What is ‘Ghostbusters: The Return’?

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In my line of work, no job is too big, no fee is too big. Hence why I’ve just forked out over a hundred quid for……………………………………………………

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Now you may be asking why a tie-in novel to a franchise that hasn’t had a film since ’89 runs at over a hundred quid new and that’s because Ghostbusters is cursed. Or just had a run of bad luck. See there have been three major attempts to revise the series, the 2016 movie that I’m sure you’re all familiar with by now, a comic book series that bankrupted the company that tried to launch it and this book that likewise took down a company in its creation. This is of course ignoring the hit video game, IDW series and Extreme Ghostbusters; which honestly could fall into either camp, because they don’t fit the narrative. The best stab Ghostbusters has had at anything since the original movie was a tie-in Saturday morning cartoon series that actually holds up quite well, well the first half does anyway after a bit it uh went slightly down hill.

So which group does this one lie in, well in order to pad out the review I shall say that it’s complicated. ‘The Return’ exists in a mish mash of different continuities, taking the ‘Legion’ approach to time of moving everything forward a few years so that they could crack jokes about mobile phones and the internet without having to deal with old people. It sold itself as a straight sequel to the second movie, cribbing the notes about Winston Zeddmore’s background from unused scripts and remmbering that at this point the cartoon was still the highlight of the series and making Slimer a fat overeating mascot/pet for the team. This means that for most of the characters there is a strong enough through line that you can identify them easy enough but a little too strong in places to the point that they run the risk of becoming caricatures of themselves.

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Set in rough 2004, two years after the ’89 based sequel, Ghostbusters opens on a rock concert where we get to see crowd surfing, public endangerment and paperwork. The ghosts are getting smarter to the point where even they know you shouldn’t cross the streams. Though whether this is just a sign of the boys having been around the block a few times or due to the spectral, skeletal rock band being the harbingers of Xanthador, we’ll never know. Xanthador however we will know, a demon of fear his supplies are running a little low what with ghosts in new york now being like rats on the subway and so he needs to step up his game. Soon he’s bringing to “life” every urban myth ever heard off a friend of a friend. Now with New York dealing with albino alligators and phantasmal kidney thieves the Ghostbusters are going to have their hands full not least because Venkman and Zeddmore have left for a career in politics and the Mayors office has a new supernatural exterminator on their team. Jonathon Goodraven is a man seemingly out of time with no background who has a slightly different take on ghost busting than the boys in grey utilising things like ancient prayers, rings of salt a death and a high five that can vaporise any spook, spectre and ghost. Not that he won’t bring a few problems of his own to the story.

Art by Craig Dylke

Art by Craig Dylke

The tension builds pretty well as Xanthadors power grows with the team ending up back to back at the national history museum fending off reanimated dinosaur skeletons, making this a worrying recurring theme on my blog. It also manages to tread some fairly new ground, more so than the game or the IDW series. Someone name drops Stay Puft Marsh mellows and creepy paintings trying to take over the world but other than slimer none show up to try and milk the nostalgia. It’s not a great plot but then few seem to know what to do with the Ghostbusters going off all that has come since so it seems a little unfair to have a go at the book. The writing is a little clunky in places and that adds to this feeling of a decent fan fic more than a proper novel. Maybe it’s the mish mash of continuities, maybe it’s Slimer scarfing potato chips or maybe it’s the “comedic” assistant for the villain who exists to be chocked and or smacked against walls to illustrate how angry the big bad is becoming; but it feels more like a continuation of the cartoon series than the movies and that isn’t in of itself a bad thing.

It’s nowhere near worth the price tag that an out of print book calls for but “Spook Central” have managed to snag it like a fly in amber and have it on show “HERE” if you’re interested. It’s a little silly and the end feels like they ran out of ideas and decided to just wrap it up not least due to the Sam Raimi, Spiderman, all for one style ending. It’s not a bad book and I think it’s a little much to accept that this took down a publishing house but that just feels like saying the books quite good because the writer hasn’t come and kicked me personally in the nads.

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