Saturday, December 2, 2017

TMNT/Ghostbusters 2 #1

Publication date: November 1, 2017

Written by: Erik Burnham and Tom Waltz
Art by: Dan Schoening
Colors by: Luis Antonio Delgado
Letters by: Shawn Lee
Edits by: Bobby Curnow
Published by: Ted Adams


New York City, the Ghostbusters' Dimension.  A businesswoman (Marla from Gremlins 2: The New Batch, but don't tell Warner Bros) is attacked by the H2-Ghost, only to be saved by Ray, Winston and Peter.  As they get into Ecto-1, the Ghostbusters lament the increased workload they've taken on, but Ray reminds them that the barriers between dimensions have been dicey ever since their own universe was briefly entangled with an alternate reality.  Winston wonders if the "insulation" between dimensions that Ray and Egon have mentioned might be Purgatory and Ray considers the possibility.

Limbo.  The spirit of Darius Dun throws a fit, watching through a dimensional window as Splinter and the Foot Clan, his murderers, absorb his criminal empire and dissolve his legacy.  Bronson, the spirit who taught Darius how to watch mortals on Earth, tries to calm him down, but Darius only wants revenge.  Bronson tells Darius of creatures who can be summoned to kidnap mortals, but warns him that the price is steep.  Darius demands to know how to summon them, cost be damned.

Back at the Firehouse, Egon and Ray are busy calibrating their inter-dimensional monitor system when a portal opens in their workroom.  Donatello comes charging out and tells them he's being pursued.  He and the rest of the Ninja Turtles were about to teleport from Dimension X back to their Earth when they were attacked by a quartet of supernatural creatures.  The monsters took on twisted forms that mimicked the Turtles, then started grabbing them.  Knowing he was outmatched, Donnie punched the dimensional coordinates of the Ghostbusters into the teleportal and escaped.

Another portal then opens up and the "Dark Turtles" emerge, grabbing Donnie.  Egon and Ray recognize them as the Collectors, foes who had previously menaced them in the form of the Peoplebusters, and the Dark Turtles warn the Ghostbusters to stay out of their business, lest they resume their mission to abduct them, as well.

Later, Egon and Ray bring Peter and Winston up to speed.  The Ghostbusters are a bit intimidated by going up against the Collectors again, as their last encounter wasn't really a victory but merely a win via loophole that sent the Collectors back to their Prison Dimension with a different victim.  Winston suggests that even if they open a doorway to the Prison Dimension and get the Turtles out, the Collectors will just capture them again.  Ray thinks he might have a way to trick them, but it'll take some doing.

The Prison Dimension.  Donnie is reunited with his brothers and tells them that he was able to make brief contact with the Ghostbusters.  Just then, the spirit of Darius appears to them and gloats, vowing to keep them locked up in the Prison Dimension until their father, Splinter, dies from grief, never knowing what happened to his sons.  Darius vanishes and the Ghostbusters appear, entering through their own portal.  Ray gives Donnie a weird helmet and tells him to go through the portal, but he Winston, Peter and the other Turtles will have to stay behind for a while.

Donnie arrives in the Firehouse and is met by Egon, who tells him that while from his own POV he was only gone for a few minutes, due to quantum nonsense, the Ghostbusters have had three weeks to come up with a plan.  The helmet Donnie is wearing masks his psychic resonance to make him appear to the Collectors as Winston, while Winston is wearing a helmet that will make him appear as Donnie.  The remaining Ghostbusters and Turtles will then split up and each venture to different dimensions.  The Collectors, a hive consciousness, can only stalk one Turtle at a time and will have to chase each of them down.  The hope is that the distraction lasts long enough to give he and Donnie time to create a containment system to hold the Collectors.  However, by his calculations, Egon suspects they have less than a day before the Collectors realize what's happening and come to the Firehouse.

Turtle Tips:

*The story continues in TMNT/Ghostbusters 2 #2.

*This miniseries takes place between TMNT (IDW) #75 and TMNT (IDW) #76.

*For the Ghostbusters, this story takes place after Ghostbusters 101 #6.

