If you’re a fan of the ’90s Ghost Rider series, get ready as Howard Mackie and Javier Saltares get back in the saddle to spring Michael Badilino from Hell. In this complicated issue, which was supposed to be an annual until the latest Ghost Rider series was canceled, we are lucky enough to get another character back in the Ghost Rider mythos. But the big question is what is their mission, and even for some: who is this? Some might even be confused because the last Vengeance we had was a different character from the Jason Aaron run as we only knew him as Deputy Kowalski. So this issue will have quite the challenge to unravel and entertain many Ghost Rider fans across different time periods.
This issue focuses on the original Vengeance, Michael Badilino, who I felt at the time was a spinoff of the original but with a harder edge. Like how Venom was a way darker Spider-Man, this is a “Ghost Rider” who packs a mean streak to him. So Badilino “died” back in Ghost Rider Vol. 3 #76 published back in August of 1996, which means he has been off the pages for quite a while in the real world. Mackie does a great job with setting up an issue that works as an introduction to who the character is, has a cheeky way of explaining real world and story time, and even the other characters in this issue work great with Badilino which will lead ’90s Ghost Rider fans to some great history Easter eggs there. Obviously Mackie has some stake in this as this is a character he co-created, but it is nice for us as readers because you know there is a bond bewteen writer and character, making for a story that means that much more.
The first couple of pages work nicely to establish that Badilino doesn’t have much to live for outside of Vengeance, going into a tight recap of how he entered the world of the Spirits of Vengeance. Javier Saltares really gets to shine in the recap, packing in action and history into these panels in a way that looks great and brings back some memories. After the recap, the story really takes off as we learn Badilino is in Hell to be a warrior for entertainment, and much to our surprise, his first opponent, Skinner, is quite helpful. I really like the way Mackie uses Skinner and Hellgate in this story as it really plays to those characters and the motivations they would have in their dire situations. This works out as quite the bad/good guy buddy cop scenario while they all travel across Hell.
The art across this issue is just a strong testament to Saltares’ work as it is still clean in a wild world filled with life, death, and beyond. After getting to read this, I went back and looked at Saltares’ Ghost Rider issues from the ’90s, and while I remembered them being very dark, colorist Arif Prianto does a great job of lightening the mood up with his choices of coloring inspired by Hell-fire which works to help enhance that clean and serious vibe this issue gives. It’s nice to see the creative team come together to keep the “Rider Fires” alive and even bring in another major player to the mythos; now, the next big question is what will Marvel do with all the Spirits of Vengeance?
Ghost Rider: Return of Vengeance #1 is a good issue that brings back another rider to the mystical parts of the Marvel Universe. It’s a strong read that introduces the character to new fans while staying true his roots for longtime readers, all the while reminding us that there is more to Vengeance and his ways.
Like what we do here at AIPT? Consider supporting us and independent comics journalism by becoming a patron today! In addition to our sincere thanks, you can browse AIPT ad-free, gain access to our vibrant Discord community of patrons and staff members, get trade paperbacks sent to your house every month, and a lot more. Click the button below to get started!