In the town of Christ's Crown, a cult offers a sacrifice to bring a demon to Earth; the demon they summon is the son of Mephisto, Blackheart. Not happy with his father forcing him into being worshiped as a mere deity he seeks revenge. Blackheart wants to kill him but he needs help to do so, and there's a new breed of superhero out there that can help him. -summary
Despite being around since the 70's; Wolverine, Punisher, and Ghost Rider's popularity had really begun to rise around the early 90's once their individual series had really taken off. These three were interesting mainly because they would cross that line in bringing final justice, by either savagely beating or killing evil people they felt deserved it. This story follows the three as Blackheart, who later becomes a Ghost Rider arch-nemesis attempts to corrupt them because they walk a very thin line between good and evil. This TPB collects their first team up Heart of Darkness, and it's written by Howard Mackie who was already writing the third volume Ghost Rider series at the time.
Even after all of these years and a recent re-read, I still think this story is lackluster. Mackie apparently runs through this one and the story only feels like an excuse to get these three together. There's no real reason on why this cult gathered to bring Blackheart back to the world. I assume it has something to do with his origin, but there's just no reference to it and the story begins rather flimsy. To be straight on this, I think it's flimsy all the way through. Blackheart's intention is to corrupt these three because they are so close to the edge. And by accomplishing this they should be able to join him and kill Mephisto? Really? How can I believe that these three are capable of pulling this off? If Thor and the Silver Surfer had not pulled it off already then I doubt if it can even be done. I'm guessing through small details Mackie was playing off of Blackheart's ignorance. I'm cool with that part if that's the case. So, since the initial story is difficult to buy into, Mackie could have at least examined the thin line these three walk. Does he do that? Well, for the most part no, he doesn't really examine Marvel's three anti-heroes at all. There is no morality play here as it's all jettisoned in favor of carrying the action-filled plot, as the three attempt to save a little girl Blackheart kidnapped in order to bring them down. As if these three would actually need to struggle with joining together and saving her.
The story doesn't make a lot of sense, and since it feels more like a Ghost Rider story that could have taken place in his own series, you only get more mystery behind the character and not too much on what exactly brings any of them to the edge. Character development is severely lacking for story purpose. The story had potential to be far more than an action romp, unfortunately Mackie never explores the dark territory originally suggested.
The artwork is penned by John Romita Jr. and he delivers some good character designs that at times take up nearly an entire page. The action panels during the confrontation with Blackheart barely registers as mildly exciting. At least the artwork is easy enough to follow since it's so well drawn, very neat lines and good coloring. The dialog was lacking for the most part, and the only thing somewhat exciting were the changes between Wolverine and Punisher; they seem too alike, and I would've loved a little maxi-series between the two back then.
At the end of the day, the story was just a vehicle to bring these three together. It's vanilla all around and just wasn't very fun for me to read. This could have been so much, but at forty-eight pages it's just a fast read that I don't recommend to anyone other than hardcore completest and fans of these characters.
Pros: -JRjr's artwork, Brings together three awesome characters...
Cons -...brings together three awesome characters in a mediocre story
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Serious gamer and hardcore comic reader.
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