“Ghost Rider” #35 is the final regular issue of the series before it morphs into the “Ghost Riders: Heaven’s On Fire” miniseries later this summer. Really, though, this issue isn’t an ending. It’s just the calm before the storm. The pit stop before Jason Aaron revs up the engines and kicks the Spirits of Vengeance (and pals) into overdrive for one final cosmic drag race.
Oh, and it’s not all that calm, either.
While issue #35 is no ending, it does provide a clean break before the final Aaron-penned showdown between the Ghost Riders and the Host of Heavenly Angels. It ends something like “Kill Bill Volume 1,” with all of the characters in place, plenty of blood on the streets, and a deadly mission on the horizon.
This three-part Tony Moore-illustrated “Trials and Tribulations” arc comes to a close with the introduction of the Skinbender, a freakish Sailor Moon grotesquerie who has the power to transmute flesh and bone. She’s an artisan of the horrific with the leathery skin of one of the Real Housewives and the costume of a Japanese schoolgirl. She says things like, “my, what lustrous skin you have. I think I’ll peel it off you and wear it as pantyhose.”
She’s quite a match for Johnny Blaze, whose supernatural charms melt her sadistic heart. This twisted not-quite-love story doesn’t have much depth, but it has Kev O’Neill-inspired flesh constructs (like something out of the deeper reaches of “Nemesis, the Warlock”) and a weird sexual showdown as Ghost Rider injects his hellfire (or is it angelfire?) into his willing adversary. This is one disturbing comic book.
Besides giving us this bit of episodic horror (like the other Tony Moore issues, this is another good version of the “Ghost Rider comes into town and faces an odd villain and then things get worse from there” story), this issue also brings back the new Caretaker and gets Johnny Blaze ready for the inevitable showdown with the new kings of Heaven. What Aaron does particularly well is provide a self-contained episode while moving the larger plot forward. This is a story — in the big picture — of Johnny Blaze’s regained focus, but it works as a single-issue monster comic, too. Aaron and Moore make a pretty great team for this kind of thing.
I suppose the thinking behind the upcoming miniseries is that it might attract some new readers who’d be less inclined to pick up an issue #36. But the series will just pick up right where this issue left off, so all that’s changing is the superficial details. And that’s a good thing, because Jason Aaron has been writing the best “Ghost Rider” comics in history over the past year and a half, and I want to see what he has planned for the epic conclusion.
(The cover illustration has absolutely nothing to do with the contents of this issue, but you can get a sneak peek at Tony Moore’s interiors in CBR’s preview of issue #35.)