The Hearts of Darkness storyline continues and wow, talk about a reunion of some of Marvel’s most hardcore vigilantes with Punisher, Wolverine, and Danny Ketch — who now features a new power set. Along with those guest stars we get to see a showdown with Dr. Strange and Johnny Blaze as the good doctor is upset with Johnny for freeing Mephisto. I am enjoying the drama that this issue brings and also how it deals with some of the fallout from Damnation and why Johnny is the King of Hell. Even though this could be considered another story arc this is part of Ed Brisson’s long game with the Ghost Riders and it is looking to build to some exciting events and the returns of some classic characters from the Rider’s mythos.
The opening of the issue is quite intense as we see Blackheart is using Emma, Danny’s bartender, to go pay a visit to Stacy, Danny’s ex; I don’t see it being a malicious visit and I can’t wait to see how this plays out in future issues. Then, we jump to Danny as the new Spirit of Corruption coming face to face with Punisher and Wolverine; I love the fact that Ed Brisson brought this element back from the 90’s series as it was just way cool to see back then and still great to see; Ed does a great job of sneaking in some of the new Mutant Council rules in for Wolverine to follow. I like how Danny is pitted against the other two as it makes sense for them to be in the situation with a dead cop…but not knowing he was a demon.
This opens up a new era for us as we get to see the Spirit of Corruption at work and just how powerful it is. Danny can’t find himself in control and goes after Punisher and Wolverine since they are pressing him about the murder. It turns into the typical hero vs hero meet up which pays off later with Caretaker calling out all three men for their lack of communication and wasting of time since they could’ve compared notes about the case. What is really interesting here is the fact that Punisher gets a big moment as he is stabbed by the Blight Blade from Danny but manages to survive it. What we learn is that the Blight Blade makes the person be consumed by all the corrupt things they have done; we now know the Punisher can withstand the Penance Stare along with being stabbed by the Blight Blade — looks like Frank is quite the trooper. After all that looks like the Hearts of Darkness are ready to reunite and do some damage.
The second hero clashing comes up with Dr. Strange with Johnny Blaze, who is not in a right frame of mind with being the King of Hell. Ed has done a great job of showing that time is different between Earth and Hell, so Johnny is a bit touched by the madness but also with the conversation with Strange it is pointed out that Johnny was left behind. Put those two things together and add a bit of Mephisto’s twisting of events and you have a very angry Ghost Rider going after Strange. Their fight spills out of the Sanctum Sanctorum into the streets outside, which gets a nice cut interlude with the Hearts of Darkness as it is revealed that the more Johnny uses his powers the more he is becoming the Devil and we are treated to a new form of King of Hell Ghost Rider.