WARNING: The following article contains spoilers for Avengers #24 by Jason Aaron, Stefano Caselli, Luciano Vecchio, Jason Keith and VC's Cory Petit, on sale now.
While an embattled Robbie Reyes and Johnny Blaze take part in the Challenge of the Ghost Riders, there may be more bubbling beneath the surface of their race than meets the eye. At first glance, it seems like Johnny, the new King of Hell, wants to defeat Robbie and absorb his powers to become a stronger ruler down below.
However, Avengers #24 reveals that the pantheon of other Riders in the fiery pits that Johnny's overseeing could spark an apocalyptic war between Riders in the near future. Even though the riders are scary, these Spirits of Vengeance are even more ominous and intimidating than Johnny or the Cosmic Ghost Rider.
Before Robbie revs up his Hellcharger to race Johnny, he seeks guidance from the Riders in Hell. They hold council and the likes of Noble Kale and even the 1,000,000 B.C. Rider offer up advice. They want Robbie to win, since they recognize he's genuine, full of heart and isn't into power or control the way Johnny seems to be obsessed with at the moment. But that might be because Johnny knows of the Rider threat looming and possibly, the Riders that could be coming for his crown.
As Robbie chats with the Riders, they reveal there are Riders from eons ago who aren't in the limbo they're trapped in at the moment. When one Rider decides to mention the "others" he's cut off just as he's about to state where they're from. It's a timely intervention but it seeds the idea of the existence of Riders who are meant to cause some serious harm.
The fact they don't want to go into these details now is telling, since they're big enough to potentially distract Robbie from his mission. Some of the Riders Robbie talks to are clearly nervous and might even be scared about what their evil counterparts can do. When they're mentioned as something darker, sinister and even more powerful than Johnny Blaze, it's not tough to see a war brewing. Something is coming to knock on Johnny's doorsteps, which would explain why he wants to level up, and why there's an air of fear lingering in the fraternity.
Johnny was recently seen briefly partnering up with Danny Ketch for a demonic hunt, so he could well be recruiting in secret as well. It still remains to be seen where these "others" could tie-in to the larger Rider mythology. They could even be linked to Zarathos (the demon Johnny had attached to him in the first place) or the renegade angel Zadkiel, who oversaw the Spirits in the past from Heaven and who bonded the Spirit to Johnny. Since Marvel revised Johnny's history to make Mephisto responsible for Johnny's bonding, though, these evil Riders might be attached to that devil as well.
With Mephisto making big moves around the dark corners the Marvel Universe, he seems like a likely candidate to control of the "others." Then again, we can't rule out Heaven having a hand to play in this, since that realm has never liked Johnny or shown an affinity for Riders on the whole. Nonetheless, Johnny's race with Robbie appears to be the start of something bigger, and hellfire and brimstone could fall on the Marvel Universe in its wake.