Sunday, April 25, 2010

Heaven's on Fire

Ah, love. You had me at Satan, Mr Aaron.

Say what you will about the resolution of the Jason Aaron Ghost Rider run, the concluding mini-series, Ghost Riders: Heaven's on Fire had fun elements that made it worth the reading.

Because I came in late to the Aaron Ghost Rider I'm not going to look at the entire run until I pick up what I missed somewhere down the line. I'll stick to just Heaven's on Fire for now. Where the story picks up Zadkiel, a renegade angel (wasn't that Lucifer's job?), has overthrown Heaven and taken the throne of God. I could stop right there and delve into the philosophical and religious conundrums that presents, but it's all in fun, so I'll let it go. Zadkiel doesn't have God's omnipotence or omniscience yet because it takes time for all the powers to transfer. I'm not sure why they transfer at all because God's not dead or anything, just somewhere else, but, again, we'll let that deus ex machina (literally) go.

Our two surviving Ghost Riders, Johnny Blaze and his brother, Danny Ketch, are trying to overthrow Zadkiel and restore God's rule. This requires them to protect the child anti-Christ because if he dies, Revelations can't come to fruition and Zadkiel seals the deal of his rule. Man, you really don't want to think about the conundrums here, but they keep coming rushing to me as I summarize this stuff. Let's go on to the fun.

Damien Helstrom, Son of Satan, wants to kill the anti-Christ, just because he's an evil little snot, but Helstrom's ex-girlfriend, Jaine, prevents him. She's some sort of demon hunter mercenary with a living gun that's pretty cool. The meat bullets it fires is even cooler. The Ghost Riders are frequently at each other's throats while they're on their quest, and Sister Sara, the caretaker of the Ghost Riders, is inexperienced in her job. Hot, though. The story goes through varies trips with the eventual restoration of God to the throne, but it's the small points that make it a fun ride.

Aaron had me in the first issue when the anti-Christ is working at an investment bank under the name A. Satan, which he keeps telling everyone is pronounced Shutan. Hockey references make infrequent appearances in comics, or the wider culture, for that matter, but this is a great reference to a hockey player from the Czech Republic whose name is Satan and pronounces it that way. It's also a good example of how the young anti-Christ may be evil, but not at all wily yet. His constant copping a feel of Sister Sara when he's riding on her motorcycle is another fine example. (And can I just say that Sister Sara keeps reminding me of Two Mules for Sister Sara, a great western comedy that also involves blowing stuff up and unlikely fighting? Don't know if Aaron intended that reference.)

The quest involves fights with a great cast of D list villains. The only thing I would have liked to have seen would have been a simple caption when they show up so I know who they are. My knowledge of these Marvel villains is not encyclopedic, so I quicly figured out what they could do in terms of powers, but not who they are. Even a little one off mentioning of names in conversations would be nice, though that could be a little hard without the self referential because our heroes don't know who some of these guys are, either.

Roland Boschi's art fits this series well. It's a little rough around the edges, as are our Ghost Riders and their various nemeses and allies. I presume he did the inking, too, as there's no inker credited. It's dark when it should be and doesn't obscure the rough edges that this kind of story needs. Dan Brown's colors work nicely, muted for the most part.

It's a good end to the Aaron run on Ghost Rider. I'd like to have had more Aaron work on the title, but if it's got to end, so be it. The back up run of reprints from the original Ghost Rider's first two issues and an issue of Marvel Spotlight on The Son of Satan were really not necessary. They do highlight how far comics writing has come, but I don't really need a reminder of how bad a lot of that old stuff was, iconic characters or no. I'd rather have had that removed and the books priced a buck cheaper. If only KISS had been in this story, it would have been a masterpiece for the ages, no matter the conundrums of the plotting.

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