Let’s set the stage folks. Ghostbusters came and infected pop culture like chicken pox but if the symptoms were freaking awesome like sneezing money and sweating champagne, spawning a sequel and a cartoon series. Things quieted down, we got a sequel cartoon that mostly flew under the radar (but that’s another column for another time) and things went quiet again. But hey it’s okay because a publisher named I Books noticed it was coming up on the 20th anniversary of the first films release and so in 2004 established author Sholly Fisch, who writes a lot of comics and children’s televison, gave us a book to continue the adventures begun in the two movies.
That’s right folks. The Return picks up two years after GB 2 (Kinda. There is a sliding timescale issue so it’s written as if taking place in 2004 but also a few years after GB 2. Just roll with it) and ignores the continuity of the cartoon, which is fine because that is what we fans needed and wanted in 2004. Movie Love for the movies we hadn’t stopped watching over and over for a Score. As usual I’m going to try and avoid as many plot spoilers as I can so the plot talk will be vague.
Time has passed, business went down again but is starting to pick back up after a highly public concert invasion by spooks who seem to have a boss. A boss who needs more power to fully appear on our world, a boss who feeds on Fear. Fear that is soon generated by summoning spooks who recreate iconic Urban Legends. Meanwhile an Independent Party nominates Peter Venkman and Winston Zeddmore to be their candidates for Mayor and Deputy Mayor, mostly to prevent the incumbent Mayor for using the GB publicity to secure re-election. With priorities and the team split alongside an evil growing stronger day by day can the Ghostbusters figure out the scheme and come together in time to save the world from Terrors made Real?
So let us get to the real meat of the matter? Is the story good? Yes, the urban legends hook makes for interesting variety in the ghosts while still making it believable they are all working a coordinated plan as one army. The characters are all represented well, not perfect but hey it’s not Dan and Harold writing it so we accept a few tiny flaws. Dana and her son Oscar show up in a continuation of the two movies stories of “Will Peter and Dana get and stay together?” that slips in and out of the Mayoral subplot which gives us Venkman at his core: Yes he’s a carny conman but he is also a good friend and loyal team member who does the right thing in the end. Winston gets good development as the blue-collar voice of moral principals who sees the election campaign as a chance to make his family proud by living out a classic American Dream. Ray and Egon research and bust and quip while Janine and Louis support and nerd. Slimer confirms his status as a spook-ally without taking excessive screen time (unlike the cartoon) plus we get references to the previous two movies that remind us research was done by the author.
Sadly bad marketing decisions meant that the book wasn’t noticed by the public at large and most people have probably never known it was there to give a chance. Five years later we got the Ghostbusters video game that was made in concert with the movie crew and based off Dan Aykroyd’s script ideas for GB 3, which supplanted The Return as the official movie canon follow-up. So The Return now exists as a divergent timeline for you canon/continuity folks.
It is a good read and a reasonably quick read. Not super small type nor super long. For fans of the Ghostbusters it is a fun trip with an ending that will make you smile. It is a worthy follow-up to the films and could have easily been adapted for a movie script that wouldn’t insult the fanbase. It is currently out of print but I am sure there are used copies floating around the interwebz and digital copies hiding somewhere for you eb0ok fans. Give it a chance before we deep-dive into the full run of IDW comics. Return to the world of Spooktacular adventures. Ghostbusters: The Return isn’t dead yet but bring a Ghost Trap just in case you hear some knocking in the basement.