This issue finds the Lone Gunmen arriving in New York City, intent on tracking down the first “urban legend” found in the “files from the future” they received in X-Files: Conspiracy #1: a group of would-be paranormal investigators/exterminators known as the Ghostbusters. The story that unfolds is built around the Lone Gunmen’s investigation into whether or not the Ghostbusters are legitimate paranormal exterminators, or just really effective con men. Of course, anyone reading this already knows the answer to that question, and to the story’s credit, it doesn’t spend a lot of time trying to perpetuate the idea that the Ghostbusters are frauds. Unfortunately, that still doesn’t provide the story enough room to truly address what it would mean to the Lone Gunmen to learn that ghosts are real.
The key to a crossover series like this, particularly one that is crossing over into different licensed properties (as opposed to, say, amongst characters all living within a given comic book universe) is meshing tones. The characters of the X-Files exist in a world not too far removed from the real world, one where, for all the paranormal and unexplained phenomenon they encounter, a non-paranormal explanation usually isn’t too hard to come by. The Ghostbusters, on the other hand, exist in a world where ghosts are real, quantifiable entities. Success comes in integrating these two tones, balancing “it’s possible ghosts exist, if you want to believe” with “an enormous marshmallow man attacked New York in front of thousands of witnesses, so yeah, paranormal creatures exist”.
In that regard, the crossover is wise to use the Long Gunmen as its central characters, as they match the sardonic tone of the Ghostbusters far better than the more dry Mulder and Scully would. Yet as enjoyable and effective as the Lone Gunmen’s interactions with the Ghostbusters are (circumstances of course require the two groups to split up, pairing a Lone Gunman with one or more Ghostbusters), the story never addresses the ramifications of the Lone Gunmen learning ghosts are real. Here, they discover incontrovertible proof that ghosts exists, that there’s an entire “ghost prison” in the Ghostbusters’ basement filled with them, yet aside from the genuine reaction of being a little freaked out about that, they’re never given a proper chance react to having learned that at least this one particular paranormal phenomenon is legit (and plaguing New York City to the extent that the Ghostbusters can make a living off catching them).
Instead, they simply acquire another piece of information that ties into the overarching crossover plot, then move on to their next encounter (which will be with the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles). In execution, it’s roughly comparable to the Lone Gunmen being handed evidence that proves JFK was killed as part of a government conspiracy, then just shrugging and saying, “that’s great, but we have an appointment we need to get to now.” The mashup of these disparate characters and tones is what makes a crossover like this fun, but it’s only fun if the characters are allowed to react genuinely to those disparate elements. Without that, they just seem like cogs in a crossover machine, and that machine suffers for it.