Pop Culture Gadabout
Thursday, August 23, 2007
      ( 8/23/2007 12:57:00 PM ) Bill S.  

"MAKING PEOPLE PROUD ISN'T WHAT I USUALLY DO" – As someone who was largely away during his first years as a member of the DC Universe, my understanding of Booster Gold has been fairly superficial: big blond smiley superguy more concerned with self-promotion than in being an actual hero. If there's any depth to the character beyond that broad concept, I didn't know it when I recently received a review copy of Booster Gold #1. Turns out, I didn't really need to know much more, if the first issue is any indication.

Which is not to say this is a bad thing: if you don't mind skimming all the continuity folderol, the basic idea behind this series is amusing. Having established our hero Booster (the name itself reflects his propensity for self-promotion) as an incorrigible spotlight hog, writers Geoff Johns & Jeff Katz place him in a situation where he's not allowed to take credit for any of his heroic deeds. "The Greatest Hero the World Has Never Known," the tagline above the title declares, and, if nothing else, the line cues readers to the fact that this isn't gonna be another grim 'n' gritty follow-up to DC's big event series 52. Even the series title, "52 Pick-Up," is a (mild) joke.

Booster is drafted into his secret assignment by the Silver Age time master Rip Hunter, who explains to our hero that in the aftermath of 52, a series of "temporal anomalies" have appeared which are "vulnerable to manipulation" by evil forces. ("The past," Hunter helpfully clarifies, has become "like wet cement.") Before Hunter’s timely appearance, Booster has been striving, with the aid of a Jeeves-like future droid named Skeets, to re-enter the Justice League of America. But on the verge of readmission, he's suddenly shown a future document indicating that the Green Lantern Hal Jordan ("The World's Greatest Green Lantern") will somehow be killed by those time tinkerin' forces of evil.

How this happens is something that'll doubtless be revealed in a future issue, but it most likely has something to do with a mysterious figure we see stealing the power suit of yet another second-tier superhero. Said faceless villain appears before longtime GL enemy Sinestro to enlist him in an as-yet-undefined nefarious super scheme. (Sinestro, who is also wreaking havoc in a post-52 mini-series entitled Green Lantern Sinestro Corps, is really keeping busy these days.) On seeing GL's future death announcement, Booster turns down the proffered JLA membership – though every part of his glory-hungering soul screams take it! – to instead assume the role of anonymous "time cop." He's particularly suited for the top secret job, Hunter notes, since everybody already thinks he's "an idiot." When he appears to save a jet that's on the verge of crashing into the ocean, the passengers don't know whether to be relieved or not.

To be sure, there are jokes and references in Booster Gold that'll only make sense to the more continuity obsessed: at one point, for example, our hero makes a verbal gaffe with Wonder Woman that flew right over me but doubtless had the more fannish readers snickering. But the series' core concept is strong enough to pull the rest of us along. As a superhero, Booster has one of the more dubious origins around – a failed future football player, he essentially stole the power suit that provides him with his abilities – so his newly imposed anonymity has a certain aptness to it. Though he signs up for the job, you just know our man's gonna continually chafe at the restrictions. As he flies off from JLA headquarters after turning down his new membership, he swears to himself repeatedly, while Skeets tries to cheer him with some "21st century computer humor."

Booster Gold's art (lay-outs by character creator Dan Jurgens, finishes by Norm Rapmund) is serviceable, if not particularly exciting. A lighter artist (Darwyn Cooke, say) might've made more out of the story's comic possibilities, but Jurgens & Rapmund get the storytelling job done. Perhaps the creative team didn't want to scare off the fan base by appearing too openly lighthearted with this essentially inconsequential super series? If so, there's a certain irony to the fact that a character who has devoted most of his career to selling himself as a bold-'n'-flashy superhero would be rendered in such a predominately plain graphics style. Not sure most of the core readership'll appreciate this, though.
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Pop cultural criticism - plus the occasional egocentric socio/political commentary by Bill Sherman (popculturegadabout AT yahoo.com).

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