Friday, April 13, 2018

Marvel Holiday Special 1993

Cover Artist: Mike Kaluta
Published: Jan. 1994
Original Price: $2.95

Title: "Harvey Teabiscuit's Yule Log"
Writer: Ann Nocenti
Artist: Tom Grindberg
Inker: Bob Almond
Letterer: Brad Joyce
Colorist: Joe Rosas
Editor: Renee Witterstaetter
Editor In Chief: Tom DeFalco

SYNOPSIS
On Christmas Eve, sadsack Harvey Teabiscuit wakes up to his alarm screaming at him, followed immediately by his mother screaming as well.  At breakfast she berates and belittles him for having no friends, stating that she wishes he had just one to invite over for Christmas dinner.  Harvey fantasizes about killing her, but departs without a word.  On his way to work, he sees the Ghost Rider chasing a criminal down the street on his motorcycle.  When he passes by, the Ghost Rider turns his head and stares directly at Harvey, who is standing on the sidewalk.  At his office, a daydreaming Harvey is told by his boss that there will be no Christmas bonus this year, and that Harvey will have to work on Christmas morning.

Harvey leaves the office that evening, consumed by the word "vengeance".  Outside the building, the waiting Ghost Rider approaches Harvey and starts conversing with him.  While Harvey can only stand in shock, the Rider apologizes for scaring him earlier and wishes to do something to make it up to him.  Ghost Rider walks into the office building and confronts Harvey's boss, who confesses to mistreating his employees.  Ghost Rider tells the boss to change his evil ways, then departs, bidding Harvey farewell.  Harvey interrupts and hands Ghost Rider his business card, asking if he will be his friend and come by his house later for a drink.  Ghost Rider takes the card and leaves, and moments later Harvey's boss runs outside and tells Harvey that he is getting a bonus and a raise and a paid vacation.  That night, while Harvey and his mother watch television, there's a knock on their door.  Harvey tells his mother that he invited a friend over for a drink, and when she excitedly runs to the door to open it, finds the Ghost Rider on the other side.

ANNOTATIONS 
This Christmas special also included stories featuring Spider-Man, Nick Fury, the Marvel Bullpen, Captain Ultra, and the Hulk.

Ghost Rider last appeared in Ghost Rider/Blaze: Spirits of Vengeance (1992) # 11 and he appears next in Fantastic Four (1961) # 374.

Podcast Review: Inner Demons Episode 18 - "Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Hellfire" (Click to Listen)

REVIEW
A poor milquetoast named Harvey Teabiscuit gets a dose of the Spirit of Christmas in this charming holiday tale.

Ghost Rider has a history of starring in some really fucking weird Christmas stories, but amazingly all of them have this endearing charm to them.  The character really shouldn't work all that well, given the demonic violent nature of the stories he usually appears in, but for some reason creators are always able to tap into something unexpected for the Spirit of Vengeance's yuletide shenanigans.  The 1993 Holiday Special allowed Ann Nocenti and Tom Grindberg to do an extremely off the wall story starring Ghost Rider...or, well, starring Harvey Teabiscuit with special guest star Ghost Rider, to be more accurate.

The image of the beat-down introvert dominated by a controlling woman, be it his wife or his mother as in this example, is pretty cliched.  Nocenti seems to understand this, as she makes the story as surreal as possible, what with all of the flights of fancy that Harvey has about murdering his awful mother as she berates him for not having any friends.  He's a schlub at his office, forced to work on Christmas, and it looks like his life will continue to be utter shit for the rest of his life.  However, the chance encounter he has with a very affable and loquacious Ghost Rider changes his fortune and gives him that good ol' fashioned Christmas miracle that he needed.  It's a simple and, yes, downright goofy story that is saved by two things.  The sense of humor this story has, because at heart it's a comedy, is pretty funny (see Harvey's slack-jawed, multi-panel reaction to Ghost Rider speaking to him).  The Ghost Rider's personality, itself, is the other positive because it's just so jarring and unexpected that you can't help but enjoy it.  This isn't a growling, vengeance fueled monster, this Ghost Rider is a guy that gets too much into his work and feels the need later to apologize for scaring some poor guy on the sidewalk.  Seriously, Ghost Rider's soliloquy when he introduces himself to Harvey is priceless, and Nocenti's ear for dialogue that would sound ridiculous coming from anyone else makes the scene.

