Review by Frank Plowright
Johnny Blaze has come a long way since first making a deal with the devil (Mephisto in revised continuity), and the events of Damnation saw him, as the title says, installed as King of Hell. However, there’s not just the single Ghost Rider, there have been a few and several feature in this collection. Hosting the Spirit of Vengeance has taken its toll on Danny Ketch, who now runs a bar where he drinks the profits, but in Ed Brisson’s opening story Alejandra Jones has it even worse as she’s being targeted by Carnage.
That opens the door to an interesting avenue left unexplored, indicating that there have been plenty of Ghost Riders before Blaze, but the opener is otherwise efficient without ever transcending ordinary. Brisson’s main story is better. He sets it up well over the opening chapter, which concludes with a surprise readers are unlikely to see coming, logical though it is, and best kept as a shock. What is no great surprise is that plenty of others also see being King of Hell a desirable position, so while Johnny’s attention is occupied by demons escaping back onto Earth, others are making their move.
Aaron Kuder is the primary artist responsible for the main story, and while his style is a little cleaner than has been applied to Ghost Rider in the past, it works because he clearly loves designing and drawing the assorted demons infesting the story and turns out a great Ghost Rider besides. Secondary artist Juan Frigeri draws the entire Carnage sequence and has a slightly gritter approach, while also being more likely to pull the viewpoint in close. While Frigeri does a job, Kuder’s pages look more attractive.
The plotting to control Hell, the wreck that Danny has become, and the supporting cast around him are the more interesting aspects, but credit to Brisson for keeping those surprises coming. By the finish a fair amount has changed, and it’s set up Hearts of Darkness II extremely well.