A lot of bad ideas came out of '90s comicbooks, but this has to be one of the worst.
Michael Badalino witnessed his father's gradual descent into madness following an encounter with the John Blaze Ghost Rider and later became a member of a special New York City police unit whose assigned function was to bring down the Dan Ketch Ghost Rider. Unaware this Ghost Rider was not the one who had struck down his father, Badilino became obsessed with slaying the vigilante. When his attempts failed, Badilino turned to Mephisto for assistance. Badilino believed Mephisto claimed his soul and transformed him into an entity known as Vengeance. In truth, however, Mephisto had merely activated a power that already lurked deep within Badilino's soul. Unbeknownst to Michael, inside him lay a shard of the great Medallion of Power, an occult object that contained the essence of the Spirits of Vengeance.
Vengeance was, in short, a pretty crappy character. He was a kewler version of Ghost Rider, and let's just take a minute to ponder how stupid that is: Ghost Rider is already a hellspawned demon biker with a flaming skull for a face - how much cooler than that can you actually get?
First of all, Vengeance gets his name from Ghost Rider's catchphrase, "vengeance is mine." That'd be like having Wolverine fight a guy named Bub or The Best There Is. Stupid. Writer Howard Mackie's original concept, an "anti-Ghost Rider," was sound, but it soon got turned into that muddled mess up above, making Vengeance just yet another Marvel antihero rather than a true villain.
He was co-created by Adam Kubert, possibly the worst designer working in comics today. The guy is a perfectly serviceable artist, but hardly deserving of superstar status. And lest you think I'm over-reacting to one crummy character, remember that he's the same guy who did this.
Anyway, Kubert's idea of a kewlified GR involved more pokey metal bits, more bones, a nearly simian skull with a ridge of spikes, a set of fangs that even a sabretooth would be proud of and an exposed ribcage. Oh, and for some reason, his bones were purple. KEWL!
The character design may be a mess, but the figure recreates it all faithfully. Vengeance was always bigger than the other two Ghost Riders, so the toy is bulkier, as well. Maybe not as broad across the chest and shoulders as he could be, but he definitely looks ready to throw someone a beating.
The detail on his clothes is the typical high level we expect from ToyBiz. There are lots of tiny cracks and wrinkles in his leather jacket, and they even got the seams in his jeans right. The tiny bones on his forearms are really sculpted well, looking like a long, unbroken strand that's been wrapped around his arm. The larger bones of his belt and bandolier are also handled well, though they have the exaggerrated look of dog biscuits.
There are a few problems that might annoy perfectionists. To accomodate the spikes on his head, the translucent flame halo hangs off the back of his skull like some kind of eldrich combover. Plus, the spikes on his shoulders are supposed to run horizontally, not straight back. But really, who actually remembers Vengeance well enough for that to bother them?
The prototype photos showed Vengeance with a skull and ribs that were almost the color of real bones, while the final product is true to the comics: for some reason, his bones are the same purple as his pants. You get the feeling that he was originally supposed to be black, but that the purple was just due to the limitations of the coloring technology of the day.
The paint apps are pretty bad. The white from the bones he wears spills onto his black jacket and vice versa. Ditto with the silver zipper and spikes. There's a nice wash on the bones, and it really looks good on his forearms, but a similar effort on the legs seems to exist only below the knees.
Getting a good face is particularly difficult. The brushing of orange around his eyes is very unpredictable and uneven, and the paint that separates his teeth often stray far from the sculpted lines. The metal of his boots looks appropriately aged, though the black of his feet tends to stray too high. It is possible to find a Vengeance with no major paint problems, but be prepared to do some searching.
There are no surprises in the articulation, unless you count the fact that Vengeance's jaw moves. Other than that, we get the standard 30-ish Marvel Legends joints. There's no chest or torso joint, due to the exposed ribs. The ribs are soft rubber so that they don't break off, but that also means they can get bent in the package: yet another problem area to watch out for before you buy. The flames on the back of his head, coupled with the high flared collar of his jacket, keep his head from moving very far.
Series 11 of Marvel Legends is dubbed the "Legendary Riders," which means that each of the figures has transport of some sort. Of course, even if this wasn't the theme for the series, there's no way Vengeance would have come with anything other than his bike. Of course, it's just as kewl as its rider.
The body of the bike is just that: a body. It has the same general shape as a real motorcycle, but everything has been given an anatomical bent. The gas tank is a ribcage, the rear struts are tibiofibular and a pair of skeletal hands grip the front axle. Heck, the headlights form a face and the seat rests on a metallic approximation of a spine, complete with coccyx! How kewl is that!
The bike has flaming wheels cast in translucent orange plastic. To provide movement, each molded wheel has a tiny, free-rolling wheel underneath. The handlebars turn, but that's it as far as movement on the bike. There are no foot pegs for Vengeance, and he is instead held in place by two pegs that fit into the backs of his thighs. Yes, in addition to the small holes in the soles of his feet, he has big ones in his legs. Depending on how you pose him, Vengeance can either dangle his feet in the air or rest them on the ground: if you want his leg down, bend it at the upper knee joint; if you want him riding, bend it only at the lower one. The bike is 9" long; its rider, 7 1/8 tall - like the first ML Ghost Rider, that means the bike looks a little too small for him.
With a few definite problem areas, Vengeance isn't a figure you can just order online or grab without taking a close look at, but if you're a fan of the character or just find that his crazyass design appeals to you, the figure is a fine entry in the Marvel Legends line.
What's the dumbest Marvel character of the '90s? Tell us on our message board, the Loafing Lounge.