AVENGERS #14 made it wildly apparent that you can’t ignore the vampire civil war ravaging the Marvel Universe. Of course, the Avengers have taken it upon themselves to deal with the threat head on! But now, Ghost Rider finds himself in a very dangerous predicament. In AVENGERS #15, the full fury of the Spirit of Vengeance is unleashed.

Writer Jason Aaron injects AVENGERS #15 with an extraordinary amount of intensity and vigor. I was at the edge of my seat reading this one from front to back. Aaron digs deep into Ghost Rider’s fiery possession while also picking at Tony Stark’s mind a little bit, too. And, to no surprise, the Shadow Colonel and his Unliving Legion continue to impress.

Speaking of impressing performances, this is likely artist David Marquez’s best issue of AVENGERS so far. Marquez portrays an incredible range in style here, moving from slick character designs to the grisly images of Ghost Rider with ease. Erick Arciniega’s colors are pitch perfect, as well.

AVENGERS #15 Puts Ghost Rider and Iron Man in the Hot Seat

Picking up right where AVENGERS #14 left off, AVENGERS #15 opens with the Shadow Colonel and Sarge violently escaping Avengers Mountain with the demonic-looking Ghost Rider in tow. As the heroes in the Mountain recuperate and lick their wounds, the story cuts over to a Russian prison, where the Winter Guard have captured Count Dracula. Luckily, the Avengers have an inside man.

Iron Man manages to sneak his way to Dracula’s cell for a one-on-one chat. Tony’s interrogation attempts are in vain, though, as Dracula has more than a few strings to pull regarding Howard Stark. Before Tony can get any sensible information out of the Count, the prison goes on high alert, with inmates running rampant. Thus, Tony teams up with Crimson Dynamo for a quick beatdown.

AVENGERS #15 page 4. Courtesy of Marvel Entertainment.

Meanwhile, in Madripoor, the Legion of the Unliving are wreaking havoc on even more vampire groups. At this point, we’re finally properly introduced to the members: Rat Bomber, Snowsnake, the Carpathian, and Lady Cromwell. Oh, and in case you missed it, the Shadow Colonel has a miniature Man-Thing (appropriately named Boy-Thing) hooked up to his gun so he can basically fire an endless stream of wooden stakes.

Try giving me a reason the Shadow Colonel is a bad villain. I’m willing to bet you can’t.

The Colonel commands Ghost Rider to burn a small horde of child vampires (talk about dark), but luckily, the Rider has enough of his faculties about him to refuse the Colonel’s orders. But the villain keeps on pulling out more and more demonic keywords, which keeps setting off the Rider. And that’s when the Avengers arrive, leaving us on an action-packed cliffhanger.

Things Just Keep Getting Darker

I’ve always known Jason Aaron to have an incredible range when it comes to writing stories. One moment, he’ll fill your mind with wonderment and joy. The next, he’ll crush all your hopes and dreams. “God Butcher” is one of my favorite Thor stories, thanks to him. That’s one of his darker stories, and I absolutely love it. For the same reasons I love that story, I’m falling in love with this vampire civil war arc.

AVENGERS #15 is probably the darkest issue in Aaron’s run so far. Pretty much nothing good happens, and that’s definitely done on purpose. From the get-go, the Avengers are getting their asses handed to them. Ghost Rider keeps screaming out for help, but no one can hear him. The Shadow Colonel proves himself a dark and brooding badass. Count Dracula keeps pulling the heartstrings of our heroes. Nothing about AVENGERS #15 points to a clean conclusion to this civil war.

AVENGERS #15 page 14. Courtesy of Marvel Entertainment.

I’m very impressed with how well Aaron juggles the overarching dread of this arc, while also diving deep into the minds of Ghost Rider and Iron Man. Aaron’s work with Robbie Reyes has added a much-needed layer of intrigue to the character. As well, the hints at Tony’s past involving Dracula have me very curious. All of this gives both characters a more personal stake in this conflict, which is a great way to ramp up the intensity.

I’ve also realized that the Shadow Colonel needs to stay alive at all costs. The Avengers can totally beat him; I hope to see it happen, in fact. But this character had better not die. It’s been a while since a new villain genuinely impressed me this much, so I’ll be sorely upset if he bites the bullet.

Marquez at His Finest in AVENGERS #15

David Marquez rarely ever fails to deliver superb artwork. AVENGERS #15 just might be some of his best work to date. No joke. These are some of the cleanest pages I’ve ever seen. They grip you from the very beginning, and flow from panel to panel with little to no effort. And that’s saying something, considering there’s a palpable dynamic going on in AVENGERS #15.

Marquez bounces back and forth between action-packed sequences and grim scenes of horror and death with ease. His pages beautifully match the dynamic shifts in the story. As I mentioned before, he keenly displays an elegant balance between the flashy and the dark.

AVENGERS #15 page 18. Courtesy of Marvel Entertainment.

And Marquez’s pages would hardly be anything in AVENGERS #15 were it not for Erick Arciniega’s colors. Not once does the tone feel out of place. There’s a pervasive, gloomy sense of dread that extends throughout this issue. Even when things are at their flashiest, the dreary atmosphere never fades away. This helps keep things tense.

I was most impressed with the team’s work on the possessed Ghost Rider. I thought the Rider looked cool as a Celestial, but this version of the character is absolutely horrifying. This is the best Robbie Reyes’ Ghost Rider has ever looked. He’s imposing and frightening, and his design is a perfect example of Marquez’s range of skill.

All in all, AVENGERS #15 will completely rock your socks off, artistically speaking.

The Avengers Are at Their Lowest When the Series is at Its Highest

When all is said and done, it goes without saying that I think AVENGERS #15 may possibly be the best issue of Jason Aaron’s run so far. The story hits so many clever beats without ever losing tension or flow. Aaron continues to press the story forward, while also taking time to further build up his characters. This issue is a fine example of Aaron’s skill as a writer.

It’s also a great example of David Marquez and Erick Arciniega’s talents as artist and colorist, respectively. These two are at the top of their game in AVENGERS #15. Their pages perfectly match the story Aaron is telling, from the overall tone to the hectic pace of the story. As fantastic as Aaron’s story is, the artwork just might outshine it.

AVENGERS #15 is a must-read for fans of the current series, and even fans who aren’t. It covers all its bases. Between Aaron’s storytelling and Marquez and Arciniega’s pages, there’s nothing not to enjoy.

AVENGERS #15 by Jason Aaron, David Marquez, and Erick Arciniega
AVENGERS #15 is the reason you should be reading this series. Jason Aaron pulls out some of his best storytelling yet, and David Marquez and Erick Arciniega deliver pitch-perfect pages, front to back. This is likely the best issue of Aaron's AVENGERS yet.
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