Friday, November 28, 2008

Of Neglected Traditions: Comics Starring Native American Heroes & Thanksgiving

I feel sorry for Thanksgiving. Wedged between the tummy-ache aftermath of Halloween and the hustle-bustle of Christmas, Thanksgiving has been reduced to a holiday footnote -- its decorations barely worthy of an entire aisle at department stores, its celebration diminished by headlines about Black Friday. It's definitely the most structured of the holidays, for those that follow its established traditions: parade, football game, meal, nap. That's Thanksgiving, in a nutshell, sans the obligatory turkey, pilgrim, and Indian arts and crafts, which have become the unfortunate target of political correctness.

Well, A Comic A Day isn't going to let this wayward holiday go down without a fight! After all, beneath its harvest hues and garnished gluttony, Thanksgiving is really about the battle between what one has and what one wants. So what if the pilgrims made nice for dinner? We're still into the business of acquisition -- if, hundreds of years later, the lines outside of Best Buy haven't taught us anything else. That's the Mayflower of the 21st century!

So, in the days leading up to Thanksgiving, I read three comic books starring Indian, a.k.a. Native American, protagonists. When one lists the different genres of comics, the "Indian protagonist" category is often lost to the western, or in some extreme cases sci-fi/fantasy, so I was genuinely curious to see if these issues, from three different publishers to boot, offered some legitimacy to this native niche. (More pointedly, when did "pilgrims vs. Indians" become "cowboys vs. Indians?") Here are the issues I read, with brief descriptions:

Showcase #87 (DC Comics, December 1969): I liked this issue right away, because its featured character, Firehair, is a red-headed Indian. Also, Joe Kubert's definitive style made this supernatural adventure all the more vivid, as Firehair is injured in a tussle with a Grand Canyon cougar and stumbles into a voodoo shaman's camp, where the mystic puts our wayward hero through some rather incredible paces, including a showdown with the very beast that "holds the world!" In the end, Firehair awakens and discovers that his terrible trial was just a fever dream, that the shaman and his people have been working tirelessly to nurse him back to health. Right . . .?

Shaman's Tears #1 (Image Comics, May 1993): I've read and reviewed Shaman's Tears #2, so I was eager to its prequel, to see how this series began. In this inaugural issue, Josh, the prodigal son of his tribe, returns home just in time to hear his mother's dying wish, that he fulfill his role as their people's "chosen one." As Josh endures a ritual that attunes his soul with the Earth, an organization dubbed Circle Sea Enterprises begins its legal battle to retain the rights to produce human/animal hybrids, presumably for military application. Thus, in both a scientific and spiritual sense, a connection and reliance upon the animal kingdom pervades this issue and promises a confrontation of food chain-climbing proportions!

Turok, Dinosaur Hunter #0 (Valiant Comics, November 1995): Following the "zero issue" trend of the early '90s, this installment with a concise synopsis of Turok's origins, including all of the significant Valiant crossovers up 'til then, too. Apparently, Turok, a strong teacher crossbred between two tribes, wandered into a mystical land of dinosaurs one day, where his protege married a jungle woman and many other Valiant heroes periodically ended up as different evil forces sought to capture the dimension's power. Turok eventually destroyed the land to prevent its power from falling into the wrong hands, and all of its inhabitants except him ended up in their respective eras. Now, in present day, Turok continues the traditions of his people, seasoned by the lessons he's learned from battle.

So, what do these issues have in common? I discovered two significant, prevalent themes amongst these three decidedly different issues:

1. Each issue boasts a tradition vs. progression diatribe, specifically between two characters that epitomize either side of the conflict. Firehair versus the Shaman. Josh versus his mother. Turok versus his apprentice. Interestingly, Turok is the only hero among these title characters that prefers "the old ways," but that his moniker is "dinosaur hunter" implies an inevitable sense of impending extinction, undoubtedly unintended by his creators. Still, this dichotomy makes for an interesting subplot, brewing beneath the surface of each series' main conflict and promising a simmering development of character dynamic. The real question is, can tradition and progression ever meet in the middle? Surely, one issue from these characters' multitude of adventures isn't enough to answer that, for them or us.

