Everyone’s favorite supernatural investigators have taken a road trip, busting unruly spooks from New Orleans to Area 51 and winding up in Seattle. What hipster horrors await the Ghostbusters? All right, I’m gonna turn over the next card. Concentrate… I want you to tell me what you think it is.
Previously in GHOSTBUSTERS: Nearing the last leg of their cross-country escapade, the Ghostbusters stopped at New Mexico’s Area 51 to dispatch the restless spirits of dead soldiers who still fought to protect the secrets of the site. In the back-up story, Peter Venkman faced a phantom big rig that was haunting a nearby highway. The end of the trip for both the team and Dr. Venkman concludes in this issue.
WE CAN REALLY BUST SOME HEADS…IN A SPIRITUAL SENSE, OF COURSE
The Ghostbusters Ongoing series has done a nice job of weaving in some old-fashioned ghost stories into modern times, and this issue continues the streak. It seems that Seattle is being haunted by a musician who just wants the opportunity to play his hit song for the local citizens…the problem is that this ghost always materializes in a ball of flames and torches the nearby landmarks (and has at least once casualty to boot). After investigating local lore, the boys in gray learn that the musician happened to be dating a witch who was just a little jealous of the time he spent with his guitar. Witches and jealousy are a deadly combination, folks.
There’s a lot of intrigue in this tale. Not only is there the aforementioned witchcraft, but also spontaneous human combustion, a discussion of why ghosts stay on Earth, and a neat little lesson on the purpose for some of that equipment on the top of Ecto-1. Up to a point, this issue reads more like a mystery. Our protagonists gather clues, find suspects, and use their smarts to track down the spirit. The reader is hopeful that the witch will be found and brought to justice and the ghost will get to play his song, ending his eternal anguish and allowing him to move on to a comfortable afterlife. As the book progresses, it seems that this ending is being foreshadowed and organically crafted. Instead, in a brief climax, the Ghostbusters simply blast the ghost to smithereens, stick him in a trap and call it a day. Hopefully we’ll get to see the true villain of this piece again in the future, but I was a bit shocked at the ending…It felt a little untrue to the spirit of the characters and actually made me feel a bit sorry for the ghost. Not the emotion I was expecting!
However, Burnham absolutely nails the voices of these characters. From Ray’s childlike innocence and sometimes monotone prattle to Winton’s level-headedness, and from Egon’s scientific jargon to Peter’s cool and smarmy demeanor, the reader is never left doubting that these are the one and only Ghostbusters.
YOU’RE RIGHT, NO HUMAN BEING WOULD DRAW BOOKS LIKE THIS
If I had to sum up Dan Schoening’s art on Ghostbusters in one word, that word would be “charming.” Schoening had the perhaps unenviable task of creating characters that the reader can instantly recognize as the four ‘busters, but did not use the actors’ likenesses nor did he ape the character designs from the “Real Ghostbusters” cartoon of the 1980’s. Rather, Schoening pays homage to both worlds with a style all his own. The result is a very cartoonish style that contains very realistic and convincing facial expressions and mannerisms…think of how the Ghostbusters would look if animated by Walt Disney, and you get the artwork for this series.
While the juxtaposition of animated caricatures and the sometimes dark source material of the series took a little getting used to in early issues, the consistency of the art has made me appreciate it all the more. There’s no other book out there that quite has the feel of this series’ visuals. Plus, Schoening is quick to put in references from the rich history of the Ghostbusters throughout every book…sometimes incredibly obscure ones. See if you can spot the motor scooter from the Real Ghostbusters action figure, “Wicked Wheelie,” in this issue. Yes, we’re talking that level of detail. If you grew up devoted to the franchise, chances are you will have a rush of nostalgia several times in each issue of the series. In addition to his character work, Schoening spends a great deal of time on backgrounds and composition. Each issue of “Ghostbusters” has appeared as though it could double as a storyboard for a new animated series. If that thought an appeal to you, then there’s no question you will enjoy these tales.
One caveat to the artwork this issue…Tristan Jones’ backup feature is done in his own style, which is drastically different from Schoening’s. It’s not necessarily worse (though his Dr. Venkman is ripped directly from the “Real Ghostbusters” cartoon) but after spending so much time with the other version, it takes a minute to commit to the art style. Since this story is done in a handful of pages, you may find yourself reading it two times in a row to completely wrap your brain around it. It would be nice to see IDW collect these backups and put them into a single issue. It’s my opinion that Jones’ story would gel much better that way.
BOTTOM LINE: BUSTIN’ MAKES ME FEEL GOOD
Unless you are a Ghosbusters fan, this issue is not the best jumping-on point. It’s the final slice of a multi-part story, and next issue begins an arc focusing on a new paranormal extermination agency attempting to run the Ghostbusters out of business. A newcomer might not understand why or how our heroes have ended up on the West Coast. That said, there is plenty for fans of Ghostbusters here to enjoy. Those who have followed the series will feel right at home and remain in love with IDW’s evolution of the brand, and if you’ve been longing to revisit your memories of growing up with the team, this title is for you.