Taylor: One of the most fun parts about comics is seeing characters team up with each other. In some cases this is more a novelty than anything and in others its the entire onus behind a series. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Ghostbusters falls each fall into the latter category. While each team certainly has a memorable cast of characters, the comics and stories are really at their best when we see the teams interacting. Given this, it’s interesting to see the two series mashed together because it raises so many questions about how the chemistry from both teams will mix. In issue three of TMNT/Ghostbusters, things are getting more dire for our heroes, forcing them to work together more than ever before. But do these two close-knit teams work together well?
Casey Jones has been kidnapped by Chi-You, an evil Chinese war god, and the Ghostbusters and turtles are in hot pursuit. When they catch up to him, our heroes find that Chi-You has enslaved several people and forced them to do his bidding. After a quick battle that nearly ends in defeat, Chi-You escapes with Casey but not before he tells our heroes how to defeat the war god. The Busters and Turtles take some time to regroup before facing Chi-You again, who this time has transformed Casey huge and evil. Once again, our heroes prevail (with the help of a ghost bazooka) but only for a limited time. The turtles deny the chance to go back to their own dimension so that they can help the Busters defeat Chi-You once and for all.
At the beginning of this issue, we’re given a brief description of all of the main characters in this title. It’s a helpful gesture and can be useful when trying to keep track of who’s who in a story involving a lot of characters. In this case, however, the role call of characters is somewhat superfluous. Anyone reading a comic entitled Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles/Ghostbusters is probably fully aware of the characters traits of all of our main players. Still, it does serve as a reminder that we are dealing with two different teams here, both of which who don’t usually work with others. Thus we have to wonder, how will they mix?
The success of this mixing can really only be evaluated on a case by case basis. Aside from Egon, the Busters are a pretty laid back bunch of dudes, so it seems like almost a non-issue that they would get along with the turtles who have a love of teamwork virtually hardwired into their reptilian brains. This ability for the two teams to mesh is best exhibited by Donatello, who is a natural fit on a team of scientists. When trying to figure out how to defeat Chi-You’s “Thralls,” Donatello finds his ideas are quickly picked up by Stantz and Egon.
Raphael makes a wise-ass remark about how easily the scientists understand Donatello, but it goes to show just how in-tune their minds are. If just with the turtles, would anyone be able to pick up on the ideas that Donatello is laying down here, much less take those ideas and turn them into a reality? It’s doubtful and here we see why the turtle/buster team-up is such a powerful alliance. Between the collaboration of minds and the martial prowess of both teams combined, basically all fronts are covered at least once. Additionally, and as a bit of an aside, it makes sense the Busters would team up with the turtles easily. They’re used to seeing weird things all the time, so what’s one more odd thing with mutant turtles?
Of course not everything is as easy as figuring out low-voltage pulse rhythm disruptors. When the team gets a tip from Chinatown (the tip hilariously being that a giant bull is rampaging through the streets) they spring into action. Doing what he does, Leonardo starts issuing orders to everyone.
Peter feels a bit put off by this marshaling of orders and remarks to Mikey, “Bossy much?” It doesn’t seem like a big deal, but it serves as a reminder that these two teams have been together for only a short amount of time. Peter’s used to the Buster style, where no one person is in charge and whoever has the initiative gives the orders. The idea of a person who is in charge all of the time is naturally off-putting to him. Of course we can’t read to much into this as it’s likely more of a throwaway joke than anything else. Still, it would be interesting to see Eric Burkham and Tom Waltz explore the idea of teamwork between these two teams, since both does each so well. Regardless, differences abound between the two, so there’s bound to be some friction. Will we see more by series end?
Before I hand things over to Patrick, I want to speak about the wonderful color work of Luis Antonio Delgado in this issue. I’ve always felt that supernatural beings need to be presented in way that shows they are spirits and not necessarily part of the physical realm. Sure, they may have horns or the like, but how do we know they aren’t just a mutant like the turtles rather than a spirit? Luckily, Delgado has us covered in this issue. For Chi-You he gives the malevolent spirit a nice supernatural glow that tells us he’s a spirit.
