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"Making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil."

~Ephesians 5:16

Sunday, February 19, 2012

RETRO REVIEW: Ghost Rider: Vicious Cycle

Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance was released into theaters this past Friday. Ghost Rider is the type of concept that when you look at it, the word 'cool' comes to mind. Prior to this series, the Rider hadn't had a comic book in awhile. He had a miniseries prequel called Road to Damnation a year before, but the last ongoing was the famous Danny Ketch series, which ran from the 90's to the early 2000s. Sadly, the book was canceled due to low sales. So the Ghost Rier character was in limbo for a few years. Then a year before the 2007 film came out, Daniel Way and Mark Texeira unleashed a new ongoing series with Johnny Blaze. So at that time, Ghost Rider was re-sparked. In the coming paragraphs I talk about the first arc, Vicious Cycle.


It's the Devil's favorite poison.

Those are the first words of this arc, while Ghost Rider is zooming toward the 'exit' of Hell. Then it turns out to be a fake gateway. Issue #1 is one of the single best starts to a Marvel comic series I've ever read, and the second best Ghost Rider comic. (Only behind the legendary Tony Isabella #9 one.) It's Johnny blaze in Hell, literally. This is how you start a Ghost Rider series, this is where the films should take cue on how to do the character. The villain is Lucifer, the Devil. No, none of that Mephisto nonsense, this is the ACTUAL Devil. Yes, I never really liked that plot twist of Johnny making a deal with Mephisto who 'pretends' to be the Devil. This brings the Ghost Rider series to its very early roots. Daniel Way's portrayl of Lucifer is jusr spot-on. Evil of course, but a hint of sarcasm. It's a great portrayal.

Many prefer Jason Aaron to Daniel Way on the title. Not me, I prefer the latter a lot more. In my opinion, the book fell flat when Jason Aaron took over at Issue #20. So here we have Johnny, who is stuck in Hell looking for a way out. Meanwhile, the Devil is in his castle, watching, manipulating him. I find it really interesting how Way portrays Hell and how it works. The Devil is the king, and then there's the Lake of Fire section for the souls that don't make it to Heaven. So he just watches them burn, it's a really interesting perspective. Ghost Rider eventually runs into this little demonic thing who claims he can help him get out of Hell. It turns out, however, that the demon was Lucifer in disguise. In today's media world, it's hard to surprise a reader/viewer, cause everything has been done before. Like, in a lot today's horror movies, the 'scares' are so cliche, it's hard to be surprised by them. But that scene was truly unexpected. What follows at the end of the issue is Johnny making it back to earth, but he brought the Devil along with him.

Issue #2 is a real highlight. We get a great confrontation between the two near the middle with great splash page of Ghost Rider standing in front of Lucifer. The most dramatic scene in the whole arc was when Ghost Rider was inches apart from Lucifer, and the latter had a bunch of matches to blow up a van full with people. Meanwhile if Ghost Rider takes another step, he will inadvertently blow up the van. It's a lose lose situation. And then one person in the van decides to take matters into her own hands and hits the ignition key. That in turn blows up the van. Ghost Rider falls to the ground in sorrow and having failed to be a 'protector of innocents' while the Devil rides away in a car smiling and laughing, it's a truly dramatic and emotional moment. Then at the end of issue #2, Doctor Strange decides to make an appearance.

Now this is my only real complaint. The writing and battle is very good, (let's just say that if anyone said Doctor Strange could beat Ghost Rider, this issue would set you straight) but the problem is that they don't seem to know each other. Doctor Strange says his name, but Johnny Blaze doesn't give recognition to him at all. Why are they fighting you ask? Well, he thinks the Doc is Lucifer in disguise. It's a valid thing to think, but in the end after he does the Penance Stare, he says, "This man is innocent." It's like he never met or heard of Doctor Strange. Look at that fantastic cover to Issue #2. I mean, I think that is one of the best comic book covers of all time. Texeira is a monster with these covers, not to mention the art inside is great. Especially in Issue #1, it gives Hell  a 'cool' yet terrifying look. It looks like how we all picture it, but at the same time, giving it a new edge never before seen in any type pf media.

Overall, Vicious Cycle is a definitive Ghost Rider story. If you've ever been curious about the character and looking for an entry-point, this story is the way to go. If you just came back from watching Spirit of Vengeance and looking to read about the character, this is the way to do it. Or maybe if you left the film disappointed, thinking the character and his universe is nothing but mindless action and corny writing with no plot, read this story, it will change your mind. The story features Johnny Blaze, the true Ghost Rider. It features a great story, Hell, and the Devil, the actual Devil. The writing is solid and the art is great. Vicious Cycle is a great story for old and new fans alike.


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