2. Similarly, each issue contains a definitive element of the supernatural, often contrasted by science, as if Native American culture is a source or beacon for all earthen spiritual phenomena. Firehair's trials, while eventually revealed as a fever dreams, are nevertheless presented with the expectation that readers will accept voodoo as a part of Indian culture. Shaman's Tears presents this contrast most decisively, adapting one's quest for an anthropomorphic spirit guide into freak hybrid genetics. While Turok's dinosaur land has unexplained origins (and reminded me of the recent IDW one-shot Lost and Found), the arrival of technology-based militant forces exposed its mystical context and was strangely reminiscent of the Nazi magic mythology of World War II. Are we really supposed to believe that Native Americans are this naturally transcendent? Further, is that the only basis for creating Indian-centric graphic fiction, as if they have nothing else to offer the comic book landscape?

Perhaps the two consistencies are tied together by their battle for identity. While the easy go-to for Indian-centric stories is their inherent spirituality, the juvenile voices of opposing progression might reflect the authors' need to find more -- to delve into the depths of their characters' more human side.

Now there's something to chew on this Thanksgiving. Really, before anyone claims political incorrectness or offense in the face of stereotypical Indian imagery, they should make an effort to understand the culture they've decided to "protect." Fire, tears, and dinosaurs . . . if these images are in any way analogous to Native American culture, these comic books might actually be a start. I'm always thankful when comics do more than simply entertain!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Take a Hard Look at Yourself: Hardware #8

"Dead men."

"Rising from their graves."

"Trying to drag me down."

Are these the first three captions of Hardware #8, or President Elect Barack Obama's first thoughts every morning since Wednesday, November 5? After all, every President has had to face the ghosts of the presidency's past, and in these months of transition between George W. Bush's and Barack Obama's terms in office, who knows how many skeletons the good Senator from Illinois has found in the closets of the White House?

Well, the Internet is full of blogs ready and willing to unearth those specters. Actually, it's full of blogs that review comic books, too . . . Anyway, yes, those three captions kick off a haunted issue of Hardware, the inevitable Milestone book I've decided to review in the context of preparing for Obama's anticipated presidency. If Tom Strong taught us about the vulnerability of our reality, and the Seekers showed us subtlety of spirituality, what insight can Hardware offer about black men in positions of power? Simply put, it's like I said . . .

They're haunted.

I've never read Hardware before; in fact, my experience in the Milestone Universe is limited to some select issues of Static Shock and Icon. Near as I can tell, Hardware is a black Iron Man, plain and simple. Brilliant inventor . . . armored alter-ego . . . it's all there on the first page's obligatory origin blurb. This issue, a transition between storylines, I assume, as it seems both tethered to the character's established baggage yet approachable for new readers like me, explores the demons that come with such genius, an aspect of the "self-made armored hero" paradigm firmly established in the mainstream by last summer's blockbuster Iron Man flick. "Woe is me for not using my inventive intellect for good instead of apathy-that-has-led-to-evil sooner! I'll spend the rest of my career in repentance!" The most tender moments in Iron Man, and this entire issue of Hardware -- in a single sentence. No wonder Hollywood never calls.

Seriously, though, writer Dwayne McDuffie uses these twenty-two pages to do what he does best: tell a compelling character-driven story, laced with plenty of societal commentary and action. In Hardware #8, the title character faces the ghosts of his past, from the victims of his superheroic adventures, to the family he forsook to become an inventor, to his mentor-turned-nemesis, to his lost love, to . . . himself. Every episodic encounter boasts a similar theme -- Wake up! -- which, while initially interpreted as a call to integrity, becomes the literal solution when Hardware awakes and realizes the misadventure was a nightmare. McDuffie definitely seizes this opportunity to pull aside the veil on Hardware's inspirations, citing the traditional African trickster tale as the proverbial outline for his armored hero's literary basis. While some might consider this a writer's faux pas, I perceive the move as shedding light on what is to pave the way for what's to come. In the end, Hardware muses, "I can't make up for what I've done. But I can live up to my ideals from now on. I can do better." In other words, some skeletons are best dragged out of the closet so they can finally be buried.

The Obama connection is obvious. First of all, any man, white, black, or green (that's if he's choking at an ambassador's dinner table or something), must face the legacy of his leadership before tackling the role as his own. From the department store manager that inherits a part-time team he didn't hire to the CEO of a corporation facing the realities of America's capitalism and economy, any and every position of authority is burdened some degree of context and challenge that demands sacrifice to be overcome. In the case of the presidency, the concept of collateral damage ranges from firing federal employees to the loss of human life on the battlefield, both of which are ironically equally criticized. How many nightmares will Obama suffer his first year in office? Will they look anything like McDuffie's analysis in Hardware #8?

