WARNING: The following article contains spoilers for Guardians of the Galaxy #6 by Donny Cates, Geoff Shaw, David Curiel and Cory Petit, on sale now.
When Marvel debuted the Cosmic Ghost Rider, fans believed this wise-cracking Spirit of Vengeance would be like Wade Wilson, Johnny Storm or even Peter Parker. Almost no one thought the breakout character was actually a Punisher from another dimension. However, this Frank Castle isn't exactly stable after being used as a pawn by Mephisto, Galactus and Thanos before he arrived in the main Marvel Universe.
Now, thanks to the war on Knowhere and the attempts by Hela to resurrect Thanos in Guardians of the Galaxy's "Final Gauntlet" storyline, Cosmic Frank has been thrust into an even more dire situation, which gives Marvel fans the showdown we've all been waiting on. In this issue, Cosmic Ghost Rider meets Johnny Blaze, the Marvel Universe's most famous Ghost Rider and current King of Hell.
Now, this isn't technically a reunion, since this version of Frank hasn't met Johnny in the main Marvel Universe yet. However, Johnny has a serious bone to pick with a Frank, and this galactic vigilante fell right into his crosshairs. When Johnny joined the Red Hulk's Thunderbolts, one of his missions was to fend off Punisher, who swore revenge after leaving the group.
In the ensuing conflict, Frank was immersed in a brutal fight with Johnny, who was wielding a mystical sword from the archangel Zadkiel, one of the Ghost Rider's sworn enemies. This culminated in Frank beheading Johnny, only for the Rider to get bonded back to his Spirit once more. However, the Ghost Rider was able to survive and burn rubber while 616-Frank went along his merry way. Since Johnny took over Hell after Mephisto left the throne vacant, he has the opportunity to address any slights he wants.
There isn't a Mephisto handing out special deals anymore down there in the fiery pits, which means Johnny's the Rider of all Riders at the moment. So, when he gets a shot at revenge against Frank, he'll take it. He's had several run-ins with the Marvel Universe Frank, so it doesn't matter which version of the Punisher he gets to take down, as long as it's tied to the Castle bloodline.
What makes this meeting even sweeter is the Cosmic Ghost Rider has been touted as one of the fastest Riders in Marvel history. He's also done some time-hopping in his solo adventures, and traversed the multiverse, so this Frank's actually more well-traveled than Johnny in that sense.
After Hela lost her grip on Frank in the war to resurrect Thanos, the soldier died right in front of a repentant Star Lord's eyes and fell straight to hell. And when a gift like this falls in Johnny's lap, the narcissist in him emerges. We know Johnny will be racing the other Ghost Rider Robbie Reyes in Avengers #22 next month in their own little reunion, so when he asks Frank to race here, it's a win-win and part of his endgame.
In the pending race between Ghost Riders, Johnny gets to test himself against one of the best, and if he wins it'll give him bragging rights. Of course, we can't forget Robbie Reyes, the other Ghost Rider involved in all of this, who will get to prime up and train for when he eventually goes pedal-to-pedal against Robbie -- someone whose powers are exponentially growing to the point he might be the most powerful mobile Spirit of them all.
No matter which Rider wins, their race is about to kick into high gear. Considering Blaze's current predicament, his revenge against Cosmic Ghost Rider will be a dish that's best served hot.