Posts filed under Comic Books

IDW's Ghostbusters: When Dogs and Cats Lived Together

...and we still have hot thermal mugs and balloons for the kids.

For a while, as Ghostbusters sat in a limbo state following the height of its popularity in the late-80s, comic book creative teams were constrained to one-shots and brief four-part minis that often were over by the time they just started heating up. One of my biggest complaints among all the Ghostbusters comics that have been released over the last 10 to 15 years is that you could feel the perimeters of the mini-series weighing against them. IDW's "Past, Present and Future" by Rob Williams had amazing potential and reminded me of the Real Ghostbusters stories that I still hold as my favorites - but without the space to really get its stride, many elements of the story felt far too rushed. Like a five-star meal that you had to wolf down in twenty minutes.

But for 36 amazing issues, IDW Comics and the creative team behind Ghostbusters were able to do something that hadn't been done since NOW Comics' run in the early 90s (and to a more productive but often forgotten run in the UK by Marvel Comics): a lengthy story split into two volumes, Erik Burnham, Dan Schoening, Luis Delgado, and Tom Waltz were able to craft one of the longest Ghostbusters stories told in comics in nearly 30 years. The ongoing series brought back several familiar faces but also expanded the world by introducing several new characters that have now become mainstays like Ron Alexander, Melanie Ortiz, and a love interest for Winston in Tiyah Zeddemore. And with an opportunity to breathe, Burnham was able to write an intricate arc where he could introduce elements that didn't pay off for several issues (or in some instances, took on whole new meaning by the time you hit Volume Two's Issue 20).

Don't worry, Zee - all you have to do is challenge Death to a best of seven board game challenge to regain life in the comics universe.

But, as they say all good things must come to an end and it was announced in June that the series' big event Mass Hysteria would wrap up the on-going series, at least for now. And I started reading the first couple issues of Mass Hysteria, it became clearer and clearer that the creative team was crafting not just a fantastic bookend for their on-going series, but for the Ghostbusters franchise in general. If you start with Volume 2's Issue 13 and read to the end of Issue 20, the result is a meaty comic event worthy of its hype.

What a better way to highlight everything that makes the series great by revisiting the original story and turning it on its head with the introduction of Gozer the Gozerian's vicious sister, Tiamat? And no, she's not just coming to the Earth to inexplicably destroy it like all the popular villains of the 80s, she's back to prove a point. That where her brother had failed, with the same pieces, she could succeed. 

At least... that's what we're originally led to believe her motivations are as the series starts.

Rather than sitting down to read the Mass Hysteria event starting at Issue 13, if you plow through the entirety of IDW's on-going Ghostbusters series starting with September 2011's Issue #1, the result is one of the most satisfying Ghostbusters stories as a whole to date. Just as Dan Schoening would jam-pack each book's artwork with winks and nods to Ghostbusters lore, Burnham jam-packed each issue with storytelling elements that wove in and out throughout the duration of the run. Like any good on-going series, elements are introduced in 2011's Issue #1 that pay dividends 30+ issues later.

Naturally, everything in the series has been building to Mass Hysteria: the technology, the characters, even some of the trials that the characters have been through influence the story of the IDW Ghostbusters. In fact, with Tiamat, Ghostbusters is finally given its trickster Loki-type character, a being that exists only to mess with the well-being of our heroes because she takes pleasure in seeing them squirm. Forget bringing about the end of the world, forget finding a child to live again, this is a malicious god that sees all of the pieces on the board as her playthings and she's not afraid to admit it. Sure, as Fritz mentions in his review, it's a clever plot device to bring back a lot of familiar faces. But it's also a clever way of showing how those faces could have been used in different ways to different results (and the effects seeing many of them have on our leads).

