Ghostbusters Vol. 5: The New Ghostbusters trade paperback (IDW Publishing)

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Established Ghostbusters fans will no doubt be enthused by IDW's newly-relaunched title, the first issues of which are collected in Ghostbusters: The New Ghostbusters. As someone who's mainly been familiar with the movies and some half-remembered cartoons, I found this trade tougher to get in to (my misplaced expectations, perhaps, more so than anything the creative team does wrong per se). Despite that these Ghostbusters are "new," new fans will be better off picking up trades of the earlier Ghostbusters series first.

[Review contains spoilers]

Ongoing Ghostbusters writer Erik Burnham's new story starts out well. In the first pages, a crew of ghosts kidnap the "old" Ghostbusters, leaving a crew of associates to fill the void. The "new" Ghostbusters, as I understand it, are characters who've appeared in Burham's stories before, but he does a seamless job of introducing them and the "New Ghostbusters" story gets rolling quickly. Burnham makes the new Ghostbusters interesting and likable as they fumble through their first ghostbusting attempts; Burnham also easily establishes the voices of the original Ghostbusters, too (though I heard Lorenzo Music for Peter Venkman more so than I did Bill Murray).

New fans for the Ghostbusters comics will find plenty that they recognize here. Not only do the original Ghostbusters factor heavily into the story, even in absentia, but there's also appearances by Walter Peck, Jack Hardemeyer, and Janosz Poha, all characters from the movies (played by William Atherton, Kurt Fuller, and Peter MacNicol respectively). There's also plenty of Easter Eggs, including references to the events of the movies and one page chock full of some of the most notable Ghostbusters toys.

As a new reader, however, one thing I found just slightly off-putting was that in the end, the original Ghostbusters do return. Without much background knowledge, I approached this book as if it was the story of new Ghostbusters taking over for the old guard, but it's barely three chapters into the book before the original Ghostbusters return, and by their own means rather than by anything the new Ghostbusters do. This is not unprecedented; basically New Ghostbusters seems more of a branding like "Reign of the Supermen" or "Death of Bruce Wayne." Maybe established Ghostbusters fans knew this going in, but I didn't, and so I didn't quite herald the return and immediate return to prominence of the original Ghostbusters quite the way the characters did.

Also, while the Ghostbusters movies were a good mix of horror and comedy (I still rate the attack of those demon dogs pretty high on my "scary" list), I was surprised the extent to which sitcom-level humor took over the comic. The new Ghostbusters really don't bust all that many ghosts in three issues, and though it's a challenge it's never too much of a challenge -- the reader is never really worried the Ghostbusters are in danger. The most striking parts of the story really are the ones with Peck and Hardemeyer discussing the political and media aspects of the new Ghostbusters, while the rest is the Ghostbusters cracking wise or setting up for other stories (like Janine and the ghost of Beowulf) that don't resolve in this book.

I would also note that, as much as is familiar or reader-friendly in this story, there's plenty that's not so easily cracked. Kylie Griffin, arguably the breakout star of the group, is apparently an existing character from another (alternate?) Ghostbusters story, newly integrated to IDW; knowledge or lack thereof of this won't necessarily affect your enjoyment of the story, but I have the sense that "New Ghostbusters" presents the overlapping of a certain amount of Ghostbuster lores I wasn't familiar with. There's also references to "the Rookie," who's apparently a video game chacter, but again the book didn't quite illuminate these things and I couldn't find overly clear answers online.

But irrespective, the upshot of New Ghostbusters is to essentially double the title's ghostbusting cast, and if the story goes the way I expect, the old and new Ghostbusters will now bust ghosts together, in new and different pairings. I've no frame of reference, but I imagine this offers new opportunities as compared to the traditional Ghostbusters stories. It can't be overlooked that New Ghostbusters also significantly evens the group's gender gap by adding three active female Ghostbusters to the mix. In all I think the book is a positive step for the Ghostbusters comics, even as the spotlight shifts in the book in a way I wasn't expecting.

Ghostbusters: The New Ghostbusters will again no doubt be a nice rejuvenation of the series for long-time fans; new readers might want to go back to the beginning. The book is perhaps more child-friendly than I expected; to an extent this makes it "not for me," but at the same time I appreciate that the enjoyment that I had of Ghostbusters in years past carries on for a new generation. Now if they could only get that third movie made ...
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2 comments:

  1. i know it's a matter of taste but i didn't care for the art work in the new ghost busters comic i like the story though

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    1. I did sometimes have trouble telling the characters apart, especially Peter Venkman and his replacement Ghostbuster.

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