Ghost Riders: Heaven’s on Fire


By Jason Aaron & Roland Boschi (Marvel)
ISBN: 978-0-7851-4235-5

In the early 1970’s, following a downturn in superhero comics sales, Marvel shifted focus from straight costumed crusaders to supernatural and horror characters with one of the most adaptable and enduring proving to be a certain flaming-skulled vigilante dubbed the Ghost Rider.

Carnival stunt-cyclist Johnny Blaze had sold his soul to the devil in an attempt to save his foster-father from cancer. As is always the way of such things Satan, or arch-liar Mephisto as he actually was, followed the letter, but not spirit, of the contract and Crash Simpson died anyway.

When the Demon Lord came for Blaze only the love of an innocent saved the bad-boy biker from eternal pain and damnation. Temporarily thwarted, the devil afflicted Johnny was with a condition which made his body burn with the fires of Hell every time the sun went down and become the unwilling, unknowing host for outcast and exiled demon Zarathos – the Spirit of Vengeance.

After years of travail and turmoil Blaze was (temporarily) freed of the demon’s curse and seemingly retired from the hero’s life. As Blaze briefly escaped his pre-destined doom, a tragic boy named Danny Ketch assumed the role of Zarathos’ host and prison by a route most circuitous and tragic…

Over the years a grim truth emerged: Johnny and Danny were actually half-brothers and both the Higher Realms and Infernal Regions had big plans for them. Moreover the power of the Ghost Rider had always been a weapon of Heaven not a curse from Hell…

This riotous, rollercoaster grindhouse supernatural thriller collects the 6-issue miniseries Ghost Riders: Heaven’s on Fire (from August 2009 to February 2010) by Jason Aaron & Roland Boschi, featuring a horde of fan-favourite villains, a variety of previous fire-headed hosts, a gaggle of grim guest-stars and assorted Spirits of Vengeance in a bombastic, Hell-for-Leathers romp which concluded a long-running saga.

It all began when usurper Archangel Zadkiel – thanks to his unwitting dupe Danny Ketch – finally achieved his appalling ambition: ousting God to become the new Supreme Power of the universe. The sinister Seraph hadn’t reckoned on a motley crew of sinners and worse, led by Blaze, who were utterly resolved to stop Him…

With covers and variants by Jae Lee, Phil Jimenez, Das Pastoras, Dustin Weaver, Greg Land and Christian Nauck, the dark drama begins when Zadkiel’s angels raid a satanic fertility lab and slaughter all the infants and children. The victims were all prospective Antichrists, but one escaped…

When Hellstorm – a fully grown, naturally conceived Son of Satan – arrives, he finds himself in a peculiar position. Having spent his entire rebellious life battling his sire, Daimon Hellstrom and has no desire to aid the Evil One’s schemes, but by his murderous acts Zadkiel is actually trying to unmake Biblical Prophecy.

God always intended for an Apocalypse to finish His Divine Plan, and the usurper’s coup is actually beyond all concept of right and wrong. Thus the die is cast and Hellstorm must, albeit reluctantly, find the last Earthborn heir of Hell and ‘Save the Antichrist, Save the World’

Simultaneously, Blaze, accompanied by mystic Caretaker/combat nun Sister Sara, is tracking Zadkiel’s angelic agents, determined to find a door to Heaven and confront the renegade face to face. They also want to kill Johnny’s brother Danny, whose pig-headed hubris has led to Zadkiel replacing God and occupying the Vault of Heaven…

When the bikers wipe out a brace of boastful rearguard cherubim and learn of The Plan, they immediately change tack, joining the hunt for missing Anton Satan (AKA Kid Blackheart) to save him from the wrath of the Pretender God…

Oblivious to the threat Anton is exactly where you’d expect an Antichrist to be: making millions as the youngest executive at a Wall Street Hedge Fund. His cruel, calm arrogance is soon shaken, however, when a Seraphic Assassin bursts in only to be promptly eradicated by occult terrorist Jaine Cutter and her “Breathing Gun”: another player determined to restore the Biblically-scheduled Armageddon.