What also elevates this story is the artwork by Tom Grindberg, who had been a low-level Marvel artist for several years by this point, working steadily on stuff for Marvel Comics Presents and other anthologies.  When Grindberg started he had a real Neal Adams aesthetic to his work, but in the mid-90s he changed to this much blockier style that really works to his favor.  The characters look carved out of wood in some panels, and his Ghost Rider has a real physical, imposing presence.  That splash page of GR on his motorcycle is particularly nice.

So, yeah, Ghost Rider has Christmas dinner with Harvey Teabiscuit, and a story that should frankly be dumb as hell turns into something that I found myself enjoying quite a bit.  Not a must read, but recommended if you can track it down.

Grade: A

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Upcoming Comics for May and June 2018

I've been a bit lax on posting the upcoming comics solicitations on here, for really no reason than I keep forgetting about them.  But, since there's some new Ghost Rider related material coming up this summer I figured I would rectify that oversight today!  Also, don't forget that April still has two significant Ghost Rider releases coming at the end of the month: Doctor Strange: Damnation # 4 and Thanos Annual # 1!

MAY 2018




FREE COMIC BOOK DAY 2018: AVENGERS/CAPTAIN AMERICA
Written by JASON AARON and TA-NEHISI COATES
Penciled by SARA PICHELLI and LEINIL FRANCIS YU
Free Comic Book Day 2018 is your perfect chance to dive into the Marvel Universe! With a story from Jason Aaron and art by Sara Pichelli, Marvel's FCBD title debuting this May features stories that set the stage for an epic new direction in the Marvel Universe.

AVENGERS #1
Written by JASON AARON
Penciled by ED MCGUINNESS
Cover by ED MCGUINNESS
VIRGIN COVER VARIANT COVER BY ED MCGUINNESS
Variant cover by Esad Ribic
Party & Party Sketch Variant Cover by Greg Land
PREMIERE VARIANT BY ED MCGUINNESS
Young Gun Variant Cover by Aaron Kuder
Blank Variant Cover Also Available
A NEW ERA DAWNS FOR EARTH’S MIGHTIEST HEROES – courtesy of JASON AARON and ED McGUINNESS!
Thor Odinson. Steve Rogers. Tony Stark. The Big Three of the Avengers are reunited at last! And just in time to save the world from total annihilation at the hands of their most powerful enemies yet: the 2000-foot-tall space gods known as Celestials.
Behold the coming of the Final Host.
Who will answer the call to assemble for a wild new era of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes? Hint: one of them has a flaming skull for a head. And what strange, world-shaking connection exists between the Final Host and Odin’s ancient band of Prehistoric Avengers?
40 PGS./Rated T+ …$4.99

AVENGERS #2
Written by JASON AARON
Penciled by ED MCGUINNESS
Cover by ED MCGUINNESS
VIRGIN COVER VARIANT BY ED MCGUINNESS
Variant Cover by David Marquez
Black Panther and Dr. Strange battle for their lives deep within the earth…
Captain Marvel battles death and destruction raining down from the skies…
…while Thor, Iron Man and Captain America lead the valiant (yet hopeless) fight against the Final Host of Dark Celestials.
And Ghost Rider and the Savage Hulk make brutal war against...each other?
Plus, you can’t have a gathering of Avengers without a certain Prince of Lies, now can you?
32 PGS./Rated T …$3.99

CHAMPIONS CLASSIC: THE COMPLETE COLLECTION TPB
Written by TONY ISABELLA, BILL MANTLO, CHRIS CLAREMONT, JIM SHOOTER, JOHN BYRNE & ROGER STERN
Penciled by DON HECK, GEORGE TUSKA, BOB HALL, JOHN BYRNE & SAL BUSCEMA
Cover by GIL KANE
Join Black Widow, Hercules, Ghost Rider, Iceman and Angel as they form an all-new super-team: the Champions! Now, their complete adventures are available in a single volume! Savor every issue, every highlight, every page as the lives of these Marvel icons play out together! Their struggles will reveal the origin of the man who created the Black Widow, pit them against the combined might of Magneto and Doctor Doom, unleash the Crimson Dynamo and Titanium Man on Los Angeles, team them with the Stranger in the fight for an Infinity Gem and bring fan-favorite artist John Byrne aboard for some of his greatest early work, including stories featuring the Sentinels and Brotherhood of Evil Mutants! Collecting CHAMPIONS (1975) #1-17; IRON MAN ANNUAL #4; AVENGERS (1963) #163; SUPER-VILLAIN TEAM-UP #14; PETER PARKER, THE SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN (1976) #17-18; and HULK ANNUAL #7.
472 PGS./Rated T …$39.99

