Cartoons With Familiar Features – A Ghostbusters, Vol. 2 Review
TITLE: Ghostbusters, Vol. 2
AUTHOR: Erik Burnham
PENCILLER: Dan Schoening, Tristan Jones
COLLECTS: Ghostbusters #5-8
PUBLISHER: IDW Publishing
RELEASE DATE: July 11, 2012
By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder
The creepy/haunted carnival setting isn’t a new idea. It’s been done countless times in more stories than I could ever keep track of. But when placed in the comedically surreal and somehow familiar world of IDW’s Ghostbusters series, it’s about as fun as its ever been.
Ghostbusters, Vol. 2 sees the boys in gray wriggling in the grip of the new head of the city’s Paranormal Contracts Oversight Commission, Walter Peck (William Atherton’s character from the first movie). But when a demonic soul-eater wreaks havoc at an amusement park in Schenectady, our heroes are forced to ride in and save a possessed little boy from certain doom. Of all people, it’s Venkman who may be tasked with saving them all. Plus, Egon sees a familiar face from his past and wonders if he’s seeing yet another ghost!
I’ve talked at length about how much I adore what Erik Burnham, Dan Schoening and Tristan Jones are doing with the Ghostbusters property here. These guys are obviously huge Ghostheads, as evidenced by the various nods and inside jokes for not only fans of the movies, but the cartoon shows as well. Fans of the ’90s Extreme Ghostbusters cartoon should be really happy with this book. We see the Kylie Griffin character from that show introduced as an apprentice of sorts to Ray. We also meet Janine’s new boyfriend, who looks exactly like the Egon counterpart from Extreme. We also see a very familiar office from the original film (shown left), among numerous other easter eggs.
Thankfully the book, and the series in general, balance the nostalgia and references with some of the best Ghostbusters content you’ll find outside of the movies themselves. This IDW series is the only comic book representation of Ghostbusters I’ve seen that really nails the balance between the humor element and the drama/horror element. I imagine that’s the trouble with Ghostbusters in any medium. If you lose sight of the fact that Ghostbusters was a comedy and go too far in the drama direction, you lose that light-hearted tone that was so integral to the franchise’s success. But if you dive too far into the humor, it becomes almost a parody. But this book nails it.
But as good as the writing is, it’s Dan Schoening’s stripped down, cartoony artwork that really makes Ghostbusters stand out. The ironic thing is that even though Schoening’s art has the least amount of realistic detail compared to other comic book takes on the boys in gray, he manages to come the closest to giving us the look of the original actors. By giving us cartoon versions of the characters that only have one or two common features with their corresponding actors (Bill Murray’s haircut, Harold Ramis’ glasses, etc), he essentially allows the reader’s brain to draw the intricate details for him. It’s amazing no one else come up with that in 25 years.
The series also utilizes some long form storytelling that we’re not necessarily used to seeing in Ghostbusters books. In this book we briefly see a couple of would-be Ghostbusters trying to assemble their own gear based on the designs for the proton packs, ghost traps, etc. We saw them briefly in Vol. 1 as well. This is obviously leading to a story in which a rival paranormal elimination team surfaces to challenge the Ghostbusters. Instead of just thrusting such characters into a story, Burnham and the creative team are planting seeds and allowing them to grow into plots of their own. We even see a smaller one that’s self contained in this book. In issue #5, Egon thinks he sees an old college buddy walking down the street. For the sake of staying spoiler-free, we’ll say he’s (*ehem*) not supposed to be there. Then in issue #8 he sees him again, and this time he’s able to investigate. And that issue doesn’t resolve the matter, so we’re left to revisit this plot thread yet again in a future issue. You can argue that this might confuse readers who jump in later. But these little seed moments don’t take up much time. In truth, reading issue #5 isn’t necessary to enjoy issue #8. With luck, things will remain that smooth as the series progresses.