Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Ghostbusters' Winston Zeddemore: I'm Ready to Believe Him

Ghostbusters: Tainted Love, published by IDW Publishing, by Dana Naraghi, Salgood Sam, & Bernie Mireault

IDW Publishing is the best thing to happen to the Ghostbusters franchise in a long time. Amidst rumors of a third Ghostbusters film, IDW is already producing new stories starring everyone's favorite paranormal investigators, and this month's Ghostbusters: Tainted Love is the perfect example of how a franchise twenty-five years old can remain entertaining and viable when respected for its original wit. Further, while this one-shot exploits Valentine's Day as a backdrop, February is also Black History Month, and appropriately this issue shines a worthy light on one of pop culture's most underrated black characters ever: Winston Zeddemore.

See, while the three founding Ghostbusters each represent part of the dynamic that makes their story so compelling -- from Egon's deadpan intelligence, to Ray's paranormal passion, to Peter's horny humor -- Winston is the common man. Never mind that he's black; he's blue collar, and that's what makes him the every man even among resurrected demon dogs or medieval murals of animated madmen. He's seen the stuff that'll turn you white, and he hasn't changed a bit, still steadfast as the voice of reason, the regular guy that, if there's a paycheck in it, he'll do anything you say. That he is black is a testament to his culture; he's a hard-working man on a predominantly white team, and perhaps the most invested, considering his initial lack of experience in the paranormal. Remember, Winston knows his Bible. More than Egon and Ray's scientific know-how, more than Peter's detached sarcasm, Winston sees the big picture and he knows how to cope.

Ghostbusters: Tainted Love is the definitive Zeddemore story, as Winston befriends a substitute teacher suffering from a haunting at home, the result of a broken heart decades removed. Winston asks Egon to devise a way to avoid their usual collateral damage, but his new light-weight proton packs don't pack the punch the Ghostbusters need to handle such an experienced apparition -- so Winston talks to it. More so than any innovation in ghost-busting, Winston's ability to talk man-to-(former)man with the ghost transcends into the spectral plane and defeats the ghoul the old-fashioned way: by giving it some peace. In the end, Winston gets the girl, but more importantly he gets the respect he's deserved from the very beginning, when he first answered that help wanted ad in the paper.

Artistically, Tainted Love takes a step away from IDW's other Ghostbusters offerings, and I like it, as Salgood Sam's stuff reminds me of Jim Rugg's or Farel Dalrymple's work. His Venkman is my favorite yet, all wild-haired and sheepish smirks, until he's slimed, anyway. Colorist Bernie Mireault does a great job turning Sam's pencils into nice colorful effects, too. Further, writer Dara Naraghi gives us Ghostbusters fans everything we want in this single issue tale, from a worthy villain, to Peter's worldliness having value, to Egon and Ray spending a Valentine's Day with their true love -- science -- to all of the Winston goodness I mentioned earlier.

Finally, I'd say this story is a ghost of this franchise's past, if it wasn't so indicative of a more promising future. Keep it coming, IDW. When I want a good Ghostbusters story, I know who to call.

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