Thursday, 24 May 2018

GHOSTBUSTERS ATC #5: MORE PLEASE! ENCORE!

<< GO TO ISSUE 4

Cover art by Corin Howell, colours by Russell Badgett

A bittersweet moment this, as here we have a magnificent, not to mention hilarious conclusion to What Dreams May Come, the first story in the Ghostbusters Answer The Call comics series.  Unlike the comics of my own youth, or indeed IDW's own G.I. Joe A Real American Hero continuation, a lot of comics, particularly licenced fare these days tend to come out in short bursts.  They come out and tell one story over several months, then stop, only to reappear with a new story numbered again from #1 a little while later.  While Marvel and DC have continuing issue numbers, they seem to reset them every other month at the moment, so it appears to be rare for a comic to not do so.  It's a shame, as I'd love to get my teeth stuck into an ongoing monthly comic, with different stories lasting various amounts of months then straight on the next, based upon these four women (and Kevin) instead of a start-stop collection.  For now though we'll have to wait and see, hoping sales have been sufficient enough to warrant another series shortly.

With a passionate fan base clamouring for new stories featuring Dr. Erin Gilbert, Dr. Jillian Holtzmann, Patricia "Patty" Tolan and Dr. Abigail "Abby" Yates, somehow I think it's already a given they'll be back.  This part starts off the same way as the first and third ones, with a panel for each of the Ghostbusters already in the midst of this issue's story.  I've loved it when they've been presented to us like this before, so I was a very happy fan to see this one more time before the end of this series.


For now though what we have here is probably the funniest issue of the run, which is saying something!  That first page of strip above perfectly sums up the issue in more ways than one.  Exciting, animated artwork from Corin Howell (coloured by Valentina Pinto) alongside humorous captions for each of the 'busters, with Holtzmann's being that bit different.  As always.  After a few weeks away from them, this page will make any fan grin from ear to ear and get them all settled in, ready for the 20 pages of strip and the rip-roaring climax.

Last time the Ghostbusters were experimenting with equipment that would allow them to share the same nightmares.  When they'd gone up against the ghost of Doctor Kruger, aka Schreckgespenst, aka "Schrecky" in the real work they'd found themselves woefully underpowered, then when they tried fighting him in his Nightmarescape they were frozen with fear and discarded by the evil doctor and torturer as not worthy of his attention.  Last issue they discovered a shared memory, one that had frightened them as kids but which was so hidden in their minds they knew Schrecky wouldn't be able to use it against them.  Armed with special head bands that'll allow them entry to his 'scape without detection, they set off to bust him.


What an entrance by Holtzmann!  Kate McKinnon has to take a large amount of credit for the creation of who has become one of my favourite movie characters of all time.  Her skill as a comedian, her timing, ad libs and ingenuity in crafting Holtzmann have won both her and the character a legion of fans.  From that portrayal comes the comics version.  I've said it before and I'll say it again, writer Kelly Thompson does a perfect job of adapting the Saturday Night Live star's comedy to the page, the artwork being that bit crazier for her than the rest too.  I'm really going to miss her!  (It doesn't help SNL has just finished its current season too!)  But let's get back to the story and the plan they spent last month crafting.

Of course it doesn't go as planned, no where near as planned.  It just wouldn't be Ghostbusters if it all went without a hitch, sure it wouldn't?  Very quickly the team find themselves separated and alone in a living nightmare world, just like before.  I don't want to give anything away as it's all very clever in how they eventually regroup and attempt to bust Schrecky again, with a surprise which will thrill fans of this new take on the classic franchise.  Oh how I'd love to show you something, or quote some great lines towards the end of this final chapter but it'd not only spoil the story, it'd also rob you of the laughs I had when you get around to reading it for yourselves.


Speaking of which, if you've missed out so far don't fear, IDW have a graphic novel collecting What Dreams May Come slated for release in June.  For those who have been buying the comic you've got a selection of covers to choose from as always, although I personally just go for whatever my comics store gets in, which is always Cover A.  This means I've a matching set, which you can see below this month's choices.


I really couldn't have asked for more from this series.  In fact, it's far surpassed my expectations.  The anarchic, natural and often ad libbed comedy of the movie couldn't have been easy to transfer to this form and, while I was obviously excited by the launch, I was initially nervous about what that first issue would turn out like.  I shouldn't have worried.  While we got an interesting story with a formidable foe, some spectacular spectral artwork and great pacing throughout, the characters themselves and the comedy of the movie are front and centre.  We even got some unexpected character development, some which were very funny little moments and some which surprised with their depth, in particular for Holtzmann.

But most of all it was a right laugh!  You'll hear the voices in your head as you read their lines and at their pace of delivery, the writing somehow having perfect comic timing, and you'll be giggling away from start to finish.  Perfect.  Just perfect.  Looking forward to more, hopefully much more from these characters and this creative team.

Wednesday, 23 May 2018

G.I. JOE #251: THAT'S WHAT I'M STALKING ABOUT



After the excitement of the previous story's concluding chapter, which was my first issue, how could the comic possibly follow that first impression?  With the perfect series of stories for a new reader like me, that's how.  Special Missions was also the name of a spin-off comicbook series by Marvel back when the original run was at its height.  Lasting 28 issues it highlighted the Joes' fight against more conventional terrorists (as well as Cobra) while featuring more intense violence and, according to Wiki "more ambiguous morality than the main title".  Is this going to be IDW's take on that comic, only this time as part of the main run?  Let's see.

