Warning: SPOILERS for The Avengers #7
The comic's writer, Jason Aaron, has always been one of Marvel's most creative voices (generally accepted as one of the publisher's top talents). While best known for his ongoing run on the constantly outrageous Thor series in which he explored the past, present, and even the distant future of the God of Thunder, it seems he's hoping lightning will strike twice.
The same approach is being taken with Marvel's flagship Avengers book, with the iconic Ghost Rider the next to be given an unbelievable, ancient origin.
Avengers #7 is entirely dedicated to the first Ghost Rider, traveling back to the days of the Pleistocene epoch, when ice covered the surface of the Earth and a handful of humans struggled to survive in their caves. This first Ghost Rider stood at the cusp of human evolution: smarter than his fellow Neanderthals, and even gifted with the ability to communicate.
Until another stranger came to the pack... another person "who can make the sounds."
Unfortunately, this other man was a monster, and soon committed horrifying acts of brutality that left the boy abandoned and alone. As a parting gift, the monster gave the boy a new name: "A thing that doesn't even know it's dead. Ghost. That's what I name you."
Enter Marvel's satanic stand-in, Mephisto, as a serpent who coils his way across the ice to offer - say it with us now, Ghost Rider fans - vengeance. As Ghost lay dying in the ice, Mephisto promises pain, punishment, vengeance, and most of all, warmth. And so it was that Ghost became the first Rider, a being who would forget how anything felt other than burning, riding astride a flaming mammoth.
Over the next five years, he would relentlessly pursue his revenge upon the creature that slew his tribe. A creature soon revealed to be one of, if not the very first Wendigo.
It's fascinating to get such a glimpse into the ancient history of the Marvel Comics Universe, and to understand just how the line of the Ghost Riders began. Aaron presents Mephisto as a tempter, one who speaks to the pains and longing of the human heart. One who, just like the devil in Eden, takes on the form of a snake. The explanation for the "Ghost Rider" title is a stunning one as well, making the offhand moniker now a tribute to the first boy to succumb to vengeance.
According to Aaron, he's not done exploring the Avengers of 1 million years ago. Indeed, he'll be alternating between ongoing stories and one-shots revealing the history of his heroes including the first Iron Fist, Odin the All-Father, and even an early Phoenix host. It's going to be fascinating to see how he rewrites the history of the Marvel Universe, if this is a sample of what's to come.
Avengers #7 is on sale now from Marvel Comics.