The event (and one could argue the entire on-going run) also brings the Winston Zeddemore character to the forefront, something that so rarely happens. We learn more about him, see him in his personal life, and see him fall in love. There's a sorrowful but wonderful moment in Issue 16 where the four leads come across their future selves in what they believe to be a Tiamat trick or a temporal anomaly. The scene ends with an ominous tone for Winston that sets up a heroic moment for him when it becomes clear the only thing that can stop Tiamat is a human sacrifice. While Fritz in his analysis of the final Issue 20 believed that what ultimately ends up coming of Winston's sacrifice was a clever plot device to reset the characters back to status quo for what may come in future runs, I actually felt that it was one of the most devastating and bold choices that Burnham and the creative team made for the series. With Winston's arc in the on-going, you see how much pride he takes in his relationship, and you see him struggle to make it work given his choice of profession. And here, the only answer to save everyone that he's come to know and love is to sacrifice himself - and he quite literally does sacrifice his life for the greater good. But Tiamat proves that mere stream crossing and simple human sacrifices aren't going to be enough to contain her and she instead accepts what would ultimately hurt him the most: this relationship that he's poured his heart and soul into over thirty-six issues.

...that cold-hearted snake. (Hands a quarter to Paula Abdul for her reference royalties)

In the closing pages of Issue 20, you're left with the wind knocked out of you because the storytelling has been so effective that you genuinely feel the loss. It's ironic that seeing Winston grip the live wires to sacrifice his life didn't nearly have the same impact that seeing him regain consciousness and finding that Tiyah doesn't even remember his face hit me like a sucker punch. I know in comics that death is only temporary. But I know that this is a story that's left unfinished, because now with all of the hard work that IDW has done to grow the Winston character across all these pages, we now have a genuine grip on who he is, what makes him tick, and ultimately what will hurt him the most. And it's happened to him. Winston, the boy scout who was only in this for the steady paycheck, is now a flawed character. And that's amazingly intriguing to me. How will he deal with this? What will this weight on his shoulders ultimately cause in change to him?

In a book that's grasped the humor of Ghostbusters so well through its entire run, the left hook that ending gives you is some damn good writing.

Proof that Issue #20 is a bookend not just to the IDW on-going series but also a chapter of Ghostbusters in general are the last two pages: a wonderful tribute to the end of the first film which shows an extreme knowledge of the franchise. Again, just a punctuation at the end of how lucky we are to have gotten a series for fans by the fans - it could be viewed just as a device. A simple, "Hey look, we did the same thing they did at the end of the first movie!" But when you know the reasoning that "Onionhead" was added to the end of the first film (by Joe Medjuck's admission, it wasn't to tease that a sequel was on the way, it was a gag. It was just a joke. That after all these guys had been through, there was still work to be done). After all the characters in the book had been through through this run, after all the creative team had been through - the long hours, the extreme pressure from the fan community, and the normal rigors of getting a comic book out on time on a month to month basis... there's still work to be done.

IDW Ghostbusters On-Going (Volume 2) Issue 20 Review

"We came to kick ass and chew bubblegum... and we're all out of - - wait, Janine! Are you chewing bubblegum!?! Dammit!"

With apologies to SPT's good friend Fritz Baugh, this review should have gone up two weeks ago but I was waiting to read the issue myself and post my thoughts at the same time. Especially since I have many positive comments to counterpoint some of Fritzy's self-admitted snark. While I read the issue, and loved every minute of it and find it to be a really fitting bookend to a great set of stories, my counterpoint has been holding this article up. So, without any more delay, here are Fritz's thoughts on the issue and I'll be posting a separate recap of the IDW on-going series and just how much it meant to me a bit down the road.

As usual, spoilers are to be found below. Here's Fritz:

So... when we last left our heroes, Gozer had been thoroughly trounced by Tiamat, and Winston had just offered himself as a sacrifice if she'll just go away.

So what happens next?

Well, the short version:  Tiamat wins.

Here's the good news about it:  she isn't trying to take over or destroy the world, so she doesn't. She just wanted to kick Gozer's ass, and once she did that-- last issue-- all that was keeping her here was the entertainment value.  And her real agenda.