JUNE 2018




AVENGERS #3
Written by JASON AARON
Penciled by ED MCGUINNESS
VARIANT COVER BY ARTHUR ADAMS
THE FINAL HOST PART 3 FROM JASON AARON AND ED MCGUINNESS!
Fate has once again brought together Earth’s Mightiest Heroes to face their greatest challenge yet. But with Captain America now taken prisoner by Loki, what hope do these new Avengers have to defeat the Final Host of Dark Celestials? And what startling secrets are still left to be uncovered that will rewrite everything we know about the origin of the Marvel Universe?
32 PGS./Rated T+ …$3.99

DOCTOR STRANGE: DAMNATION COMPLETE COLLECTION TPB
Written by DONNY CATES, NICK SPENCER, CHRISTOPHER SEBELA, ED BRISSON & PETER DAVID
Penciled by ROD REIS, SZYMON KUDRANSKI, PHIL NOTO, NIKO HENRICHON, DAMIAN COUCEIRO & WILL SLINEY
Cover by ROD REIS
The city of sin meets its biggest sinner yet. When Doctor Strange raises up Las Vegas from its destruction during SECRET EMPIRE, he inadvertently opens a door for the embodiment of evil: Mephisto! When the Lord of Hell claims the gambler’s paradise for himself and sets his sights on the rest of the world, it will take a diverse group of heroes to beat the devil at his own game. Wong’s makeshift band of Midnight Sons — Iron Fist, Blade, Moon Knight and Scarlet Spider — must face down a whole platoon of Ghost Riders…but where does Johnny Blaze stand? DAMNATION transforms the life of Doctor Strange — and the magical landscape of the Marvel Universe! Collecting DOCTOR STRANGE: DAMNATION #1-4, DAMNATION: JOHNNY BLAZE — GHOST RIDER #1, DOCTOR STRANGE (2015) #386-389, IRON FIST (2017) #78-80 and BEN REILLY: SCARLET SPIDER #15-17.
336 PGS./Rated T+ …$34.99

THANOS WINS BY DONNY CATES TPB
Written by DONNY CATES, KIERON GILLEN, AL EWING, RYAN NORTH, CHRISTOPHER HASTINGS & KATIE COOK
Penciled by GEOFF SHAW, KATIE COOK & FRAZER IRVING
Cover by GEOFF SHAW
Ask the most powerful beings in the Marvel Universe how they fear the universe will end, and in their most honest moment, they will answer with two words: “Thanos wins.” And now, it looks as though that disturbing thought is about to become a horrific reality! See what happens when the Mad Titan gets his way! Thanos journeys to the end of time and his moment of complete victory…and still isn’t happy with what he sees. Witness the Mad Titan’s greatest glory — and ultimate shame! And no matter what form Thanos’ victory takes, is there any way that anyone — or anything — can possibly survive? Featuring the Silver Surfer and introducing the all-new cosmic Spirit of Vengeance, Ghost Rider! Collecting THANOS (2016) #13-18 and THANOS ANNUAL (2018) #1.
160 PGS./Parental Advisory …$19.99

FANTASTIC FOUR EPIC COLLECTION: THE NEW FANTASTIC FOUR TPB
Volume #21 in the Fantastic Four Epic Collections
Written by WALTER SIMONSON, LEN KAMINSKI, DANNY FINGEROTH, TOM DEFALCO & PAUL RYAN
Penciled by ARTHUR ADAMS, WALTER SIMONSON, MARK BAGLEY, AL MILGROM & PAUL RYAN
Cover by ARTHUR ADAMS
The Fantastic Four, like never before! With Reed, Sue, Ben and Johnny out of commission, a new FF comes together: Spider-Man, Wolverine, Ghost Rider and the Hulk! But what monstrous threat could bring these heroes together? And how are the Mole Man and the Skrulls involved? Maybe the real FF can help figure all that out! Then, the one, true Doom returns — and a time-jumping battle for the ages with Mister Fantastic ensues! Did we say time? Uh-oh, better hope nobody tells the Time Variance Authority! The Thing battles the Wrecker before a fantastic new era begins — and a stunning revelation rocks the marriage of Johnny Storm and Alicia Masters! Plus: The New Warriors, the Guardians of the Galaxy and a Miracle on Yancy Street! Collecting FANTASTIC FOUR (1961) #347-361 and ANNUAL #24 and material from MARVEL HOLIDAY SPECIAL #1.
504 PGS./Rated T …$39.99

