Another new comic book day is just around the corner, and the Best Shots team is back with advance looks at some books hitting shelves this week. We'll kick things off with a review of Ghostbusters 101 #1 from Rampaging Richard Grey!
Ghostbusters 101 #1
Written by Erik Burnham
Art by Dan Shoening and Luis Antonio Delgado
Lettering by Neil Uyetake
Published by IDW Publishing
Review by Richard Gray
'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10
While the Internet continues to debate the merits of last year’s reboot to Ivan Reitman’s Ghostbusters, Paul Feig’s genuinely fun, funny, and funky 2016 film is now undeniably a part of the multiverse of paranormal investigation and elimination. With Ghostbusters 101, writer Erik Burnham makes the relationship a tangible connection by bringing the worlds of 1984 and 2016 a little closer to making “actual physical contact.”
Ghostbusting veteran Burnham has been steadily crafting a modern world around the original New York team (or “Prime Ghostbusters”) since 2011. The events of the first two films, along with the interdimensional travels and even crossovers with the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, are canonically acknowledged in the opening scrawl to this new series. Yet while this gives Burnham the opportunity to use his extended cast of characters, including the titular "101" class of young would-be ‘Busters, Ghostbusters 101 is an easy access point for people just wanting to see a crossover.
As Ray Stantz begins to teach the new class of recruits, his bookstore manager Kylie introduces the recruits to the tech that allows access to parallel worlds, and the information that there are other teams out there in the multiverse. On the other side of that portal, another group calling themselves "Ghostbusters" are attempting to apprehend their own Class 5 apparition and keep it contained. Officially designated the “Answer the Call” Ghostbusters, based on the tagline for their film, the introduction of the all-female team into this existing canon is a major step forward for fandom.
Being a debut issue, there is very little in the way of drama or tension to the book, with Burnham content to simply observe the two teams in their natural habitats. There’s not even a hook to bring us back to the next issue, unless you count the promise of seeing more of Kevin dancing in a broccoli costume. What we do have is some classic Venkman wit, a delightfully and pragmatically oily Walter Peck and a dry set of newer characters filling the pages with slick comedic action. Likewise, it’s a joy to see Tolan and Holtzman in the field together again, not to mention the hints that these teams will meet up at some future date.
Dan Shoening’s art will be familiar to fans of the IDW comic series, and the lighthearted cartoony style is a lively accompaniment to the measured narrative. Shoening’s exaggerated style gives us approximations of the actors, especially the incomparable Holtzman, but what is particularly impressive is his ability to blend the styles so seamlessly. From the splashy ghostly visage of a spooktacylar Luna Park in the opening pages, Luis Antonio Delgado’s vivid colors tie the book together thematically, popping on golden ghosts, ponds of slime and proton blasts.
The post-credits scene in Ghostbusters (2016) teased a connection between these universes, and while the book doesn’t immediately deliver on this, Burnham brings us something that finds the ley-lines between the original films, his comic book universe and the 2016 movie. Indeed, it’s the kind of crossover can only be achieved in this medium, with original cast members having left our mortal coil far too soon. This is a fun start to a promising series, and one that will be irresistible to fans.
The Doorman Vol. 1
Written by Eliot Rahal and Daniel Kibblesmith
Art by Kendall Goode and David B. Cooper
Lettering by Kendall Goode
Published by Heavy Metal
Review by Justin Partridge
‘Rama Rating: 9 out of 10
Heavy Metal’s hilarious surrealist romp through a surprisingly dense science fiction universe returns to shelves this week in The Doorman Vol. 1 trade. Collecting all four issues of this slice of fried comedy gold, this volume allows Eliot Rahal and Daniel Kibblesmith’s story to breathe, unencumbered by a staggered release schedule. This also allows the duo’s ever increasing narrative stakes, endearingly unhinged characters, and sharp scripts to shine as they pull the reader deeper and deeper into the title’s crazy world.
Artist Kendall Goode, along with color assists on Issues 2 through 4 from David B. Cooper, also does his fair share to help the nuttiness along with a few straight up gorgeous displays of sci-fi that feel right at home until the Heavy Metal imprint. Serving as the title’s penciler, main colorist, and letterer, Goode dives into the sizeable workload and transforms it into expressive displays of action and an almost Edgar Wright like knack for visual comedy topped off by a color spectrum that radiates energy from the page. If you slept on The Doorman the first time around, don’t worry, because this first volume is exactly what you need to get yourself on board and have more than a few laughs while you do it.
Though the comedy is a capital-H huge selling point of The Doorman, I feel like I should stress just how deep the science fiction world building of the story is. Eliot Rahal and Daniel Kibblesmith start with a concise block of text right at the start in order to ease readers into the general conceit. A long time ago, an unknown race build devices called the Doors on every populated planet and unlocked universal travel within an instant. Manning these Doors are Porters, who are sworn to keep the Door and the universe at large a secret and never leave their post.
