Wednesday, 15 October 2014

REVIEW: Ghostbusters: Mass Hysteria

Three years, thirty-six issues, two volumes, twelve Ghostbusters, and it's now over. Erik Burnham and Dan Schoening's Ghosbusters series for IDW has been an astounding success. While plans for a third movie seem to be finally getting somewhere, it sounds like Paul Feig's plan for a complete reboot are going ahead. I see this as no bad thing, as the time has really passed for a third outing for the original team. Taking the, ahem, spirit of the originals and forging ahead with something new is a great idea, especially if an all-female team is in the offing as reported.

Anyone desperate for Ghostbusters 3 bringing back the original team should look to the official video game, which reunited the core cast one last time to provide an excellent third instalment. After that, IDW's comic volumes can be considered Ghostbusters 4 & 5, continuing the story further. In which case, “Mass Hysteria” makes for a perfect final act. This eight issue story is a celebration of thirty years of Ghostbusters, it has been described by author Burnham as “a love letter” to the franchise. And it is to the whole franchise, not only furthering and tying up stories from his own comic series, but also taking elements from throughout the movies, animated series and video games and weaving them into a new story.

For a long time, Dana Barrett and Louis Tully were off-limits to IDW. Rights to use Dana have been particularly difficult for creators to acquire over the years, so while this was a disappointment, it was no surprise. Nonetheless, the lack of two of the core characters from the original films left a gap in the ongoing story. In particular, Dana's involvement is a vital element of the films, to the degree that one has to wonder just why this apparently ordinary woman has been so linked to the two most significant paranormal events in modern history. Finally, though, the situation changed, with Dana and Louis both now available to be included in this series. No wonder this feels so very right – the whole gang's together again, and finally we have a follow-up to those initial events with Gozer. For while the coming of Gozer was stopped, the evil god is still out there, and so, it is revealed, is his sister.

Tiamat, Babylonian goddess of chaos, is intrigued by both the Ghostbusters' recent escape from limbo (in the “New Ghostbusters: Stripped” storyline) and they're defeat of her brother.And so she weaves into their lives through Dana and Louis, making them her links to the earthly plain just as Gozer did. It's all a game, though, and as the embodiment of chaos, Tiamat doesn't obey the same rules as Gozer. She doesn't need a human link to the world, she doesn't obey simple physics, her very presence in our dimension causes gravity to malfunction and blood to rain from the sky. She is a truly unstoppable force, and it's only by her own caprice that she allows any kind of victory. Tiamat did, in fact, appear in The Real Ghostbusters series, but Burnham and Schoening have never been afraid to take an idea from the cartoon and do something bigger with it. Tiamat is a suitably powerful and threatening villain for the Ghostbusters' biggest case yet.

What's so effective about this series is that it never forgets its focus on the lives of the characters. All the main players get their moment in the spotlight, but it is, gratifyingly, Winston who is the real star of this story. Unfairly sidelined in the movies, the fourth Ghostbusters is the heart and soul of this story, finally marrying his girlfriend Tiyah and being the one who finally stands up to Tiamat in a way she cannot ignore. The final tragedy he suffers at her hands... damn, it's just too sad. The final issue is essentially an epilogue, but god, does it deliver a gutpunch of a final twist.

“Mass Hysteria” is an incredible end to an excellent series, and while I'm sad to see it over, it's been a fine three years of bustin'. If I am forced to make a criticism, it's that I miss Tristan Jones's extras from earlier issues, but perhaps we'll see something new for the trades. With a whole franchise of Ghostbusters, there's plenty of directions the series can go if and when it returns. Indeed, Paul Feig's reported all-female reboot of the franchise could learn a lot from this series. For now, though, there's just the addendum of the most eighties crossover of them all to keep us going. Bring on Ghostbusters meets TMNT.

Cover images pinched from Dapper Dan's DeviantArt gallery. Go check it out, he's amazing at Hallowe'en.

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