Avengers #23 Comic Review
Writer: Jason Aaron
Artist: Stefano Caselli
Colorist: Jason Keith
Letterer: VC’s Cory Petit
Cover: Stefano Caselli & Frank Martin
Variant Covers: Alex Ross; Mike McKone & Rochelle Rosenberg; Russell Dauterman & Matthew Wilson with Mike McKone & Edgar Delgaldo
Challenge of The Ghost Riders Part Two
Hell Race 666
“We’ve Always Been Racing. It’s In Our Blood.”
What You Need to Know
The Exorcism of Avengers Mountain backfired. The demon that has possessed Robbie Reyes’ car has now possessed the Celestial body. Meanwhile, in Hell, the Challenge of The Ghost Riders begins. Will Robbie be able to defeat Johnny Blaze and save his soul?
What Just Happened
The issue begins with Thor and She-Hulk returning from Turkey while Iron Man stays behind to investigate the mysterious cave they found last issue. Thor is uneasy about Iron Man investigating the cave alone. Captain America approaches them in what appears to be an exorcism HAZMAT suit to warn them that Avengers Mountain is under quarantine due to the spirit possessing Robbie Reyes’ car being set loose in the mountain after his disappearance. Daimon Hellstrom is still at the mountain and notices that the Celestial corpse’s eyes are bleeding. Hellstrom states that the spirit is incredibly powerful. Black Panther, Blade, and Captain Marvel track the demon to the armory in the mountain only to realize the demon has possessed all the powerful weapons within the armory.
Johnny Blaze gives Robbie Reyes a history of the Challenge of the Ghost Riders. Robbie Reyes refuses to race Johnny. Johnny states he needs Robbie’s power to increase his so he can keep demons like Mephisto off the throne of Hell. Johnny threatens Robbie’s brother, Gabe and Johnny becomes enraged and agrees to the race.
As the possession spreads through the mountain, Hellstrom begins to learn the identity of the spirit who Hellstrom determines is not a spirit at all. As the spirit gains control of the mountain, the mountain begins to crush the Avengers. Boy-Thing spreads his roots and branches and protects the Avengers from harm. Boy-Thing shares the same power of Man-Thing and burns the spirit.
Johnny and Robbie race, and Johnny cheats by having his minions shoot zombie cannons at Robbie. Robbie realizes he can’t hold back in the race. Johnny uses his control of hell to take the lead. Frustrated and lost, Robbie gets advice from the spirits of past Ghost Riders regarding how to beat Johnny.
Thor and She-Hulk confront the spirit. Hellstrom reveals to the team that the spirit possessing the mountain was not the demon that possessed Robbie’s car, and it is the Cosmic Ghost Rider, sent by Johnny. The Cosmic Ghost Rider states that he is there to kill the Avengers.
I love how Jason Aaron has taken the Avengers and turned the book into his own personal playground for his ideas. It’s not every day you see multiple Ghost Riders, Blade, and Daimon Hellstrom in an Avengers book. I especially love the dynamic between Johnny Blaze and Robbie Reyes in Hell. Johnny is the elder statesman who provides the history lesson and wants to carry on tradition. Robbie is the young upstart who wants to buck tradition and live his own life. Complicating matters is Johnny sitting on the throne of Hell while simultaneously trying to keep demons that would use the throne for evil (more evil?). The rest of the Avengers are mostly background players in this issue, but its very cool to see Black Panther still being a badass tactical genius even in the face of an exorcism gone wrong. Avengers Mountain essentially becoming a haunted house is a nice touch for this issue, especially seeing the Spirit of Vengeance possess the weapons in the armory. I hope to see more Daimon Hellstrom in future issues, and I want to see Boy-Thing grow into Man-Thing. If this issue is any indication, it is on its way.
I’m not too sure how I feel about Cosmic Ghost Rider being included in this arc. This character has seemed cheap to me from his introduction, and a ploy to get eyes on books. If Marvel is not careful, this character can become Venom in the 90s, over saturating the market.
Stefano Caselli’s art remains a perfect fit for this arc. Caselli is great at channeling the darkness of a character and illustrating that in the pages of a comic book. The heroes and villains all look amazing in this book as usual. The HAZMAT/exorcism suits were a nice touch to this issue that I enjoyed. Hellstrom appears more menacing and maybe more demon than man. Caselli’s depiction of Hell continues to be fascinating, and the more we are introduced to it, the more things we notice. Eyeballs popping out of the ground, demons with zombie cannons shooting body parts (which is ammo), on top of the never-ending traffic jam we saw last issue appear in this issue thanks to Caselli. I know Caselli will have fun with the Cosmic Ghost Rider in upcoming issues.