*The Turtles and Ghostbusters last met in TMNT/Ghostbusters #4.

*Ray mentions "the Scandinavian Warlock Case" which the Ghostbusters wrapped up in Ghostbusters International #11.  He also mentions how their universe and another had gotten fused together.  That was resolved in Ghostbusters 101 #6.

*The Collectors took on the form of the Peoplebusters and kidnapped the Ghostbusters in Ghostbusters (Vol. 2) #1.  The Ghostbusters last encountered the Collectors in Ghostbusters (Vol. 2) #4.

*Splinter had Darius Dun executed in TMNT (IDW) #64.

*This issue was originally published with 6 variant covers: Cover A by Dan Schoening and Luis Antonio Delgado, Cover B by Dave Wachter, Cover RI by Karl Moline, Cover RI by Kevin Eastman, Freddie Williams and Tomi Varga, Heroes & Fantasies Exclusive by Timothy Lim, and Rhode Island Comic Con Exclusive by Chris Campana and Ian Nichols.


Before I talk about this issue, I just want to remind everyone that IDW's Ghostbusters comics, the ones by Burnham, Schoening and Delgado, are just so damn good.  But like a lot of good comics, they don't pop up in online conversations very often because no one has anything to complain about.  Sort of like Hellboy or Usagi Yojimbo.  Everyone knows they're good comics, everyone enjoys them, but when you can't bitch, what're you gonna say?  So don't let the lack of audible discussion about the IDW Ghostbusters comics trick you into thinking nobody reads them or that they're bad.  There's just nothing to whine about.

So needless to say, I really do recommend them with maximum enthusiasm.  You can get them in those nice hardcover omnibi, too, and they're a stupendous value.  All the nuance of the characters is captured in their dialogue and each storyline steadily explores and expands the universe while keeping all of it consistent.  While Ghostbusters fans don't have a whole lot of options right now when it comes to their media, it's been a reliable source of comfort having a Ghostbusters comic this awesome for so many years.

One of the things the IDW book does sparingly, though, is reinvent villains from the Real Ghostbusters cartoon.  You can probably count on one hand the number of cartoon bad guys who have been introduced into the comic (which is a continuation of the movie continuity, FYI).  That's not a bad thing, since it has allowed the book to cultivate its own rogues gallery more so than lean on the crutch of existing enemies.  And when a Real Ghostbusters monster DOES pop up in the comic, it always feels like a big deal.

Now, to contradict my "nobody ever complains" statement from the first paragraph, I'll confess that not all of the classic villain reinventions have hit the mark.  Peter David really blew it when he reinvented Samhain, the Celtic God of Halloween, as the ghost of a stage magician named Sam Hain, but that was in the quality-challenged early era of the book, before Burnham took over.  I've been dying for Burnham to give Samhain another go, but I don't know if that'll ever happen (there was a tease in one of the Annuals a few years back, but nothing ever came of it).

The Boogeyman had some very eerie and ominous buildup in the "Happy Horror Days" storyline, but they wound up rushing him in the last issue.  He could also use a second chance.  The Sandman, on the other hand, got a pretty great reinterpretation that fused the Gothic folk lore roots of the character with Freddy fucking Krueger.  He's still lingering around out there, so hopefully he'll make a reappearance in the book, some day.

But of all the Real Ghostbusters baddies to get revived for the comic, the best of the best was the Peoplebusters.  They were some of my favorite villains from the cartoon, who unfortunately only appeared in one episode.  Burnham reimagined them as the Collectors, an otherworldly quartet of demons who can be summoned to kidnap and imprison people, while taking on a twisted likeness of their victims.  While it was definitely a departure from what the Peoplebusters had been in the cartoon, I think it made them more menacing and opened the door for more story possibilities.

