Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Inner Demons Episode 33: "Satanic Fanboys"



Inner Demons returns...in SPAAAAAACE!  This episode Brian and Chris review Cosmic Ghost Rider #s 3 and 4, which features a pretty detailed account on how to murder every hero in the Marvel Universe, Thanos Legacy # 1, which brings Cosmic Ghost Rider firmly into the present day, and What If?: Ghost Rider # 1, which is certainly a comic book that exists.  Throw up your devil horns and head bang until your neck breaks, it's the most metal episode of Inner Demons yet!

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

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Inner Demons Episode 32: "Ghost Rider Genisys"



After a long hiatus Inner Demons has returned to go back, way back, back into time!  This is our All New Avengers review episode, where Chris and Brian take a look at issues 6 through 9 of the new Avengers series!  We talk about Robbie Reyes getting his Pacific Rim on, how the first Ghost Rider's origin story has turned the character's history into a "Choose Your Own Adventure", and Namor's brilliant idea to put armor on sharks!

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

Monday, September 17, 2018

Inner Demons Episode 31: "Hulk Can't Breathe!"



Inner Demons returns with heavy hearts and sad tidings following the passing of Ghost Rider co-creator Gary Friedrich, who will missed by Flameheads everywhere.  This episode Chris and Brian review some classic comics, including Johnny Blaze's fight against the Hulk in Ghost Rider (1973) # 11, Danny Ketch's confrontation with Blackout in Ghost Rider (1990) # 15, and a return to the abandoned Quentin Carnival in Ghost Rider (2006) # 5.  Listen, enjoy, and then go read Marvel Spotlight # 5 in Mr. Friedrich's memory!

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

Friday, August 24, 2018

Inner Demons Episode 30: "Magical Snapbracelet"



Inner Demons would like to extend an apology to John Tesh, we had no idea you were actually the Devil and would very much like to keep our souls from frying in one of your lakes of hellfire.  Chris and Brian have some excellent comic reviews in this episode and perhaps your enjoyment of them would convince you to spare us, oh benevolent Lucifer?  You could listen to our thoughts on Cosmic Ghost Rider # 2 or Ghost Rider 2099 # 11, though perhaps you'd rather hear our critique of Mythos: Ghost Rider # 1, in which you bless the pages with your handsome visage?  Please don't poke us with that pitchfork, Mr. Tesh!

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

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Inner Demons Episode 29: "You Say He's Just a Friend"



Okay people, you don't need Inner Demons to tell you how awesome Ghost Rider is or how essential to your daily lives these comics truly are.  You certainly shouldn't have to listen to Chris and Brian as they thoughtfully do a critical autopsy on such works of four color art as Ghost Rider (1973) # 9, Ghost Rider (1990) # 14, and Ghost Rider (2006) # 4.  You don't NEED such an in-depth analysis in your lives, but wouldn't you just give anything to have it?  Wouldn't you sell...YOUR SOUL????

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

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

The 20 Greatest Ghost Rider Stories of All Time: 9-12

One of the most requested features from the old Vengeance Unbound site was the "Top 10 Ghost Rider Comics of All Time" list that was put up way back in 2010.  You can still find it using the Wayback Machine, but it was something I've always meant to not just import from the old site but update to reflect changing opinions and comics that have been released in the near-decade since the list's initial publication.

I also made two big decisions regarding the list: the first time I made this list, I incorporated a lot of fan opinions via a write-in e-mail campaign and social media through the Vengeance Unbound Facebook page.  This time, I decided to just put up my own list.  I've been reviewing these comics for nearly 20 years now, I figure if anyone's an authority on the best Ghost Rider stories, it's this humble asshole right here.  Also, just because I can, the list is now the Top TWENTY Greatest Ghost Rider stories instead of the Top Ten. 

This post takes us past the halfway point of the list, and you're probably seeing some of your favorites show up.  Still plenty of surprises, though, as we go from entry 12 down through entry 9!

# 12
Ghost Rider (1973) # 35
Title: "Deathrace"
Writer: Jim Starlin
Artist: Jim Starlin

By the end of the 1970s, writer/artist Jim Starlin had already proven himself to be an incredible creative force due to his work on Marvel's cosmic titles, such as Captain Marvel and Warlock. So it came as a bit of a surprise when he turned up on a fill-in issue of Ghost Rider, where he unleashed a story about Johnny Blaze literally racing Death itself through the desert.  In the hands of a lesser creator, such an idea could have come off as horribly cliched. Starlin's concept, however, proved to be an incredible look into Blaze's lifestyle. Here was a character who literally "raced death" every time he performed a stunt on his cycle, and now he was being forced to perform such an act in the most literal way possible. In the end, Johnny did what he does best - he cheated Death at the finish line. And "Deathrace!" instantly became a classic issue of the original Ghost Rider series.

