In an effort by Marvel Comics to bring new focus on some of their more historic characters who garnered strong fan bases in their own rights over the years, the comic company has once again dived back into its popular “Legacy” line. The first issue of the new Spirits of Vengeance limited five-part series War at the Gates of Hell hit the shelves October 4, 2017. If you haven’t got your hands on a copy yet, you should run out now if it’s not already too late.
Issue #1 begins with Johnny Blaze, aka Ghost Rider, sitting at the counter in a roadside diner when a wounded angel steps up, pulls a silver bullet from his bleeding chest and hands it to him. From here, readers follow the original “Spirit of Vengeance” as he incurs the help of Daimon Hellstrom, aka Hellstorm, in search of clues pertaining to the importance of this single bullet. As clues build, we soon learn that the balance of power between Heaven and Hell are drastically tilting. Unfortunately, the only thing that stands between returning this balance and an end-of-days apocalypse is a band of unlikely superheroes whose own demons are as dark as the enemies they will inevitably face.
Spirits of Vengeance #1 is written by Victor Gischler (Deadpool, X-Men, Sally of the Wasteland) with graphic contribution from artist David Baldeón (Spiderman, X-Men, Captain America), color by Andres Mossa (Spiderman, X-Men, Wolverine), and lettering by VC’s Cory Petit (Spiderman, X-Men, Avengers). The cover art is credited to Dan Mora and David Curiel, but as expected by Marvel in the modern era, there are a number of variant covers available for the avid and sometime rabid collector. As a team, this collaboration has provided a well-balanced comic book with stunning imagery that is easy to follow. It is a nice introduction to the series for new fans and sure to please the high expectations of older fans.
In true Gischler form, the character dialog provides readers with just enough accent and cadence to lend authenticity to the roles without making them seem like caricatures. But rest assured, for a story centered around the darker elements of the supernatural, there is still a bit of the writer’s snark and sense of humor to lighten the mood when necessary.
Aside from the dramatic death of the angel and a bloody confrontation with a couple demonic thugs trying to get the bullet from Johnny, the rest of the issue is slower paced, obviously setting us up for the anticipated battle likely to take place in future issues. We do get to meet a few interesting side characters along the way who provide the necessary tension and give us additional clues to what’s about to happen. The appearance of the evil sorcerer Necrodamus gives us a familiar Marvel antagonist, but the evil accomplice character Razan is still a mystery.
It should be pointed out that this first installment primarily follows Johnny Blaze and Daimon Hellstrom, with the appearance of Blade coming only in the closing pages as he is being recruited. Just as noteworthy, and a bit odd, those looking for the fourth team member Satana Hellstrom and wondering what her role might be in this epic battle will have to wait for a future issue as she did not make an appearance in #1 – except on the cover.
I’d like to think that I’m familiar with the characters Blade and Ghost Rider as I have more than a handful of their starring issues in my own collection (including a few of the earlier western Ghost Rider versions), but I had to do some homework to catch up on the “Spirits” storyline as well as the characters Hellstorm and Satana. For those looking for a condensed version of all four of the heroes, Marvel was kind enough to include the Spirits of Vengeance – Marvel Legacy Primer Pages (released earlier) at the end of this first installment. Thanks to the writing of Robbie Thompson in this primer along with the artwork of Anthony Piper and lettering of VC’s Cory Petit, we get a little bio of the team members to get you all caught up.
In all, Spirits of Vengeance – War at the Gates of Hell #1 is a fun read that seems loyal to the legendary Marvel characters while giving us a fresh new take on the never-ending clash between Heaven and Hell. Who would be better to fight demons than a team of heroes who have their own inner demons? They’re kinda like the Avengers from Hell, which is what gives this series some bite.