Comics : What If? (Vol. 2) #45
This story is part of a Lookback Series: What If, Whenever, Wherever...
This review was first published on: 2007.
Daniel and Barbara Ketch were attacked by gangsters and Barbara ended up wounded. Daniel dragged his sister through a junkyard to evade the gangsters before they could finish the job. There, he stumbled across a motorcycle with a glowing gas cap. Upon touching it he became Ghost Rider, spirit of vengeance! That's how it was on your world...
What If? (Vol. 2) #45
Jan 1993 : SM Guest
Summary: Spider-Man Guest-Stars
On this world, the gangsters found the siblings before Dan could make contact and was killed. Barbara, delirious from her wounds, touches it accidentally and becomes Ghost Rider instead. The gangsters gather around their leader, Deathwatch, assuring him the job is done when Ghost Rider blazes out on her motorcycle carrying Dan. They attack her, but she makes short work of them. She tries to kill Deathwatch, but something prevents her and he's allowed to escape. The police arrive and try to take her in, but she throws them away and rides off. Some ways off, the Rider stops and transforms back, both entities in the body confused over what's going on.
Dan's funeral doesn't make matters any easier, nor does sleep where Barb finds herself face-to-face with Ghost Rider. He explains about his powers and purpose, and tells her he needs to be dominant in the will, but Barb refuses and decides that she herself will judge what vengeance is and how to take it. Barb wakes up, dresses, cuts her finger and becomes Ghost Rider once again.
Her first victims are a couple of muggers, which she ruthlessly exacts her vengeance on. More victims fall at her hand, including Deathwatch. But with each act of vengeance, it's followed by searing pain for Ghost Rider. That pain: the tearing away of another piece of Barb's soul with her never- ending thirst for blood and vengeance.
Soon, Ghost Rider finds herself watching a fight between Hobgoblin and Spider-Man. Spidey tries to talk Gobby down, but Ghost Rider brings him to her level and beats him mercilessly. Spidey tries to stop her, but she knocks him out and allows Gobby to be killed. When Spidey revives, he decides Ghost Rider needs to be stopped and goes to see the one man who could help: Dr. Strange.
Strange tells Spidey he was expecting him, and then introduces him to John Blaze, the original Ghost Rider. Blaze tells Spidey he's come to kill Ghost Rider since he's heard of her return. Together, they formulate a plan to bring her down.
Sometime later, Deathwatch and Blackout stand in the middle of a street in the city, calling out for Ghost Rider. They soon get their wish as she attacks, looking to make sure Deathwatch's death sticks this time. She soon has Deathwatch where she wants him until Blackout hits her in the face with webbing. She's confused until Strange drops his disguise spell and reveals the two villains to really be Spidey and Blaze. They tell her she needs to be stopped, but she refuses and lunges to attack only to be trapped in a pentagram.
Strange casts a spell that separates the spirit from Barb's body, but before he can trap it Blaze breaks the pentagram to tend to Barb and sets it free to possess someone else. The heroes gather around Barb who dies from the exertion of the separation, saying it's better for everyone that way.
Overall a very good story with some great artwork. I'm not too familiar with Ghost Rider myself, so I'm not sure how this holds up to the lore. It was interesting to see how differently the two Ghost Riders became, Barbara becoming so driven by her grief and thirst for vengeance she denied the powers of vengeance she possessed, perverted them. Makes you wonder how you'd react in that kind of situation.
4 Webs. My only complaint with the book, which happens with most What Ifs, is the pacing just missed being perfect and leaned into a tad rushed.