You see... Tiamat, as it turns out, isn't really a villain.  She's a plot device.

So for the anniversary story, we needed a bunch of set pieces to recall the movies. Dana and Louis are trucked in, just so they can be possessed by Tiamat's pets Vuul and Zinz Clortho, and  transformed into animals.  There's a great big battle on a roof top, involving almost every character ever introduced in the IDW series, and Tiamat is "defeated" by Crossing the Streams.

But since we hadn't done any GBII set pieces, she stuck around long enough for the Scoleri Brothers and Vigo to (sorta) make an appearance, as well as making sure that some of the IDW characters who hadn't been in the big battle in #16 get to show up.

But in #20 (#36) at last we see Tiamat's other function:  in-story continuity editor.

From a Ghostbusters Message Board: Give Tiamat his marriage to Tiyah?  I heard that offered as a joking possibility*, and boy, would that solve the "IDW made a big change in the status quo" issue... but then again, you’d have to be insane and stupid to think that was a good idea, and Joe Quesada thankfully doesn't run IDW.

For the life of me I can't find the post where someone suggested that.  I reread threads on #19 (#35) from the IDW board and GBFans, and didn't find that comment.  I found comments suggesting Tiyah was going to die, but not that one.  I wish I could find it-- I'd like to compliment them on their prescience.

Well, Joe Quesada doesn't run IDW, but IDW doesn't own these characters. I guess I should have figured that the "permanent" change to the status quo in #13 (#29) wasn't going to be, but it was such a beautifully done ceremony, a great pay-off to years of character development, and knowing how Sony seems to sometimes forget Winston exists, maybe they'd let one permanent good change through?  Nope.  I just wish IDW hadn't leaned on call-backs to one of the shittiest comic book stories of all time to do it.

On the plus side, sacrificing your married life to save Earth from possible destruction or domination by a Sumerian goddess makes a lot more sense than doing it to appease an editor-in-chief's midlife crisis.  And hey, as the last few scenes show, if that Volume 3 does come along, Tiyah could easily be written back in as Winston's girlfriend, the same place she was before.

And the other plus side:  it worked.  With Gozer defeated, guest appearances made, scenes recalling the movies enacted, and pesky permanent status-quo changes eliminated, Tiamat just packs up and leaves.  She isn't blown up, she isn't slapped into the Containment Unit;  the villain of the big anniversary story just gets bored and leaves.  Like I said, Tiamat wins. 

The transparent "well, we need to put our toys back where we found them since there's no guarantees of a Vol. 3" angle continued in the epilogue.  Dani and Lou join Ron and Whatshisface at Ghostbusters:  Chicago Character Limbo Division.  (Jenny "Looks Like Donna Dixon" Moran isn't mentioned, so maybe she stayed in New York to keep close to Ray "Looks Sorta Like Donna Dixon's Husband" Stantz).

Thankfully, Louis goes back to Ocala.  Dana goes home before Oscar arrives back from his weekend with Andre, and other than the fact that he has a birthday card and a new jersey to pee on courtesy of Venkman, he's none the wiser.

Mel and Kylie, similarly, go into… well, "They’re available if we can use them later but if we can’t they live happily ever after off-screen" mode.

And Roger? Well, he got an offer to teach in San Francisco.  He asked Janine to go with him, but she refused.  "Too much New York".  I almost feel bad for EgonLite;  there's been some implied  strain on his and Janine's relationship ever since Roger found out about her past (including the not-so-distant-past kiss) with EgonActual, what with him not going to Winston's (now out-of-continuity) wedding, but it had to hurt.  He probably had to deal with the knowledge that he was going to have a tough time becoming anything more than "The guy she has because she can't get the guy she wants", and that sucks.  For her part, well, this makes the second relationship left in flaming wreckage for her.  The only bright spots are that Roger was a quantum improvement over the last one... and of course EgonActual is still in New York.  Ah well... Roger Baugh will ensure that I personally will be in the answer to a Ghostbusters trivia question for years to come.