From the original review: "And of such talent is Starlin that he's able to take an arguably cheesy concept like "biker races Death for his life" and transform it into one of the better Ghost Rider stories of this period. Even though the cheese-factor still remains in the "Death Ryder" name that Blaze gives his opponent, the story is as straight-forward and scary as it should be. Johnny is probably the best stunt-cyclist in the world, but what good are his daredevil feats against a being that can't fear death because it IS death?"

You can read this story in the Ghost Rider: Trials & Tribulations, Ghost Racers, and Essential Ghost Rider vol. 2 trade paperbacks or digitally on Comixology and Marvel Unlimited.

[Read the original review of Ghost Rider (2011) # 6]

# 11
Ghost Rider (2006) # 11-12
Title: "Apocalypse Soon"
Writer: Daniel Way
Artist: Javier Saltares

It's perhaps surprising that the best story-arc of Daniel Way's run was a seemingly inconsequential tie-in to a summer crossover event, but there you go.  Johnny Blaze's futile attempt to stop the Hulk was a brilliant approach for exploring not just the relationship between Blaze and the Spirit of Vengeance but also the demon's perceptions on who is truly deserving of vengeance.  The ending to this two-issue story was a pitch perfect twist on the Ghost Rider's mission and, while ultimately meaningless to the wider event, was easily one of the best modern day Ghost Rider stories.

From the original review: "I'm sorry guys, but this issue is just straight-up brilliant. All through the issue, I was thinking "come on, Ghost Rider would do WAY better against the Hulk than THIS!", and I was right! The pitch-perfect ending to this issue lays it all out on the table: the Ghost Rider could very well stop the Hulk, but the Ghost Rider isn't interested in this fight any more than the Hulk himself is. Johnny Blaze, the "human safety switch", is the one that picked the fight and he has no idea how to win. Every great idea he has, which every time ends with him thinking "I did it!", fails to even slow the Hulk down. Only when the Hulk takes Johnny out of the equation does the real Ghost Rider make himself known. That two-page explosion, which I would normally rag on as the over-used trope it really is, works perfectly in this issue. Johnny Blaze was the pin on the grenade, and when removed the Ghost Rider explodes."

You can read this story in the Ghost Rider by Daniel Way: The Complete Collection and Ghost Rider: Apocalylpse Soon trade paperbacks or digitally on Comixology and Marvel Unlimited.

[Read the original review for Ghost Rider (2006) # 12]
[Read the original review for Ghost Rider (2006) # 13]

# 10
Ghost Rider (1990) Annual # 2
Title: "Wish For Pain"
Writer: Warren Ellis
Artist: Javier Saltares

Back in 1994, before he became a superstar in the field, Warren Ellis was just starting his career at Marvel - and during that time, he penned this fill-in Annual on Ghost Rider. Little did anyone suspect that it would become a defining story for the Scarecrow, filled with insights into his psychopathy and some truly memorable scenes. Add in the long-awaited return of artist Javier Saltares to Ghost Rider, and you've got the makings of a classic. What put this issue over the top to ensure its inclusion on this list? The ending, where Ghost Rider breaks every bone in Scarecrow's body then holds them in place so his rapid healing factor would heal the bones incorrectly.

From the original review: "Many writers, upon approaching Ghost Rider, run with the superhero aspect, while others focus more on the urban vigilante scenario. Ellis, on the other hand, has approached this story with his eye more on telling a true horror story focusing on the deranged mind of a serial killer. Scarecrow is a character that had previously fit in quite well in the Ghost Rider series during his previous appearances, but had sort of faded away during the whole Midnight Sons/"Siege of Darkness" era. This is his comeback as one of the Rider's main antagonists, and the story is disturbing both in its brutality and the insight Ellis gives us to the Scarecrow's twisted thought process."

Unfortunately, this story has never been reprinted in trade paperback format and is not available digitally.