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

The Champions (1975) # 10

Cover Artist: Dave Cockrum
Published: January 1977
Original Price: $0.30

Title: "One Man's Son is Another Man's Poison!"
Writer: Bill Mantlo
Artist: Bob Hall
Inker: Frank Giacoia
Letterer: Ray Holloway
Colorist: Don Warfield
Editor: Archie Goodwin

SYNOPSIS
The four male members of the Champions - Hercules, Angel, Iceman, and Ghost Rider - have been imprisoned in a steel vault in an unknown location by the Soviet villain team.  When the Champions attempt to break free, they find stone surrounding them, which causes the room to shake violently.  The villains appear via Darkstar's power and tell them that they are trapped in a vault deep within the San Andreas Fault, and any attempt to escape will trigger an earthquake that could destroy California.  Hercules, unwilling to listen to reason, attempts to break free of the cell, and Ghost Rider steps up to try and stop him with his hellfire.  This only enrages Hercules more, who admits that he has never trusted the demonic Johnny Blaze. 

The villains return to their jet, which holds the imprisoned Black Widow, Bruskin, and Ivan Petrovitch, who has just learned that his believed-to-be-dead son Yuri is the Crimson Dynamo.  Yuri relates his story, where he believes that his father was a defector to the West, which caused him to be abducted by American agents as a child and raised in captivity.  When Yuri leaves, Bruskin admits that it was all a ploy to turn Yuri into a Soviet agent against his father, which Darkstar overhears.  When Yuri and the other villains return to the plane, Darkstar attempts to tell him what Bruskin admitted, but he instead attacks Darkstar, calling her a traitor.  She frees Back Widow and sends out a teleportation beam to rescue the other Champions from the fault. 

Black Widow's fight against the villains causes damage to their plane, forcing them to eject and land on a nearby Russian submarine in international waters.  The Champions arrive and attack the villains, while Bruskin sacrifices himself to damage the submarine with a grenade.  Darkstar turns on Yuri and defeats him, but lets him go when she finds herself unable to turn him over to the American authorities.  The Champions and Darkstar leave with the other captured villains, but the secrecy around the day's events cause Ghost Rider to question whether they should remain a team at all.  Ivan, to whom Blaze is speaking, remains silent, lost in thought about the fate of his son.

ANNOTATIONS 
Ghost Rider makes a cameo appearance in Marvel Treasury Edition # 13 before making his next full appearance in Ghost Rider (1973) # 21.

This issue is reprinted in The Champions Classic vol. 1 trade paperback and The Champions Masterworks collection.

REVIEW
An amazing Dave Cockrum cover promises more from this comic than it actually delivers as the Black Widow/Crimson Dynamo story finally wraps up.

I realize that this story has only spanned four issues, but it seems like it's taken an eternity for it to come to an end.  Seriously, the pacing of this arc feels like it's taken a year of comics to play out, and not a very exciting year at that.  Maybe it's because this was a Tony Isabella story that had to be finished by Bill Mantlo that makes it feel so disjointed and uninteresting, but I can't find myself caring one bit about the Soviet plotline or Yuri Petrovitch's relationship with his father.  It's crawled by at a snail's pace, despite having an action-heavy third chapter last issue, and the melodrama just drags things down into this soapy mire that has all of the characters overacting in wild histrionics.  Not a single sentence ends with anything other than an exclamation mark, even the questions have exclamations added to them.

The most egregious of the characterization misfires is the relationships between the Champions themselves, because these cats flat out HATE one another.  The Marvel super-team method hinged on the "dysfunctional dynamic" of having heroes that bicker and argue, the Avengers and the X-Men both had that in spades.  Mantlo's version of the Champions, though, actively threaten and insult one another as part of their regular conversations, let alone when placed in a high-stress situation like being trapped in an active fault-line.  Hercules has a claustrophobic panic attack, which allows the male members of the team to air out all of their grievances with one another, with most of the bile being spat at poor ol' Ghost Rider. 