The red lining him virtually pops off the page and glows like a neon light. This aura is a visual cue telling us what Chi-You as well as his affiliation — evil. By providing this vibrant red color Delgado has made our villain seem all the more malicious and altogether not of this world. And of course, any time the color from a page emulates actual light, I’m impressed.
Patrick, were you also impressed by the coloring, or the art, in this issue? Do you think the two teams are working together well? Also, now that we’re three issues in this series should be hitting it’s stride. Do you think that’s happened?
Patrick: I do like the coloring in this series — not only is it relatively simple and graphic (helping to keep what should be some pretty muddled action sequences clear), but you’re also totally right about the ethereal light cast by Chi-You. There’s a moment later in the issue when Venkman explains how to fire the proton pack to Donatello and Peter tells him to “aim for the glow” that I found myself immediately identifying with. Yes — ghosts glow: we can see that happening on the page. It may not translate into actual strategy, but “aim for the glow” is something that Delgado’s color work makes click immediately. It’s a nice little synthesis of character, storytelling and art.
(Also, I don’t know why it tickled me so much, but Venkman making the distinction that the proton pack is less like a gun and more like “a violent hose” made me laugh out loud. I guess that’s consistent with the image of the Ghostbusters as something akin to supernatural firefighters, but I was just delighted at Venkman’s analogy.)
As for whether or not the series has hit its stride, I think it probably has. Mind you, it may have hit a wall at the same time. In terms of compelling inter- and intra-team dynamics, the constant reshuffling of turtles and busters continues to be satisfying and good for a few genuine laughs every issue. Plot-wise, we’ve been treading water since the end of the first issue. Take a loot back at Taylor’s description of the incident in this volume. They fight Chi-You, they make him retreat, they fight Chi-You, they make him retreat. The details and the stakes are different in each encounter, but the broad strokes are pretty much the same. That begs the question of why these fights couldn’t have been collapsed into one encounter.
Possible answer? Oni Casey Jones.
First of all, what an amazing design by Dan Schoening. Casey ends up looking like a cross between himself, Shredder and utrom battle armor (notice the little face on his belt buckle). Plus, that ninja-scythe-thing looks an awful lot like a hockey stick! So, it’s an awesome concept, and I can see where it feels like the inclusion of this character into the second brawl might make it seem as though it’s a different experience. The problem, of course, being that he’s not that much of a problem for our TurtleBusters to take out — they basically just focus their efforts and hit him with the same proton pulse that they’re using on the rest of the thralls.
In my mind, Oni Casey Jones is the biggest missed opportunity in this issue. Tom Waltz has a lot of experience writing the Ninja Turtle characters as they struggle with brainwashing or mind control — I’m still a little upset about how convincingly he flipped Leonardo during City Fall — and I would have liked to see more of Casey’ internal struggle here. It would have been doubly appropriate, because that would have allowed us to explore Casey (from TMNT) and demonic possession (from GB), effectively probing themes from both series without using either of the titular teams. The added benefit would be caring more about that last punch-em-up. This isn’t a huge misstep — the issue is still fun and funny regardless — I just would have liked to have been more emotionally invested in what was happening.
I’m always thinking about how this mini-series informs the main TMNT series. Y’know, because I love Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. However, I’ve been sort of willfully ignoring the fact that IDW currently runs a Ghostbusters series. There was an editors’ note that directed us to the events of Ghostbuster 18, and I felt the sudden pang of loss when I realized these characters were having adventures without me. The series is 20 issues deep right now, and features Schoening on the art and Burnham on the words. Maybe this week’s new-comic-drought won’t be such a bad thing after all… anyone wanna read some Ghostbusters comics with me?
For a complete list of what we’re reading, head on over to our Pull List page. Whenever possible, buy your comics from your local mom and pop comic bookstore. If you want to rock digital copies, head on over to Comixology and download issues there. There’s no need to pirate, right?