COMICS: John Reviews “Ghostbusters: The Other Side #1”

Cover art for issue #1

Nick Runge's cover art for issue #1

Uh-oh.  Looks like we’re getting some high readings on the PKE meter, and you know what that means…

Halloween is almost here, and originally this was going to be the time for a huge Ghostbusters revival to begin.  Well, maybe not huge, but the video game (based on the original script for Ghostbusters III) was set to hit stores on the 31st until Activision backed out of the publishing deal.  That’s the bad news.  The good news is that Atari Games has picked up the now-fully-developed game and is going to publish it sometime next year.  The even better news is that all the tie-ins are still coming out this year: Time Life is releasing the complete Real Ghostbusters animated series on DVD, and two separate comic adaptations have been launched.  First up (and the subject of this review) is the traditional Western-style comic miniseries Ghostbusters: The Other Side from IDW Publishing (written by Keith Champagne and illustrated by Tom Nguyen.)

To say that I’ve been an avid follower of Ghostbusters-related media from the tender age of 4 onward is a serious understatement.  In preparation for this review, I broke out my movie DVDs, my bootleg collection of the animated series, and most importantly my reprints (and original issues) of the NOW Comics original comic book series.  I even put the soundtrack on in the background so I could have the legendary theme music playing as key story points developed, which really helps to blend nostalgia with enjoyment of new material.  Now that you’re sufficiently terrified of my rabid fandom, I’ll get to the actual piece:

The story begins with the Ghostbusters breaking up a meeting of underworld (literally!) mob bosses in the middle of a turf war, but quickly starts taking a more personal turn for the GBs when Peter gets possessed by one of the undead wiseguys.  The big bosses (some of whom seem to be the ghosts of famous gangsters) decide to put an end to this ghostbusting nonsense, and are going to make the GBs an offer they can’t refuse.  I’d love to tell you more, but the ending is just too good to spoil!

GB:toS seems to borrow its visual and thematic influences more from the first movie than from any subsequent material, which is obviously the best way to pull in both casual and rabid fans at the same time.  Tom Nguyen’s art is excellent and a great fit for the project, but IDW wasn’t able to secure the rights to the original actors’ likenesses (or, for that matter, the likenesses of the cartoon characters.)  Some of the characters look a bit different as a result, and while I had no trouble recognizing who everyone was supposed to be, I felt that Nguyen’s versions of Egon and Peter were none too flattering.  The cover art by Nick Runge is fantastic, though, and I wish they could have used that version of the characters for the interior artwork.

The last thing I’ll mention is the dialogue, which does leave a bit to be desired at points.  Keith Champagne may know how to plot an interesting action/horror story, but his dialogue is not up to Ghostbusters standards.  Some of the jokes (especially Peter’s quips) are so bland that only their forced delivery makes it evident that they were even meant to be funny.  I guess not everyone can nail both comedy and supernatural horror and have them work simultaneously, though.

To sum up:  Ghostbusters: The Other Side #1 is a very promising start to a miniseries, and walks the delicate line between bold, original storytelling and good old-fashioned fan service.  The tone is definitely darker than most Ghostbusters fare, and a welcome change for those of us who think stories about malevolent ghosts should be a bit scary and/or dark.  The story thus far is clever and inspired, and the first issue ends with a cliffhanger that’s just too fantastic to spoil here.  It’s easy to jump right in to this new adventure of the Boys in Gray.  My only hang-ups were with the interior art (specifically the designs for Egon and Peter) and the attempts at humor, which were often misplaced or just outright unfunny.  Perhaps it will pick up as the series continues, but right now it’s easy to tell that this script was not written by a comedic genius on the level of Aykroyd, Ramis or Reitman.  It still stands on its own as a great sci-fi/horror/action comic, however, and is worth its $3.99 cover price if you enjoyed the original movie (and really, who didn’t?)


One Response

  1. […] my review of Ghostbusters: The Other Side seemed incomplete because the comic only told part of a longer story, Ghost Busted presents the […]

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