The comic book medium isn't without similar ghosts. I mentioned McDuffie's "Teenage Negro Ninja Thrashers" pitch a few posts ago -- which is a hilariously biting treatise for Marvel Comics' penchant for jive-talking, skateboarding, young black superheroes. His Milestone line (slated to return to DC continuity soon enough) is essentially the fulfillment of that brief in-office satire, establishing a canon of black heroes with a wide range of nobility and strife -- everything that makes for a fun superhero story. He took his own advice and decided to do better. That's all anybody can do, face to face with the past. The key is one's capacity for honest introspection . . . and I don't think that's something one can learn. The ability to examine oneself . . . should come with one's hardware.

Hardware #8 was published by DC Comics and Milestone Media in October 1993 and was written by Dwayne McDuffie, illustrated by J.J. Birch and Jason Minor, colored by Noelle Giddings, and edited by Steve Dutro.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Seek, and Ye Shall Find: The Seekers #1

Continuing my feeble exercise to explore black comic book heroes in an attempt to understand the idolism around Senator Barack Obama's approaching presidency, I dug up my unread copy of The Seekers #1, acquired for a quarter at Frank & Sons. Judging this issue by its cover (not recommended), The Seekers is a series deliberately targeting black youth, not unlike a title from DC's Milestone Comics, right down to the obligatory skateboard. (If you haven't read Dwayne McDuffie's poignant pitch for Teenage Negro Ninja Thrashers, you can find it at this installment of Comic Book Resources' "Comics Should Be Good.") It even features art from Shawn Martinbrough, a Milestone alumnus whose work I first encountered and appreciated in Detective Comics a few years ago. Alas, I'm saving a legitimate Milestone issue for a near-future review, and, besides, The Seekers has a different target audience in mind.

The Seekers is a . . . gulp . . . religious comic book!

A Comic A Day has only touched the surface of religion in comics, from the comically devout modernization to the harsh, preachy condemnation. Thankfully, The Seekers establishes a third, more likable category: the fun, Bible-driven misadventure. Actually, the cartoon series Superbook and The Flying House really established the fun, Bible-driven misadventure, but The Seekers adapts the concept for a new, definitively more urban generation. In this issue, Jesse discovers an iPod that transports its user to different periods of time. Stashed in Jesse's church by its desperate inventor, the iPod is sought by community icon Steven Dark, a suspicious, sometimes ominously red-eyed man in cahoots with an errand raven. When Jesse's new friend, the issue's token white kid named Brooklyn, needs to research the Revolutionary War, they select a song by Paul Revere and the Raiders to experience the era personally, but when Jesse returns to his bedroom, Brooklyn doesn't. To be continued indeed.

The Seekers is published by Urban Ministries, Inc., a company that describes itself as an African-American Christian publisher, and is just one of four titles in their Guardian Line imprint. Although this issue is laced with overtly religious advertisements, its content is the furthest from preachy a supposedly Christian comic can get, and honestly I rather enjoyed the story, told boldly through Martinbrough's broad, expressive brushstroke. The tale's overarching mythology retains a bit of obligatory spirituality, considering that keepers of the iPod are called seekers and that the kids' first journey takes them to 10 B.C. Galilee, but sugar-coating the message by actually utilizing the comic book medium to its fullest potential makes the pill go down that much easier.

So, what's the Obama connection? Well, you don’t need me to tell you that religion was a critical component of this year’s Presidential election. Speculation about Senator Obama's religious affiliation ran from ardent analysis to conspiratorial craziness, culminating in a statement by Colin Powell that seemed to hush up anyone duly concerned. To paraphrase, Powell said, Senator Obama is not a Muslim, but if he were, so what? Indeed, as if the racial undertones weren’t enough . . .! On a surface level, Powell's inquiry is applicable in any instance of discrimination; for example, recent headlines report that a batch of retired generals are condemned the military’s old "don't ask, don't tell" policy. Basically, they're asking, if some soldiers are gay, so what? In the context of this review, here’s a Christian comic book. So what? A Muslim might make a great President, a gay guy or gal might make a great solider, and a Christian comic might make for a great read.

Of course, while a comic book comes and goes in twenty-two pages and is relatively immaterial in the grand scheme, a President has four long years to mess everything up. Gulp.

