[Contains SPOILERS for Ghostbusters 101 #1.]
When it debuted in 1984, Ghostbusters struck box office gold, endearing legions of fans with its humorous approach to the paranormal. In the years following the comedy-horror hit, director Ivan Reitman and his cast – featuring Bill Murray (Peter Venkman), Ernie Hudson (Winston Zeddmore), as well as stars and screenwriters Dan Akroyd (Raymond Stanz) and Harold Ramis (Egon Spengler) – tried to recapture the magic in follow-up films, bit the property survived best when adapted to other media.
Eventually, Sony arrived at the critically disappointing 2016 Ghostbusters, creating a gender-swapped cast starring Melissa McCarthy, Leslie Jones, Kristen Wiig, and Kate McKinnon. The decision to revamp the classic series caused an absurd uproar, with some fans of the original incensed at the lack of connection between the classic franchise and the remake, and other detractors taking a distinctly hostile and misogynistic bent, trolling the trailers and harassing the female cast and crew of the reboot.
In the long run, the Ghostbusters redux never quite lived up to its critical or commercial promise. Thankfully, IDW has more than delivered on the paranormal investigators and eliminators, publishing one-shots, miniseries, and ongoing series featuring the classic team since 2009. But with the arrival of Ghostbusters 101, the universe is finally (and appropriately) connecting the original and rebooted squads.
The Classic Team is Still in Action
In Ghostbusters 101, writer Erik Burnham already has a challenge characterizing two teams, trying to match the tone of both films, and then cutting everything together to fit the four-colored world. Fortunately, Burnham is an old pro with the ‘busting world, writing for the ongoing series, as well as spinoffs and crossovers, since 2011. When it comes to blending the two versions of the team, Burnham avoids the risk of standing apart from the original while paying homage (a balance the 2016 reboot failed to strike), giving each squad a chance to work their way into the crossover.
The ongoing comic series is dedicated to the ‘80s team (plus Extreme Ghostbusters holdover Kylie Griffin – a personal favorite), and beings with a fitting mission. In a callback to the semi-maligned Ghostbusters II, Ray and Egon discover a massive deposit of emotionally charged pink goo - this time around, positively charged goo. Their attempts to... inject some negativity coats several city blocks, causing a jungle gym to run off under its own power. As a result, the EPA steps in - led by original antagonist Walter Peck. While the 'busters deal with the repercussions of the spectral explosion, Janine Melnitz's niece Cait and friends – who got in trouble for doing a little amateur ‘busting – attend a Ghostbusters "training" class.
And in classic Ghostbusters fashion, their trainees accidentally set in motion a cataclysmic paranormal event.
Another Dimension, Another Team
The Ghostbusters were always advanced with their tech, but Ghostbusters 101 #1 requires some extra gumption on the future-tech level. That’s where a little 'Turtle Power' comes in handy. During a recent encounter with the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (released to coincide with the green teens' sequel Out of the Shadows), Egon helped to build a machine to transport them back to their home dimension. As useful as the gadget is, it only reality-swaps between different versions of New York. Naturally, when Kylie gives the “trainees” a tour of Ghostbusters HQ, a demonstration of the limited-use transporter gives them a glimpse into the world of the 2016 movie reboot.
When the action shifts to that very team, things are going strangely, too. Abby Yates sends Leslie Tolan and Jillian Holtzman out to track down ghost samples (the ones Jillian doesn't blow up), and fears something major on the horizon, detecting drastically elevated levels of psychokinetic energy throughout the area. It also doesn't help that her main sciency cohort, Dr. Erin Gilbert, keeps getting distracted by their receptionist Kevin (played in the film by Chris Hemsworth) and his bizarre dances while dressed like a piece of broccoli.
With an uptick in ghostly activity in the one world and a surge of pink ectoplasm in the other, the meeting of the cross-generational Ghostbusters seems inevitable and intriguing. The inter-dimensional threat that makes it happen has yet to be revealed, but the comic's premise - and its artwork - confirms the two different teams will be joining forces before long.
Burnham’s characterization gives readers real hope for the future of the crossover series by capturing the nuances of each team member from both realities. Artist Dan Schoening's look – which blends the realism of the films with the style of animated spinoffs – also works perfectly alongside Burnham's sense of humor, one which feels more organic than either Ghostbusters II or the reboot. As a result, Ghostbusters 101 (so far) succeeds where its cinematic franchise-mates fell somewhat flat.
Most importantly, watching both the legendary team and their modern counterparts finally interact has a lot of potential. Not only can GB 101 gloss over some of the missteps made by the reboot, but it could also continue developing the enjoyable (if underutilized) characters, while bringing the franchise full circle. IDW could have found an ideal blend of contemporary and classic Ghostbusters – one which could also act as an appropriate passing the torch from one generation to the next – something the recent outing, in spite of all its homages and Easter eggs, didn't really accomplish.
It may be a bit presumptuous, but there are the rumblings of a workable sequel somewhere in Ghostbusters 101 too – especially if Sony opens up a little shared universe magic. Only time, and the construction of a larger Ghostbusters' world, will tell.
Ghostbusters 101 #1 is currently available.