Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Ghost Rider (2006) # 29

Cover Artist: Marko Djurdjevic
Published: Jan. 2009
Original Price: $2.99

Title: "Last Stand of the Spirits of Vengeance", Part 2
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 snowy mountains of Tibet, Johnny Blaze has come face to face with his brother, Danny Ketch, who has become a Ghost Rider once again. Johnny transforms into his Ghost Rider form and attempts to talk Danny out of what he's doing for Zadkiel, but Dan insists that his mission is sanctioned by Heaven. When Johnny challenges him, Danny punches him across the mountains, then proceeds to throw his brother around the landscape. Ketch lifts Blaze into the air, which allows Johnny to grab the younger man by the throat - and a bomb blast of hellfire explodes from Johnny's skull. With Danny stunned by the assault, Johnny grabs his brother's skull and gives him the Penance Stare, which allows Blaze to see a vision of all the other Ghost Riders that Danny has killed for Zadkiel. Danny insists that he is not a murderer, that he is setting the hosts free from the curse of the Spirits of Vengeance. Dan grabs Johnny and gives him the Penance Stare in return, which causes Blaze to relive the deaths of his wife and children. His spirit broken, Blaze begs Ketch to take the power, the curse, away from him to relieve him of the burden. Danny begins to suck the Ghost Rider power out of Blaze, but is interrupted by Sister Sara hitting him with her motorcycle. She picks Johnny up and rides away, with Blaze yelling back for Danny to take his power away.
Three days later, Sara and Johnny are holed up in a Nepal flophouse. Johnny refuses to get out of bed, unwilling to fight Zadkiel any longer despite Sara's attempts to convince him otherwise. Suddenly, the room's door blows open, revealing two more Ghost Riders who have come to enlist Blaze and Sara's help.
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 agent of Zadkiel in Ghost Rider (2006) # 22. His reasons for joining with Zadkiel, along with the explanation of his whereabouts in recent years, are told in Ghost Rider: Danny Ketch (2008) # 1-5.
This issue is reprinted in the Ghost Rider: The Last Stand trade paperback and the Ghost Rider by Jason Aaron Omnibus.
Now this is what I (and most other fans, I imagine) have been waiting for: the showdown between Johnny Blaze and Danny Ketch. Jason Aaron and Tan Eng Huat give us an issue-long fight scene, which makes up for the last issue's lack of action.
Before I get to the story, let's talk about the artwork. For issues like this one, which is really just one long battle from the first page to the last, having an artist that excels at action is hugely important. Say what you will about Tan Eng Huat's artwork, whether you feel it is appropriate for Ghost Rider or not, the man can draw some exciting action sequences. The characters constantly look like they're in motion with little to no panels of characters posing (which is a problem for artists who rely too much on photo-referencing), and each panel moves seamlessly from one to the next. When it comes to drawing the Ghost Riders themselves, I'm a little torn on Huat's take on the characters. I love the way he draws the flaming skulls, the fire has the appropriate kinetic attributes, but his version of the Blaze Ghost Rider just feels off to me. The character is too thin, and he applies the artist tic that annoys me to no end - drawing the Rider's leather outfit like a superhero costume that adheres to his muscles.
On the story end, Aaron sums things up for the readers right on the first few pages - we've all wondered which Ghost Rider would win in a fight, Blaze or Ketch. Of course, when most fans ponder that question they likely imagine something far different, with Blaze being the Zarathos 1970s version and Ketch having the 1990s design. But now, Blaze has appropriated the 1990s design and abilities, and it almost makes the fan-service side of the fight to be a moot point. Still, though, this fight issue is what the run has built up to in the last few issues, and it's certainly not disappointing. Were this an even, fair fight I'm pretty sure Blaze would have walked away triumphant, but Ketch is powered by all the Ghost Riders he's murdered so the edge has to go to him.
There is a problem with this issue, though, as much as I hate to say it. After suffering through the Penance Stare, Blaze gives up and begs his brother to take his power away. I'm sorry, but the Johnny I've read the last few decades would not have given up so easily, nor would he have begged Danny to take the Ghost Rider away when he knows it would doom the entire world. Blaze is far too single-minded to allow Zadkiel this easy win, regardless of how shattered his spirit is from the Penance Stare.
With round one of the Ghost Rider vs. Ghost Rider fight over, and with a clear winner no less, the "Last Stand of the Spirits of Vengeance" arc can move on to its wider purpose. The appearance of two new Ghost Riders on the last page just makes me anticipate the next chapter even more...
Grade: A