On a more spiritual level, The Seekers tells an entertaining story with a religious context, proving that religion can be present without being overbearing. That Jesse finds the iPod in a church, and that his first trip back in time reflects a Biblical account of world history, is almost more writer's prerogative than publisher's mission statement, at least in this single issue. And, yes, I do want to read #2, if I ever find it, which goes to show just how effective good storytelling is in comparison to preachy editorializing. Besides, considering that the iPod time-travels based on definitively secular bands or song titles, these spiritual matters seem grounded enough in the real world to remain entertaining despite the potential for a sappy moral. Further, that the browsing button on mp3 players is commonly called the "seek" button is a pun that hasn’t escaped me here, especially with the rewind and fast forward symbols affixed in The Seekers logo. We're all seeking something sometime, even if it’s just a song by Genesis. That's as spiritual as Phil Collins gets!

In regards to the Presidency, very few Presidents have actually asserted their religion (specifically, their particular faction of Christianity, at least thus far!), with the exception of the occasional comforting Bible verse in the midst of tragedy, which seems acceptable enough in our politically correct society. Then again, if you're looking for something to offend you -- seek, and ye shall most definitely find.

Monday, November 10, 2008

What Could Have Been: Tom Strong #20

What a difference a week makes.

Last Monday, skeptical Americans, on the brink of an undoubtedly historical Presidential election, wondered about the fate of their country. A week later, Americans either celebrating a victory or lamenting a loss can still be proud that their nation has made a giant step forward in abolishing its reputation for racism, perhaps setting a standard for the rest of the world. That's how I see it, anyway.

The question is, did Barack Obama win because of the Dragon bump? Pundits will argue that one for the next four years, I'm sure . . .

To acknowledge America's celebration of change, I decided to read a few of the comic books in my stable of unread issues that star black protagonists -- a theme I've traditionally utilized in February for Black History Month, but black history has been made this month, so the obligatory wait would be a disservice. My hope in these next few reviews is to find some parallels between the black heroes of comics and our President Elect, who has become a real life hero to many, many people (and who has now starred in a few comics of his own!). Leave it to Alan Moore to kick off the concept with practically prophetic results.

When the Comic Bookie closed last month, I was delighted to find several issues of Tom Strong in the fifty cent bins. Tom Strong remains one of those series I regret not buying monthly, yet also remains a guilty pleasure when I flip through discounted back issue boxes, as it isn't foremost on my mind but always climbs the must-buy list when I find a cheap issue. With all the publicity surrounding the release of The Watchmen movie, Moore's other works are likely to take a backseat in these coming months, until of course each of them are optioned for film production, too. I dare say that Tom Strong is one of the writer's most ambitious works, though, with thirty-six issues spanning eight years (the longest Moore has been associated with any one character or story, with the exception of Swamp Thing, unless someone can cite another example). Reflecting, sometimes satirizing, the science fiction pulp of the '50s, Tom Strong also combines strands from almost every other significant comic book genre, as well (western, romance, horror . . . it's all in there, sometimes in a single issue!), utilizing flashback sequences and/or chapter breaks liberally yet with reverence. Again, why I still haven't read every issue is beyond me.

Tom's origin is perhaps the most interesting contribution to the entire series, however, as Moore successfully tells a complex, engaging origin story with striking originality. When scientist Sinclair Strong and his wife Susan are shipwrecked on a deserted island, Strong makes the best of it by building a laboratory where he and his wife raise their son in a high-gravity chamber, educating him and nourishing him with an indigenous root, goloka, in a culminating effort to perfect his mind and body. When a volcanic eruption destroys the lab and kills Tom's parents, Tom finds comfort in the local, hidden tribe, and he takes a bride who eventually joins him on a journey back to Millennium City, where he becomes a science hero. Of course, fans know there are many more critical intricacies to this story, but these are the nuts and bolts necessary to understand issue #20.

See, in issue #20, Tom encounters a visitor from an alternate timeline, one where his origins are vastly different. Apparently, when one of Susan's pre-Sinclair suitors gives her an element capable of dividing time, she does just that, creating a history that prematurely kills Strong and strands her on the island with Tomas Stone, their ship's Jamaican (?) captain. When Tom Stone is born, he attains the same longevity and strength from the island's beloved goloka and learns vicariously through Sinclair's stranded books, essentially becoming the same man from the original timestream, but with darker skin. In Millennium City, this alienation actually builds a bridge of camaraderie with the one that would become his mad scientist arch nemesis, and together they become a force for good. However, Susan soon discovers the timeline's split, and . . . ha, to be continued. Surely a tale with such chronological consequence couldn't be told in a single issue, eh!

