Ghostbusters (IDW) #3
Publication date: November, 2011
Written by: Erik Burnham
Art by: Dan Schoening
Colors by: Louis Antonio Delgado
PCOC pages by: Tristan Jones
Letters by: Shawn Lee
Edits: Tom Waltz
As a monthly feature here on Adventures in Poor Taste, I’ve decided to take it upon myself to review each issue of IDW’s ongoing Ghostbusters comic; a book you really ought to be reading because it’s absolutely jawesome.
IDW is currently in the process of securing the necessary license for a Street Sharks ongoing series.
Unfortunately, I decided to start my reviews at issue #3, which means we’ve got some catching up to do. But let me fill you all in:
Pretend IDW’s first two Ghostbusters miniseries, “The Other Side” and “Displaced Aggression” never happened. That should be easy. The one-shots collected in the “Haunted Holidays” trade paperback are inconsequential but fantastic, so head over to Amazon and snatch that bad boy up for $11 bucks; you’ll thank me.
Now, this ongoing loosely follows the events of Ghostbusters: The Video Game and the two-issue “Infestation” miniseries from IDW (which was pretty good); all you really need to know is that the story picks up a few years after Ghostbusters II (so we’re in the early 90s) and Gozer has tried to come back in the form of the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man twice and failed each time. Naturally, the Stay Puft Marshmallow Corporation isn’t exactly thrilled with such “publicity” and are contemplating suing Ray Stantz for selecting their corporate mascot as the vessel for the Anti-Christ. In reality, their representative Jim Silver has been possessed by Idulnas, a demonic creature related to Gozer, and he has designs on capturing Ray, as he is “the Selector”. To draw Ray (and the rest of the Ghostbusters) out, Silver has brought the Famous Bear statue on Wall Street to life.
That’s about the size of it. Now to recap this issue (SPOILER ALERT):
Things are coming to a head for the Ghostbusters; Walter Peck and PCOC are breathing down their neck for failing to live up to their city contracts, a pair of nobodies in a pool hall are scheming to rip-off their patented technology, the Famous Bear statue on Wall Street has turned into the rampaging Terror Bear and Ray has been captured by Idulnas, who demands that “the Selector” give Gozer a do-over. And if that’s not all, Spate’s Catalog (an ancient tome of supernatural critters) has grown a new page to account for Idulnas; one with a discomforting illustration: All four Ghostbusters impaled on the branches of trees.
Comic books are expensive. At $3.99 an issue, they’re no longer impulse purchases you make at the newsstand during your lunch break. In this day and age of Bendis-style, highly-decompressed writing, where a story barely substantial-enough to fill a single issue is spread out over six, you’re paying more and getting less. It’s really hard to rationalize collecting comics on a monthly basis these days; why not just wait for the trade where it’ll be cheaper per issue and you can get them brand new at heavily discounted prices off Amazon? How can publishers make a single issue of a comic worth $4 bucks a month?
Just do what IDW’s Ghostbusters series has been doing. This is a comic that is absolutely, positively dedicated to giving you your money’s worth and then some.
Burnham’s style of writing is certainly modern but without the decompression that most “modern” writers adhere to, where you can breeze through an issue in 2 minutes flat. There’s lots of witty banter between characters but unlike guys such as Bendis or Millar, Burnham uses the dialogue to advance the plot rather than stall it so he doesn’t run out of story by issue #2. The pacing is perfect, as lots and lots of stuff happens in each issue but it never feels loaded.
In the case of this issue and the two preceding it which I haven’t reviewed, Burnham displays a fantastic handle on the characters; their personalities and the different ways they play off of one another. In previous issues, he’s found a niche for Winston (the most easily ignored of all the Ghostbusters) by pairing him with Peter; Winston’s down-to-earth, “everyman” persona clashing with Peter’s ambitious, “celebrity” ego. Most writers enjoy pairing Peter with stick-in-the-mud Egon, which is the obvious choice, so it really feels like Burnham is treading new ground by playing Peter and Winston off of one another and making it work.
