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Sunday Slugfest – Booster Gold #1

Posted: Sunday, August 19, 2007
By: Keith Dallas

“52 Pick-Up, Chapter 1: Secret Origins”

Writers: Geoff Johns, Jeff Katz
Artist: Dan Jurgens (layouts), Norm Rapmund (finishes)

Publisher: DC Comics





Average Rating:

Luke Handley:
Shawn Hill:
Jon Judy:
Chris Murman:
Kevin Powers:
Thom Young:






Luke Handley:

The cover to this issue proudly presents it as a “52 Pick-Up” story and, for once, this kind of branding isn’t just a marketing ploy: this series looks set to follow up on one of the remaining threads from DC’s surprisingly successful weekly series (no, not the current one, the one that was actually good): the fact that “Time is broken”.

Unlike the other “official” 52 follow-up books, this one really piqued my curiosity. For one thing, it stars one of the more interesting characters to come out of 52 alive, namely the grandstanding Booster Gold. That fact alone would have been enough for me to give this book a try. But what really convinced me was the series’ premise. I’m a relative newcomer to the DC Universe (DCU), having started reading my first DC titles roughly two years ago and, as such, though I’ve picked up a fair bit along the way, I know little about the continuity that stretches way back into the 60s (and beyond in some cases). However, I’ve always considered continuity in comics to be a good thing, when used properly. I won’t digress into a lengthy discussion about what I consider to constitute a “good” or “bad” use, but the prospect of reading a book that would be taking a veritable rollercoaster ride through some of the most important moments of the DCU’s history was enough to get me onboard. And this first issue looks like it’s set to deliver everything I was hoping for.

Another thing left broken by 52 was Booster Gold’s reputation. Though he always seems to come through in the end for his friends, he’s always been a grandstander and, as such, I would have expected that the first thing he’d do after saving the Multiverse would be to let everyone else know about it. Instead, up until this issue, the DCU’s heroes have been left thinking that he was dead at best and a coward who faked his own demise at worst. In this issue, he starts to put things right by impressing the newly formed Justice League and, supported by Bats and Superman, he even gets offered a place on the team. Not that surprising when you consider, using Booster’s own words, that even “freaking Geo-Force is on the team.” It’s nice to see Booster behaving like a hero again and being recognised as such by his peers. And this just makes his decision to drop fortune, fame and glory in favour of infamy and anonymity to go help Rip Hunter “fix time” cast him all the more as a hero.

Johns and Katz deliver a great first issue. They introduce the protagonist succinctly but efficiently to the reader, they explain and set up the title’s Status Quo and still find enough pages for Booster to avert the first crisis and to deliver some nice little character moments. Though there are several glimpses of and references to key moments of the DCU’s history, they’re never overwhelming or overly confusing for a reader who’s unfamiliar with them. The dialogue flows smoothly, and the banter between Booster and Skeets is superb. We even get to check in on Michael Carter, a.k.a. Supernova, Booster’s great, great, great (something) grandfather, who’s found a completely novel use for a suit that protects its wearer from the ravages of the time-stream. After reading this scene, I was expecting Michael to end up in some sort of redemption subplot, à la Booster Gold. Instead, enter the mysterious time-travelling villain of the piece who gets himself some new threads.

The writers also use this issue to make fun of some of the more ridiculous and poorly received concepts to have appeared in DC comics over the last year or so. Thus, we get Rip muttering “Punching history. Please,” and his famous chalkboard that foreshadows things to come (Red Lanterns? I’m intrigued), unashamedly proclaiming “don’t worry about Countdown – focus elsewhere.” They did make me smile initially, but I don’t really know how to feel about these self-deprecating remarks; a bad concept is a bad concept, no matter how it’s executed and a desperately average disappointing series is only made worse when you draw attention to that fact. Even if it’s in jest, I think the less attention is drawn to these flaws the better.

Dan Jurgens’ art, complemented by Norm Rapmund’s, can be a bit hit and miss for me. I definitely find his style most suited to the more colourful spandex end of the superhero genre and, fortunately, that’s exactly what he gets to draw here. He produces a certain combination of modern superheroics with some retro kitsch thrown in that appears to be the ideal fit for a character like Booster Gold. If Jurgens and Rapmund stick with this series then so will I.