I've only got one previous issue so far so I can't really make any comparison on some of those points, but I can say this time Cobra takes a back seat.  G.I. Joe has been called in by the US government to enter Sierra Gordo on a stealth mission to oversee a hostage situation involving American medical students held by the Neo-Trotskyite Terrorists.  I've no idea if these are recurring villains or just a one-off for this story, but either way it works perfectly as a nice character study for Stalker, who has appeared in the G.I. Joe comic since #1 in 1982.


A US Army Ranger and member of a Long Range Recon Patrol, Major R. Wilkinson is a sniper and part of a three-man team sent in to observe the hostage situation from afar.  He, Shipwreck and Zap aren't to intervene unless the lives of the Americans are taken.  The local government wants to negotiate with the terrorists and their special ops teams are on standby, ready to storm the building.  The Joes are across the street watching it all through their scopes, ready to take down the enemy as a last resort, without Sierra Gordo's knowledge of their presence.

Unhappy they've been ordered to only retaliate if a fatal shooting occurs, while wanting to take action before that happens, it all makes for a tense situation as it is.  But then we add on top of that some interference!  This rears its ugly head when terrorists come a-calling and while the others continue to observe it's up to Stalker to cover their backs, making for some great action scenes like the one above, which even include some nice little touches of camaraderie and humour like below.


But this is a character piece and the story actually begins with Stalker's nightmares of losing G.I. Joe teammates on previous missions and of the racial bullying he faced as a kid, all mixed up in his head as one prolonged, horrid vision.  While I've seen these kinds of nightmares on television before it's not something I've read in a comic and while it may include the skeletons of those friends he lost, it still portrays a very real battlefield with a very intense feel to it.  This is only heightened with the visions of the fallen soldiers and Alex Sanchez does a superb job of invoking the terror inside Stalker's psyche, Ronda Pattison's dark purple hues giving both a war zone and horror film vibe all rolled up in one.  Truly breathtaking stuff to start the issue off with.


Normally an action comic may then take us straight into the Sierra Gordo scenes with the hero still battling with his nightmares, but instead here we get a lovely few pages of him talking to a close friend in The Pit (still their headquarters).  It's a quiet moment which allows the reader to process what came before in the opening attack on our senses, while reintroducing another fondly remembered character, Spirit.  In fact, add in Rock'n'Roll and all of the individuals in this issue are ones I distinctly remember from decades ago, so it felt like getting reacquainted with some old friends.  That feeling of nostalgia mixed with the modern day story and art style is something very unique and IDW have nailed it.


If the remainder of the Special Missions issues are as good as this one then I really couldn't have picked a better time to jump on board.  Last issue was the action-packed climax to an epic tale but still Larry Hama's excellent writing put three-dimensional characterisation front and centre.  Now, in an issue designed as an actual character study we've also got plenty of action, some laughs and even a touch of horror.  Again, it's incredible to think this is a toy licence comic.  Larry has said previously he bases each character on people he actually knows or has met in real life and the importance of character shows on every page.

The fact the quieter moments, what some people might call the "talky pages", are just as compelling as the action ones is testament to Larry's grip on the people he's writing and the handle he has on the franchise.  But then again, he's been writing them long enough now so maybe it shouldn't be surprising.  Let's just hope he's not planning on moving on anytime soon.  Or at all actually!

G.I. GO BUY JOE!

It's a stellar issue that really sums up what I loved about the classic Action Force/G.I. Joe strips in Marvel's Transformers so much as a teen, then again about a decade ago when I reread those very comics.  Heck, it even has a wraparound cover like the 80s comics of old!  The next issue focusses on Baroness, my favourite Cobra character so I'm really looking forward to seeing her own story next week (finally that's me caught up) and after that IDW's website indicates it'll be the turn of Duke, so a nice varied selection to come.

If you'd rather jump into a comic when a new story starts then you really can't miss out on this issue, although the following ones could all make excellent jumping on points too.  I bought mine from Coffee & Heroes (for £3.70) in Belfast (find them here) and you can also check out IDW's official page for this issue too.

Monday, 21 May 2018

AUTOBOT LEW STRINGER TO ATTEND TF NATION


Regular readers of the blog will know one of my very favourite comics that I started to collect after Oink! introduced me to the medium was Marvel UK's Transformers, which I'm currently photographing my collection of for Instagram and rounding up monthly here.

One of the constants (also one of the highlights) for most of the whole 332-issue run was a humour strip from Lew Stringer, namely Robo Capers and then later Combat Colin.  His contribution to the comic has huge and this year he's been invited to be a guest at the Transformers convention, TFNation between 17th to 19th August in Birmingham's Hilton Metropole hotel.  Any fans of that classic comicbook, of which there are still many, won't want to miss this and the chance to meet the creator of the Lewniverse!


You can visit the official website for more information on the event, other guests and to buy tickets here:

tfnation.com/2018

In related news the third issue of Combat Colin has been slightly delayed and should now appear no later than mid-July, but I'm sure it'll be worth the wait as always.  Lew has also hinted on his own site there could be one or two special back-up features this time around, so make sure you follow his blog right here to be kept up to date with the latest news.  Also, if you've missed the previous two issues, you can get caught up starting right here.