TITLE: Ghostbusters, Vol. 4: Who Ya Gonna Call?
AUTHOR: Erik Burnham
PENCILLER: Dan Schoening, Tristan Jones
COLLECTS: Ghostbusters #13-16
PUBLISHER: IDW Publishing
RELEASED: March 20, 2013
By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder
This volume of IDW’s Ghostbusters series was the first to disappoint me. It’s still one of my favorite books on the stands. But this volume was supposed to pay off a sub plot that had been building since early in the series, and what we got was largely a let down. I’m not sure if Burnham, Schoening and the creative team were under pressure to transition into the New Ghostbusters book, or if certain other factors were at play. But either way, the results we get here are subpar.
When the Ghostbusters return to New York after their trek across America, they find they don’t have the giant customer waiting list they were expecting. As it turns out, a new group of paranormal eliminators, the Ghost Smashers, have moved in on the boys’ turf while they were away. This new team is led by the cocky Ron Alexander, a schemer who has created his own technology based on schematics stolen from the Ghostbusters. This “smashing” equipment apparently leads to the outright destruction of paranormal entities, as opposed to their capture and containment. Together with his team of supermodel-looking partners, Ron is successful in undercutting the majority of the Ghostbusters’ business. Little do our new “heroes” know that they’re doing more harm than good. In the end, it’ll be up to our boys in grey to step in and clean up the mess. Plus, Winston takes a big step forward in his personal life. But his duties as a Ghostbuster don’t exactly make things easy.
The name Ghost Smashers very much keeps with the tone Burnham and the creative team have set for this series thus far. Dan Aykroyd’s original draft for Ghostbusters was indeed called “Ghost Smashers.” Conceived as a vehicle for himself and Jon Belushi, Aykroyd’s story had our heroes traveling from dimension to dimension to fight ghosts, one of which was the Stay Puft Marshmallow man. Obviously, the story was eventually reworked into what we know and love today. What we see from Ron Alexander’s team isn’t reflective of what Aykroyd conceived all those years ago, but attaching the name to a competitive team is still a pretty cool idea. To an extent it makes you wonder what might have been.
The problem I have with the Ghost Smashers story arc is that it was too short to be an effective pay off for something that’s been built up since issue #3. We’d had over a year’s worth of build up for this, and then we didn’t even get a full four issue story arc out of it. Granted, Ron Alexander isn’t going away. He’s featured quite prominently in The New Ghostbusters, IDW’s current GB book (which Burnham, Schoening and Jones are also on). But there was so much more than could have been done with this alternate team idea. For instance, Burnham and Schoening play with the idea of Ray falling for one of the Ghost Smashers. A love interest for Ray is something that has seldom, if ever been done before. And having that love interest be on an opposing team of paranormal eliminators? That’s an amazing idea! But it gets cut short before it goes anywhere. There was so much potential for good, funny storytelling here, and it goes unfulfilled.
The climax to the Ghost Smashers story is resolved by way of a character we met at the end of the last book, which I wasn’t thrilled about. I think in a perfect world, this book would have collected issues #12-15, as oppised to #13-16. Structurally, it would have made more sense that way. The closure we get to that whole subplot is a bit rushed, but it’s still fulfilling.
Still, the story has its high points. Remember Egon’s big “Your mother!” outburst from Ghostbusters? Burnham and Shoening play off that moment, and give Egon a nice hot temper moment with Ron. It’s always fun to see a typically reserved character lose his mind a little bit. (Right Hulk?) The way the boys go about defeating the big evil is pretty cool, and shows off a some new GB tech. And of course, Burnham’s trademark wit and Schoening’s cartoony art go perfectly together. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: These are the best Ghostbusters comic books I’ve ever seen. They’re likely the best the industry has ever produced. This one is of a lower quality than the others, but it’s still better than all of the other stuff we’ve seen over the years.
Issue #16 is a Winston story. It’s not perfect, but it’s pretty good. It’s the holiday season, and Winston is on his way to getting a law degree. To top it all off, he proposes to his girlfriend. But things take a nasty turn when a figure from Winston’s past comes back to haunt him, literally! To make matters worse, his career as a Ghostbuster seems to be putting a strain on his fiance. This issue does a nice job playing up Winston’s regular guy appeal. That’s really who Ernie Hudson’s character was in the movies. Ray and Egon were the brilliant geniuses, Peter was the wise ass, and Winston was the everyman. You could even call him a point of view character, there to ask the questions and say the things we as the audience would want to ask and say. As such, it’s easy to feel for him when we see what’s happening to his relationship. I think I’ve got a pretty good idea where this story is inevitably headed. Hopefully the creative team will be able to capitalize on it, so Winston’s character and IDW’s Ghostbusters line as a whole will benefit.
Officially, Ghostbusters ends here. But the book sets us up for The New Ghostbusters series, using Janosz Poha, Peter MacNicol’s character from Ghostbusters II. I can’t say the events of The New Ghostbusters warranted the start of an entirely new series. But hey, whatever brings readers in. We also see the rookie character from Ghostbusters: The Video Game in this book. For obvious reasons he isn’t given a name. Characters like these don’t have to be included, obviously. But it’s great fan service, and one of he reasons I love this series so much as a life long Ghosthead.
This first volume of Ghostbusters was great. But after reading this book, I think the shake up we see in The New Ghostbusters might very well have been a justified one in terms of keeping things fresh. After all, one can’t rely on nostalgia forever.
All images from author’s collection.
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