So, what does all of this have to do with Barack Obama? Well, Moore pens a prolific line that reminded me of the Illinois Senator's recent accomplishments. When Tom's mother sees how beloved her son is in Millennium City, she muses, "And everyone's so friendly to colored people now. You must have educated them, son." The implication stands, that the positive impact of a single individual with a high enough profile could redirect the perspective toward an entire group of people. Racism certainly isn't over, in either our reality or Strong's alternate history I'm sure, but racists can at least tangibly grasp that they're in the minority, that they're in the wake of something much more progressive than their rooted and anchored beliefs. Thankfully, we didn't need a skewered timeline to teach us that.

Yet, this catalyst in Tom Strong #20 is what appealed to me most of all. A week ago, Americans were like-minded in their contemplation of another reality, one in which their candidate of choice didn't win -- an Earth-2, if you will. How exciting is it that those that aren't into comics or science fiction can understand the Doc Brown concept of an alternate timeline? In this other world, how many of your friends really moved to Canada when McCain-2 won the election? How did his spending freeze affect the economy-2? Most interestingly, how soon did Palin-2 take the White House, if at all? I'm hoping to discover some traits in black comic book heroes that reflect our reality now, the one with Barack Obama poised as America's President, but Alan Moore turns racism on its ear a bit and shows us that sometimes the color of one's skin does matter, just enough.

Tom Strong #20 was published by America's Best Comics in June 2003 and was written by Alan Moore, illustrated by Jerry Ordway and Karl Story, colored by Dave Stewart, lettered by Todd Klein, and edited by Kristy Quinn and Scott Dunbier.

Monday, November 03, 2008

The Ghostbusters, Then & Now: Ghostbusters: The Other Side #1

On Friday, I saw a human-sized chicken practicing its trumpet outside of the local high school. A cave woman stood behind me in line at Starbucks. My girlfriend saw a Jedi walk into a Hollywood Denny's. This is Halloween, when the line between fantasy and reality gets blurred just enough to permit such frivolity without fear of consequence . . . and I love it. Batman -- heck, a legion of Batmen, as if from the various folds of Hypertime -- is as common a sight as Spongebob Squarepants, in a crossover that demands no cry for copyright infringement or corporate credit. It's the inner child unleashed, and it's the closest we get to a dimensional rift between this world and the ones we've created in cartoons, comic books, and movies over the years. So, IDW's new Ghostbusters comic book, undoubtedly released in October to coincide with Halloween, is appropriately titled "The Other Side." Leave it to those poltergeist pulverizers to so aptly direct and reflect trends in pop culture yet again.

Coincidentally, the Ghostbusters had become a big part of my Halloween celebration this year before I even knew of Ghostbusters: The Other Side. A local movie theater hosted a special screening of Ghostbusters earlier in the month, and I dragged my girlfriend and old Slimer toy along to partake in that beloved slice of my childhood. Fortunately, apparently I wasn't the only kid that watched and rewatched his Ghostbusters VHS, running my VCR remote's tracking buttons rampant after some one hundred viewings or so, and when Ray hushes Egon and Peter in the opening library scene with, "Listen! You smell something?" I was delighted to join dozens of others in knowing laughter. At the time, I bet Ghostbusters struck unsuspecting audiences as just another flick starring those guys from Saturday Night Live. Who would've suspected that those wry 105 minutes would've inspired an franchise that has included a few cartoon series, a long line of toys, and several comic book series?

Inspired by seeing "the guys" on the big screen (well, the screening was actually projected onto the back of a building, but you know what I mean), I dug up some old Ghostbusters comics I'd purchased a few months ago at the Los Angeles Comic Book and Sci-Fi Convention. Published by Now Comics, these issues reflect the continuity and likenesses of The Real Ghostbusters animated series, which boasts a strong argument for vetoing the films and adopting the "official" image of the franchise. After all, that cartoon series and subsequent toy line recruited kids in a way the original movie never could have, contributing to the success of Ghostbusters 2. (I remember thinking as a kid, Winston shaved his mustache for the sequel to look more like his cartoon counterpart.) Multi-colored jumpsuits and a blond Egon are mere aesthetics when compared to the way these cartoon and comic book series cemented the characters' respective personalities and made Slimer a household name. I rest my case, for now.