Which inevitably brings us to Egon's offhand comment about being in a "similar situation" to Winston and a certain "photographer from Queens". I think I'll avoid reading too much into this--I mean, after all, Egon occasionally says strange things-- but it makes one wonder.  I think Egon has been at the center of more subplots that didn't pay off over the last three years than any of the other Ghostbusters.  What was going on with his book designed to "stimulate" the female libido (revealed one issue after remarks about Janine seeming more "aggressive")?  Or the gris-gris, which looked like a Chekhov's Gun of some sort but only seemed to pop out a little flag that said "bang" (and not even in capital letters)?  I guess the "forced delusion" business is just one more "noodle incident" to throw into the pile.

I guess I should say a few more words of parting, but the silver lining is... we're not done yet.  The Ghostbusters series may be gone, but the entire team of creators is back next month with a Ninja Turtle crossover. So four more months of IDW Ghostbusters goodness to go!  

See you then!

IDW Ghostbusters On-Going (Volume 2) Issue 19 Review

Fritz Baugh returns again for the beginning of the end (sadly) of IDW's Ghostbusters on-going run. As always you should be reading this book. So if you aren't, what's wrong with you!??!? Spoilers are abound below, ye have been warned. Here's Fritz:

Ron channels his inner Pitfall Harry for the most recent cover of Ghostbusters #19 (Courtesy IDW)

Well, darn it, here I am doing it again.  Knowing I only have one (or five) more to go after this is slowing me down again.  Man, am I gonna miss doing these.

So where were we?

Ray has been possessed.  Everybody else except the other four main characters along with Kylie, Dana, and Louis have gone home.  This is a neat and surprising twist, setting up to end the story with only the core cast; we got the full action-movie full cast gang bang in #16, the real ending will be a little more focused.

I love the thought of Frank Welker doing the voice of possessed Ray.  Even better when Gozer and Tiamat are basically arguing out loud with each other using Ray's voice box.  We know how good this guy is--one of the best in the business--and I know he'd do a great job with "Ray, but evil."  

Kylie's first call is to get Dana and Louis out of the situation; they've been possessed twice in this adventure already, and neither is going to be useful as far as doing Ghostbusting stuff anyway.  

Egon, Winston, and Venkman get the three arm-mounted proton blasters--the two "Tainted Love" packs Egon and Kylie used last issue, and the two-gun device invented by Ron "And You're Not" Alexander a while back, and mostly used by Janine.  Winston uses the two-gun, which makes sense since he's the best shot, but it would have been more fun symbolically for Egon to use that (since Janine usually uses it) and Winston to have a TL-pack (since it was his idea to create them in the first place)

(While we're at it, with all the people we've seen using proton pistols of one sort or another in this series, you know who we haven't seen use one, and probably won't it looks like?  Kylie.  Just kind of an odd oversight, if you think about it.)

So what's going on in Ray's head?  Well, Gozer and Tiamat are having a loving sibling reunion.  If by "loving sibling reunion" you mean "Adopting the form of various RGB monsters and beating the crap out of each other."  Hob, Nexa, both version of Proteus, Quetzalcoatl, and ultimately their most "iconic" versions; Gozer as the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man and Tiamat as a five headed dragon.  Ray, of course, is unnervingly enthused about this for a brief time.

The little guns aren't doing anything, so the Ghostbusters go for the full proton packs.  Kylie mentions how Sumerian gods could somehow be appeased by sacrifice... Winston seems to think that may be useful.  Dana and Louis are left downstairs; the Ghostbusters aren't sure that sending them away entirely is a good idea.  Janine looks like she's going to throw up being stuck downstairs with Louis, and who could blame her?