She, however, has severely underestimated Zadkiel’s determination and sense of proportion and drags the protesting Hell-brat straight into an angelic ambush. And far across the country someone is gathering a small army of Ghost Rider villains. They already have Orb, Blackout and The Deacon on board…

With tormenting demons replacing his lost arms, Master Pandemonium is a living doorway to Hell, but even he had no idea what true suffering was until Danny Ketch kicked his door in, looking for a quick introduction and shortest route to the Big Bad Boss of Gehenna…

Now, three days later in New York, Hellstorm explosively saves Cutter and Anton from the ruthless Flight of Angels, but when the self-serving kid bolts he runs right into the newly returned Ketch.

Blaze and Sister Sara arrive moments later and all parties very reluctantly agree to suspend hostilities for a team-up in ‘Are You There, Devil? It’s Me, Danny.’

The anti-Ghost Rider Squad is growing too. Freshly signed up are Zadkiel’s own flame-headed fanatic Kowalski AKA Vengeance, plus Scarecrow, Madcap, motorised maniac Big Wheel and a savagely sentient steam-shovel called Trull

Thanks to Pandemonium, Ketch has met the Devil and made a deal. In return for preserving the last extant Antichrist from Zadkiel’s forces, Satan will provide the brothers with access to Heaven and give them their shot at restoring the previously incumbent Deity…

After brutally working out their operational differences in time-honoured fashion, Johnny and Danny at last unite just as ‘The Brothers Ghost Rider’ are bushwhacked by Big Wheel and Trull (an alien mind-force which could possess any mechanical contrivance: tractor, bulldozer, chainsaw…)

The catastrophic clash brings the boys to a temple which is a gateway to the Eternal Realm, but thanks to Blackout they miss their chance to use it…

Meanwhile in a hidden location the secret sacred order of Gun Nuns prepare for their last battle…

‘Here Comes Hell’ starts in the Jasper County Sheriff’s holding cell where Scarecrow and Madcap have just slaughtered all the other occupants. Outside, Hellstorm, Sara, Jaine and obnoxious Anton have entered the quiet town, seeking safety and a useable satanic sanctuary to stash the kid in.

Zadkiel’s converts are waiting for them and a deadly duel ensues. In the melee Anton shows his true colours by attacking Sara and allying with Master Pandemonium even as Vengeance and the Orb lead an army of killer angels, demons and zombie bikers against the primed-for-martyrdom Gun Nuns protecting a fully operational highway to Heaven…

‘Sole Reigning Holds the Tyranny of Heaven’ finds the triumphant, power-drunk Zadkiel remodelling Paradise to his own gory tastes and fitfully rewriting snippets of Creation when the Ghost Riders storm in through the nun’s gate…

Meanwhile on Earth equally blockbusting battles break out as Hellstorm and Cutter at last suspend their truce and renew their personal vendetta. Elsewhere Kid Blackheart brutally uncovers Sister Sara’s impossible hidden destiny as a living portal to Heaven, and utilises her to transport battalions of demons to conquer Kingdom Come…

The occult overdrive thus rockets to a cataclysmic conclusion as Zadkiel personally smashes the invading Spirits of Vengeance in ‘If You Can’t Lower Heaven, Raise Hell’. With the streets of Heaven knee-deep in blood, even a pep talk from his own dead wife and kids cannot keep Blaze battling against the new Omniscience, but when the Legions of Hell attack and Danny incites all the previously expired Ghost Riders to rise, Johnny sees one last chance to make things right…

Fast, frantic, irreverent, satirically funny, violently gratuitous and clearly not afraid to be daft when necessary, this is a fabulously barmy, two-fisted eldritch escapade in the manner of TV’s Supernatural or Angel that will reward any fans of raucous road thrillers, magical monstrosity tours and the minutiae of Marvel’s horror continuity.
© 2009, 2010 Marvel Characters, Inc. All rights reserved.