Why hello! I didn’t see you there. You appear to be the fans of that Unspoken Decade website. What a coincidence! I happen to be the author of several articles from the site you so love! That’s right! I am the Symbifan, and I was just about to begin the second part of my musings over the small period in time in which Vengeance was the replacement for Ghost Rider! Aren’t you lucky? Well, take a load off and I’ll regale you with my thoughts on the subject….
Our story begins with pain. Pain for the assassin known as Dread as Police Lt. Michael Badilino unleashes fury with his fists for the cop-killer. As his fellow officers attempt to hold the enraged man back, Dread simply smiles and offers nothing but ridicule. (Pretty tough talk for a man dressed in purple jammies! I know. I know. I said that in the last article. But come on! Seriously?!) Finally, Badilino is forced from the room by the others from his strike force. As he stomps through the police station, presumably to get some air, he is stopped by his Captain. The senior officer tells him that since he was the one who captured Dread, the Mayor wants him to be the one to talk to the press about the case. Against his will, as he is not the public speaking type, Badilino begrudgingly complies. (Ha! Go figure! A flaming skull-headed vigilante doesn’t like talking to the press? Nah, I’m sure he’s friendly! After all, he is always grinning!)
As Vengeance’s alter-ego does his best to answer the questions fired by a frenzied press, no one notices anything spectacular about a certain photographer for the Daily Bugle. And why would they? He seems to blend in perfectly with the crowd. Yes, no one would suspect that this mild-mannered agent of free speech has in fact saved this city more times than he could ever count. For this is Peter Parker, AKA The Amazing Spider-Man! (Wow! Quite the build up there! And I bet you had no idea I was gonna name Spidey as the photographer in his civilian identity, did you? What’s that? It was obvious?! It was the “mild-mannered” comment, wasn’t it? Hey, it could be Superman in disguise! Oh yeah, wrong company. Moving on….)
As Peter Parker takes his measure of the hero before him, something strange is occurring in the room Dread occupies in the police station. His body is mending! As the assassin heals, he mentally calls out to a creature he calls Rak. (The name makes you male readers wince in pain, doesn’t it?) He calls for aid. Rak seems to be the very same creature from last issue that Vengeance had trouble defeating! The monster answers Dread’s mental summons for help and leaps down to the crowd of unaware reporters below! As chaos quickly errupts, Parker slips away to change into an outfit more befitting the situation! Meanwhile, Badilino opens fire on the monstrosity but to no avail! Rak merely advances! The creature then backhands him away as simply as batting away a fly! It is then that Badilino changes himself. A moment later, Vengeance has entered the scene!
Vengeance wastes little time stomping toward his prey but is soon met by everyone’s favorite wall-crawler as he swings down to help! Both heroes have few words for one another but rather leap into action like the pros they are. It looks like the monstrosity known as Rak will be quickly defeated since it’s now outnumbered! But wait! The odds quickly change as Dread has escaped! The killer wastes little time and strikes out at our flame-headed hero while Spider-Man battles the behemoth known as Rak! It seems like a good strategy: divide and conquer. The only problem is that the two heroes begin to argue over whether the villains’ lives should be terminated! (I bet you know which side Vengeance takes in this debate! Damn blood-thirsty Spider-Man! Just kidding!)
As this conflict goes on, Dread seizes his opportunity and runs Vengeance through with his sword! It matters little to the dark vigilante, though, as he easily snaps the weapon in two and backhands Dread a good distance away! Vengeance then lets loose a huge blast from his chest cavity, seemingly from his injury! By this time, the villainous duo decide a retreat is in their best interests! Telling Spider-Man to handle the crowd, Vengeance makes a hasty retreat himself on his demonic bike. He speeds off in pursuit!
As the hellish biker roars down the streets in search of his prey, he is interrupted by the sudden appearance of the web-slinger who states that there is a better way. He placed a spider-tracer on the evil-doers during the scuffle! (Good ol’ Spidey! Now that’s an experienced hero right there! Makes me sorry I called him blood-thirsty earlier as for a goof. Oh well, as you now know, no one is safe from the sarcasm of the Mighty Symbifan!) The villains are soon tracked to their hideout where they are hooked up to strange machinery. They seem to be regenerating! Vengeance, being the stealth type, (Yeah, right!) kicks in the wall! Spidey catches up soon after and the battle begins!