The three Ghostbusters who aren't hosting time-shares for Sumerian gods in their frontal lobes go back upstairs with full proton packs.  They... don't do any better than the pistols did.  Gozer is now clearly in control of Ray, and floats downstairs.  Kylie shoots at him with a pack that was left downstairs; he just kind of shrugs and telekinetically hurls her into the ECTO-1 and continues his journey downstairs.

His target is the Containment Unit, which contains a big chunk of Gozer's energy in the form of the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man.  Gozer, having accessed Ray's memories, knows all about the palm biometric security lock..  But it appears that the biometric scanner has been improved since Wat tried to do the same thing by possessing Venkman- -it detects the presence of a non-native PK trace and denies him access.  Gozer is furious.  Tiamat laughs-- making sure he couldn't find Ray's memory of the "invalid reading" option was part of her latest game on Gozer.  She basically eats the Goz, and thus completely takes him out of the game.  He'll probably recorporate later, which is good because the last few years have taught us anything, it's that some Ghostbusters writers have trouble doing anything without dragging Gozer into it whenever possible.

So now Tiamat is in charge of Ray's body, and it's sprouting gargoyle wings.   Gozer's gone, but things are looking really really bad.

Then Winston says he knows what to do, which somehow involves ripping wires out of the wall and offering himself to Tiamat as a sacrifice.

What does all this mean?

We know from Fright Feature Winston three issues ago that Winston would be the key to the situation.  That Tiamat's role as a goddess of chaos was important, and Winston would "figure it out when the time is right"

I think we can be pretty sure Winston isn't going to die;  Sony sometimes seems to forget Winston exists, but I doubt they'd approve that.  Plus he’s in all the covers for the TMNT crossover.

Give Tiamat his marriage to Tiyah?  I heard that offered as a joking possibility, and boy, would that solve the "IDW made a big change in the status quo" issue...but then again, you’d have to be insane and stupid to think that was a good idea, and Joe Quesada thankfully doesn't run IDW.

I guess we'll have to see, won't we?

Next time...

...And So It Ends.

IDW Ghostbusters On-Going (Volume 2) Issue 18 Review

Only two men are capable of making the curled lip look handsome, and Vigo the Carpathian probably isn't one of them... (Courtesy IDW Publishing)

Fritz Baugh returns with his look at the eighteenth installment of IDW's fantastic Ghostbusters on-going comic book series. Have you been reading? You should! Do it while you still can! Here's Fritz...

Well, since the last issue came out, we got a bit of a reprieve. The entire Ghostbusters creative team, joined by Tom Waltz, will follow up issue #36 (V2#20) with a four-issue crossover with the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. And it's the IDW version of the Turtles, which are pretty faithful to the originals (Kevin Eastman helps write it, after all) and not those ass-ugly "Doctor Rockso" abominations (thanks for that one, Troy) Michael Bay is shoveling on us in the movie theaters right now. And Erik Burnham, on GBFans, hinted that the possibility of a Ghostbusters V3 is not dead;  that'd be neat, of course, but the franchise seems to have a troubled relationship with getting to the third version of something... I guess we'll see...

So where were we?  The Ghostbusters have been split into two groups:

Venkman, Ray, Winston, Janine, Mel, Jenny, Dani, Lou, and All The Rest, are on Hart Island dealing with Vigo the Butch.

Egon and Kylie, meanwhile, are back at GB Central dealing with Dana and Louis, who have been taken back over by Vuul and Zinz Clortho, the Terror Bird minions of Tiamat.

So, first to Venkman and company:

Ron tries to shoot Viggy, but Viggy just kind of laughs it off.  Winston tries the slime blower; again, nothing, but suddenly some glowy whitish tendrils start to grab the undead Carpathian despot.

Ray is missing all of it, by the way-- he's once more been sucked into another narcoleptic episode courtesy of Gozer. It's kind of a disturbing thought--what if it's been Gozer all long, all the way back to the first appearance of the John Belushi spirit guardian thirty-four issues ago?  Or has it been Tiamat all along?  Both ideas seem awfully plausible at this point.

