THE ORIGINAL GHOST RIDER RIDES AGAIN # 7
During their cross-country trip, Johnny and Roxanne stop to make camp for a night. After Roxanne gives Johnny the cold shoulder and retires to her tent, Blaze notices a strange fog rolling toward them. Out of the fog comes a pack of wolves, who hungrily attack the couple. Afraid that they'll kill Roxanne, Johnny allows the Ghost Rider to emerge and the demon quickly causes the animals to retreat back into the forest. Roxanne recoils in horror as she sees for herself just how much the Ghost Rider has changed since she last encountered him, but offers no words of solace to Johnny as he regains control over his body.
When the two arrive in Holly, Roxanne's family invites Domblue for dinner, in order for him to meet Johnny. While Roxanne's aunt and uncle appear afflicted by the Sin-Eater, her cousin Charlie is not. During the dinner, he calls the pastor out as evil, and that the two need to have a talk. The two leave, and later that night Charlie comes into Johnny's room. His face is devoid of all emotion as he speaks of how wonderful Domblue is.
The next day, Johnny and Roxanne attend the pastor's church service. After his fiery speech, he calls out for those who have yet to receive his touch to come forward. Johnny gets up, deciding to find out if he's truly a fraud or not. Blaze lays upon the alter, not noticing several green tendrils that emerge from the floor beside him. Johnny's soul begins to rise out of him, but instead of submitting, he shrieks and triggers the transformation into the Ghost Rider. The demon smacks the Sin-Eater away, only to have another man step from behind a curtain: Centurious, the Soulless Man. The two battle, but soon the Rider tires, giving Blaze a chance to regain control. Centurious shows him the source of his power, the Soul Crystal, which is where the Sin-Eater has deposited the souls of Holly. He then tells Blaze his story; he was a prince that had been alive during Zarathos reign on Earth, used by Mephisto to lay the demon low. He wandered for centuries, eventually coming across the Soul Crystal. His chance meeting with the Ghost Rider weeks before had stirred his memories and hatred of the demon, and in a search for anything to use against him, came across Roxanne. Centurious then offers Blaze a choice: either submit to the Soul Crystal, or have the same fate bestowed on Roxanne. Blaze rushes forward as the tendrils of the Crystal extend, ripping the soul from his body.
"The End of the Ghost Rider!": Johnny Blaze's soul has been trapped inside Centurious' Soul Crystal, leaving his body a mindless husk. Centurious, the Sin-Eater, and their zombie followers leave the church, allowing Roxanne Simpson to take Johnny back to her aunt's house in hopes of helping him. In the void, Zarathos realizes that Blaze's soul is gone, so the demon is able to take possession of the body. The Ghost Rider is free from Blaze's influence, so he creates a hellfire cycle and leaves Roxanne to gain his vengeance on Centurious. Meanwhile, Blaze finds his soul being devoured slowly by the Soul Crystal.
Zarathos finds Centurious and attacks, quickly overpowering his foe. Just as quickly, however, the Ghost Rider finds his power fading away and Centurious (who was feigning defeat) easily beats down on the demon. Centurious explains that without Blaze's soul, Zarathos will grow weaker and weaker until he finally dies - that is the revenge that Centurious has planned for his greatest enemy. Centurious buries Zarathos under the collapsed church, then explains to Roxanne that he will let her live out of remorse for her lost love. After the villain departs, Roxanne sees Zarathos painfully dig himself free from the wreckage. She tells him that they need to reunite him with Johnny, which Zarathos hates but ultimately accepts.
Elsewhere, in the cave that serves as Centurious' new headquarters, Pastor Domblue turns against his master now that he sees how evil he truly is. In response, Centurious mortally injures his Sin-Eater and declares that he will find another to wield the Soul Crystal. Roxanne and Zarathos arrive, only to be swarmed upon by the soulless townspeople of Holly. The Ghost Rider manages to crawl to his enemy, and with the last vestige of hellfire he can muster, Zarathos splits the Soul Crystal in half, sucking Centurious inside it and freeing all of the souls it had taken throughout the centuries. However, this means that Zarathos has been denied his vengeance on Centurious, and he no longer has the strength to split the Crystal again. The Sin-Eater, barely alive from his wounds, tells Zarathos that he can use his power to send him into the Soul Crystal to gain his revenge. However, Blaze has awoken in the void and begins to struggle for control of his body. Roxanne realizes the mistake that Johnny is making, and she begs him to relinquish control to the Ghost Rider. Blaze agrees, trusting in Roxanne's love for him, and gives up the fight - which allows the Sin-Eater to send Zarathos into the Soul Crystal after Centurious. Roxanne rushes to Johnny's side, and the two realize that the Ghost Rider is gone and their curse has finally ended.
Later, Johnny and Roxanne discuss their future now that the Ghost Rider curse has been broken. They're finally free after so many years, and they decide that they have all the time in the world to plan their future. However, the Soul Crystal still lays on the ground, which splits open and allows the Crystal to fall down into Hell - and into the clutches of a laughing Mephisto. Zarathos and Centurious are trapped within the Crystal for all eternity, their struggle never to end...
Read the Review of Ghost Rider (1973) # 81.
Grade: A+ (# 80), A+ (# 81)
The Original Ghost Rider Rides Again # 7
Title: "Stained Glass and Shadows!"
Title: "The End of the Ghost Rider!"