Digging in Deep with The Ghosts of Cybertron Past

1 Jul

By Ed Sum
(The Vintage Tempest)

Available Now
IDW Publishing

* Spoiler Alert

When I heard two beloved 80s franchises—Transformers and Ghostbusters—are crossing over, I had to contain my excitement. I thought about the movie where Starscream died and the G1 episodes “Starscream’s Ghost and Ghost in the Machine. His spirit never moved on; it haunted the tomb where his remains lay and later possessed the Decepticon Octane. Just why his spirit stayed in this world has never been addressed. Those Transformers who ‘died’ in the movie never returned, and yet, throughout the animated series, he’s never moved on. As a ghost, he can possess any Transformer and just why he never took advantage is because of his limited thinking.

It’s a shame across even in Beast Wars, where his spark returns, this Decepticon never gets his just reward.

I wondered where this comic by the writing-artist-colourist team of Erik Burnham, Dan Schoening and Luis Antonio Delgado comes in. Would IDW Publishing‘s release follow the G1 continuity where Starscream happens upon Gozer and makes a bargain to obtain a new body? Unfortunately not. This company has been running Its own Transformers universe for years now. I pick up the odd storyline to read when it spotlights my favourite Autobot or Decepticon.

The opening pages of this new comic begin with the Decepticons meeting The Traveller, exactly like when the Ghostbusters met this deity in the 1984 film. This god is reimagined in Cybertronian form and oh boy, Megatron is in trouble! The true villain in this crossover does not seem interested in allowing anyone to live. She would rather see their essences scattered–a fate far worse than death.

The Keymaster and Gatekeeper look far more threatening than Ravage ever will. My only question is whether the two arrived on Cybertron earlier or they accompanied their master. At least, according to the film, they are agencies who arrive first in order to facilitate the coming of the Lady of Destruction. She has to be summoned.

I imagine Schoening has a wealth of Ghostbusters reference material to use and he captures the look from the G1 animated series perfectly. The dialogue is even spot on. I was voicing each character in my head. Add on top the fantastic colouring job to mirror the cartoon, they pop even more. When Hasbro is behind this product, drawing these characters exactly is what’s needed to contrast them against the caricatures of the Ghostbusters team.

The only sad part is that I want to read it all in one go. The tale is broken up into a five-act structure. Each issue will only bring things closer to the climax. I expect a denouement because this multi-verse has many characters from other properties coming to the fore. Last years “Crossing Over” maxi-series had a lot of variations and additional heroes from other worlds to help out. Perhaps more portals must be closed. Mind you, DC Comics Batman vs TMNT (or Predator) had no problems in having worlds collide, and those stories were very exciting.

As for how the Ghostbusters will deal with finding the sparks of those Cybertronians lost and restoring them, this tale has me wondering if Burnham has the mythos established from Beast Wars and Transformers Prime in mind to wrap the tale up. A Cybertronian soul is a complex matrix of energy Megatron sought to control and absorb. In G1, these essences were never defined, but we saw Starscream steal vessels containing the personality components of these sparks that would become the Combaticons.

There’s more than meets the eye with this series and I’m really hoping it will take a few cues from Masamune Shirow’s Ghost in the Shell. I’m not expecting anything philosophical for this run. To see how this miniseries addresses swapping soul exchange will be of interest. As the G1 episode “Only Human” revealed, the sparks can be put into human bodies and returned. Although, as for whether a series two is planned is up to the creative team, or this comic book crossover is simply a one-off as part of the massive 35th-anniversary celebration of the Ghostbusters franchise than an ongoing thing.

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