Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Trades I Waited For (Pt 3): Booster Gold: Past Imperfect

I’ve often wondered why the Booster Gold character is popular, if it was because of some element of creator Dan Jurgens’ inspirations for the character and his initial run on the 1986-launched, 25-issue-long series, or if it was because of Keith Giffen and DeMatteis’ re-creation of the character as a central part of their ensemble Justice League cast from the late eighties and early nineties.

Okay, “often” is overselling it. I’ve actually only wondered about it like once or twice, when DC handed the last volume of the series over to him after the Geoff Johns/Jeff Katz run that kicked off the new title, and returned it to him after the brief Giffen/DeMatteis run, the first half of which comprises the contents of Booster Gold: Past Imperfect.

(More often I’ve wondered why the hell the character is named “Booster Gold.” I still don’t know).

This trade seemed to offer an opportunity to at least examine the different takes, as it featured the writing team perhaps most popularly associated with the character scripting his adventures on what is essentially the Jurgens’ version of the character’s book (Remember, Jurgens runs bookend Giffen/DeMatteis’ here, and this is at least semi-serious Booster Gold as solo adventurer, not part of a wacky ensemble).

DC found a pretty perfect collaborator for the writing team with Chris Batista, who shares many of the same virtues and their most famous artistic collaborator, Kevin Maguire, without actually being Kevin Maguire, allowing him to strike a better balance between the Bw-ha-ha and straight Booster a bit better than Maguire might have been able too.

Not that Maguire is absent, of course; he provided the covers for the first five issues, including these two, which I really liked:Giffen and Maguire open with Booster doing the sort of thing he does now, visiting a point in DCU history in order to perform a task for Rip Hunter, Time Master (here he’s at the destruction of Daxam in the 30th Century…which is part of “The Great Darkness Saga” or some Legion thing I’ve never read, I think) where he battles the Emerald Empress and picks up an adorable orphaned moppet, who provides a verbal sparring partner for Rip.

From there, much of the book involves Booster’s efforts to prove to the world that the post-Brightest Day Maxwell Lord is actually an evil son of a bitch who wants to exterminate super-humanity, but, as in Justice League: Generation Lost, only he and a few old teammates remember Lord or his evil deeds.

So Booster goes back in time to the days of the JLI seeking proof, and ends up getting extremely sidetracked hanging out with his friends.

Unsurprisingly, Giffen and DeMatteis excel at these portions, and they continue to effortlessly write these characters and revisit old routines. Few characters and concepts are as well-suited to such blatant nostalgia as Booster Gold, a character whose current status quo is that he can travel back to the good old days at will.

Among the many running gags they fill the storyline with is that everyone immediately sees through Booster’s attempt to disguise himself as his own younger self in order to infiltrate the JLI, and while there’s a decent chunk of time spent featuring Booster bouncing around the embassy and revisiting the cast, a tangent adventure is quickly embarked upon, and Booster and the past era’s Blue Beetle, Mr. Miracle and Big Barda visit an alien planet for an adventure, and Giffen and DeMatteis pull off a neat trick of giving the audience what we think we want, except one of the characters is now a chipmunk…?After the JLI storyline, Booster travels back to World War II in order to team up with another old JLI character, Captain America parody General Glory.

It’s all fast-paced, fun, funny stuff, and while I can see who Giffen and DeMatteis’ quirks might not be to everyone’s tastes (I don’t think all of their gags land, but they tell enough that it hardly matters whether even 75% of them are funny or not; rare is a whole page without a successful gag), it tasted fine to me.

I look forward to the next collection, which I imagine will finish up the remaining five issues of their run on the book.


corey said...

The whole Booster Gold series has been sort of an unheralded gem in the DCU the past few years. It wasn't really one of their best books, but it was always very solid and occasionally quite good, and never featured artwork by a hack who draws like a low-rent Ed Benes. That's more than you get out of most DC books these days.

Eyz said...

Easily the best volume (in TPB) of Booster's modern run!
Giffen & DeMatteis! Jurgens! All in the same book!

collectededitions said...

No kidding, Booster was named by President Reagan. Booster wanted to be Goldstar, but Reagan misunderstood and called him by his college nickname plus "Gold."