Wednesday, 28 November 2012

REVIEW: IDW Ghostbusters 1: The Man from the Mirror

It’s about time we had an ongoing Ghostbusters comic. I used to get Marvel UK’s RGB every week when I was a tiny person, and that’s something I miss. I’m very behind, however, so I’m on to the more affordable trades until I catch up – then we’ll see about subscribing to IDW’s monthly releases.

This current series takes place firmly in the movie continuity, and follows on from the Ghostbusters II, the official video game and IDW’s earlier one-off comics and miniseries. That’s the canon, if we must use that word, at use here - with a few caveats. There are plenty of sneaky references to the RGB  cartoon series in this first volume, and they’ll only become more overt as the series continues. Hell, there are references to the toys based on the series, not to mention all manner of other Buster-related trivia. Spotting them is all part of the fun. It’s almost like Where’s Wally?

Of course, none of the minutiae matters if the story and the artwork aren’t up to scratch. Thankfully, this first story in the ongoing Ghostbusters saga is a cracking read. Erik Burnham’s script is essentially a straightforward follow-up to the original 1984 movie, but adds enough new elements into the mix to keep things from feeling stale. It’s a Ray-centric story, which is welcome, since Dr Stantz has perhaps been the least explored of the four Busters in spin-off material over the years. Beginning with a dream sequence that manages to both raise a laugh and set up the premise, by the sixth page we’ve been reintroduced to the main characters, seen the face of Gozer and the truly sublime ‘Ray Puft,’ and met Ray’s spirit guide, who is clearly the ghost of John Belushi (funny, I always thought that was Slimer).

Once we’re past the set-up and into the waking world, things move along nicely with one big, bust for each of the four issues, all the while moving the central plot along. Gozer is set to return, however Ray’s choice of avatar for the Sumerian god-demon has left it bound to this plane in one corporeal form. If Gozer wants to manifest, it can only do so as Mr Stay Puft, a form so unsuited to the destruction of worlds that any such attempt is doomed to fail. Enter Idulnas, a being created solely to push Ray into choosing a more appropriate form for ‘the Destructor.’

There are some nice nods to the franchise, but they manage to be a bit deeper than simple kisses to the past. We are made to question just why Ray was the one to choose the form for Gozer’s avatar, and why he is so susceptible to influence from the other side (he was the one to succumb to Vigo, of course, and even in the cartoons it was Ray who got possessed more often than not). Personally, I would like to know just what Dana’s part in things truly is, considering the fact that it was she who was at the very centre of both ethereal incursions in the movies. However, it looks like Dana and Louis are out of bounds for IDW, which is the one major element missing from this story.

‘Dapper’ Dan Schoening provides the artwork throughout. He does a sterling job, giving the strip a smooth, easy-to-read feel without ever straying too far into the cartoonish. His character designs straddle a mid-point between the recognisable faces of the actors and the RGB cartoon versions of the characters. Tristan Jones, whose artwork is far more detailed, and more disturbing, provides back-up work for the strips, exploring the Ghostbusters’ files and the appointment of Walter Peck as the team’s government-approved overseer. Sketchbook material at the back of the collection shows how Dan and Tristan worked together to design the various spooks and creatures for the strip, marrying their two distinctive styles to create some memorable nasties. The art is enlivened by Luis Delgado’s exceptional colour work.

‘The Man from the Mirror’ may only be four issues long, but it’s a perfect opening to a series by a writer who gets the Ghostbusters humour and style exactly right. It’s an ideal follow-up to the classic movies, while managing to lay hints for the development of the range in the future. Stick on the Ghostbusters soundtrack and sit back with this comic, and you’ll feel like Ghostbusters III has finally arrived.