“Ghostbusters” #1 by Erik Burnham and Dan Schoening begins a new adventure for the team of irrepressible specter-entrapping parapsychologists. Burnham shines the spotlight on the supporting characters when regular Ghostbusters dudes Peter Venkmen, Ray Stantz, Egon Spengler and Winston Zeddemore are conveniently “collected” and disappear.
This setup leaves Janine Melnitz, Kylie Griffin, Melanie Ortiz and Ron Alexander in the saddle. A funny but typical scene of ghostbusting shenanigans segues into a long-winded and extremely info-dump-heavy scene in city hall, in which annoying bureaucrats in suits sit on padded chairs and rehash debates about the merits and demerits of allowing the Ghostbusters to function. Walter Peck is true to character in his wheeling and dealing, and the bit about licensing was a nice tidbit of fourth-wall-breaking by Burnham, but mostly this portion of “Ghostbusters” was boring. I’m afraid that I didn’t for a second doubt that the Ghostbusters would be allowed to continue operating, of course under new strictures. As a plot enabler and an antagonist, City Hill has ceased to have credibility. The plot then jumps to the abducted Ghostbusters, then back to Melnitz, Ortiz and Griffin, but with a minimum of intrigue.
As an introductory issue to a story arc, this is poor pacing, but as a debut issue meant to lure in new readers, the casual, molasses-slow world-building “Ghostbusters” #1 is a failure. Literally almost the entire issue is just story setup, and the text-heavy panels groan with the effort of forcing the situation to conform to the direction that the writer is urging the plot towards. Only readers who already have a heavy investment in the characters will care, since the plot has almost no tension to it by the end of the issue. One might feel a mild interest in how Venkman and the other were abducted. I’m not going to pretend that I think that Melnitz and Ortiz are in any danger of not proving their worth. The plot, as it is, was clearly designed to give them a chance to be the big heroes. These hooks are weak sauce, and the ending panel of a handshake is even weaker as an enticement to keep reading.
The good part is that Burnham is still good with character voices, and in particular, he does a good job with Melnitz and Venkman, both fan-favorites. Also, Schoening’s facial expressions are still funny and apt, and his backgrounds and character designs continue to feel true to the original movie. Readers who love the “Ghostbusters” won’t be disappointed on characterization and jokes.
There’s also backup story written and drawn by Burnham called “In the Box,” which addresses the excellent question of what happens to the ghosts who get put “in the soup.” These two pages in “Ghostbusters” #1 are also entirely setup, but the dialogue between Ray and Egon is great, and I also enjoyed the little ghost’s shout-out to Queens.
Overall, “Ghostbusters” #1 won’t necessarily disappoint long-time readers of the series, but it’s a drawn-out, flabby beginning to their newest adventure, even if the characters are their quirky and likable selves.