Three issues in and “Ghost Riders: Heaven’s on Fire” has reached that ‘middle of the story’ slump. Granted, the quality is still high, but this issue feels slight compared to the first two as Johnny and Danny fight against a couple of d-list villains and not much else happens. That said, you can do a lot worse than Jason Aaron and Roland Boschi if you want some entertaining action between two Ghost Riders and a couple of d-list villains.
With Zadkiel in charge of Heaven, Danny has made a deal with the devil to obtain the means to attack Heaven and dethrone Zadkiel, but Johnny wants no part of it after Johnny’s previous allegiance to Zadkiel that resulted in his conquering of Heaven. The rift between the brothers, though, is short-lived thanks to an attack by Big Wheel and Trull the Mighty. We’ve seen old Ghost Rider enemies like Blackheart coming together on behalf of Zadkiel to take down the Riders, so these two being the first wave is a bit disappointing since neither offers much difficulty.
The actual fights, though, are quite entertaining thanks to the art team of Roland Boschi and Dan Brown who do masterful work here. The action ranges from mountainous terrain to a jungle battle in a logging site. The sight of a Ghost Rider in the jungle is the perfect contrast of green and red, almost visceral because a flaming skull-headed man doesn’t look like he belongs in a heavily-wooded area. Brown’s colors are washed out in places, a faded look that highlights Boschi’s strong line work, but the jungle scene is far more lush, his colors resembling paints. The three-page sequence where Johnny falls off a rocky bridge to the jungle is the book’s best-looking.
One minor quibble over the art: I miss the new blue flame look that Danny sported while working for Zadkiel since it set him apart from Johnny. For a lot of this issue, it’s hard to tell which Ghost Rider is which because they look so similar. It may have been a smarter move to retain the blue flame. Then again, a blue flame in the jungle wouldn’t look nearly as evocative, so there are trade-offs.
Included as a bonus is the first half of “Ghost Rider” #2 from 1973, continuing the reprints that began in “Heaven’s on Fire” #1. It’s interesting to see what Ghost Rider was like when he began, especially since it bears little resemblance to the current story. The Daiman Hellstrom of 1973 looks very different from the Hellstrom that makes a quick appearance here and how the Ghost Rider look has evolved in small ways is cool to see.
This is the weakest issue of “Heaven’s on Fire” thus far, but it does provide some growth for Johnny and Danny’s relationship, and some solid action scenes with fantastic art. The end of the issue promises the return of some antagonists from early in Aaron and Boschi’s run, so, hopefully, next issue will be a bit more substantial.
(Roland Boschi and Dan Brown do good work. See for yourself in CBR’s preview.)