Anyway, the white glowy things are spirits native to Hart Island. They take care of Vigo in return for being left in peace.  Later, when Ray wakes up, he expresses confusion about Vigo--the mood slime only worked last time because they had access to the receptacle of Vigo's spirit--the painting.  Which is about as close as we'll ever get to explaining why he was back there in the Video Game; that must have been an ugly surprise for the museum one day in 1990 or 1991 when their painting of four angels and a cherub turned back into The Sorrow of Moldavia.

Egon and Kylie, meanwhile, aren't having any luck dealing with Vuul and Zinz with the arm blasters (similar to the ones Winston used in "Tainted Love", the first appearance of the new Mrs. Zeddemore), only accomplishing the destruction of the monitor on the reception desk. Yeah, I thought it was funny when Kylie threatened to tell Janine he did that and Egon was all "Please don't." They can just blame it on the Terror Birds, I guess.

Anyway, to free Dana and Louis, Egon and Kylie resort to yet another patented Ghostbuster Risky Plan: tune the ghost traps to the difference in spiritual frequencies etc etc and try to suck the entities out of them. Sensibly, they try it on Zinz first, since Louis is the more expendable of the two-- it works, and a few minutes later Dana and Louis are back to normal (say it with me:  normal being a fairly relative term in this case) while Vuul and Zinz Clortho are on their way to a permanent roosting spot downstairs.

Speaking of the new Mrs. Zeddemore, Tiyah's having dinner with a friend of hers by the name of Kaz Gibbons, who seems to not be really happy for her friend. Kaz is in a wheel chair and, in the first panel she appears in, looks like she might be pregnant. I suspect Kaz is related to Bridget Gibbons from Sanctum of Slime, possibly her Mom, though the baby Kaz might be carrying right now wouldn't be old enough if the timelines work out the way we've been led to:  this being c.1996, and SOS taking place in 2010 or 2011, Bridget would have to have been an awfully early-blooming fourteen year old for that to work.  

The suspicions about Vigo not really being Vigo are only validated when the rest of the team gets back to GB Central-- sure enough, Vigo's still in the painting. Another piece of Tiamat's plan?  As Kylie says later in the issue, what happens when she gets bored with "screwing around" with them?  Good news, Kylie-- only two more issues left to possibly find out!

So next we get a pretty important scene:  Venkman and Dana alone.

There's always been a weird bit of schizophrenia in the franchise's treatment of Venkman and Dana's relationship. On the one hand, it's central to both movies, with Venkman winning Dana's affections, losing them, then winning them again five years later being a central part of his character arc.  On the other hand, mostly due to restrictions imposed by Columbia/Sony, Dana is never seen and rarely even mentioned anywhere else;  "Mass Hysteria"  is only the second time (after the 2004-2005 "Legion" miniseries by 88MPH) that Dana had a role in anything outside a movie or a movie adaptation. That lack of on-screen follow-up is why I can only think of Venkman and Dana as the franchise's "B" couple at best (and there have been times where I'd rank Eduardo and Kylie as more interesting).  

And I'm not sure what to make of the scene. The dialog basically tells us Venkman dumped her this time, not because he didn't care--because he clearly does-- but because he doesn't want Dana pulled into all the nonsense with the paparazzi. He makes a bit of a point, but on the whole...well, I guess this is about the best we can get with threading the needle of Venkman's character arc in the movies and pure licensor politics that have kept Dana away. The scene certainly lessens the "Venkman is a loser" factor, but I can't really call it totally satisfying.

So we end with Egon examining Ray in the colander, while Kylie and Winston speculate about Tiamat's plans and try to keep Louis shut up.  

Oh, and then Ray levitates, his eyes glow red, and he starts sparking like he was one of the Scoleri brothers.

This... is really, really not good.

(sigh)  And only two (or six) more to go