Ghostbusters Holiday Special: CON-volution! sees Ray Stantz drag his buddies Egon, Peter and Winston along to a comics convention on the fourth of July, in order to pay homage to a legendary but recently-deceased artist and writer. However, being the Ghostbusters, a monstrous supernatural attack isn't far away.
That might not sound like the most natural setup for a Ghostbusters tale, but even if the book's scenario is a little "con-voluted" then it's worth it to allow its creators to have some fun with a story that's as much about comics fandom as it is about ghost-hunting action and adventure.
Writers Keith Dallas and Jim Beard and artist Josh Howard seem as keen on exploring the absurdities of comics conventions and the associated fan community as they are on the Ghostbusters themselves. Cosplayers, socially-awkward comics enthusiasts, interminable panel discussions and professional creators all feature heavily in the story, and whilst I've never actually been to a comics convention myself, I can imagine that the book's depiction of them isn't too far from the truth.
In fact, it takes quite some time before the issue introduces its supernatural subplot, as the writers seem to be having a lot of fun simply by putting the Ghostbusters in such an unusual situation and seeing how they react. However, the two worlds come together by the end of the story in an enjoyable and unexpected manner that allows the book to pay homage to the power of creativity whilst also providing a dynamic showdown with a larger-than-life villain.
From the very first page it's clear that Dallas and Beard have got a good handle on the four heroes, with the dialogue feeling distinctive and fitting for each character. I always think that a good test of these kinds of licensed comics is whether you could easily hear the original actors speaking the lines when you read their characters' dialogue, and the banter between the four feels very natural here.
Ray's innocent over-enthusiasm, Peter's wry, sarcastic wit, Egon's nerdy monotone and Winston's grounded exasperation are all present and correct, never veering too far away from the team dynamic as presented in the movies. It's also nice to see that Dallas and Beard haven't forgotten that much of the films' appeal came from the fact that they were action comedies, as there are plenty of gags here (with a fairly high hit-to-miss ratio, too).
And talking of the movies, there are a couple of sly references to the two films (and the animated series!) to be found in the book for those that look for them. But there are just as many shout-outs to comicbook culture in general -- including, if I'm not mistaken, a very amusing and inspired nod to one of the opening scenes of Kevin Smith's film Chasing Amy. It all helps to reinforce the impression that this is a book written by comics and Ghostbusters fans, for comics and Ghostbusters fans.
I'm not familiar with Josh Howard's artwork, having never read his Dead@17, but it proves a smooth fit for this story. Bold, clean linework is lent extra vibrancy by Luis Antonio Delgado's bright colouring, and there's a clear approach to storytelling that ensures that the story is never difficult to follow. Howard's take on the Ghostbusters makes the characters feel recognisable without striving for a realistic approach that would clash with the vibe of the rest of the book, and the book's villain and surprise hero both benefit from distinctive designs that add a little extra verve to the climactic action scene.
This is a fun Ghostbusters story that's marked out by an original premise that should lend it special appeal to comics fans. Fans of the movies should be happy with the way the characters are treated, and those who come at the book as comics fans first and foremost will find a lot to enjoy in the story's depiction of comics culture.
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