COMICS: John Reviews “Ghostbusters: Ghost Busted” (Manga)

Ghost Busted (Possibly vol. 1 in a series?)

Ghostbusters: Ghost Busted (Possibly vol. 1 in a series?)

If you’ve been following my reviews for any length of time you might have noticed that I’ve never reviewed any manga.  I have nothing against the medium (and it is a medium, not a genre) but I’ve never really been exposed to any manga that resonated with me (unless you count Gon, which I don’t) until Tokyopop released Ghostbusters: Ghost Busted earlier this month.  My love of all things Ghostbusters was enough to drag me out of my Western comics comfort zone and pick up a copy, and now I’m going to tell you all about it (because, really, that’s all I ever do here.)

If my review of Ghostbusters: The Other Side seemed incomplete because the comic only told part of a longer story, Ghost Busted presents the opposite challenge.  It is a collection of three separate stories, the middle of which is broken into four parts.  These stories are much more reminiscent of the Real Ghostbusters cartoon series than the original films, partly because of their attempt to establish and keep a status quo for the characters (one that would allow for a series of theoretically infinite length.)  Chapters 1 and 6 are done-in-one adventures for the GBs, while Chapters 2-5 tell a larger story that would likely amount to a two-part episode if adapted for television.  There are no real lasting consequences to be dealt with at the end of each adventure, save one (the establishment of a character last seen in Ghostbusters II, and supposedly the gang’s new arch-enemy) and even that is mocked by the characters.  Episodic stories are a double-edged sword: New readers can “jump on” at any point without having to catch up to the story, but there is little to no room for character growth or overall story progression.  I believe that this method worked for Ghost Busted because Ghostbusters is a property that works equally well as a film and a series, with each using a different kind of storytelling.

Speaking of telling the story, here’s a brief overview of the six chapters in Ghost Busted.

Chapter 1, “The Theater of Pain” has the Boys in Gray investigating a supposedly haunted theater at the behest of Blintzy Jones, Broadway’s biggest producer, whose latest musical is fraught with supernatural shenanigans.  When key cast and crew members get spooked and quit the project, it’s up to Ray, Egon and Peter to step into the roles of stage manager, lead actor and director (with hilarious results!)

Chapters 2-5 form a larger story, beginning with the marshalling of spectral forces against the Ghostbusters, and led by none other than still-living old foe Jack Hardemeyer (the mayor’s assistant from Ghostbusters II, played by Kurt Fuller in the film.)  He and his ghostly accomplices (whom I will now dub the Ghostbuster-busters) set out to lure each member of the team into a trap and “bust” them by placing their souls in a special containment unit and leaving the bodies on life support.  Only Winston escapes with his soul intact, and he aims to show the GBBs that “I ain’t afraid of no ghosts!” is more than just a catchphrase!

Finally, in Chapter 6, “The Devil Wears Nada,” the Ghostbusters must stop a fiendish fashion designer from turning everyone who wears her clothes into unwilling slaves of Heel, the Sumerian god of deception. But first they need to stop a set of possessed clothes from trying to crush poor Ray to death!

The stories each have plenty of the same charm and wit that so many of the Real Ghostbusters cartoons had, and Chapters 1 & 6 match their light-hearted tone.  The middle (and best) story is closer to the darker episodes of the first season (written more often than not by the incomparable J. Michael Straczynski) and features darker themes such as the pain loved ones go through when being literally haunted by their departed family members.  It also features a fair bit of gunplay, and gun-toting GBs is certainly a rarity in Ghostbusters fiction (if not a first.)  I also loved some of the academia-related humor in Egon’s story, which likely be lost on younger readers.

The dialogue fits the characters much more in Ghost Busted than in The Other Side, and the jokes work far better.  While there were times when it seemed that Ray was delivering a few Venkman-esque quips, on the whole the characters’ voices were distinct and consistent with previous media.  I was particularly fond of one “rally” moment in chapter 5, when the GBs are charging their packs and getting ready for a full assault.  It harkens back to the boys’ back-in-the-saddle enthusiasm from GBII, “Two in the box, ready to go.  We be fast and they be slow!”  Pete and Winston also do their best Admiral Ackbar impressions at one point (“it’s a trap!”), which is enough to make me chuckle.

Ghost Busted‘s art is typical of the manga style, though it uses a Western layout (i.e. left to right, top to bottom.)  Being uninitiated in the ways of manga reading I greatly appreciated this, but presumably there are some manga purists who will be upset.  Sorry, folks.  I guess Tokyopop was trying to appeal to a wider demographic.  Like IDW, Tokyopop was unable to secure the rights to the original actors’ likenesses (or even those of the animated versions.)  The characters look different, but are generally more recognizeable than their counterparts in The Other Side.  Egon’s chapter may actually have the best likeness of the character I’ve seen yet!  While the art varies in style from chapter to chapter (since the book was a collaborative effort between two writers and five artists) the adjustments are never major and it never takes you out of the story.

I highly recommend Ghostbusters: Ghost Busted for fans of the franchise, specifically those who enjoyed the Real Ghostbusters cartoon.  If you’ve only been exposed to the feature films (I’m looking at you, Petpluto,) don’t fret.  There’s still plenty here to love, once you learn to separate the characters from the actors.  The stories are filled with the kind of action and humor that makes Ghostbusters stories so much fun, no matter what form they take.

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