Monday, May 16, 2016

Ghost Riders: Heaven's On Fire (2009) # 2

Cover Artist: Phil Jimenez
Published: Nov. 2009
Original Price: $3.99

Title: Heaven's On Fire, Part 2: "Are You There, Devil? Its Me, Danny."
Writer: Jason Aaron
Artist: Roland Boschi
Letterer: Joe Caramagna
Colorist: Dan Brown
Editor: Sebastian Girner
Consulting Editor: Axel Alonso
Editor In Chief: Joe Quesada

Three days ago, at a seedy desert motel, former villain Master Pandemonium is being abused by the demons that have taken the place of his hands. Inside his stomach is a gateway to Hell, where more demons emerge to torment and ridicule him. Suddenly, someone kicks in his door and breaks his demon hands with a baseball bat. His attacker is Danny Ketch, who tells Pandemonium to open his gateway to Hell and get a message to Satan. Danny's there to make a deal...

In New York City, the Antichrist tries to wake up the unconscious Jaine Cutter before they're attacked by Zadkiel's approaching minions. Before she can wake up, the Antichrist is confronted by Daimon Hellstrom, who is there to kill the boy as well. At this point Cutter awakens and threatens Daimon with her Breathing Gun, the bullets of which can kill demons, and while the two former lovers argue neither one notices Zadkiel's forces surrounding them until they attack. Hellstrom and Cutter temporarily join forces to fight back the angelic assassins and protect the Antichrist, bickering at one another throughout the battle. During the confusion, neither one of them notice that the Antichrist has disappeared. The boy has escaped, and he runs head-on into Danny Ketch.

Outside the building, Blaze and Sister Sara have tracked down the whereabouts of the Antichrist as well. Suddenly, they witness Hellstrom and Cutter fall out of the skyscraper's window, fighting Zadkiel's minions as they fall. After they crash to the ground, Hellstrom is saved by Blaze, who has transformed into the Ghost Rider. Sara approaches Jaine, whose second skin of demonic armor has emerged, and the human-once-more Blaze keeps Cutter from hurting his Caretaker. While the four of them argue amongst each other, Danny approaches with the Antichrist and apologizes for letting himself by manipulated by Zadkiel and now he's got a plan to take the angel down for good. Ketch made a deal with Satan, if he protects the Antichrist and sends him home to Hell, the Devil will give them the keys to Heaven to get their one shot at revenge against Zadkiel. All it cost Danny was his soul.

Meanwhile, Blackout, the Deacon, and the All-New Orb walk into a dive bar and finds everyone inside dead. Sitting at the bar is the man they've come to find, Kowalski, who has become the newest incarnation of Vengeance. Blackout approaches him and Kowalski agrees to help them kill the Ghost Riders. Blackout leads them outside and introduces Vengeance to the rest of their "Ghost Rider Revenge Squad", which is populated by numerous villains from Blaze and Ketch's past.

Danny Ketch was last seen in Ghost Rider (2006) # 34.

Zadkiel won the war for Heaven at the end of "Last Stand of the Spirits of Vengeance" in Ghost Rider (2006) # 32.

Blackout and the Deacon were last seen in Ghost Rider (2006) # 33, choosing candidates to help them kill the Ghost Rider. The full list of villains in the "Ghost Rider Revenge Squad" is Blackout, the Deacon, Big Wheel, Trull the Inhuman, the Scarecrow, Madcap, Vengeance, and the All-New Orb.

Kowalski first appeared in Ghost Rider (2006) # 21, was given the Penance Stare by Blaze in Ghost Rider (2006) # 23, and became the new Vengeance in Ghost Rider (2006) # 32.

Daimon Hellstrom, the Son of Satan, first appeared in Ghost Rider (1973) # 1, the second half of which is reprinted in this issue. Jaine Cutter first appeared in Hellstorm # 13 . Daimon and Jaine were lovers throughout the Hellstorm series but have since parted ways until their reunion in this issue.
Master Pandemonium made his first appearance in West Coast Avengers # 4 and has since remained an enemy of the Scarlet Witch. He last appeared in 2007's Young Avengers Presents # 3 and he makes a return appearance in Ghost Riders: Heaven's On Fire (2009) # 4.
"Heaven's On Fire" continues with this second issue of The Hellstorm and Jaine Cutter Show, leaving the Ghost Riders little to do in their own book.
I kid, of course, but it does annoy me a bit that Blaze takes such a back-seat role in this issue in order to spotlight Daimon Hellstrom and Jaine Cutter. Don't get me wrong, I was a huge fan of the 1990s Hellstorm series, and seeing Jaine make her grand return to comics puts a big ol' smile on my face. I'd just like to point out that if the book's title is "Ghost Rider" I'd actually like to see more of the character than a couple of pages.
Regardless, this issue continues the conclusion to Jason Aaron's run on the series in a completely satisfying way, giving lots of spectacular monster action alongside some truly inspired uses of old continuity. Putting aside the Hellstrom/Cutter reunion, I couldn't believe we got to see Master Pandemonium in this issue (though he's certainly looking a lot worse than he did in his last appearance in Young Avengers). Master Panda Bear was always a favorite of mine in the old West Coast Avengers series, and seeing him at such a low point in his life really hits home how, well, how lame a villain he always was. The final page of the issue also brought a huge grin to my face with Blackout's Anti-Ghost Rider team filled with tons of familiar faces from Marvel history. Scarecrow, Madcap, the Orb, freaking Trull the Inhuman! I cannot wait to see this group throw down with the Brothers Ghost Rider, that's a fact.
We also get the long-awaited reunion between Johnny Blaze and Danny Ketch since the end of "Last Stand of the Spirits of Vengeance", and I love the symmetry involved with Danny selling his soul to Satan to get revenge on an angel and how it mirrors the original deal that Johnny made all those years ago. Its obvious that Johnny sees his brother as a complete idiot, what with being so easily manipulated by Zadkiel and now this. Another nice touch came during the exchange between Ghost Rider and Hellstorm (those two have quite a bit of history as well), when the Rider says that "Johnny Blaze is in here, yes." Johnny's thirst for vengeance against Zadkiel gave him control for awhile, but now it looks like he's not so much in the driver's seat anymore.
Roland Boschi and Dan Brown produce yet another fantastic job with the artwork in this issue. I think Boschi turns in my absolute favorite rendition of Blaze that we've seen since the book's relaunch, close to how he looked in the 90s while still retaining the feel of the original 70's series. He doesn't look like a young kid, and truly looks hardened and haggard, as he should. Danny sure is looking rough though, isn't he, with the beard and all? Also, I never thought I'd be this happy to see Vengeance back again, but Boschi really cranks up the monster vibe in his rendition of the villain. Great stuff from cover to cover.
So even though I was left with a craving for more Ghost Rider action than we got this issue, I still can't deny how well done this mini-series is turning out to be. I have complete faith that Aaron and Boschi will keep the quality up through the series' end.
Grade: A