This quick and clean elevator pitch plugs the reader into the world quickly and gives the pair one hell of a solid foundation to build on, and build on it they do. Using lead Henry as an audience surrogate, we are quickly pulled into a planet hopping conspiracy story with real costs and surprisingly tense set pieces. In-between the twists the story takes, Rahal and Kibblesmith pile the pages high with ideas and jokes, keeping pace with the literal sound effect gags Kendall Goode throws into the mix like “Dive!” or “Hang Up!”. Granted the story slips into full on surrealist farce at times, especially around the time a hyper-intelligent koala is introduced to the cast, but Rahal and Kibblesmith always have the bedrock of comedy and a really great cast to keep them (relatively) grounded.
But while each script has a wealth of great moments to choose from, The Doorman wouldn’t be anywhere near what it is without Kendall Goode. Given a hand by the steady brush of David B. Cooper, Goode translates the script’s sense of irony and weight onto the page very well, bouncing between sharp visual comedy and emotionality with ease.
Along with his lettering jokes that just get funnier from issue to issue, the whole volume is filled with examples of Goode’s eye catching character design, his scene construction, and expressive character models. The solid skeleton of his pencils are coated in almost prismatic colors throughout, leaning heavily on the use of deep purples, hot pinks, and the drab woolen grey of our lead, Henry’s uniform. Goode’s work has been popping up more and more on social media as he regularly releases sample pages, but The Doorman Vol. 1 is really the best example of just how sharp his work can truly be.
It isn’t often that monthly comics get a full fledged comedy within its ranks, but The Doorman Vol. 1 is precisely the kind of hilarious jolt that comics need every once and a while. More than that, Eliot Rahal, Daniel Kibblesmith, Kendall Goode, and David B. Cooper present a fully formed and richly populated world that they can drop in and out of at will and still find fresh stories and laughs in. It's no easy feat to deliver both comedy and story without one dulling the other, but thankfully The Doorman Vol. 1 is a slick, cinematic exception to the rule.
Army of Darkness / Xena: Warrior Princess #6
Written by Scott Lobdell
Art by Diego Galindo, Igor Lima and Pete Pantazis
Lettering by Taylor Esposito
Published by Dynamite Entertainment
Review by Joey Edsall
‘Rama Rating: 6 out of 10
Crossovers of established and beloved franchises often have similar formulae. The open is a delightful rumpus as readers are treated to something that was previously reserved to the realm of fanfiction. The nadir of such storylines is invariably the end, as existing status quo can't be radically altered and the characters are generally sent on their separate ways. This is usually the result of a writer throwing up their hands as the narrative comes to an awkward, jumbled ending. Army of Darkness / Xena: Warrior Princess #6 is not an exception to this rule. This is not a strong ending, but for reasons entirely separate from many other such crossover events.
There is an undeniable sense of payoff in this issue as the narrative wraps up about as strong as a mostly comical story involving time travel could. Earlier issues of the series had a real forward momentum that felt like a grand climax was inevitable. With this final book, Ash is an old man whom the forces of time have placed exactly where he needs to be to prevent Xena from being slain at the prehistoric hands of... Steve? The series antagonist is revealed to be the third inhabitant of the Garden of Eden. Before Adam and Eve arrived, the only human was a vegan named Steve. Steve, in a swerve, found himself madly in love with Eve - statistically speaking, she was the most beautiful woman he had ever seen.
There's an implication here that all of the negative things happening in the world is still the result of Eve. Despite that regressive subtext, the villain's background story works out of a combination of Lobdell's over-the-top storytelling channeled in a comical outlet and artists Diego Galindo and Igor Lima's utterly sincere artwork. Steve is a ridiculous addition to a ridiculous premise, complete with an unironic uncommented-upon mullet. It's the kind of moment that perfectly captures the appeal of an Evil Dead / Army of Darkness-flavored story. It's a playful kind of humor that Lobdell has excelled with throughout the past six issues. What hurts this comic more than anything else is the climatic final fight. The character work in the fight is strong, with Ash's wisecracking being a consistent aspect of his character that keeps the team unified, and with Xena's heroic agency and wits ultimately defeating Steve. The action, on the other hand, is a letdown. The same being that would have slain Xena were it not for Ash does little more than talk and get chainsawed. Xena slicing off Ash's iconic weapon and launching it into the air to land in Steve's back several moments later is satisfying, but without a real struggle, it doesn't have much in the sense of emotional resonance. Lobdell spends so much of this issue diving into the backstory of his villain that the audience doesn't have a sense of tension in the present.
Galindo and Lima have been consistently strong since the first issue, and it is clear that the two had a blast with their panels in this issue. Of particular note are the Garden of Eden scenes, with Pete Pantazis coloring reaching its strongest point as well, and the final splash of a re-youthful Ash being kissed by Amber in a panel that has a sort of faux-nostalgic quality that mirrors the mystical flourishes of the thank-goodness-it's-finally-canon kiss between Xena and Gabrielle. The art really sells the earned peace after fighting off hordes of deadites and gives the narrative an emotional resolution, despite the weak middle section of the comic.
If you've been reading the past five issues, you’re going to enjoy this, even if the ending feels like a rushed copout. Amidst the low-points of this series, the one consistent positive has been that it was successful in being entertaining. Being the product of two '90s characters that fans at the time probably never envisioned meeting, that's really the best a reader could hope for. Crossovers like this are never going to be game-changers, but at least it's fun. This series is ultimately for the die-hard fans. It will be fun for them, but casual readers won't get much from it.