And that finally brings us to this issue, where the Collectors make their comeback, now taking on the guises of the Dark Turtles.  And man, it's so inspiring to see how all the pieces fell into place for this story.  You've got Darius Dun, who was recently killed in the TMNT ongoing, and you've got the Collectors, who take on the images of their victims and serve a master.  The end result is one big reference to Fast Forward, the sixth season of the 4Kids TMNT cartoon, in which Darius Dun was the primary antagonist and commanded the Dark Turtles, evil clones of the Ninja Turtles.  On face value, it seems so random, but if you've been following both books, all these elements found each other and tessellated so organically it almost feels like magic.

Again from the Ghostbusters' side of things, this miniseries follows up from Ghostbusters 101, which I think was the only low-point in the Burnham/Schoening/Delgado run.  It was sort of doomed from the beginning, since the mandate was to include the characters from the 2016 Ghostbusters reboot film, and not even one of the best writers to ever handle the property could make those pieces of shit tolerable.  Still, Ghostbusters 101 has a lot of good stuff in it from a plot, art and coloring perspective, and while the 2016 characters are annoying and unfunny, everything involving the classic Ghostbusters characters is on-point.  I'd recommend it since the narrative is needed to get you from Ghostbusters International to this miniseries, but just know ahead of time that the 2016 characters are so worthlessly toxic that they cannot be salvaged.

As for the Turtles, setting this mini directly after "Trial of Krang" was another good point of setup, providing an excuse for the Turtles to be in close proximity to a teleportal, but also a nice little breather area to slot this mini into.  If you only read the ongoing and Universe and miss this crossover, you likely won't feel too out of touch.

Also, there's a line that Egon makes rather offhandedly that I love.  He mentions that he and Donatello have kept in touch since their first encounter (explaining why Donnie would know the Ghostbusters' dimensional coordinates off the top of his head).  One of the things I've long complimented the IDW Ninja Turtles series on is how they haven't made Donatello a jack of all trades when it comes to "the science".  He's a genius, sure, but he can't do EVERYTHING.  Instead, they've given Donnie his own little brain trust of other intellectuals to help him figure things out; primarily Harold and the Fugitoid.  But knowing that Egon was part of that brain trust this whole time just sort of thrills me a little.  I mean, they can't mention him or have him show up in the ongoing due to rights issues, but just knowing that between the margins, Donnie is getting updates and advice on the regular from Egon... It puts a smile on my face.

Most of this issue is, yes, set up.  I often like second crossovers better than first ones, as now the characters are all acquainted and we don't have to go through any sort of introduction phases.  But there is still a bit of delay as the conflict has to be established, likewise enough exposition to keep non-readers of either series appraised of the back story.  Burnham works as much action into this dense establishing chapter as possible, and despite being rather wordy, the issue shouldn't bore you.

Schoening's art, as I've come to understand, is divisive among readers.  I love it, personally, but some people out there do not.  Well, they can hate it if they want to, but I'm not bothered.  I enjoy the cartooniness and, of course, all the Easter eggs.  Some are very on-the-nose, like the Real Ghostbusters and TMNT arcade cabinets in the Firehouse or the monster at the beginning being the H2-Ghost from the Kenner toyline, but others are a little more subtle (the pixel ghosts from the Atari/NES Ghostbusters game appearing on Egon's scanner).  They add more re-read value to the book, which is very much welcomed when the thing costs $4.

Delgado's colors are the other half of Schoening's art and you truly cannot divorce the pair.  I went back recently and reread an older story from the "Haunted Holidays" trade (the Thanksgiving chapter) and it was Schoening coloring his own lines.  It looked... weird.  Not bad, but it just felt off and incorrect.  Schoening's lines are a style unique to him for sure, but Delgado's electric colors are the icing that the cake needs.  While he may not get all the attention that Schoening and Burnham get for making the IDW Ghostbusters comics what they are, you NOTICE when he isn't there.  And from my perspective, that makes him every bit as indispensable as the artist and author.

TMNT/Ghostbusters 2 hit the ground running and it's marvelous how smoothly all the establishing story elements came together to make it happen.  The first crossover was a bit comically random in how the characters met, but this go-around feels like it's worked out all the kinks.  A part of me hopes that the Ghostbusters end up like Usagi Yojimbo and get folded into the TMNT franchise enough that they become regular guest stars.