Over the years at Marvel, there've been many iterations of the Ghost Rider that aren't Johnny Blaze. The Robbie Reyes version has been a latter-day favourite, and recently we've seen everything from a 19th century Native American to a prehistoric version atop a flaming mastodon. The latest? A mysterious friend of Thanos from the far future.
Image: Marvel Comics. Thanos #13 art by Geoff Shaw and Antonio Fabela, lettering by Clayton Cowles
Donny Cates, Geoff Shaw, Antonio Fabela and Clayton Cowles' Thanos #13 - the start of a new arc ominously titled "Thanos Wins" - opens with the Mad Titan nonchalantly murdering swathes of Chitauri as he overtakes the species' homeworld and installs himself as their new king. It's all very casual, because Thanos is nothing if not casual when it comes to mindbending acts of evil and destruction.
But just as the Chitauri's new ruler is settling himself into the recently-vacated throne, his forces are torn asunder - after literally just being torn asunder by their new ruler, so sucks to be them - by someone coming to say hello to Thanos. This crazy new power in the cosmos turns out to be both the spirit of vengeance and a wielder of the Power Cosmic typically used by Galactus' heralds. In fact, this new Ghost Rider is a former herald himself, and even more cryptically, is described by the series' narration as "the Black Right Hand of the Final King", a title we know nothing about but are promised will hold great weight in the future.
But this Ghost Rider is also a bit jollier than what you'd expect. He's little less of a reluctant wielder of brimstone and hellfire, more of someone who is very excited about his job. He's also jazzed by the fact he gets to ride an incredibly sweet space-bike - it even has one of those glowing plasma ball things you played with as a kid in science class as its front wheel.
Ghost Rider wants Thanos to come with him for reasons unknown, which naturally leads to the two briefly fighting - this is a superhero comic after all, and no two superpowered characters can meet without at least a little punch-up. But it turns out, surprisingly, that Thanos is no match for this new Ghost Rider... because alongside his hellish brimstone whip and the Power Cosmic, he also has a fragment of the Time Stone in his possession, allowing him to wrap the Mad Titan up in his fiery chains in the blink of an eye.
Ghost Rider in space is already pretty cool. Ghost Rider in space with time travel powers? Even cooler.
It's a lot to take in, and that's even before Ghost Rider, dragging Thanos behind him, flies off and rips a hole in space-time to transport the two of them to his actual timeline, thousands of years into the future. He does so in order for Thanos to meet the Ghost Rider's actual boss:
Himself. A future Thanos, who rules over the ashes of Earth. So if you needed an explanation for the arc of this latest story, you just got it. But honestly, so far future Thanos is kind of being upstaged by his badarse lackey.