Review by Frank Plowright
King of Hell didn’t end well for anyone, with the possible exception of Lilith, who’s been plotting to take over Hell. She’s the Biblical myth who predates humanity, and while it galls her to see Johnny Blaze ruling Hell, it’s not as if there aren’t plenty of others unhappy with the situation open to her manipulation. Ed Brisson’s opening chapter temporarily returns artist Roland Boschi to Ghost Rider as it reveals what’s been going on behind the scenes while Johnny was away, then catches up with Danny Ketch and his new alter-ego.
The first Hearts of Darkness was an early 1990s one-shot teaming Ghost Rider with Punisher and Wolverine, and as they turn up again here, they provide the title. At least it has a greater relevance this time, although perhaps not to the heroes, as their role is only really to let Danny strut his stuff in his new identity. Another powerful Marvel hero also turns up, and there’s a lot Brisson doesn’t bother explaining about the wider Marvel universe to readers only really interested in Ghost Rider. Who’s the guy with a big eye for a head tied to a chair? Who’s the Caretaker character who seems to have so much influence?
Juan Frigeri draws more of this selection than anyone else, and as the sample page shows, he has the exaggerated style the series needs if Aaron Kuder’s not around. Kuder isn’t until the title story’s final chapter, and that’s his typical clean look, which isn’t quite as effective for the battle royale he draws.
Ghost Rider’s comic was cancelled at short notice when everything closed down during the Covid pandemic. At least Brisson manages to bring an end to his corruption plot, although it was pretty predictable where that was going from King of Hell’s final pages. Because so much is left hanging this makes for an unsatisfactory collection and closing with a story of 2099’s Ghost Rider is no compensation, even it is by Brisson. It’s an origin story, and shifts what Ghost Rider is, at least in the future, but inspiration is in short supply in what’s an ordinary tale of vengeance with Damian Couceiro more influenced than he should be by the Terminator.
Brisson did get the opportunity to tidy up a few more plots, and that’s found in The Return of Blaze, but don’t be in any great hurry as it’s combined with the Lilith story from this volume, and a poor return for the 1990s writer Howard Mackie. All you really need is the Ghost Rider: King in Black comic.