[Read the original review for Ghost Rider (1990) Annual # 2]

# 9
Ghost Rider/Blaze: Spirits of Vengeance (1992) # 3
Title: "Fathers"
Writer: Howard Mackie
Artist: Adam Kubert

In the fringes of the "Rise of the Midnight Sons" crossover, Howard Mackie continued to lay the groundwork for what was going to drive the direction of this new series.  Ghost Rider, it turned out, was essentially a supporting character in what was turning out to be a complex and compelling character study of John Blaze and how he had changed from free-wheeling stunt cyclist to middle aged father.  This issue, which introduced Skinner as one of the most memorable antagonists of the 90s Ghost Rider run, really drove home that desperation one can feel as a father and the lengths some people will go to "protect" them.  It's an absolutely frightening comic and yet another great spotlight for Blaze under the creative team of Mackie and Kubert.

From the original review: "I could talk about Skinner forever, he's one of the best villains Ghost Rider ever faced, and he's a perfect counterpoint to John Blaze.  I think that's why the character only really worked when it was Blaze that he was interacting with, when he did make appearances later to just fight Ghost Rider that personal connection wasn't there anymore.  It's already evident, though, that Spirits of Vengeance was going to focus much more on Blaze than it would Ghost Rider, and that was necessary to make the book more than just an afterthought beside the regular Ghost Rider series.  Introducing characters like Skinner, and later Vengeance, was what made this book such a success in its first year and definitely highlighted what was going wrong with its sister title (which was busy introducing more of those one-dimensional villains like Succubus and Death Ninja)."

You can read this story in the Spirits of Vengeance: Rise of the Midnight Sons trade paperback or digitally on Comixology and Marvel Unlimited.

[Read the original review of Ghost Rider/Blaze: Spirits of Vengeance (1992) # 3]

If you'd like to discuss the list as it's being revealed feel free to comment on this post, on Twitter or on the Facebook page!

Monday, July 30, 2018

The 20 Greatest Ghost Rider Stories of All Time: 13-16

One of the most requested features from the old Vengeance Unbound site was the "Top 10 Ghost Rider Comics of All Time" list that was put up way back in 2010.  You can still find it using the Wayback Machine, but it was something I've always meant to not just import from the old site but update to reflect changing opinions and comics that have been released in the near-decade since the list's initial publication.

I also made two big decisions regarding the list: the first time I made this list, I incorporated a lot of fan opinions via a write-in e-mail campaign and social media through the Vengeance Unbound Facebook page.  This time, I decided to just put up my own list.  I've been reviewing these comics for nearly 20 years now, I figure if anyone's an authority on the best Ghost Rider stories, it's this humble asshole right here.  Also, just because I can, the list is now the Top TWENTY Greatest Ghost Rider stories instead of the Top Ten. 

The bottom four spots on the list touched on just about every distinct era of the character's history, and this group of four follows suit.  Here are entries 16 through 13!

# 16
Ghost Rider/Wolverine/Punisher: Hearts of Darkness
Title: "Hearts of Darkness"
Writer: Howard Mackie
Artist: John Romita Jr.

This one-shot special edition paired together the three most popular characters of the early 1990s and was unsurprisingly a huge financial success.  This bookshelf format special is essentially a Ghost Rider story, written by Howard Mackie and drawn by John Romita Jr. as a comic that eventually ballooned out to include his famous co-stars.  It reads as a perfect companion to Mackie's ongoing Ghost Rider series and lays the seeds for a whole host of future story threads and doubles as both an exciting adventure story and a fascinating exploration on vigilante justice in the Marvel Universe.

From the original review: "While readers today may roll their eyes at the idea of a bookshelf format crossover between Ghost Rider, Wolverine, and the Punisher, dismissing it as another of Marvel's shameless cash-ins of their most popular (at the time) characters, there's actually a lot more to this book than a simple cash grab. Of course, in 1991 this book was essentially just an excuse for Marvel to make money hand over fist, this thing sold like crazy, but for a lot of Ghost Rider fans it holds up as one of the premier stories of the era. I'm one of those fans, I love "Hearts of Darkness"."

You can read this story in the Ghost Rider/Wolverine/Punisher: Hearts of Darkness trade paperback or digitally on Comixology and Marvel Unlimited.