But more than anything, the reason you should pick up this issue is because it’s fun from start to finish. Everything falls into place very nicely to produce one of the best comics DC have put out in a while (note: I haven’t read any of the “Sinestro War” issues).




Shawn Hill

Plot: Booster wants to rejoin the JLA. He feels like he’s earned it. Unfortunately, no one else noticed anything he did.

Comments: Ah, this is more like it. It seems that the disparate threads of 52 won’t be followed-up on in Countdown (which is getting busy heading towards Final Crisis anyway); instead, we’ve got this book partially by Johns to pick up on the bits and pieces of left-over danglers from that surprisingly solid premiere weekly event.

The pretty basic plot is one of the classics. Booster (and ultimately Skeets and Rip Hunter, too) have to close-up a bunch of Macguffins (temporal anomalies, holes in time, some sort of hokum) left behind by Mr. Mind and the FivdeeDoo and all of the above. Only, there’s one catch: while he’s doing it, and thus saving the extant reality, no one can ever know about it! D’oh! Because that would just create more time loops, right? Poor Booster.

As Johns and Jurgens paint it, it’s not like Booster has ever had the most noble of intentions. I’ve never been much impressed with him; I just expected that after Ted’s murder he’d finally toughen up and realize the stakes he’s involved in. Which happened by the end of 52 after all, as even the Time Master acknowledges; Booster has proven himself, but he’s not going to ever be rewarded for it.

What he has to realize in this series is that that’s part of it, too. He still doesn’t quite get what even Shadowpact knows at this point. In this week’s issue, to cope with a volcano suddenly bursting up through downtown Chicago, Kendra of the Justice League suggests a triage tactic, focusing on helping the healthy and the less injured first. But Superman declares “No. We save everyone,” and Nightshade works without accolades and at great personal cost to beam thousands of civilians to her shadow dimension. Willingham gets what heroism is about, and so, ultimately, does Booster. He makes the right choice at the worst moment (for him), and that’ll last until his next goof-up.

Already this book is on the right track in so many ways. When Hunter himself lambastes the idea of Superboy-Prime (“that whiner”) punching holes in history, it’s along the lines of Bendis goofing around in dialogue about his own worst plot ideas. I’d never let Bendis off that hook, but here it’s forgivable because Superboy’s punches have fixed so many things, and the things that are left seem to involve bringing back long-forgotten bits of earlier continuity that was missed, and that did leave gaping holes for years. This is the book, it seems, to make sense of the newly transformed Earth Zero, rather odd for a solo title of a minor character, but there you go. It’s even got a tolerant, empathetic Batman.

And Jurgens’ breakdowns look to be pretty thorough, because this is visually one gorgeous book. Whatever you might say about Booster’s checkered career, he almost always looked the part of the hero, and he certainly does again here.

I’m subscribing to this title, in the hopes that the series can keep up with this stunning debut. And that Johns and Jurgens stick with the title for at least 24 issues. Make that 26; half of 52 is good enough.




Jon Judy:

Finally.

Finally, the Blue and Gold get a little respect.

For all of you too young to remember, Giffen and DeMatteis’ Justice League was once the hottest thing in the DCU, and Blue Beetle and Booster Gold were the hottest parts of that team. The series spawned numerous spin-offs – Justice League Europe, Justice League Quarterly, The Weird, a Martian Manhunter mini-series, a Dr. Fate mini and ongoing series – and putting the League on the cover of an ailing book was a surefire sales spiker.

But somewhere along the way, this highpoint in League history fell into the comics dustbin, declining from being a forgotten book to a ridiculed one as a legion of dark and gritty creators derided the Giffen and DeMatteis League for being – gasp! – fun!

I suspect jealousy might have been an issue here; you see, this version of the League had humor, yes, but it also had heart, action and character-driven stories. In other words, Giffen and DeMatteis wrote circles around most of their peers and successors. And if you can’t beat ‘em, ridicule ‘em.

