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Avengers #23: Review

Aug 2019
Jason Aaron, Stefano Caselli

Story Name:

Challenge of the Ghost Riders Part 2: Hell race 666

Review & Comments

4 stars

Avengers #23 Review by (September 8, 2019)
The possessed Iron Man armours include the white version used by Superior Iron Man post-Axis where he'd been left 'evil'. Tony Stark was in this form when the multiverse ended at the beginning of Secret Wars III. When the multiverse was recreated at the end of SW3 Tony was back to normal and in typical red&gold armour. This isn't the 1st time since then we've seen the white armour but that's the only sign that his Superior days ever happened, and we've never been told how he was de-evilled - or even that he had ever been corrupted in this new universe.

The other past Ghost Riders who turn up at the end to support Robbie Reyes noticeably don't include Danny Ketch, who will be joining Johnny Blaze in a new Ghost Rider series following the conclusion of our current story arc. They do include the 1st Ghost Rider, who has featured in several of our previous issues, and Noble Kale and Chief Hellhawk mentioned earlier in the issue.
Noble Kale was introduced as an ancestor of Danny Ketch late in his 1st series and has been heavily involved in the GR mythos ever since.
Chief Hellhawk made his 1st app in GR(2006)#33 as did the Undead G-Man, Knuckles O'Shaugnessy and the Cowboy Ghost Rider.
Others appeared even earlier in the series:- Nima in GR#28, Bai Gu Jing and Molek in #29, Baron Skullfire and Marinette Bwa Chech in #31.
And there are 3 more I can't identify.

The Cosmic Ghost Rider débuted in Thanos (2017) #13-17 which was set in a far future. An alternate timeline Punisher died and made a deal with Mephisto to become a Ghost Rider after Thanos destroyed the Earth. Later he became a Herald of Galactus and so gained the Power Cosmic. And later still he became a servant of Thanos. He came back in time to the main Marvel reality and was last seen in the 1st arc of the latest Guardians Of The Galaxy series which ended with him being sent to Hell (again), now ruled by Johnny Blaze. And Blaze has sent him here.


Synopsis / Summary / Plot

Avengers #23 Synopsis by Rob Johnson
Last issue the Avengers brought Daimon Hellstrom, otherwise known as Hellstorm the Son of Satan, to Avengers Mountain to exorcise Ghost Rider (Robbie Reyes)'s car Hell Charger. But the result was that Robbie and the car went to Hell to face the current King of Hell, Ghost Rider (Johnny Blaze).

Iron Man, She-Hulk and Thor were away in Turkey where they found an IM helmet that had been buried for a million years. Shulk and Thor teleport back to Avengers HQ having left Tony Stark to study the relic despite Thor getting very bad vibes from it. (And that's all we'll get on that plotline this issue.) They are met by Captain America in a magical(?) hazmat suit saying that they need protection. The spirit possessing GR's car has now taken over the giant dead Celestial body that is their current base.

Hellstorm is levitating outside the Celestial's head which is weeping blood. He can't identify the spirit but says it is immensely powerful. He starts to extract the invader but warns the team to expect the effects of resistance. Blade and Captain Marvel (also in containment suits) and Black Panther (presumably protected by his usual suit) are fleeing from a fireball. They break into the armoury where they've tracked the entity and face possessed Iron Man armours and Wakandan Hulkbuster with fiery heads.

Panther attacks them with blasts of consecrated napalm (he's always prepared). He tells Shulk and Thor to guard the vehicle hangar to stop the demon possessing the helicarriers. Blade sends Boy-Thing to safety and then fires the mystic Breathing Gun Daimon gave him last issue.

A voiceover (Johnny Blaze?) tells us the Ghost Riders have always loved to race. The 1st GR, a caveman on a flaming mammoth, raced Odin in 1 Million BC. Often they raced each other, eg Puritan Noble Cale and Lakota Chief Hellhawk raced for the soul of America (and both lost). And the brothers Johnny Blaze and Danny Ketch have their motorbikes.

Blaze himself is trying to persuade RR to race him for his power. JB won the rule of Hell from Mephisto and needs to add RR's power to his to keep Mephisto at bay. Robbie says he just wants to *stop* being a Ghost Rider so he's happy just to forfeit the race. But presumably that won't work so JB forces RR's hand by threatening to take young brother Gabe Reyes to Hell. Robbie transforms to Ghost Rider and knocks Johnny down before getting a head start in Hell Charger, but Blaze soon catches him up on his cycle.

Hellstrom is failing his task but has made contact with the possessor's mind. He has uncovered a mass murderer who's not from this time. King Blaze sent him here but before that he served someone else. And then Daimon recognises who he is facing as the Celestial body starts to move. But he loses contact with the Avengers before he can enlighten them (or us).

Inside the movements have caused walls to contract, and Captain Marvel is having difficulty stopping them crushing herself, Blade and Panther. But then leafy tendrils save them. Boy-Thing has grown to infiltrate the whole body, and the Celestial/possessor screams because whoever knows fear burns at the Boy-(Man-)Thing's touch. Hellstorm detects that the possessing spirit is being driven out to its natural form - which may not actually be a good thing. BP tells Thor and Shulk (in containment suits) that the possessor is heading their way. A blast of fire breaks through the wall (and that's the end of their c-suits) and a flaming humanoid walks through the hole.

In Hell Robbie Reyes is keeping ahead of Johnny Blaze, even though Blaze figures he still hasn't plumbed the depths of Hell Charger's abilities. But then Blaze's minions fire zombies at Reyes' car. This fires Robbie up and he climb on top of the car to use his firewhip against Johnny, only to see his opponent riding up a ramp to jump over a pile of skulls - which Robbie has to plough straight into. As his car slams to a halt he sees an assembly of other Ghost Riders urging him to keep going.

BP warns Thor and She-Hulk not to kill the fire-spirit because they don't know what that would do to Robbie. They don't have trouble obeying his injunction as the 'demon' picks up hammer-wielding Thor and hits Shulk with him, wondering aloud if this means he's worthy enough to lift Mjolnir. Hellstorm gets back in contact to tell them that the being is from the future where he'd been a Herald of Galactus and served Thanos. He's a Spirit Of Vengeance with the Power Cosmic. And the last page reveals the insane Cosmic Ghost Rider, Frank Castle.

Stefano Caselli
Stefano Caselli
Jason Keith
Stefano Caselli (Cover Penciler)
Stefano Caselli (Cover Inker)
Frank Martin (Cover Colorist)
Letterer: Cory Petit.
Editor: Tom Brevoort. Editor-in-chief: C. B. Cebulski.


Listed in Alphabetical Order.

Black Panther
Black Panther


(Eric Brooks)
Captain America
Captain America

(Steve Rogers)
Captain Marvel
Captain Marvel

(Carol Danvers)
Ghost Rider
Ghost Rider

(Johnny Blaze)

(Jennifer Walters)
Son of Satan
Son of Satan

(Daimon Hellstrom)


Plus: Boy-Thing, Cosmic Ghost Rider (Frank Castle), Ghost Rider (Robbie Reyes).

> Avengers: Book info and issue index

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