WARNING: The following article contains spoilers for Avengers #25 by Jason Aaron, Stefano Caselli, Jason Keith, Erick Arciniega and VC's Cory Petit, on sale now.
True to its name, the latest Avengers storyline, "Challenge of the Ghost Riders," has featured virtually every character in the Marvel Universe to be bonded to the Spirit of Vengeance. While the bulk of the story pit Robbie Reyes and Johnny Blaze in a grueling race through Hell for the throne of the underworld, Cosmic Ghost Rider -- the alternate- future incarnation of Frank Castle, bonded to the Spirit of Vengeance and wielding the Power Cosmic -- attacked the team's new headquarters at Avengers Mountain.
Eventually, the Avengers overpowered Cosmic Ghost Rider, who had mistaken the team for being in league with Blaze. Brought to his senses, the futuristic antihero led the team to Hell, and interrupted Robbie's challenge to the throne and assaulting Blaze. The combined might of the Avengers squaring off against the hellishly upgraded classic Ghost Rider, corrupted by his fiendish new position of power and endangering Earth.
While Thor puts up a noble effort against Blaze, the King of Hell is able to best the god of thunder by creating his own mystical hammer, assembled from parts of his demonically powered motorcycle. Blaze's victory is short-lived, however, as he comes face-to-face with the Ghost Rider that fans have been longing to see him confront for the past several months: Cosmic Ghost Rider himself. As the fight between the two Ghost Riders begins, it is clear there is no love lost between them, with Blaze instantly recognizing the alternate-future Frank Castle, and insulting the memory of his dead family.
Incensed, Cosmic Ghost Rider launches himself against his hellish counterpart but, before the brawl can escalate, Robbie returns to the fray and dethrones Blaze, even without the aid of his usual Hellcharger, lost within Hell's fiery pits. To everyone's surprise, Robbie refuses to take the throne of Hell, leaving the torturous afterlife without a ruler, and departs with the rest of the Avengers after briefly conferring with his deceased parents. As Blaze contemplates his defeat, Cosmic Ghost Rider seeks to finish the fight and destroy him for disrespecting his family only for Blaze to descend deeper into Hell and away from his cosmic opposite number. Frustrated, Cosmic Ghost Rider returns to cruise the cosmos after his less than enjoyable time back on Earth.
While the duel between Ghost Rider and Cosmic Ghost Rider is something fans have been craving since the cosmic rider's introduction by Donny Cates and Geoff Shaw, their initial match-up was all too brief. In a way, this makes sense: "Challenge of the Ghost Riders" was really Robbie Reyes' story all along, as the teenage superhero contemplated his own worth, both as an individual hero and as a member of the Avengers. He confronted his own legacy through the return of his evil uncle Eli, later revealed to have been unleashed and empowered by Johnny Blaze to give himself an edge over Robbie.
However, Blaze has quickly created a deep grudge between himself and the cosmic Frank Castle, not only ensuring an inevitable rematch between the two Spirits of Vengeance but that the resulting fight will be a personal one, with Frank having unfinished business with Johnny. In interim, it is unknown what Johnny's future holds, especially as the character stars in a new ongoing series. Perhaps Johnny will find redemption once again for his time as the King of Hell but, whether Johnny Blaze ever returns to the side of angels ever again, Cosmic Ghost Rider will be waiting with his own ax to grind.