To some extent DC began to right that wrong with Infinite Crisis, which, despite its flaws, at least gave the G&D League its due. Sure, Beetle dies on his knees like a bitch, and Max Lord made an inexplicable, nonsensical turn to evil – “Hey, you know what would surprise readers? Let’s just have a character turn evil in a manner that completely contradicts everything that has ever been done with him!” – but Booster, Fire and Guy Gardner all got to shine, at least to some extent.

Then there was step two: 52, in which Booster really took center stage. And over in Blue Beetle, Guy and Ted Kord have both been getting some respect.

And now. Finally. Booster Gold #1. Finally, the Blue and Gold once again get some full-fledged, all-out, well-earned respect. I mean, we’re talking adulation here. Booster gets props from the creative team, from Superman, from Batman, from Rip Hunter from the whole damn Justice League, and it is way past time.

Okay, but how is the book itself? Sure, Booster is depicted heroically, but is the book a good read?

This is a superb first issue, with all the things one hopes to see in a series debut. We get all the needed exposition – although not in a boring, obtrusive fashion. We meet the whole supporting cast, but in a natural, unforced way. We get plenty of incentive to like the protagonist, to care what happens to him. And we get a clear set up for the book’s future – or past and future, as it were. Throw in the clear, attractive, no-unnecessary/distracting-frills art from Booster creator Dan Jurgens and you’ve got an excellent comic.

That’s right: It’s a first issue that is accessible for new readers while firmly rooted in continuity, and it features likeable characters for whom one can care.

Finally.




Chris Murman:

Before I get into the issue, let me just opine about the purpose of this title. Geoff Johns and Jeff Katz are on a mission to clean up the DCU. It’s almost as if Dan DiDio pulled his superstar writer in to his office a year or so ago when 52 was wrapping and told him, “It’s like the more we write, the more continuity is screwed up. We need to go in and systematically take out the inconsistencies of our comic universe. Start a book with a buddy and then hand the reigns off to him, it will be brilliant!”

After reading this book, you’re telling me that theory doesn’t make sense? More on that in a second.

This is an enjoyable book about someone we love to make fun of. Many jokes are made at Booster’s expense, and in truth I still laugh. It felt like the JLU episode “The Greatest Story Never Told,” but with more of a purpose. Some of the ideas are old, and some are new (like Skeet’s new look), but the premise is still the same: Booster Gold is the screw-up hero who will always finish last, and he’s just accepting of that fate now. He’s going to travel through time and help tie up the loose ends Mr. Mind left after 52 wrapped.

I’m forgetting this book after this review either. I’m going to buy this book. You hear that DC? You talked me into buying into a new series. Now, back to my theory.

What makes this series such a good idea is it is the opposite of a universe reboot. Think about it: if you hit the reset button, whether you like it or not, the good parts about your universe are gone with the bad. It’s also a lot more logical than blaming events on Superboy-Prime. We’ve all made the jokes, so I won’t make any more.

Think of Booster Gold and Rip Hunter as surgeons. They see a problem, they go wipe it out and tie things up in a nice bow without anyone noticing. This brings up an excellent point about BG. The writers’ reasoning for him being perfect for the job is spot on. As readers, if we see Michael make a fool of himself, we shrug our shoulders and move on. It was his heroics during Infinite Crisis that were out of the ordinary, and we just can’t have that now, can we? Booster is going to prat fall his way through a monthly, and it just might make things better in the DCU.

As Rip takes Gold through the timestream, images from DC’s history flood the page, and the idea of correcting some of them make me a bit nervous, as well as the new chalkboard in Rip’s lab. Remember how the first one in 52 was a harbinger of things to come? Something tells me the same is happening now.

The most chilling image that caught my eye was Barbara Gordon being shot. Are they really going to change something that has actually mattered for so long in the DCU? I guess time will tell. Other images and blackboard clues that stood out to me were:
  • There’s something about a New Krypton being found in the multiverse.

  • An image of Superboy being approached by the Legion, most likely tied into the Superboy lawsuit going on right now.

  • A Red Lantern? Does this have something to do with the mysterious visitor that took the Supernova suit and traveled to the time when Sinestro was a Green Lantern?

