Tuesday, 16 April 2013

REVIEW: IDW Ghostbusters 4: Who Ya Gonna Call?

We're gonna need a bigger trap..

This, the latest trade paperback in IDW’s Ghostbusters range, collects issues 13 to 16 of the ongoing series, wrapping up Volume One while setting up plenty for Volume Two, currently enjoying monthly release. A number of plot strands come to a head here, most notably the arrival, at last, of the Ghost Smashers, the Ghostbusters new rivals in the field of spectral decontamination. We’ve had the occasional glimpse of uber-douche Ron Alexander, working behind the scenes to create his own busting equipment. Now he’s gone into business, accompanied by three lovely lady assistants, and the four of them are beating the Ghostbusters at their own game.

The Smashers have one big advantage over Busters, in the public’s eye at least: they don’t capture and contain, they destroy. Arriving on the scene to battle an opera phantom, Alexander and his girls blast the spook to smithereens, the ectoplasm dispersing into the atmosphere. The Ghost  Smashers are a big hit; the Mayor loves them, Peck hates them even more than the Ghostbusters, and the record levels of psychokinetic activity in New York are finally coming under control.

One of T. Rex Jones's freaky covers
There are, however, two problems. For one, Alexander is an uncompromising asshole, happy to cut corners as long as he gets to hog the limelight. He’s Venkman without any of the charm or redeeming features – I couldn’t help but imagine him speaking with the voice of Dave Coulier, the annoying replacement voice for Venkman in The Real Ghostbusters, although he appears to have been based visually on Chevy Chase.

The second problem is that, as anyone who’s seen the episode ‘Robobuster’ will know, ghosts cannot be destroyed (Egon has established this through exhaustive and unpleasant tests on Slimer). The spectral energy floats around in the ether, slowly reforming into a vast, ectoplasmic mass. It really is very like ‘Robobuster,’ with a hint of ‘Janine’s Day Off,’ but enhanced by Erik Burnham’s witty dialogue and Dan Schoening’s spectacular realisations of the cataclysmic spectral event.

‘Who Ya Gonna Call?’ takes a mere three issues to round up the players and solve the problem of both the Ghost Smashers and Egon’s old college buddy Eugene, the guy who trapped Death in a bag. While the Smashers storyline could have gone on a little longer, it works nicely enough at this length, but I really feel that Eugene’s story needed to be explored further. How did he trap Death? What has his unnaturally prolonged existence been like? Perhaps we’ll find out someday. For now, the two storylines come together to provide an all-purpose solution to the spooks eating their way through the Big Apple.

It's Ecto-2!
Issue 16, the final section of the book, provides a separate story, a Christmassy affair entitled ‘’Twas the Night Before.’ This Winston-centric storyline is nice little standalone adventure before the big events of the upcoming second volume. That’s not to say it doesn’t have a bearing on the ongoing story. Much of the content of these issues deals with the relationships between the characters, be it the slowly developing love triangle between Egon, Janine, and her Egon-substitute boyfriend, Ray and his mild flirting with Ghost Smasher Jenny, Winston’s engagement to Tiyah (whom he first met in the Valentine’s special release, ‘Tainted Love,’) and, of course, the strained but solid friendship between the four members of the Ghostbusters team. What’s more, throughout these four issues there has been another plot, running behind the scenes, concerning one Dr. Janosz Poha…

One thing sadly missing from this volume is a good sample of the work of Tristan Jones. All we get of his artwork is a very limited set of PCOC pages and some examples of covers. However, this is mostly down to his ‘Who Killed Laura Parr?’ storyline, which ran up to issue 15, being collected in full in the third volume of strips.

‘Who Ya Gonna Call?’ doesn’t do anything groundbreaking with the Ghostbusters; what we get is funny, solid storytelling from Burnham, Schoening and colourist Delgado. Events in the busting world are coming to a head, however, and changes are afoot for Volume Two of IDW’s running series, which will see some new threats and some familiar faces.

All images reproduced with the kind permission of Dan Schoening and Tristan Jones.

No comments:

Post a Comment