Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Ghost Rider (2006) # 28

Cover Artist: Marc Silvestri
Published: Dec. 2008
Original Price: $3.99

Title: "Last Stand of the Spirits of Vengeance", Part 1
Writer: Jason Aaron
Artist: Tan Eng Huat
Letterer: Joe Caramagna
Colorist: Jose Villarubia
Assistant Editor: Sebastian Girner
Editor: Axel Alonso
Editor In Chief: Joe Quesada

In the mountains of Tibet, a village in the Ngari Prefecture is under assault by a group of Chinese soldiers who are looking for the person responsible for firebombing their garrison the night before. The villagers say that the Khrag 'Thung, the Blood Drinker, is the one responsible, but the Chinese general refuses to believe in their superstitions. Suddenly, an old man on a mule enters the village and tells the soldiers that he is the Blood Drinker, the one who killed their men, and if they don't leave he will burn their souls to ash. When the general tells his men to kill everyone in the village, the old man transforms into a horse-mounted Ghost Rider and gives the general "the stare of a thousand Buddhas" - his version of the Penance Stare - which kills him and causes his men to flee in terror. The Blood Drinker returns to his human form and travels back to his abandoned temple, unaware that Daniel Ketch is there awaiting his return.
Moments later, Johnny Blaze and Sister Sara arrive at the temple and find the old man dead. Johnny recognizes him as a Spirit of Vengeance, and Sara explains that there is a Ghost Rider for every part of the world. This one, whose name was Nima, was modeled after a wrathful deity of Tibetan Buddhism. Sara tells Johnny that the Spirits of Vengeance are dying one by one, murdered by Blaze's brother Daniel. Zadkiel is using Ketch to bleed the Ghost Riders of their power, and once he's drained them all Zadkiel will have the power to conquer Heaven. Whether he wants to or not, Sara says, Johnny will have to kill his brother.
Later, Sara has made a fire in the temple, while Johnny returns after a fruitless search for his brother. While Blaze warms himself by the fire, Sara goes to another room to sleep. She's awakened by Daniel, who is immediately jumped from behind by Blaze. Danny runs out of the temple, but is quickly caught by Johnny. The two argue over what Danny's doing, with Ketch telling his brother that the Ghost Rider is a gift that he doesn't deserve. Blaze figures that his brother wants the Ghost Rider power back, and he refuses to give it back to him. Danny smiles and tells him that he doesn't need Johnny's Ghost Rider. He bursts into blue flame and transforms into a Spirit of Vengeance - he has his own Ghost Rider now.
Blaze discovered that the Ghost Rider curse was given to him by the angel Zadkiel in Ghost Rider (2006) # 18. He has been searching for a way to get to Heaven since Ghost Rider (2006) # 20.
Danny Ketch made his reappearance as an angel of Zadkiel in Ghost Rider (2006) # 22. His reasons for joining with Zadkiel, as long as the explanation of his whereabouts in recent years, are told in Ghost Rider: Danny Ketch (2008) # 1-5.
Sister Sara first appeared in Ghost Rider (2006) # 26 and became the last Caretaker in Ghost Rider (2006) # 27.
This issue was released with a variant cover by Marc Silvestri that formed the second half of a two-page gatefold cover.
This issue was released with a "Ghost Rider Saga" back-up text piece that retold the origin of the Danny Ketch Ghost Rider. The "Saga" was previously released for free on Marvel's Digital Comic Service as promotion for this story-arc.
This issue is reprinted in the Ghost Rider: The Last Stand trade paperback and the Ghost Rider by Jason Aaron Omnibus.
Cover Artist: Marc Silvestri
Johnny Blaze and Danny Ketch are reunited in the next major arc of Jason Aaron's run, which also gives us our first look at our first of the international Ghost Riders!
This arc is what writer Jason Aaron has been building up to since his run began, promising no less than a brand-new origin for the Ghost Rider and the introduction of numerous NEW Ghost Riders. To top it off, Aaron did the seemingly impossible by bringing back Danny Ketch, whose return had been begged for by Ghost Rider fans since the new series began. Aaron had me hook, line, and sinker in the lead-up to "Last Stand..." and the promised fight between Blaze and Ketch, but I can't help but feel a little disappointed by this opening chapter.
One thing that is undeniably cool is the opening sequence with Nima, the Tibetan Ghost Rider. Applying the Ghost Rider concept to new characters from around the world isn't a necessarily unique idea, sort of a mystical riff on the Green Lantern Corps, but it's the execution that really makes it stand out. Instead of taking the easy route and making them all ride motorcycles and look like Johnny Blaze, these new international Ghost Riders are tailored for their individual regions (see Nima riding a donkey and using a hellfire spear). What I liked the most about the idea is how the conventional Ghost Rider tropes, like the Penance Stare, are explained for these new Riders, like Nima's "stare of a thousand Buddhas". I love that!
But for all the cool elements to this issue, it's purely set-up and nothing more. There's nothing wrong with that, other than the fact that we just had two issues of set-up for this arc. I would have liked to see things kick off with a little more blood and thunder, especially when it came to the confrontation between Blaze and Ketch. Granted, we do get that in the next issue, but this first chapter was advertised as being the big fight (with two covers, even!). I suppose it's a small thing to bemoan, but it was a disappointment all the same.
One thing that doesn't disappoint is the artwork by Tan Eng Huat. When he first started on the title I was unsure whether his off-beat style would be a good fit for the character, and it did take him a few issues to find his feet. But now he's roaring on all cylinders, and where he really shines is the design for the new Ghost Riders like Nima. Look at the way Nima's third eye opens on his forehead when he gives the Penance Stare and tell me that's not a really novel way to draw that. He also flat-out nails the last page reveal of Danny's new Ghost Rider form, with the manic flames exploding out of him (credit where it's due, though: Danny's new look was designed not by Huat but by Javier Saltares).
I'm still excited for this arc, and the run in general, but I was looking for a bit more action than was delivered. Thankfully, next issue promises to be glorious.
Grade: B