The Soviet plotline lumbers on to its end, with the Russian villains being defeated by way of exposition about Yuri's childhood and the defecting Darkstar.  Her introduction is really the only bright spot in this whole story-arc, and she's a welcome addition that Mantlo will keep around as a new member of the team.  The rest of this issue is full of Ivan's "Russia by way of the Bronx" slang and dialect, the Black Widow's mentor making himself a martyr for no good reason, and the heroes blundering their way to a victory.  The fault prison was kind of interesting as a deathtrap, but it doesn't save the rest of the comic, especially when the cover promises a Ghost Rider/Hercules brawl that in the issue lasts approximately two panels.

The artwork isn't up to snuff this issue, either, as Bob Hall gets paired with Frank Giacoia on inks, making the art backslide into Don Heck territory.  Hall was a really green penciller on this series, but his earlier issues with more suitable finishers turned out a nice looking product.  This issue, though, just doesn't work as well, and maybe that's because he was already being shuffled out the door in favor of John Byrne, who's been hyped in the letters page for like three issues running now.

This is a series that is still failing to live up to any potential it may have, but at least now that this storyline is finished the series can hopefully move on to better things.  The artwork, at least, is going to get a whole lot better!

Grade: C-

Monday, April 9, 2018

Inner Demons Episode 22: "Stationary Demon"



Inner Demons has returned once again, per the details of our infernal bargaining, bask in the glory of our reviews, to which we hope you will peruse!  We begin with Thanos # 16-17, with a Cosmic Ghost Rider guillotine, then on to Spirits of Vengeance # 5, with an ending that coffee did contrive!  Then, the reason for all this rhyming, a review that left us smiling, the Amalgam Comics' bastard son, the dreadful Speed Demon # 1!  Apologies for the awful rhymes, we're not the poets for our times, but forgive us for this bit of fun, and tune in to our...podcast.

You can listen to the episode at the Vengeance Unbound page on blogspot, or you can download it from either Stitcher or iTunes .  You can also find us on Facebook, just search  for "Vengeance Unbound" and on Twitter under @InnerDemonsGR.  Thanks for listening!

Friday, April 6, 2018

Thanos (2017) # 13

Cover Artist: Geoff Shaw
Published: January 2018
Original Price: $3.99

Title: "Thanos Wins, Part 1"
Writer: Donny Cates
Artist: Geoff Shaw
Letterer: Clayton Cowles
Colorist: Antonio Fabela
Editor: Jordan D. White
Editor-in-Chief: Axel Alonso

SYNOPSIS
On the planet Chitauri Prime, the alien race of Chitauri have been completely dominated and overthrown by Thanos, who waged brutal war upon them in just five hours time.  He kills the king and takes his throne, new ruler of the Chitauri, and is soon approached by a servant who tells him of a being approaching the planet's orbit that has slaughtered its way through their spaceship armada.  The Ghost Rider arrives planetside and blows through the alien army on his way to Thanos, this Spirit of Vengeance that also possesses the Power Cosmic of Galactus as one of his former heralds.  He gets off of his space bike and approaches Thanos, telling him that he's there to bring him back to his master.  Thanos knocks hims aside, but Ghost Rider recovers and binds him in chains forged from the bones of Cyttorak.  Using a shard of the Time Stone, Ghost Rider drags Thanos into space and teleports them to Earth, millions of years in the future.  There, Thanos is brought before the Rider's master, an older version of Thanos himself who tells his younger counterpart that he's "already won".

ANNOTATIONS
The identity of the Cosmic Ghost Rider is revealed in Thanos (2017) # 15 and his origin told in Thanos (2017) # 16.

Podcast Review: Inner Demons Episode 17 - "Hanging Out in a Bookstore With Blade" (Click to Listen)

REVIEW
The new creative team on Thanos, Donny Cates and Geoff Shaw, introduce a major new element to the Ghost Rider mythos in the most unlikeliest of places.

