What's it been, like, three decades since the original Ghostbusters came out?
If you give it a second of thought it's amazing to think the classic comedy still resonates all these years later. I mean, it's older than I am, and even though the anchor of the concept, Bill Murray, really, really doesn't want to do a third movie, Hollywood execs — and Dan Ackroyd — have been pushing for the better part of ten years to get done.
It's all cause of that damned first movie. So quirky, so funny, so original and timeless. Few movies, scratch that, few properties achieve the special mixture of wacky, creepy and fun Ghostbusters had, and that's why we long for more of the original formula. It worked, and still no one can figure out why.
And that's the inherent flaw of Ghostbuster comics, the general fan only knows the (somewhat limited) source material. The result is no sustaining ongoing narrative. Hell, I used to love The Real Ghostbusters cartoon but can't remember shit in terms of mythology building. Even in comics, one of the few settings that allow for massive world-building, the Ghostbusters has failed to achieve anything lasting. Since acquiring the license in 2008 IDW managed to produce only a few miniseries before rolling out an ongoing in late 2011.
Surprise! It didn't do too great, as it failed to break the top hundred titles even in debut. In order to bring wanderers like myself back to the herd IDW has retooled and relaunched, promoting Ghostbusters #1 with a brand new quartet that are forced into action after the mysterious disappearance of the original four.
Erik Burnham has been the man at the helm of the specter hunters for the last few years, and no, this is not a complete reboot. It's a continuation of the previous volume, and the four new Ghostbusters are all side characters from previous Burnham stories.
The center is the iconic secretary Janine Melnitz, the redhead with the distinct New York accent. She, along with trained law enforcement agent Melanie Ortiz and paranormal expert Kylie Griffin, form a trio of ladies who don the beige overalls and the proton packs to help dwindle the ghost infestations that continuously haunt the city. When their unsanctioned activities come under scrutiny the politicians of NYC deicide to oversee and monetize the team, even adding Ron Alexander, a boorish tinkerer type, to balance out the roster.
The general concept, a foursome departing and being replaced by a three women and a man, is really reminiscent of what Marvel is doing with the FF right now. I'm not entirely sure that the similarities are completely coincidental, but nonetheless, they do evoke a similar type of excitement by taking away the extremely familiar and replacing it with a patchwork grouping of individuals all there for slightly different reasons.
The four new characters do possess enough interest to keep this going without the constant presence of Venkman, Stantz, Egon and Zeddemore. Janine leads the group. and is key to the series because she is the only one with access to the ghost storage facility that houses the accrued phantom-types captured over the years. Kylie Griffin, friend of Ray Stantz and the resident occult-loving goth girl, is actually a retooled character from the Extreme Ghostbusters cartoon (Can't say I watched that one. But who can remember 1997?). The team's trained FBI agent, Melanie Ortiz, is a friend of Venkman, and has downgraded herself from plush government job to the mostly thankless work of ghost hunting. Rounding out the crew is the generally unseen, and sometimes mentioned, Ron Alexander, a character based on Chevy Chase. Anyone based on that guy has to be a dick, and well, it's implied that Alexander is not only that but greedy and opportunistic too.
Burnham spends time setting this up, and easing us into the new era, but I have to say that I was more interested in Story B than the one detailing the replacements. The details of the original "Real" Ghostbusters' abduction add the touch of wackiness and spook that makes the brand so unique and lovable. The nature of their disappearance is an odd, slightly science fiction twist on the entire Ghostbusters concept, and sets up a mystery for the entire cast to solve. I also have to say that Burnham has completely nailed the voice of Peter Venkman, and his understanding and comfort with the "first four" is evident even in their small page time.
The artist from the previous volume returns and continues to ground the series with a distinct and jovial style. Dan Schoening's pencils are very animated, and the method works quite well when paired with the subject material. Although based on an live action film, the franchise is quite sensational, and Schoening's approach lends itself to a more lighthearted romp than something that could be chilling and shadowy. Luis Antonio Delgado (with an assist by Andrew Harmon) gives the series a specific look with the brighter than expected palette. The art team understands that Ghostbusters should be playful and a bit fantastical, not dark and brooding.
The issue's backup story is written and drawn by Burnham and takes a look at what happens to the ghosts once they're captured and put in the storage facility. I was eager to read thi
s story…but it ended after only two pages with the rest to release in the upcoming issues. A bit of a bummer, but I guess it serves as incentive to invest myself in more Ghostbusters.
For a franchise that has produced very little source material Ghostbusters, almost inexplicably, continues to churn out fresh material. This new launch by IDW and the gang continues the tradition that makes all the concept great, from peculiar antagonists, to New York city bureaucracy and sarcastic smarm for miles. Maybe, most importantly, the series is attempting to branch out from the status quo, while still utilizing all the things fans love about the status quo. Thus, the answer to "Who you gonna call?" is a bit more complicated and unfamiliar, but it could be exactly what this book needed to shake off the ectoplasm funk and start to build new stories with a now classic formula.
Jamil Scalese is just like you — an avid comics reader and lover of sequential art. Residing in Pittsburgh, PA, he is an unapologetic Deadpool fan, devotee of the Food Network and proud member of Steelers Nation. Check out his original, ongoing webcomic And Then There Were Zombies and follow his subpar tweeting at @jamilscalese.