Writer(s): Geoff Johns, Jeff Katz
Artist(s): Dan Jurgens, Norm Rapmund
Publisher: DC Comics
Right now over in the super-secret-reviewers’ forum, there is a discussion going on over what exactly a fanboy is. I may not be able to define the term in an objective, quantifiable way, but to paraphrase Potter’s Stewart’s famous definition of pornography, I know me when I see me.
And I am indeed a fanboy. And I am a Booster Gold fanboy, too. Loved the character from the first I saw him, when I bought a copy of the first Booster Gold #1 off the rack at People’s Drugs. Over the years People’s became Rite Aid and stopped carrying comic books, and Booster has come and gone from the comics’ world spotlight. Well, mostly he has gone. But the mere sight of him is still enough to make my inner-fanboy do a dance of joy.
As much as I’m a fanboy, and a Booster fanboy, I’ve always felt some things are sacrosanct, that they shouldn’t be sullied or cheapened by slumming it in the world of “normal” superhero comics. For example, not too long after I read that first Booster Gold #1, I read a book called Batman: The Killing Joke, a damn good book by… umm… a couple of hacks whose names escape me. Anyhoo, even then, when I was only about 12, I could tell there was something special about that book, something that defied or surpassed or redefined the conventions of the normal superhero book. Much like Rachel Gianfagna, a classmate of mine, that book made me feel funny. In a good way. A different way, but still as funny and still as good.
And that’s a fanboy.
Anyway, around that same time fandom was treated to Batman: A Death in the Family, and I knew instinctively, in my little fanboy heart, that the greatness of Batman: The Killing Joke was cheapened by this money and publicity-generating gimmick complete with a 1-900 number. Killing Joke was a work of art – nay, Art; this was just selling out.
Of course I lacked the words to articulate that then, and I have subsequently developed a more realistic and less judgmental perception of the relationship between Art and commerce, but the fact remains that I think some things are works of Art, and as such should be treated with reverence. Like fanboys, I know Art when I see it, and when I see it I want it kept out of the monthly-superhero grind. I may love that genre, but it is still just fun escapism. Art is something more.
And so two facets of my fanboy heart collide in Booster Gold #5, in which our hero attempts to undo the crippling of Barbara Gordon at the hands of the Joker. On one hand, I love this character and I love this book. On the other, Killing Joke was Art, and shouldn’t, in my mind, be used to fuel just another monthly superhero book.
That’s strike one against this book, but it’s a purely subjective strike. Let me see if I can’t evaluate it by more objective standards.
Well even if we don’t consider it an aesthetic violation to appropriate a work like Killing Joke in a “normal” book, there can be little doubt that Jurgens may be a perfectly good artist, but he is no Brian Bolland. And by incorporating so many images associated with Bolland, such as that iconic cover, he invites unfavorable comparisons. It reminds me of those dreadfully repetitive Marvel Zombie covers, but at least Arthur Suydam maintains or even elevates the quality of his source material. The same can’t be said of Jurgens here, and while his art is satisfying as always, one can’t help but be distracted by the memory of just how good Bolland’s work is.
The same can be said of Johns and Katz’s story. This is actually a pretty good little tale. I won’t wander into spoilers – I’m not one to wander in my reviews, as you may have noticed – but we once again get plenty of reasons to root for Booster and we get a nice touch of superficial three-dimensionality. Call it two-and-a-half dimensionality. Superhero comics thrive on the illusion of developed characters with whom one can relate, without ever actually fully developing those characters. Quick, is Superman pro-life or pro-choice? Chances are if you’re pro-life, you think he is, and if you’re pro-choice, you think he is. Well that’s the way a good superhero comic works; there is enough of an illusion of developed characters to give you reason to care about them, but no more than that. So this was a really good superhero comic book, but, again, one can’t read it without thinking of Killing Joke, which was so much more. Strike two.
One major plot point that gets addressed this issue: If the book is going to be about Booster playing Dr. Sam Beckett and fixing mistakes in the space-time continuum, what’s to keep him from bouncing around setting everything right, saving his sister after he saves Ted Kord, saving Mister Miracle and Barda after that, and so on and so on? So we get some vague nonsense about some events being malleable and others being carved in temporal-stone – they simply can’t be changed.
Oh. That’s convenient. Apparently, the existence of Superman and the rest of the Justice League aren’t permanent aspects of the past, or else this book would have no raison d’etre. Huh. Well if those major events are so malleable, what would qualify as significant enough to be unalterable, and why?
Nice attempt at an explanation, but it just doesn’t work. Let’s call it a foul tip.
In the end, this is a perfectly entertaining story that is capably illustrated and furthers the plot of the story arc while maintaining the illusion of character development. Had they chosen their source material more wisely, this one might have been good for extra bases. As it is, it’s a bloop single, a must-read for Booster fans that can easily be missed by anyone else.
What did you think of this book?
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