Story by: Howard Mackie
Art by: Adam Kubert
Take a shot every time you see the word vengeance in this review. (But really don’t. You’re liver will explode by the end.)
I was this close to thinking that Vengeance was the theme of this story, but after closely looking at the dynamics here, I think this tale of burning skeletons on motorcycles is about family.
Hear me out.
At first, I thought this comic was preaching that, “An eye for an eye leaves everyone blind,” except sometimes it’s okay for characters in this story to blindly attack others, for the sake of vengeance.
There was a cop that literally sold his soul to a demon for vengeance against Ghost Rider, only to later fight alongside him, like nothing happened.
This narrative isn’t really about understanding vengeance and the intricacies it plays among people; sure, the word is repeated over and over again because it sounds cool, but each time it’s spat out of the character’s mouths, there’s no thematic or even emotional pay off to it.
A common trend I see among the protagonists and even the antagonists is that of family, whether literally or symbolically.
Lilith, the mother of monsters and one of the main villains is someone who forces people into her family through intimidation and deceit. For example, Lilith pretends to be the mother of Zarathos in order for him to do whatever she wants. For some reason Zarathos doesn’t have his memories (Probably explained in another tie-in). As a consequence for her deceit, her lie is eventually revealed to Zarathos and she is later condemned to a dimension of isolation and darkness.
In contrast, Johnny and Danny are two guys who’ve only recently met, yet they treat each other like brothers. Through honesty and trust, they achieve a strong bond together. Their family-like bond is rewarded with them finding out that they actually were brothers, who were separated at birth.
Even though there is a solid theme here, the characters themselves kind of drop the ball in making me take this story seriously.
Johnny himself is guilty of this. The edgy daredevil proclaims that he’s never going to use Hellfire again, only to threaten and execute people with it in the next issue, without any hesitation.
The promise was pretty hollow in the first place, considering he was sitting on a Hellfire-fueled motorbike and armed with a Hellfire shotgun.
I also have a problem with how this series handles tie-ins.
Spirits of Vengeance has three main bad guys, not including the lesser, subordinate monsters and demons. Two of the major antagonists are dispatched in different books.
The only one we see get defeated on the page is Lilith. She and her children were more interesting than the protagonists. Her design is gothic, 90’s fun and I love the bizarre relationships amongst her family.
Despite being an interesting character with a decent mythos surrounding her, she has a disappointing conclusion: They get rid of her by pushing Lilith into a portal and she’s forgotten for like twenty years.
You remember that cop I told you about that sold his soul for vengeance? Yeah, his name is also Vengeance. In a more detailed outline of his origin, Vengeance had a grudge against Zarathos, whom he mistakes to be Ghost Rider. Desperate to destroy the object of his hatred, he makes a deal with the demon, Mephisto: The guy who brought Zarathos to our realm in the first place.
Apparently, it’s super easy to sell your soul to get super powers. Silver Wind sells her soul for powers; Silver Vengeance sells her soul for powers; Johnny Blaze sold his soul for powers; Badilino sold his soul for powers.
When it’s not being hindered by intrusive tie-ins or forgettable characters, Spirits of Vengeance is truly an interesting dive into the Ghost Rider mythology. This review is in memoriam of the poor souls who took the drinking challenge, against my fair warning.