The story for the ongoing doesn’t require you to have read any of IDW’s previous Ghostbusters comics and Issue #1 is an ideal jumping-on point. All you really need to know is what I mentioned at the beginning of the article; Stay Puft has come back twice and been beaten twice. Burnham throws in several references to The Video Game, so I suppose if you haven’t played it yet then you might be at a disadvantage, but this opening arc really draws more from the first film than anything else. And if you haven’t seen that then go f--k yourself.
In referencing Ray’s brief possession by Vigo at the end of Ghostbusters II, his position as “the Selector” actually feels even stronger; like Ray is really just some sort of unsuspecting lightning rod for every sanity-crushing deity of the Cthulhu Mythos or something. As much as I like the anthology, one-shot nature of Ghostbusters stories, Burnham’s ongoing really feels like a natural progression of the narrative from the two movies and The Video Game, actually tying them together more tightly and becoming “Ghostbusters IV” in its own unique way. If you watched both movies, played the game and then read this comic in chronological sequence, you’d actually appreciate them on another level, as there’s a “bigger picture” going on that feels entirely natural even though it was conceived well after the fact.
Then you’ve got art by Dan Schoening, whom I’ve been a follower of since he was just a dude posting bitchin’ Ghostbusters fan art on Deviant Art. His highly animated style may be off-putting to some at first glance, but Ghostbusters is a franchise that suits “cartoony” design aesthetics quite well with the Real Ghostbusters being a perfect example of that fact; a departure from G.I. Joe-esque action cartoon designs, instead marrying subdued squash-n-stretch antics with action-adventure elements. Schoening’s also just a plain ole well-trained artist, to boot; not only in regards to his expressive character models and gruesome monsters, but down to the detailed architecture he applies to the intricate buildings making his New York City come to life or just an ability to draw vehicles and other mundane trappings that can make or break the reality of the fictional universe.
But beyond all that, Schoening’s art will have you re-reading each issue a good three or four times. Why? Because that dude can pack-in more amusing Easter eggs than a Where’s Waldo book. Every page is jam-packed with cameos, references and hidden gags relating back to every incarnation of the Ghostbusters franchise. In the Time Square page alone, I counted no less than *17* hidden references; running the gamut of cameos from the Junior Ghostbusters to an ad for Ecto Cooler to the cover of a comic book a one-off character was shown reading in one scene of an episode of the Real Ghostbusters. This stuff can get damn obscure and even the most hardcore Ghostbusters fan will have a fun time identifying them all.
But that’s not all!
Every issue also contains an entry from the files of PCOC, written by Walter Peck (actually, they’re written by Tristan Jones, author of several issues of Tales of the TMNT). Each entry contains artwork from Jones, of a much more ghoulish and horror-centric flavor than Schoening’s, as well as detailed write-ups on whatever ghost was featured in the preceding story. In this case, it’s an entry on the Terror Bear and its relation to the Terror Dogs of the original Ghostbusters film.
Following THAT are several pages of sketches chronicling the design process of whatever monsters were featured in the issue, starting with Tristan Jones’ concept designs and ending with Schoening’s finalized sketches, with commentary from both artists.
And following THAT? Ghostbusters fan art from modern day elementary schoolers. It’s adorable.
You get ALL THIS for $3.99 and holy s--t I never thought I’d actually feel like that absurd new standardized comic book price could actually qualify as a “bargain”. I honestly do not think that there is another comic out there so determined to give the audience its money’s worth and then some. The excellent story and phenomenal artwork would normally be enough, but the PCOC entries, sketch collections and super cute fan art? That’s just love, right there.
I’m hard-pressed to consider any negative critiques at this point in the ongoing. The art will have you flipping through each issue until the staples fall out (and by the way, Delgado’s colors are gorgeous; the book practically glows in the dark), the story strikes the perfect balance of humor and horror that defines Ghostbusters and each issue just gives you so much STUFF that you can’t believe it’s “only” $4 bucks.
And for God’s sake, the first page of this issue is a giant hell-bear chucking KITT from “Knight Rider” down Wall Street as people run around in abject horror. I’d fork over my lunch money for that.