Transformers/Ghostbusters: Ghosts of Cybertron is a crossover published by IDW, written by Erik Burnham., with art by Dan Schoening, colors by Luis Antonio Delgado and letters by Tom Long. The covers are drawn by Nick Roche. Transformers/Ghostbusters was released to celebrate the 35th anniversary of both franchises.
I picked Transformers/Ghostbusters because I thought it was one of the most bizarre crossover ideas I’ve ever seen. It was difficult before reading to have any idea what I was going to encounter. Two vastly different intellectual properties that have different rules, different characters and different planes of existence. I genuinely didn’t think it could work. And to be honest, it doesn’t. Mostly.
The plot takes place in a parallel universe after the destruction of Cybertron. The Autobots investigate a signal coming from Earth, and upon investigation encounter a quartet of jumpsuit wearing paranormal investigators. After the admittedly rather short but customary hero on hero fight, the two extremely different groups team up to battle Megatron, Starscream, and the Decepticons. What’s unique is the Decepticons have been turned into ghosts, and are controlled by a new, more dangerous threat.
The structure of the plot is easy to follow and for the majority of the time, enjoyable. But the plot device used to give the Ghostbusters a reason even to be involved in this story is barely explained and forced to try and bridge the gaps between worlds, both in a paranormal and plot sense. The first scene is a complete copy of Ghostbusters’ most famous scene but replaces the ‘Busters with Decepticons. While it’s undoubtedly humorous enough to see this parodied, it’s off-putting and takes you out of the story. There are other scenes that exist purely as references to the first movie, but the jokes often feel strained and don’t land as well as intended.
The characters are where this book shines. Burnham, who also wrote Ghostbusters stories in Ghostbusters: Year One and Ghostbusters: Infestation, has experience in writing for these characters, but he also manages to bring the Transformers to both life and afterlife as well. One of the areas where this shines is in Ectotron, an Autobot created solely for this event, who takes pole position in this story. He is incredibly easy for the reader to get attached to him, as a character who seems to be more eager to talk to his enemies than fights. His budding friendship with Ray as they spend more time together is very adorable.
Optimus Prime is written superbly, the stoic, dependable leader that is also filled with intense kindness and honor. His dialogue helps portray him as this patient and lovable figure, with him displaying trust in those who want to aid him and humor towards those that speak to him. I get a huge Captain America or Superman vibe from this interpretation of Optimus, in that he radiates authority but is also treats those in his charge as a friend as opposed to an inferior. The Autobots in Ghostbusters/Transformers: Ghosts of Cybertron don’t feel like soldiers in a war, making them more affable than in other interpretations. It should be mentioned that these are the only Autobots that step foot on Earth, the others just seem to have a nap in their spaceship for all the effect they have.
The Decepticons have more of a presence, but not by much. The star of the show is Starscream, who has been perfectly captured by both Burnham and Schoening. He’s sarcastic and scheming on every page he’s on. Megatron shows up but is vastly overshadowed by both his sidekick and Soundwave (the best Transformer, let’s be honest).
The humans are brilliantly written too. All of the four Ghostbusters talk and act as they should. Ray is the one that appears to be given a connection to the robots, while the others are limited in their bonding conversations with the aliens. The dialogue between human and robot is often really well done and genuinely funny, and there were moments where I found myself with a smirk on my face as they bantered. Janine is terrific in her few cameos as well, and if firmly cementing herself as the best character in the franchise.
The art for the Transformers side of Transformers/Ghostbusters: Ghosts of Cybertron is really fantastic. Schoenen cleanly draws all of the robots and the tech they use, and the colors by Delgado make it effortless to tell the robots apart during the combat scenes. The Decepticons do look great contrasted against older buildings on Earth. And when the two factions do come to blows, the fighting is easy to follow and scintillating to see.
But the Ghostbusters. Oh dear, the Ghostbusters. Their equipment and the proton streams look great. But their character models are awful. Ray looks like a melted candle. Egon’s hair makes him resemble a member of The Prodigy. Venkman looks like he had his head kicked in before he showed up. Winston is passable, but the size of his head compared to his torso is hilarious. These are all design decisions and ones that must have been made way before this book. The characters look like this in the other titles published by IDW and drawn by Schoenen. To me, personally, they look so unappealing to look at and severely affected my experience when reading.
So do Transformers and Ghostbusters mix well? The interactions between humans and robots are brilliant. The different characters bounce off each other really well, and I would honestly not be disappointed if Ectotron became a regular character within the Ghostbusters series. But at the same time, the two universes are so contrasting that the entire time reading I had a weird feeling when characters from either universe encountered the other. And I do understand that this story harks back to an era where creators of crossovers would use the most insane, barely comprehensible plot devices in order to get the characters to meet. But Transformers and Ghostbusters really don’t mix.
Which is a shame because Transformers/Ghostbusters: Ghosts of Cybertron is fun. It’s really fun. When Optimus makes inspirational speeches and the Autobots go into battle against Decepticons, my heart was racing in the same way it was when I watched the animated movie as a kid. When Venkman is spouting one-liners dripping with sarcasm, I had the same stupid grin on my face that I did when I saw the first movie for the first time.
Transformers/Ghostbusters: Ghosts of Cybertron is a clumsy, ridiculous tale that leaves me so conflicted about every aspect of it. The jokes are funny and smart one panel, then you have a wooden, awful reference the next. The art is fantastic and energetic on one page, but then hideous when you turn it. And who would I recommend it to? It’s not a fantastic Transformers comic, because there’s not that many Transformers and very little transforming. It’s maybe more of a story for Ghostbusters fans, as the rules of the world are based in that universe, but the rules are bent more than they were in Ghostbusters 2, and that’s saying something.
This is a story caught between two worlds, and unable to rest between either of them.
Transformers/Ghostbusters: Ghosts of Cybertron is available where comics are sold.
Transformers/Ghostbusters: Ghosts Of Cybertron TPB
Transformers/Ghostbusters: Ghosts of Cybertron is a clumsy, ridiculous tale that leaves me so conflicted about every aspect of it. The jokes are funny and smart one panel, then you have a wooden, awful reference the next. The art is fantastic and energetic on one page, but then hideous when you turn it.
Screenwriter with a love of comics and movies. Once referred to Wuthering Heights as “the one with the Rabbits.”