Monday, January 21, 2008

What We Need More Of: Drunk Superheroes.

Booster Gold #1-4
Written by Geoff Johns and Jeff Katz
Drawn by Dan Jurgens and Norm Rapmund

This should be a buddy comedy starring Luke Wilson and Will Ferrell, and I mean that as a compliment. Billy West would still be the voice of Skeets the robot, because that was too good of a choice not to duplicate (see the Justice League Unlimited episode “The Greatest Story Never Told” to hear Billy West, a.k.a. Fry from Futurama and Stimpy from Ren and Stimpy [why do I keep almost writing “Stimply?”] as Skeets).
I never knew Geoff Johns could be so funny—not just a couple instances of clever word-play during a fight scene, but actually laugh-out-loud funny. Maybe it’s this Jeff Katz guy, whom I’ve never heard of before, punching up the script, but still… bravo, Mr. Johns.
Here’s the premise: back in the pages of 52, Booster Gold, an egotistical, glory-seeking hero from the 25th century who’s been a B-List superguy in our era since the ‘80s, tried to make a comeback while Superman was absent from Metropolis for a year. Through a series of boneheaded moves, he failed to take Big Blue’s place in the pantheon and appeared to die while saving the city from a nuclear accident. In truth, he was taken out of “our” timeline by a guy called Rip Hunter, the Time Master. It’s Rip’s job to keep the timeline from being messed with, and when the Universe split into 52 alternate timelines after Infinite Crisis, his job got a lot harder. There’s a lot more to the story than that, but a drunk guy is not the best candidate to explain fifty-two issues of plot concerning extensive time travel. Here’s what you need to know for this series: There’s someone out there trying to wipe out the greatest heroes of the DC Universe: Superman, Flash, Green Lantern and Batgirl are at the top of the hit list, and things are only going to get worse from there. Rip Hunter, a guy with a time-traveling giant goldfish bowl called the Time Sphere and a lot of fancy four-dimensional equipment, has tapped Booster Gold and his 25th century robot buddy (and portable external source of common sense) Skeets to help him keep the world’s heroes from getting bumped off before their time.
Why Booster? Well… because he’s kind of a jackass. In the 1980s League, he and his best friend Blue Beetle (imagine Hank Pym without the benefits of size-changing powers or the detriments of being a pill-head wifebeater; or better yet! Picture Nite Owl from Watchmen, seeing as how he was based on Blue Beetle) pulled a lot of stupid stunts trying to get rich quick and build names as big as Batman or Superman. Since that League split up, Booster’s been the kind of loser who only shows up during major battles because the artist was instructed to draw in everyone he could think of, and after Ted Kord, the old Blue Beetle, was killed, Booster didn’t have a friend in the world, or at least, in this century. After Superman got his powers back, Booster certainly didn’t have a chance at getting the spotlight back in Metropolis.
At the outset of the new series, Booster is attempting to join the new Justice League. Just as they decide to award him probationary status, Booster is convinced by Rip Hunter to turn down the League’s offer, thus once again making him look like a jerk in front of the first string heroes. That’s perfect, though—exactly what Rip has in mind. Booster can pass unmolested through the halls of history specifically because of his reputation as a total jerkoff loser, which makes him the best possible guy to bounce around the timestream fixing things without anyone taking notice.
Unfortunately, someone takes notice (duh). A moron called Rex Hunter (neither Rex nor Rip can let anyone know their real names or they can be tracked to the time when they were born or they could be killed by other time-travelers, so they use horrible fake names like Rex and Rip Hunter) thinks he’s going to become the world’s greatest hero by wiping every other hero from the timeline and saving everyone himself. To aid him, he’s got someone using the Supernova costume that Booster and Rip used during 52 to protect the Multiverse from (this is going to sound so dumb) the giant time-eating worm that evolved from the crappy old Captain Marvel villain Mister Mind.
First, they try to keep Hal Jordan from ever becoming Green Lantern, thus making Guy Gardner the greatest GL ever—which would be a terrible enough fate, except that without Hal Jordan as ring insurance, Guy would die young, leaving Earth vulnerable to an invasion from Sinestro. Booster and Skeets realize early on that they can’t fight the formidable Sinestro, who’s come to Earth to meet Guy Gardner in the past—instead of fighting him, Booster appeals to Sinestro’s horribly inflated ego. “I’ve been sent from the future,” he says, “to remind you that no one can replace the mighty Sinestro.” “A yellow ring? What Corps do you belong to in the future?” Sinestro asks. “Uh… the Sinestro Corps,” says Booster.
Oops. Looks like he maybe gave Sinestro the idea.
Oh well.
Next, Booster has to go back to the Wild West to save the doctor destined to save Jonathan Kent’s (Superman’s adopted father) great-grandfather from dying at birth. Doing that somehow has to involve Booster getting drunk with the famous disfigured gunslinger Jonah Hex. I don’t really care how, because it means the latter half of issue 3 consists of Booster telling Skeets “I’m not drunk!” and fighting Supernova off long enough to convince Doctor Westfield to move back to Smallville. Then, in an attempt to track Supernova to his next target, Booster takes control of the Time Sphere. Yes, that’s right—a superhero driving drunk. Through time! I love it. “C’mon!” says Booster. “What’re we going to hit out here?”
Crash! Oops again. Looks like they hit the Silver Age Flash. (Though I love the Flash, it would’ve been hilarious if he’d crippled the Flash in a drunk driving accident.)
In issue 4, Rip Hunter fights Rex Hunter, Booster fights Supernova, and Skeets fights Supernova’s own robot buddy, Maximillion, who’s basically the Xbox 360 to Skeets’s Pong(Not even the full Atari. Just Pong), all while the existence of the Flash hangs in the balance.
Rip beats the crap out of Rex, and Booster finds out who Supernova is, only to see his super-suit fritz out thanks to the same lightning storm that made Barry Allen the Flash. Supernova and Maximillion vanish as their time-circuitry picks a poor time to reboot. Rip brings up the good point that someone must have been pulling Rex’s strings, since no one with a haircut as bad as Rex’s could come up with such an ingenious plan by themselves. And so, our three tepid heroes move on to their next assignment—save Barbara Gordon, the original Batgirl, from being crippled by the Joker.
I doubt they’ll succeed. Alan “better than Grant Morrison” Moore wrote The Killing Joke, where Babs Gordon is shot in the spine. Are they really going to rewrite twenty-odd years of history? I highly doubt that even Johns could do that.
What he does is write a really compelling story. Will Booster ever get the recognition he deserves? Is he going to cause the Final Crisis, or save us from it? Will we find out when Rip is really from? Who’s pulling Rex Hunter’s strings? For a comic that most people probably write off as a joke, there’s a lot at stake for any DC fan here. Whatever the outcome of Booster’s quest to save the timeline, and to maybe even bring Blue Beetle back to life, not to mention the upcoming Crisis, this comic will be remembered as more entertaining than a lot of the stuff the headliners were doing at the—well, actually, Johns is writing Action Comics, too—and Gail Simone just took over Wonder Woman—and Johns is also writing Green Lantern—and Grant is on Batman—okay. So, Booster Gold will be remembered five years from now as better than the Flash, Aquaman, Green Arrow and Black Canary.
Good enough, right?

Rating: Three Vodka Collins.

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