In the wake of Las Vegas' fiery transformation, Strange's former partner Wong had no choice but to assemble a new team of Midnight Sons to save the city. The team includes Iron Fist, Scarlet Spider, Man-Thing, Elsa Bloodstone, Moon Knight and, of course, the Ghost Rider. Wong doesn't seem himself as a leader, per se, but he still has a plan in motion -- and this plan hinges on the Ghost Rider coming face-to-face with Mephisto, the villain that started it all.
While the Midnight Sons battle the Ghost Rider Avengers, Blaze clears a path on his motorcycle. Wheels blazing, the Ghost Rider's bike climbs the side of Mephisto's black tower with fury. Blaze, flaming skull and all, smashes through the top window to meet the devil who cursed him to become the Ghost Rider in the first place. It's a confrontation that has been a long time coming, stretching all the way back to Blaze's origin. But before the Rider can make his move, Mephisto blows his flames out. "What did you just do?" Johnny asks, to which the devil answers: "I lifted your curse, Johnny." Then, with a swift kick, Mephisto pushes the now-human Johnny Blaze out of the top floor of his tower, to a certain death. He smashes to the ground covered in blood, just as the issue comes to a close.
For all intents and purposes, it seems like we witnessed the death of the original Ghost Rider, Johnny Blaze. Sure, with Doctor Strange: Damnation being a story about magic, demons and hell, it's entirely possible that the character might return to life by the next issue. But he might not. After all, on Wednesday, writer Donny Cates tweeted that one of the three issues he had written released on Wednesday, March 21 would feature the major death of a character.
While both Bruce Banner and the Silver Surfer, both of whom apparently perished in Thanos #17, are undeniably major Marvel players, they're also from millions of years in the future. As such, the overall impact of their death is somewhat diminished as both of them are technically still alive. When it comes to a major death in the main Marvel timeline, well, Johnny Blaze fits that bill.
Johnny's time might have come to an end -- at least for the foreseeable future. Not long ago, it was announced that Marvel's line of titles will be undergoing a relaunch, a 'fresh start' that will see big characters returning to their original mantles and others going through some big changes. This relaunch is spearheaded by a new Avengers series, featuring a team that consists of, among others, Captain America, Thor, Captain Marvel, Black Panther and Robbie Reyes, aka the most recent Ghost Rider. Robbie has seen the spotlight shined on him in a big way, as a character on Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. as well as the Marvel Legacy #1 one-shot, and it seems like his story is only just starting.
With Reyes stepping forward as Marvel's main Ghost Rider, it makes sense that Johnny Blaze might be getting benched once again. His death is a big loss, a devastating blow for Wong and the Midnight Sons, a death that has just given a whole lot of weight to Damnation. Of course, this Ghost Rider's story isn't over just yet. Next week will see the release of the Damnation: Johnny Blaze one-shot by Christopher Sebela and Phil Noto, an issue that just might turn into a send-off for the character. But for the time being, it looks like the Johnny Blaze's flames have been put out -- for good.