It's pretty safe to say that Cosmic Ghost Rider, and this entire run on Thanos in general, has become a pretty big deal since this comic was released.  It's rare that a series catches on like wildfire, which is sure what Thanos has done since Cates and Shaw took over, but its even rarer for a character to become so popular so fast.  Cosmic Ghost Rider, you wild and crazy bastard, you've captured the hearts and minds of readers everywhere!

I joke about it, but it's really a testament to how great this comic is that it was so quickly the talk of everyone in the online comics community.  I'd never read anything by Cates before, but his narration here is immediately gripping and commands you to pay attention to it.  The description of the Chitauri's culture, with the "blood snow" and all, paints a picture that draws the readers into a world that, with a page turn, has just been destroyed by Thanos.  That character, the titular Thanos, is imagined here as a force of supernature that is unflagging and unstoppable, with it said outright that eventually "Thanos Wins" in the end.  That's the hook, the ultimate conceit even, of this storyarc, and it's approached in this way that makes it an inevitable fact.  For the first time since probably Jim Starlin's "Infinity Gauntlet", Thanos is actually terrifying.

The Cosmic Ghost Rider is where it's at, though, and at the heart of the character is the mystery of who exactly he truly is, what with the hint that he's someone we've seen before.  By this point everyone knows WHO he really is, since the big reveal a few issues down the line, but with just this issue there was a lot of speculation.  I went on record on the podcast that I thought it was (the very predictable) Deadpool, given the dialogue and attitude of the character.  I was glad to be proven wrong, because I don't really like Deadpool and I really really like Cosmic Ghost Rider.

Geoff Shaw's artwork is paired perfectly with Cates' story, and it's a wonder I've not seen this guy's work before, because it's awesome.  His approach to draw Thanos as this towering force under which everyone cowers is brilliant, and is only aided when Ghost Rider is the one character who easily steps in and demolishes Thanos' bravado.  The Ghost Rider's design is appropriately unique for a character who is both a Spirit of Vengeance AND a Herald of Galactus, it just screams "Space Biker" in a very cool way.  The action is handled well, and everything just syncs up just right between the script and the artwork.  Very nicely done.

Thanos is a series that was a real revelation to me, because I in no way expected it to be THIS fucking good.  Come here for Cosmic Ghost Rider, stay for the fantastic story being told by Cates and Shaw.

Grade: A+

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Cosmic Ghost Rider launches on July 4th!

The creative team and release date for the Cosmic Ghost Rider mini-series has been revealed as, respectively, Donny Cates & Dylan Burnett and July 4th 2018!  Here's some artwork and quotes from the article on Marvel.com:

He’s commanded the page in a blaze of glory…and now, this July, he’ll embark on his own solo adventure in COSMIC GHOST RIDER, an all-new limited series written by the character’s co-creator Donny Cates with art by one of the industry’s hottest new artists, Dylan Burnett!
The alternate future version of Frank Castle has become a fan-favorite since debuting in THANOS #13, stealing the spotlight with his crazy antics and wild origin story—and in this five-issue story, Cates and Burnett promise to pull out all the stops as Cosmic Ghost Rider’s plans for a better universe come to fruition…however crazy they may be.
“Cosmic Ghost Rider is such a blast to work on,” says Cates. “It’s honestly pretty overwhelming how much the Marvel fans have embraced this crazy character, and I’m having so much fun continuing the Rider’s insane story! If you thought ‘Thanos Wins’ was wild…you just wait to see what we have planned for everyone’s new favorite space lunatic!”
Don’t miss the spectacular solo adventures of COSMIC GHOST RIDER, when everyone’s favorite twisted ally blasts into comic shops on July 4!

Click on All Images to Enlarge




Agents of SHIELD Episode 4.05: "Lockup"


SYNOPSIS
Over five years ago, scientists Jacob and Lucy Bauer break into the basement of an abandoned home, which features posters from the Quentin Carnival and other miscellaneous items.  Jacob comments that this is the home of the person who killed the previous owner of the Darkhold, so the book must be there.  They locate the book and discover that the pages are blank...until words magically appear in the first language of the reader. 

