Because AVENGERS #15 clearly wasn’t hot enough, writer Jason Aaron finds even more ways to crank up the heat in AVENGERS #16. Ghost Rider finds himself under the control of the Legion of the Unliving, and of course, it doesn’t bode well for the Avengers. And meanwhile, Dracula finds himself in trouble with the Winter Guard.

It comes as no surprise that Jason Aaron manages to maintain some serious intensity while also furthering the vampire war plotline as a whole. We dive deep into Robbie Reyes’ tormented mind in what is arguably the most emotional issue of Aaron’s AVENGERS yet. Even Dracula’s scene is fairly emotional, painting the Lord of the Damned in a very different light.

Speaking of painting, AVENGERS #16 features some terrific artwork to boot! Though his pages aren’t as clean as last time, artist David Marquez doesn’t fail to deliver another beautiful issue. Also, Erick Arciniega’s colors complement Marquez’s pages to a tee.

Ghost Rider’s Mind Is on the Line in AVENGERS #16

Picking up right where AVENGERS #15 left off, AVENGERS #16 dives right into the battle between the monstrous Ghost Rider and the Avengers. Although, that’s not before we see Robbie seemingly trapped inside a sort of prison. While the Rider is in complete control, Robbie is trapped in unmoving traffic on a hellish highway.

The Avengers have a notably difficult time keeping Ghost Rider at bay. His new appearance clearly isn’t just for show; there’s tons of power behind the monster. The combined might of Thor and Captain Marvel just barely stand up to par with the Rider. Somehow, even Captain America is able to stay on top of the situation, not getting blasted to pieces the moment he jumps into the fight.

AVENGERS #16
AVENGERS #16 page 8. Courtesy of Marvel Entertainment.

Meanwhile, Blade and the other Avengers are having their own fun dealing with the rest of the Legion. The Shadow Colonel takes a backseat for most of AVENGERS #16, and instead, Ghost Rider and the other Legion members get their time in the spotlight. But really, Ghost Rider is the primary threat this time around.

In Russia, the Winter Guard take to interrogating Dracula. The Red Widow finally gets talking, and proves she doesn’t take shit from anyone — not even the Lord of the Damned. In an attempt to get Dracula to talk, she takes to slitting the throats of his former lovers. So as brief as her appearance is, I’m now sensibly afraid of the Red Widow.

Eventually, the Legion all bail from the battle, leaving the Avengers to finally free Robbie of his possession. But once Robbie snaps out of it, we learn the Avengers’ problems are far from over, as more trouble arises in Russia.

AVENGERS #16 Brings the Pain

AVENGERS #16 thoroughly surprised me. I didn’t expect a book like this to tug at my heartstrings the way it did, even if it was only light tugging. Between Dracula being forced to watch his loved ones be cut down in front of him to Robbie’s emotional breakdown, there’s a lot to take in here.

Robbie’s arc throughout this issue is the obvious highlight. I’ve loved every second of Jason Aaron’s work with this character. Robbie Reyes hasn’t had a great deal of focus placed on him ever since he was created. Now, Aaron isn’t just getting readers more acquainted with him; he’s evolving the character, top to bottom. The young Rider’s collapse at the end of AVENGERS #16 is a powerful set-piece moment.

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AVENGERS #16 page 11. Courtesy of Marvel Entertainment.

I never would have expected a character like Dracula to have a weak point. But, of course, leave it to the Russian super-spy to figure out how to disturbingly pull on one’s heartstrings. In the span of only three pages, I was impressed with how much depth we see in both Red Widow and Dracula. These two characters, as part of Aaron’s AVENGERS, have been shrouded in an appropriate cloud of mystery. These three pages manage to pull back the veil just a bit, but also add further depth to the unknown.

By the end of this issue, I was left hoping for two things: I hope Robbie is still on the team, and I hope he’s able to gain control of his more monstrous aspects. If that power can be turned to good, then the Avengers would be that much more powerful. I’m also incredibly worried for what the Shadow Colonel is planning next.

These Pages Are on Fire

David Marquez and Erick Arciniega have littered AVENGERS #16 with dozens of action-driven pages. It only makes sense that most of these pages are bright and fiery, given the present combatants. Ghost Rider’s demonic form looks even more imposing than it did last time around. In combat, he’s a fearsome sight to behold.

The other Avengers put on a great show, as well. Captain America’s red, white, and blue stands out extraordinarily well against the flashy reds and oranges acting as the primary color palette for this issue. As well, Captain Marvel has her own moments to shine, erupting in a bright burst of energy towards the end of the fight with Ghost Rider.

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AVENGERS #16 page 18. Courtesy of Marvel Entertainment.

Surprisingly, there’s not much in the way of Thor’s lighting, which is slightly disappointing. It would have been another great way to contrast most of the flaming colors in AVENGERS #16. But Thor himself still looks great, regardless. All the characters look great, for that matter — which is typical, coming from David Marquez. His character designs never fail to impress me.

The duo of Marquez and Arciniega haven’t missed a single beat since they started this arc with Jason Aaron. I’m hopeful the conclusion will be just as explosive as the rest of the story.

The End is Near

The vampire civil war has ravaged the Marvel Universe for a little too long now. Not only that, but because of this war, the Avengers nearly lost Ghost Rider to the Shadow Colonel. Despite this new villain’s best attempts, he’s got one last shot to win this war once and for all. Let’s pray the Avengers make it back in one piece.

This whole arc has been a breath of fresh air, introducing new villains and putting the Avengers in a position they’ve never quite been in before. AVENGERS #16 is another huge success for writer Jason Aaron, as he marches towards the finish line of this vampire civil war arc. He highlights one of Marvel’s most underrated characters in an impactful manner, while also seamlessly pushing this gruesome story forward.

David Marquez and Erick Arciniega once again prove that they were likely the only team who could’ve tackled this story properly. Their pages are crisp and explosive, and I can’t imagine reading this story in any other style.

There’s time for one final battle between the Avengers and the Legion of the Unliving. Who the hell will come out on top? I’ve got a good idea who, but I’m certainly eager to find out for sure.

AVENGERS #16 by Jason Aaron, David Marquez, and Erick Arciniega
Art
Characterization
Plot
Summary
This is AVENGERS at its best. Jason Aaron masterfully balances action, plot progression, and character development all in AVENGERS #16. David Marquez and Erick Arciniega once again deliver superbly beautiful artwork. There's nothing not to like.
98 %
On Fire!

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