique in the universe. He’s no mere Rider, he is the All-Rider, able to turn ANYTHING into his steed. But can they escape the Black Skull’s abattoir in time? Maybe with the help of the Invincible Ant-Man!
JUST A *LOT* OF TORTURE
Jason Aaron has a really creative mind and can hatch plots that seem incredibly obvious in retrospect, so much so that you wonder why no one else came up with them first. Look at the Avengers’ headquarters in a dead Celestial or Jane Foster’s tenure as Thor, both ideas that work perfectly. This issue is clearly designed to help elevate The Ghost Rider to the top echelon of Marvel heroes, but I can’t help but be a little put off by the extended torture sequence. Even with a character who isn’t precisely human, seeing limbs hacked off or his eyes impaled by spikes is a LOT, and this comic consists almost entirely of those sequences. Kuder and Magno are quite skilled at showing these things, too, which is even more distressing. i do have some problems with the designs of Black Skull and Ghost Goblin in these pages, as they feel a little bit generic to me, but the horrific details (like a sack of dismembered Ghost Rider heads murmuring “Hail to the All-Rider!”) succeed.
BOTTOM LINE: IT’S GOOD, BUT IT’S BRUTAL
I’m not the most squeamish person, but Avengers Forever #2 loses some points from me due to the dogged insistence on detailing the horrors of Robbie’s captivity, and while it’s a tense issue that does sell his power and determination, it’s also incredibly disturbing to read, ending up with a still better-than-average 3 out of 5 stars overall. I’m still on board with the concept of the book and ready to see Earth-818 Stark and his Avengers in action, but… Boy, this was a tough, tough read.
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AVENGERS FOREVER #2
After last issue's set-up of Ant-Man Tony Stark and his proto-Avengers, I didn't expect 30 pages of mental and physical torture. This is a hard issue to read.