In the present day, Coulson and Mack visit the formerly comatose Jacob, who tells them that Lucy has the book before he dies.  However, when Lucy attempts to read the book, she finds that her ghostly state keeps her from being able to read it.  Coulson decides that they need to extract Eli Marrow from prison, believing that he may be Lucy's next target, but orders Robbie Reyes to stay aboard the Zephyr.  When Coulson and May enter the warden's office, they discover that he and all of his staff have been infected by Lucy; seeing the SHIELD agents as demons, the security guards attempt to kill them.  Mack leads a strike team that includes Daisy Johnson and Robbie into the prison to rescue the other agents; while Daisy convenes with Coulson and May, Robbie and Mack go to find Eli.  Lucy opens the prison cell doors, allowing a large number of prisoners to chase the agents, forcing Daisy to have a suicidal showdown that nearly costs her her life.  May and Coulson are able to locate and save her.

Meanwhile, as they make their way through the prison, Robbie finds the last remaining member of the Fifth Street Locos gang, Santino Noguera, in his cell.  Mack is able to keep him on mission, and they quickly encounter the other two members of Lucy's ghostly scientist team.  Robbie kills the two ghosts with a fiery chain, but not before Mack is infected and forced to inject himself with the antidote.  They locate Eli and break him out, but Mack has to stop and assist with rescuing some guards, telling Robbie to escort his uncle out of the prison.  On the way, however, Robbie again passes Noguera's cell and is unable to resist the need for vengeance.  He tells Eli to keep going through the prison to meet up with SHIELD outside, then enters the prisoner's cell.  Robbie asks about the drive-by shooting that left his brother Gabe in a wheelchair, and Noguera tells him that he was hired by someone else to do that job, but he doesn't know their name.  Robbie transforms into the Ghost Rider and burns the man alive, then walks out of the cell block.  Outside, he meets up with the assembled SHIELD agents, but his uncle is nowhere to be seen...he has, in fact, been caught by Lucy and is forced to drive them out via an ambulance as her prisoner. 

Later, SHIELD Director Jeffrey Mace meets with Senator Nadeer, who he had just had a television debate against regarding the Inhuman population.  She shows him security camera footage of the Ghost Rider, asking why SHIELD is working with a murderer, and blackmails Mace into doing her an unrevealed favor.

REVIEW
Thank Hell for Netflix, because it's been over a year since I stopped work on the Agents of SHIELD episode reviews!

It's actually a boon, though, to be able to go back and rewatch the Ghost Rider arc on the show, at least for review purposes.  It was thrilling to watch each episode as it first aired, but that also made some of the story elements harder to follow and made the ongoing Darkhold/Momentum Labs plot kind of convoluted (okay, ridiculously nonsensical) on a week to week basis.  Being able to binge, or even just watch an episode a night like I've been doing recently, has made things click together a lot better than I thought they did after those initial first viewings.

While the last couple of episodes took some side tangents into Inhumans related plots involving the Watchdogs, they did at least serve to bring Quake and Ghost Rider onto SHIELD's team in an official capacity, instead of being outliers doing their own thing in the periphery. This episode brings the Momentum Labs mystery to the forefront by finally revealing the Darkhold, which also had that wonderful flashback scene full of Ghost Rider Easter Eggs.  There was the Quentin Carnival posters modeled after the cover of Ghost Rider (1973) # 67, the leather jacket, and the chains...that was Johnny Blaze's house, right?  I mean, it HAD to be his house, especially given Bauer's comments about the home being owned by the killer of the Darkhold's last owner.

The Momentum Labs stuff continues to be a bit murky, but again the rewatch helps to clarify a lot of things I had lingering questions about, such as what exactly happened to the scientists and why Morrow was in jail instead of being a ghost himself.  The real star and rightful focus of the episode is Gabriel Luna, who continues to turn in a fascinating performance as Robbie Reyes.  He's what really holds this whole storyline together, and he's enough to make the convoluted Darkhold plot tolerable.  The other actors get some moments as well, with the Daisy vs. prisoners action sequence particularly notable as being high-quality entertainment. 

The Ghost Rider, naturally, only gets a few minutes of screen time, starting with that always impressive transformation sequence.  The special effects required to bring the character to the screen are obviously expensive, so I can forgive the show for not showcasing him as much as I'd like.  This time, though, it seems like it's TOO brief even with that caveat.  The next episode makes up for it with some great Ghost Rider moments, but this one still leaves me feeling unsatisfied. 

The show's Ghost Rider/Darkhold storyline still has a few episodes to go, and even on the rewatch is holding my interest and making me want to continue watching.  I think that's a pretty good sign of quality.