[Read the original review of Ghost Rider/Wolverine/Punisher: Hearts of Darkness]

# 15
Ghost Rider (2006) # 33
Title: "Trials & Tribulations, Part 1: Once Were Ghost Riders"
Writer: Jason Aaron
Artist: Tony Moore

Jason Aaron and Tony Moore produced what was, essentially, a history of the Ghost Riders of America in a one-shot tale that stretches from the Great Flood to the promise of the far future.  Anchored by the story of Sister Sara, the new Caretaker, "Once Were Ghost Riders" throws concept and increasingly wild concept at the reader on every page, while simultaneously laying out Aaron's new origin for the Spirits of Vengeance in a direct and concise manner.  It's the briefest of looks into the history of the Ghost Rider concept that leaves you wanting to know more about every character introduced.

From the original review: "A lot has been made of the idea that Aaron has turned Ghost Rider into a "legacy hero" during his run, with the current Rider being just the latest in a long string of past incarnations. Its certainly not a concept that's new to the Ghost Rider mythos, as he became a legacy hero way back in 1990 when Dan Ketch took up the cycle and later writers added elements like Vengeance and Noble Kale. But it absolutely can be said that no writer has taken the idea to the extremes that Aaron has, especially in this issue - and that's saying something, considering a couple of issues ago showed us a Spirit of Vengeance on a freaking shark. But when it comes right down to it, you're going to have one of two opinions on the crazy-ass ideas Aaron throws as it us in this issue: you'll either think a Ghost Rider version of Lone Wolf McQuaid is the coolest thing you've ever seen or the dumbest. Personally, I think it's awesome."

You can read this story in the Ghost Rider: Trials & Tribulations trade paperback or digitally on Comixology and Marvel Unlimited.

[Read the original review for Ghost Rider (2006) # 33]

# 14
Ghost Rider (1973) # 80-81
Title: "The End of the Ghost Rider"
Writer: J.M. DeMatteis
Artist: Bob Budiansky

For ten years Johnny Blaze had fought the demon possessing him and, faced with his title's impending cancellation, actually got the happy ending that he deserved.  DeMatteis and Budiansky had been building to this story throughout their brief run, giving the demon a name, introducing his immortal nemesis, and bringing Roxanne Simpson back for the first time in years.  It all came together to bring Johnny's story to an end an unpredictable but wildly entertaining manner, capping off a brilliant run of comics in this title's last year.

From the original review: "While I would have loved to see the series continue under this creative team, I can't deny that they produced a pitch-perfect conclusion to the series that didn't leave a dry eye in the house. This is one magnificent, if bittersweet, comic."

You can read this story in the Essential Ghost Rider vol. 4 trade paperback.

[Read the original review for Ghost Rider (1973) # 80]
[Read the original review for Ghost Rider (1973) # 81]

# 13
Ghost Rider: Trail of Tears (2007) # 1-6
Title: "Trail of Tears"
Writer: Garth Ennis
Artist: Clayton Crain

While the "Road to Damnation" mini-series may have been a disappointment, Ennis and Crain followed it up with the vastly superior "Trail of Tears" mini-series.  Focusing on the Ghost Rider of the Civil War era, "Tears" was an effective and engaging look at the cost of vengeance and the lengths men will go through to satisfy their need for revenge.  Featuring breathtaking artwork and a story that haunts you long after you finish reading, "Trail of Tears" is an absolutely brilliant tale of a past Rider.

From the original review: "Usually, when an issue of Ghost Rider doesn't feature Ghost Rider himself, I look down on it with a frown and sad heart.  That's not a problem here, though, mainly because throughout this series the Ghost Rider hasn't really been the protagonist.  Travis Parham is the lens through which the readers are viewing all of these events, while the Ghost Rider is just sort of this scary shadow that comes in to darken things up before vanishing again.  So allowing Travis to have the spotlight as someone trying to make sense of a world he can't understand is a welcome turn, because honestly this is Travis' story."

You can read this story in the Ghost Rider: Trail of Tears trade paperback and digitally on Comixology and Marvel Unlimited.

[Read the original review of Ghost Rider: Trail of Tears (2007) # 1]
[Read the original review of Ghost Rider: Trail of Tears (2007) # 2]
[Read the original review of Ghost Rider: Trail of Tears (2007) # 3]
[Read the original review of Ghost Rider: Trail of Tears (2007) # 4]
[Read the original review of Ghost Rider: Trail of Tears (2007) # 5]
[Read the original review of Ghost Rider: Trail of Tears (2007) # 6]

In a few days time I'll post up the next four entries in the Top 20, think you'll see your own favorite make the list?  If you'd like to discuss the list as it's being revealed feel free to comment on this post, on Twitter or on the Facebook page!