So, when I saw the cover to Now Comics' The Real Ghostbusters #13, I was excited to read the issue because it featured Bigfoot, a supernatural creature that has been striding through comics quite a bit lately (different interpretations of Sasquatch currently star in The Perhapnauts and Proof, and those are the comics off the top of my head). Neither a ghost or a fully evolved human being, I wondered how the Ghostbusters would capture such a creature; unfortunately, the story was more heart than attack, as the guys venture to reunite two lovesick lemures (a cousin to the Bigfoot, I guess) before a weather-controlling ghost uses the female's connection to the climate against mankind. The plot was compelling enough, and the art was great, but the issue wasn't comprehensive to the Ghostbusters mythos to warrant a Halloween review for me. Like the lemure, the issue I wanted to read had big shoes to fill.

Enter Now Comics' The Real Ghostbusters #25. I'm something of a numerology nerd regarding my comics, so I thought #13 would be a good Halloween-oriented issue. Of course, it was more a stroke of bad luck in contrast to my intentions, so I tried #25, as this year commemorates the original film's twenty-five year anniversary. I had to mull it over, but I was much more satisfied with the result. In this issue, the Ghostbusters are recruited by the government to rescue some soldiers trapped in another, spectre-ridden dimension, and in the process they discover a hidden history that exposes atomic tests as the cause of such interdimensional rifts. The Gozer "dogs" from Ghostbusters make a cameo appearance, albeit as robots intended to test the guys' skills, and in the end Egon thwarts the dimensional denizens by touting the Ghostbusters' rep rather than let 'er rip with the proton packs, which is almost as satisfying. Still all-ages friendly, this story's anti-government implications retain a definitely adult aspect that made this issue enjoyable to a longtime fan like me, particularly considering the Ghostbusters' trend for spitting in the face of nonprofit environmental agencies or using national monuments as battering rams.

So, I was totally ready to write up that review when I happened to see another review at Comic Book Resources, this one of a comic called Ghostbusters: The Other Side. I had no idea that IDW had commandeered the franchise from 88 MPH, who had published a Ghostbusters miniseries a few years ago that I had an incredibly hard time finding. Still, excited for a new adventure, I rushed to my comic book store yesterday and picked it up. Admittedly, I was a little tainted by the CBR review; I try not to read reviews about comics I want to own, but I found myself in agreement with a few of Doug Zawisza's assessments. First of all, while I'm a fan of Tom Nguyen's work, this issue seems a little rushed, and specifically his likenesses of Peter and Ray are inconsistent at best, literally fluctuating between vague caricatures of Bill Murray and Dan Ackroyd respectively and the designs from the animated series. Also, perhaps more nitpicky from a fanboy's perspective, I'd hoped for something more than a linear plot. I wanted more dangling threads. The only familiar faces we see are the four Ghostbusters themselves -- no Janine, Louis, or Dana. Considering this issue's cliffhanger, I'm sure we'll see them next ish, but I feel like Louis locked out of his apartment. There's potential for a big party here, and I want somebody to "let me iiiiin!"

In The Other Side, the guys are up against a mob of old time gangster ghosts that have the ability to possess people, an apparently unforeseen aspect to ghost-busting based on Egon and Ray's perplexed response. When one of the ghoulish gangsters displaces Peter's soul, the guys spend a majority of the issue researching the phenomenon, until the end when . . . well, I won't spoil it, because the potential to explore complex themes of the spirit world is rich here, if writer Keith Champagne is so bold, which would result in a truly great GB story. He is careful to place this issue in the world of the films, sometime after the sequel, as the lead antagonist expresses concern that the guys have been able to best the likes of Gozer and Vigo (they're mentioned twice, to boot), but the vernacular is all-ages friendly, as is the story's general structure. Fingers crossed that future issues present some complexity, resulting in a crossing of this tale's multifaceted streams.

As a quick aside, one thing that both the Now and this IDW issues have in common is the very feeble attempt at humor on Venkman's part. Of course, Bill Murray's performance in both films is priceless, and Lorenzo Music's deadpan voice acting in the animated series is a childhood guilty pleasure, so writer Champagne and James Van Hise obviously understand what I mean by "big shoes to fill." Fortunately, Champagne dodges the bullet by incapacitating Peter for a majority of the issue, while Van Hise . . . well, his comic was for kids. Lame one-liners get a pass if they can make a kid laugh. 'Nuff said, I guess.

In the shadow of Halloween, a general celebration of the undead, I'm grateful that the Ghostbusters franchise is still alive and well, and that it so infiltrated my hallowed holiday celebration. Sure, it's great to reminisce with the old Now Comics, but this IDW series (not to mention the new video game, but there are other blogs for that) is a very worthy addition to the canon. Indeed, no one human being could stack books like this.