  • Starman and Powergirl are about to go on a trip of some sort, maybe even together.

  • Finally, even though Hunter’s arm is blocking things, it appears that Darkseid might be taking a dirt nap as well.

The deal Booster makes with Rip is definitely intriguing. Are we really going to see the return of Ted Kord to the DCU? The man whose death started Infinite Crisis down the path we know today might be saved, but what does that say for things as we know it? Will Batman go back to being a prick, watching us through Brother Eye? Time will only tell.

As much as I’ve bagged on Geoff Johns this year for the stories that have let me down, I am really intrigued by this series. Booster is definitely a person who can be heroic, and that is this writer’s bag. Just as much as we love seeing heroes fail, we also enjoy it when the court jester ascends greatness. This series may be that for Michael Carter.

If nothing else, it gave me a laugh when I read on Rip’s chalkboard, “Forget about Countdown.”

Done and done sir.




Kevin Powers:

Recently DC has had a slew of new titles or story-arcs that have been on a level higher than their “main event” Countdown. While I think another Crisis isn’t really necessary, I’d be a liar if I said I wasn’t interested to see the direction DC is going. 52 was a complicated, yet well crafted series with strong sub-plots and characterization. While the series ultimately brought back the multiverse, the stories involving Black Adam and Booster Gold were so well-done that both characters now have their own series launched from 52.

Booster Gold does not have the greatest reputation in comics. Personally, I always thought of him as nothing more than a gimmick, that one typical character who used his status to become a celebrity. I’ve always loved Dan Jurgens’ work, and I think he is one of the finest comic book creators in the past twenty-five years, but Booster Gold never really registered with me. It wasn’t until the Justice League Unlimited episode “The Greatest Story Never Told” that I really began to think about giving Booster Gold another shot. However, it was not until 52 that I realized how much potential Booster Gold had. When I learned Geoff Johns, Jeff Katz, Dan Jurgens and Norm Rapmund were going to feature Booster in his own series where he time-jumps throughout the DC Universe, I thought to myself that Booster Gold has the opportunity to become one of the most interesting and wild books in the DC arsenal.

Time-travel and the DC Universe usually mean a lot of story potential with a great deal of Advil afterwards. But Johns and Katz make sure to establish the focus of this issue on Booster Gold himself and use time-travel as nothing more than a means to give this series a gimmick. This story comes together perfectly from start to end. Booster’s origin is covered in a two page spread, no doubt written by the master of re-telling origins in less than three pages, Geoff Johns. The re-telling of Booster’s origin is perfect for those who do not know a great deal about the character. It covers key points in the very beginning of Booster’s hero career in the 25th Century, all the way to saving the multiverse during 52. This also comes after a battle with the Royal Flush Gang as Booster is trying to rebuild his reputation and join the JLA.

This story goes beyond Booster Gold trying to save his reputation. Johns and Katz amazingly feature a character who is just as greedy and self-absorbed as Booster Gold: Daniel Carter/Supernova, Booster’s ancestor. However, the funniest thing about Daniel Carter is not that he’s greedy or a bit immature, it’s that he is introduced playing Xbox 360 in his Supernova outfit, talking trash to a fourteen year old. That scene made me realize that this series has the potential to be something special. The dialogue is hysterical, and it’s funny to see Booster call another character an idiot.

The issue picks up when Rip Hunter appears. Last seen in 52, Rip appeared to recruit Booster Gold into saving the multiverse. Rip has once again come to recruit Booster Gold into saving the multiverse, this time to go after someone who has been traveling through time and killing heroes before they rise to greatness. It’s up to Booster Gold to save them, but he can’t interfere with the time-stream, and Rip informs him that he has to maintain his seedy reputation. This causes Booster to turn down the one thing he really wants, the JLA. The ending of this issue also says a great deal about the direction this series can potentially go.

This issue is absolutely fantastic. It’s well-crafted, and I hope that Jeff Katz can maintain this level of excitement and interest after Geoff Johns departs. The artwork by Dan Jurgens and Norm Rapmund is fantastic. Both men are very talented and highly underrated but come together very well with this issue. Even if you had trouble following 52, this series should be easy enough to follow even with all the time-traveling that will take place. DC is definitely on to something, and I think this series could be their next big hit. This is my Pick of the Week.