The heroes and villains are soon caught up in mortal combat! It doesn’t take long for our heroes to gain the upper hand, however, when Rak is stabbed by one of Vengeance’s detachable shoulder spikes! Spider-Man then clocks Dread a good one, sending him sailing through the air and to the floor! Vengeance then attempts to stab Dread through the heart with another spike! This, of course, starts a back-and-forth verbal battle between the two heroes about the subject of murder. It doesn’t go on for long before the mysterious Hellgate makes an appearance at last! (Well, in astral form anyway. Wussy!) Hellgate catches his two minions up in an energy wave and they disappear! He then threatens Vengeance that he has now become an interest to him. Soon after, Hellgate disappears as well, leaving the heroes to go their own ways.
The last part of our journey takes us to Manhattan where a hostage situation is taking place at a convenience store. One hostage is already dead, two police officers wounded, and several still are being held against their will inside. As the surrounding officers go to move in, Vengeance arrives and strolls right in, straight through semi-automatic gunfire! As the barrage of bullets pass through Vengeance’s fiery form, the biker vigilante systematically takes the foolish criminals apart with brutal force! One of them actually gets the “wise” idea to use a machete where bullets have failed! (Dumbass, right?! Even Vengeance comments on it! That’s as stupid as throwing the gun at an enemy after firing an entire clip! God, I always hated that! Moron!) This, of course, does nothing but amuse the new Spirit of Vengeance.
After, Badilino decides that he just needs to take some time off from everything. The stress of his daily police duties along with his “night job” have finally taken it’s toll. He leaves the station and heads straight to Cypress Hill Cemetery. Meanwhile, the villain known only as Hellgate orders two of his operatives to bring Vengeance in alive! (Yeah, good luck with that, boys!) Returning to the cemetery, Badilino sits in deep thought at the mausoleum where Ghost Rider’s remains lie. But what’s this? Within, the empty eye-sockets of the grinning skull suddenly light up with an eerie glow! While this is happening, Hellgate’s operatives move into position. Sensing something awry, Badilino reaches in his jacket for his gun. While pulling the weapon free of it’s holster, it is seized and crushed by a large, green hand! Turning, the Hulk is revealed! (That’s right, folks! Things just got real in a very big way!)
Badilino bolts into the mausoleum, only to emerge moments later as Vengeance! The Hulk states how he’s only there to investigate Ghost Rider’s sudden disappearance, but his words fall on deaf ears as he’s blasted through a gravestone by hellfire! Understandably mad, the Hulk returns with a earth-shattering uppercut, sending the demonic warrior sailing through the air!
Hellgate’s operatives witness all that has transpired and decide to let the green behemoth tire Vengeance out before moving in. (Hmmm. These goons may not be quite as stupid as most henchmen are!) Vengeance returns with a low blow with what appears to be all of his might! (Yeah, that one hurt to even look at the picture, I’ve gotta admit!) Really mad now, Hulk attempts to retaliate when, unexpectedly, one of the henchmen gets antsy and fires at Vengeance! (Forget what I said earlier.)
With the proverbial cat now out of the bag, the operatives now start blasting at both combatants! Vengeance wastes little time and leaps to attack! The two are ready for this, however, and hold him in stasis in an energy field! This doesn’t last long as the Hulk uprooted a lamppost and strikes both assassins midflight! He then reaches down and lifts Vengeance to his feet. Surprisingly, the two fly back for more! This is easily halted by a well-timed sonic clap and two thrown shoulder spikes! The fight is soon over. Later, the two heroes sit in the graveyard as the veteran hero, the Hulk, gives Vengeance some advice: “Control the power. Don’t let it control you.” Well said words from a man who knows. As the two leave in friendship, the skull of Ghost Rider secretly flares to life, igniting into blazing hellfire!
Well, that’s it, fellow Legions of the Unspoken. Ghost Rider would return as the Spirit of Vengeance, and Vengeance himself would take second fiddle to the bigger star. I, however, would never forget the short time that Vengeance was “The Rider,” even though most other fans did. My reasoning is that even fictional superheroes deserve their own day in the sun. Don’t you think? We all do.
(This article is dedicated to my own personal hero, my son, James Miller. No matter what life throws at him, he perseveres and overcomes. I wish I could be more like him. Interesting note, he has a large Vengeance action figure that looks down at him from his dresser. A gift from his biggest fan, me.)