Friday, July 27, 2018

The 20 Greatest Ghost Rider Stories of All Time: 17-20

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.  So, without further ado, here are spots 17 through 20!

# 20 
Ghost Rider (2011) # 6
Title: untitled
Writer: Rob Williams
Artist: Dalibor Talajic

This untitled one-shot story is the sole representation of a series that was quickly cancelled back at the start of this decade.  The Alejandra Ghost Rider series is one that's not fondly remembered by fans and is one that in the future will likely just be a curious footnote in the character's history as Marvel's unsuccessful attempt to rebrand Ghost Rider.  Robbie Reyes was still a couple of years away at this point, but good for Marvel for attempting to bring something new to the mythos with the introduction of Alejandra Jones as the first female Ghost Rider to headline a series.  While the majority of this 10 issue series isn't the greatest, writer Rob Williams penned this one-shot that told a fascinating story about redemption and forgiveness contained within a swampy prison that was drawn with horrific detail by Dalibor Talajic.

From the original review: "Williams steps deep into horror territory with this issue, leaving behind the forced sarcasm and zany tongue-in-cheek dialogue for what I think is one of the more unsettling Ghost Rider stories ever produced.  In a lot of ways, it reminds me not just of the Michael Fleisher stories of the early 1980s, where Johnny Blaze would go from town to town interacting with weird events, but also Steve Gerber's Man-Thing series (and not just because of the swamp setting, I promise)."

You can read this story in the Ghost Rider: the Complete Series by Rob Williams trade paperback or digitally on Comixology and Marvel Unlimited.

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

# 19
Ghost Rider/Blaze: Spirits of Vengeance (1992) # 9-10
Title: "Carnival of Death"
Writer: Howard Mackie
Artist: Adam Kubert

While Spirits of Vengeance may have been the sister title to the 90s Ghost Rider series, there was no doubt which of the two was superior.  "Carnival of Death" was the culmination of numerous story threads revolving around the Quentin Carnival and the secrets held by John Blaze's closest friends and family.  The shocking turns of this storyline were coupled with the reveal of Centurious as the mastermind behind the last year's worth of Ghost Rider comics, finally bringing into play pieces of Howard Mackie's larger plot tapestry.  Then, of course, there was Vengeance, who made his brutal debut in a truly unforgettable fashion.  While Vengeance later became a victim of "anti-hero" syndrome that served to essentially neuter him, there's no denying how powerful his introduction as Ghost Rider antithesis truly was.

From the original review: ""Upping the ante" is a good theme to apply to this issue, as throughout the story things just keep getting worse and worse for our heroes. Having been destroyed by Mephisto and Steel Vengeance a few issues before, the Carnival is now at war with Steel Wind and her army of Stygian Demons - and that's at the start of this issue. Vengeance is quickly added in, and in a nice visual touch he's seen wading through the war zone as if the men and demons are nothing but gnats buzzing around him."

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

[Read the original review for Ghost Rider/Blaze: Spirits of Vengeance (1992) # 9]
[Read the original review for Ghost Rider/Blaze: Spirits of Vengeance (1992) # 10]

# 18
Ghost Rider (1973) # 69
Title: "Personal Demons"
Writer: Roger Stern
Artist: Bob Budiansky

Following their debut issue that retold the origin of Johnny Blaze, writer Roger Stern and artist Bob Budiansky (joined this issue by inker Dave Simons, who truly completed the team) produced this single-issue story that perfectly highlighted the struggle between Blaze and his demonic alter ego.  This was when the Ghost Rider of the early 1980s veered totally into the "monster" or even "villain" categories, showcasing just how wild and destructive a force the brimstone biker could be.

From the original review: "Up to this point, the Ghost Rider had already evolved away from being just Johnny with superpowers and had become its own entity, one that was violent and wrathful.  This version of the Ghost Rider, though, is the most outwardly malicious we had seen, and it is terrifying.  Usually, the demon would get his vengeance fix and then relinquish control back to Blaze, but now he's contemplating a visit to the Carnival and forcing Johnny to actually fight to regain his body.  The relationship between Blaze and Ghost Rider has now become openly antagonistic, and the demon has gone from teetering on the edge to hanging off the cliff of super-villainy." 

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

[Read the original review for Ghost Rider (1973) # 69]

# 17
Ghost Racers (2015) # 1-4
Title: "Ghost Racers"
Writer: Felipe Smith
Artist: Juan Gedeon

After he introduced the world to Robbie Reyes in All-New Ghost Rider, writer Felipe Smith dove into the alternate reality "Secret Wars" crossover with this truly ambitious mini-series.  Pulling together characters and concepts from every era of Ghost Rider history, Smith anchored this love letter to the Spirits of Vengeance with further exploration of Robbie Reyes as the newest Rider on the street.  Featuring just about every incarnation of Ghost Rider you can think of (Carter Slade!  Knuckles O'Shaugnessy!  Vengeance!), Ghost Racers was an Easter Egg filled demolition derby that is as fun as it is insane.

From the original review: "Doing an alternate reality mash-up story such as this one has its up side and its down side.  One one hand, it's viewed as inconsequential to the character's continuity, since nothing in its pages "counts" toward anything in the larger scheme of Ghost Rider history.  On the other hand, it allowed Felipe Smith to go as out-of-his-mind crazy with idea after idea as he could go while at the same time giving him carte blanche to mine the Ghost Rider chronology without seemingly nothing off limits.  I know continuity is important to a lot of fans, but I'll take more stories like this over continuity wanking any time.  This was a series that brought every Ghost Rider from Cater Slade to Zero Cochrane into one story, utilized the Secret Wars event to make it happen, and transformed a simple "Deathrace 2000" concept into a love letter to all iterations of the character.  That this series worked as well as it did is god damned amazing to me."

You can read this story in the Ghost Racers trade paperback and digitally on Comixology and Marvel Unlimited.

[Read the original review of Ghost Racers (2015) # 1]
[Read the original review of Ghost Racers (2015) # 2]
[Read the original review of Ghost Racers (2015) # 3]
[Read the original review of Ghost Racers (2015) # 4]

So there's our first four entries, all incredible stories from some amazing creative teams.  I'll be following up with the next four entries soon, so expect a really memorable team-up, some looks at Ghost Rider history, and a surprisingly happy ending.  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!