Thom Young:

While I didn’t plan it this way, I read Booster Gold #1 in two installments. Having a five-year-old child will do that to the way you read things. I read the first 12 pages one day and then read the last 20 pages the next day.

The truth is that I was so bored with the first 12 pages that I didn’t mind being interrupted. Here was essentially the character that I’ve never cared for. I think the premise for Booster Gold can be made to work, but I’ve yet to read an execution of the concept that has made me want to read about him.

Two things brought me back to the story the next day. First, I was assigned to write this review. Second, I knew that Rip Hunter would be making his appearance on the next page, and I’ve always been intrigued by this character who has largely gone either unused or under-utilized in the DC universe since his original series was canceled in the early 1960s.

Rip Hunter livened up those final 20 pages for me and made me enjoy this issue. In fact, in the tradition of DC’s The Atom/Hawkman series in the 1960s and Green Lantern/Green Arrow in the 1970s, I think I would prefer it if this series were titled Rip Hunter/Booster Gold.

There was also a revelation about Rip Hunter made in this series that is kind of a big deal, but it wasn’t handled as if it’s a big deal at all—the notion that “Rip Hunter” is an alias and not the character’s real name. If we go back to the character’s first appearance in Showcase #20 in 1959, this revelation seems unlikely.

In that first story, Rip Hunter invented his time spheres with the help of his assistant Jeff Smith (whom he had known for years). Additionally, his longtime girlfriend, Bonnie Baxter, was present when he completed his invention—as was her kid brother, Corky.

Yes, it was essentially the same relationship dynamics that we would see two years later in Fantastic Four #1.

Given that origin story, the revelation here doesn’t make sense. Why would Rip Hunter have used a false name for several years before inventing his time spheres? Of course, we could claim that this isn’t the same Rip Hunter that appeared in Showcase #20 (what with all the universal crises since then), or we could claim that Superboy Prime slammed his fist against a wall and gave Rip Hunter a retroactive history complete with alias.

I’m not against this revelation of “Rip Hunter” being an alias. However, another writer might have built up to it and made it seem more significant to the reader—such as the way Alan Moore handled the revelations that Swamp Thing was not actually Alec Holland and that Michael Moran’s Marvelman didn’t really have Billy Batson’s Captain Marvel origin.

I recall being enthralled when Moore’s story revealed that Swamp Thing was an intelligent plant who had long thought he was Alec Holland transformed. Similarly, I was fascinated to learn that Michael Moran’s memories of a Captain Marvel-styled origin were implanted by Dr. Gargunza as the C.C. Beck fantasy turned into a world of greater verisimilitude.

What I’m asking for here would not necessarily mean turning this into a Rip Hunter series rather than a Booster Gold series (though I don’t mind that idea). Instead, the revelation that Rip Hunter has been hiding his true identity for years could have been built on slowly through the first few issues with Booster piecing together the clues that would lead to his discovery of Rip Hunter’s lie.

The revelation that Rip Hunter had been lying to the two people closest to him for years before he actually invented his time sphere would have been an intriguing and mysterious subplot to this series. Instead, the intriguing revelation is just dropped into the issue as a casual part of Rip’s conversation with Booster on page 21 (panel two).

As it stands, though, we’re still left with the interesting concept of Booster and Rip traveling through the past to save several contemporary heroes (or their ancestors) from assassination when they were still but children. However, that concept sounds vaguely familiar—like something either DC’s Time Trapper or Marvel’s Kang the Conqueror might have attempted back in the 1970s.

In any event, it’s an interesting concept—and it can lead to some very good stories if done well. I’ll stick around for a few issues to see how it’s handled. There’s also another subplot that looks promising. It involves Booster Gold’s ancestor running around in his Supernova outfit from 52.

It looks like he was possessed (or the costume stolen) as Supernova suddenly appears about 20 years in the past on Korugar, where he meets two prominent citizens of that planet.

Overall, this first issue wasn’t as good as I think it could have been. However, it’s good enough to give it a chance to get better.



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