With Marvel's Absolute Carnage nearing its halfway point, the latest tie-in one-shot, Absolute Carnage: Symbiote of Vengeance, has the eponymous villain target the one Spirit of Vengeance to have bonded to a symbiote: Alejandra Jones. Along the way, another classic Ghost Rider comes to Alejandra's aid, with the special, written by Ed Brisson and illustrated by Juan Frigeri, not only showcasing the Ghost Riders' roles in the crossover, but also slyly teeing up a new status quo for the character in the Marvel Universe to take place beyond Absolute Carnage.
Following Alejandra coming into contact with Venom and bonding with the symbiote, Carnage has tracked down Johnny Blaze's former protege to a remote Latin American village to claim the symbiote's codex implanted in her spine, at the expense of her life. Sensing Alejandra's life in grave peril, Johnny, while still presiding over Hell after succeeding Mephisto, summons his brother Danny Ketch to travel down to save her from Carnage and his zealous cult before it's too late.
While Brisson has been prolific writing street-level heroes and stories, he previously penned a tie-in for the Damnation crossover, which heavily featured Ghost Rider, resulting in his current position in Hell. Here, Brisson weaves a tale almost entirely from the perspectives of Alejandra Jones and Danny Ketch, in what is largely an action-packed issue. The most emotion Brisson draws from the one-shot is when Johnny Blaze appears; his presence brings much-needed quieter, character-driven moments that set this issue apart from the other Absolute Carnage tie-ins.
However, while Brisson has Danny and Alejandra bring the right amount of emotion to the proceedings, and depicts Carnage with his typical homicidal glee, his portrayal of Johnny is noticeably more staid. While that's likely deliberate, given Johnny's new position in Hell, it is a sharp contrast to other contemporary portrayals of the character. However, a final-page reveal hints at a major setup for Ghost Rider fans including Brisson's own impending relaunch, which will hopefully lead to a new approach than the more detached Johnny here.
Frigeri and colorist Dono Sánchez-Almara bring the requisite fire and fury to the issue, as things escalate fast and furiously when Danny joins Alejandra as much-needed back-up against Carnage. The facial work is reminiscent of artist Giuseppe Camuncoli, but Frigeri definitely leaves his own visual stamp on the issue, with his own nightmarish twist on Carnage and visions of Hell whenever Johnny Blaze inevitably comes into play across the proceedings. And when blood does run, as it has often during this crossover, Frigeri doesn't hold back without making the violence particularly off-putting.
With Brisson and Aaron Kuder relaunching Ghost Rider next month, the writer shows in Absolute Carnage: Symbiote of Vengeance that he has a firm handle on Danny Ketch's voice. While Johnny Blaze appears a bit distant in the issue, the change in the character's status quo in the weeks to come will likely change Brisson's approach to the character in the impending relaunch. In the meantime, Brisson and Frigeri bring the expected bloody thrills with a hellish twist in this tie-ie special while setting up things to come for the role of the Ghost Riders in the Marvel Universe beyond the current crossover.